Charleston Mosquito Fleet

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Photograph featuring two small sailboats that were part of the Charleston Mosquito Fleet. Lunz captured this image as the men were making their way back into the harbor from a day of fishing. A marine biologist and curator for the Museum, George R. Lunz studied invertebrates (mainly crustaceans) and would track what the local fishermen were catching. Fortunately, he photographed some of these encounters.

Before emancipation, the Mosquito Fleet was made up of enslaved fishermen who made their small boats from whatever wood was available. Outfitted with homemade sails and using no navigational aids, the fishermen would sometimes travel as far out as 20 miles offshore. Handmade nets were used to catch shrimp and long lines with baited hooks attached at intervals were used to catch whatever fish was biting. After emancipation, the Fleet continued to fish the same way, selling their catch to street vendors and shopkeepers to support themselves and their families. Hurricanes and commercial refrigerated vessels eventually took their toll on the men and their boats. By the 1970s only a handfull were still fishing and in 1989, Hurricane Hugo destroyed the dock given to the Mosquito Fleet by General Pinckney some two hundred years earlier.