Today in 1837, the birthday of Mary Patten.
She became something of a celebrity when she came along on a shipping trip led by her husband and ended up in charge of the trip.
Mary Ann Brown came from a well-off family in Boston, and married Joshua Patten at age 16.
He was a sea captain, and not long after they were married, he had to fill in for a sick colleague on a trip from the East Coast to San Francisco.
This was before the Panama Canal, so these trips meant sailing all the way around Cape Horn and South America.
Joshua agreed to lead the ship known as Neptune’s Car, as long as he could bring his wife along with him.
Mary Patten helped out by learning how to sail and navigate.
That trip was in 1854.
Two years later the Pattens set out again for San Francisco, but this trip was anything but smooth sailing.
Joshua Patten caught the first mate sleeping on the job and neglecting his duties.
As a result, the ship was running much slower than it needed to.
He ended up confining the first mate and essentially trying to do that job while remaining captain.
The extra workload took its toll; Joshua developed a fever and had to stay in bed.
The only person on Neptune’s Car who could navigate, who was healthy and who wasn’t locked up was Mary Patten.
So she took charge of the trip, navigating while also trying to tend to her husband.
She became the first woman to command a US merchant ship.
At one point the first mate tried to get the rest of the crew to turn against the Pattens and put him in charge, but the crew stuck with Mary.
(Good thing, too, because later in the trip Joshua let the first mate free and he tried to put them on course for Chile.)
The whole trip took 130 days, and Mary Patten said later she had to wear the same clothes for fifty of them.
She got the ship where it needed to go, protected all the cargo and fended off a possible mutiny, all at age 19 and while pregnant.
The shipping company gave her a $1,000 bonus, and she was hailed in newspapers coast to coast for rising to the occasion.
Sadly, neither she nor her husband would live much longer.
But Mary Patten’s story keeps right on sailing.
Lunar libration is the term for how the moon kind of sways in its orbit around Earth.
Photographer Andrew McCarthy put together a timelapse of the moon’s phases that shows the lunar libration in all its glory.
There are some 2 million images that are part of this project, but don’t try to count them all as you watch.
Mary Patten, 19 and Pregnant, Takes Command of a Clipper Ship in 1856 (New England Historical Society)