Elizabeth Watts

The Mother of All Oil Ships 

In the January of 1862, sailing ship Elizabeth Watts made history on arriving in London. She had safely ferried 1,329 barrels of petroleum (901 oil barrels and 428 kerosene barrels) from Philadelphia to England in a record 45 days – becoming the first ship to have ever transported any substantial amount of crude oil across the Atlantic.

And what a voyage that was! Not only did she pave the way for today’s prolific oil tanker industry, but also overcome xenophobia about the transportation of oil. For petroleum you see, was considered a hazardous cargo and legend has it that the captain of Elizabeth Watts, Charles Bryant had a rather tough time finding a crew.

But find a crew he did ( Bryant is believed to have carried off drunken sailors his men found on the docks) and Elizabeth Watts finally set sail on November 19, 1861 busting oil-transportation myths and becoming the forebearer of oil tankers in the process.