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Christopher Shelton, 76; Skipper of Ill-Fated Sailing Ship Albatross

November 03, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Christopher B. Shelton, 76, skipper of the ill-fated sailing ship Albatross when it sank in a sudden storm in 1961, died Oct. 5 of pancreatic cancer in Stamford, Conn.

Shelton used the 92-foot Albatross as a floating classroom. He was traveling with his wife, Alice, and a group of high school students when the ship was hit by a squall about 180 miles east of Key West, Fla. His wife, four students and the ship's cook were lost in the storm.

Shelton, 11 students and another teacher made it to lifeboats, and were rescued a day later. The disaster was the subject of the 1996 film "White Squall," with Jeff Bridges portraying Shelton.

Born in New York City, Shelton graduated from the University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru. He also earned a divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Madrid. After the Albatross incident, Shelton worked in the Peace Corps for several years.

In the mid-1960s, he bought another ship to use as a floating classroom. But during its second voyage, the vessel caught fire off the coast of Africa. All aboard escaped, but the ship was destroyed.

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