Built by William Hall of Black Rock, Connecticut and launched on 11th November 1856, the Charles Cooper was a fine example of American deep-water, wooden, merchant ship-building.
The Cooper was built as a packet ship – the packets being vessels that ran to a fixed schedule, rather than sailing only when full. She would have been able to carry more than 250 passengers and 3,500 barrels of cargo.
Her first voyage was New York – Antwerp – New York with a cargo that included tobacco, flour, cotton, rice, resin, coffee, lard, codfish, beeswax, mahogany and logwood.
On 1st June 1866, the Cooper set sail from Philadelphia. Bound for San Francisco with a cargo of coal, she must have run into trouble rounding Cape Horn, for she limped into Stanley harbour on 25th September and was destined to never leave.
Condemned as unseaworthy, the Cooper was sold for use as a storage hulk. The once fine ship was stripped and later grounded in front of Ross Road where she served as a warehouse until the 1960s.
In 1968 the Cooper was bought by South Street Seaport Museum of New York who hoped to transport the ship “home”. When it became evident that this would be too expensive, the ship was returned to Falklands ownership and given into the care of the Museum.
In 2003 a small local team removed the hulk of the Charles Cooper from Stanley harbour.
The decision was made after it became evident that the break-up of the ship had become unstoppable and the hazard to small shipping had reached an unacceptable level.
Martech Falklands were given the contract to carry out the harbour work and Neil McKay Ltd. took on the task of transporting the timbers on land.
The Cooper’s bow was fitted with a support frame and awaits moving to its final resting place. It is the Museum's hope that we might one day be able to properly exhibit this extraordinary artefact.
The historic heart of Stanley
The Charles Cooper salvage operation required enormous effort and skill, but was ultimately more successful that had been originally hoped.
Paul Ellis and Eddie Grimmer of Martech Falklands carried out a great deal of preliminary work, surveying the hulk for themselves and planning how to dismantle the structure.
The first timbers were removed in early February 2003 – these were so loose that no cutting was required and the wood was simply pulled off by Lively, Martech’s hard-working tug.
As further sections were cut away, they were towed to FIPASS (Stanley’s floating dock) lifted out by crane and carted out to a nearby hard-standing for preservation work.
Paul and Eddie had to build floating platforms to reach many parts of the Cooper, but also spent many hours working in the water, often working late into the night. Despite being held up by bad weather and only being able to work during evenings and on weekends, by the beginning of May only the bow remained in the harbour. It was hoped that the team might be able to cut it into three or four sections for removal but Paul and Eddie managed to move it in one!
Falkland Islands Museum & National Trust