On October 25, 1836, the sidewheel steamer Royal Tar caught fire in Maine's Penobscot Bay. On board was a small circus menagerie returning to Boston from a summer-long tour of the Canadian Maritimes. Plagued by gale-force winds and rough seas, the usual overnight trip from Saint John, New Brunswick, stretched out to four days and, on the fourth day, disaster struck off the island of Vinalhaven. Thirty-two people and all of the circus animals perished in the tragedy. Mark Warner explores the events leading up to that fateful day. Beginning with the construction of the Royal Tar, he traces the vessel's service history, the menagerie's tour of the Maritimes, the cause of the fire, and details of the rescue operation.