On today’s date in 1851, James Smith launched his square-rigged clipper ship Marco Polo at Marsh Creek near Courtenay Bay in Saint John, N.B.
The Canadian-built clipper ship had the body of a cargo ship above the water line and the configuration of a much-faster clipper ship below. Its name was owed to Italian merchant Marco Polo, who was born in the Republic of Venice and known for his far-reaching travels.
Soon after it was launched, the ship set the record for the passage from St. John’s, N.L. to Liverpool, England at 15 days. The following year, the Marco Polo completed her round-trip voyage between England and Australia in only five months and 21 days.
According to Historica Canada, it was the first time the voyage had been completed in fewer than six months, and the Marco Polo became widely known as the fastest ship in the world.
2001 MARCO POLO COIN
In 2001, the Royal Canadian Mint featured the Marco Polo on a $20 silver hologram coin as part of its “Transportation on Land, Sea and Rail” collection. The Proof coin has a diameter of 38 mm; a weight of 31.1 grams; and a mintage of 41,828 pieces.
The 12-coin “Transportation on Land, Sea and Rail” series ran from 2001-2004. Each year, three $20 coins were produced in sterling silver, and each coin celebrated transportation via car, train or ship.