A match made in nautical heaven for 826 & Invisible City Audio Tours
This nautical tale of pillage and plunder may be strange, but it’s true. Dozens of sunken ships from the Mid-Nineteenth Century rest beneath San Francisco’s bustling Financial District. And our very own student-authors at 826 have risked life and limb (sort of) to bring the stories of the forgotten Gold Rush fleet to life.
The students stretched their imaginations to tell us tales from the high seas with invisible subjects (The ships have been stuck beneath layers of concrete for more than a century). With help from Invisible City Audio Tours, students learned the hidden history of the ships’ final voyages and moorings. Some were abandoned at port during the gold rush; others were purposefully anchored and sunken in order to lay claim to soon-to-be waterfront property, as the city of San Francisco filled in its downtown core.
Students joined Invisible City guides Tavia Stewart-Streit (producer) and LJ Moore (director) on the Armada of Golden Dreams tour through the Financial District, past many tall shiny buildings, a Starbucks or two (or twelve), and some
great views of the San Francisco Bay. Maps in hand, the students dismissed their visible surroundings in favor of the hidden evidence of ancient shipwrecks. The tour passed over the locations of several wrecks and featured accompanying audio narration of the story behind each vessel. The students were then tasked with coming up with their own narratives for the unnamed ships on the tour, the ones for which historical data couldn’t be dredged up.
The Armada of Golden Dreams workshop at 826 was born from this gap in the historical record. For three weeks, students worked with an illustrator, editor, and several local authors to produce original poems and short stories. A display of maps, old letters, mysterious bones, and other odds and ends graced the Pirate Store’s front window in October. To commemorate the workshop, authors read their final pieces at a celebration in November. The student work, complete with custom illustrations from artist George Pfau, will be incorporated into the Invisible City Audio Tour, which is available for free online at http://invisiblecityaudiotours.org/armada. So the stories will live on!