The Soaring Body-Count of the Migrant Flood

Photo: Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Photo: Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have been forcing upwards of 3,000 migrants a day from their homes. These desperate refugees often seek new lives in Western Europe, traveling by both land and sea. The most dangerous route is across the Mediterranean from northern Africa to Italy and Greece. We have posted a dozen times about the tragedy that has awaited too many of these migrants in overloaded boats and ships. The tragedies only continue.  Just last Thursday, two overloaded refugee boats, carrying an estimated 500 people, sank off Libya. Roughly 200 are missing and feared drowned. The UN says estimates that 2,400 migrants have died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year.  In 2014, over 3,400 died attempting to make the crossing.

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Quadrofoil Electric Hydrofoil Watercraft

Quadrafoilq2I hate jet-skis. They are noisy, exhaust-spewing and dangerous. I am amazed that more people don’t get killed by running them into other boats or seawalls, or just by falling off. I recently came across a potential alternative to these noxious beasts — the Quadrafoil, the first all-electric hydrofoiling personal watercraft.  As reported by Gizmag:

The radically finned Quadrofoil is described as a hydrofoiling personal watercraft (PWC), but unlike other PWCs the Quadrofoil produces marginal noise pollution, zero emissions, and creates only the tiniest of waves. As a result, the company claims the quad-finned watercraft could in theory access more environmentally sensitive areas where noise and wave disturbances are prohibited. (Video after the page break.)

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The Newest Oldest Message in a Bottle

oldestbottlepostcardIn 2014, we posted about a German fisherman who found a 101 year old message in a bottle. It was then the oldest message ever found in a bottle. Now, a bottle containing a message that was tossed overboard between 1904 and 1906, making it at least 109 years old, may take the title. The newest-oldest bottle washed up on the beach on the German island of Amrum, and was found by a Marianne Winkler, a retired postal worker on vacation with her husband Horst, in April of this year.

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Where is the North Korean Submarine Fleet?

North Korean Sang-O submarine captured by South Korea in 1996.

North Korean Sang-O submarine captured by South Korea in 1996.

Something very strange has happened on the Korean peninsula.  More than 50 North Korean submarines — about 70% of the country’s known fleet — have reportedly left their bases and disappeared from South Korea’s military radar.  They also represent most of the North Korean Navy, which in addition to submarines, has relatively few surface combatants, roughly a half dozen frigates and an equal number of corvettes. What makes the deployment of the submarines even odder is that it coincides with a de-escalation of tensions between the two Koreas.  On Monday, the two countries announced a plan to lift the “semi-state of war” prompted by a land-mine explosion that injured two South Korean soldiers on August 4.  The two countries are technically at war, living under a cease-fire agreement since 1953.

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Wreck of the USS Macon — Flying Aircraft Carrier

ussmacon

USS Macon

In Marvel comics and movies, the mobile headquarters of the fictional intelligence/defense agency S.H.I.E.L.D. is a flying aircraft carrier, referred to as a “Helicarrier.”  In the comic books, the flying aircraft carrier first appeared in 1965, which raises the obvious question — why was Marvel so far behind the times?

The US Navy had two flying aircraft carriers in the 1930s. The two sister rigid airships, USS Macon (ZRS-5) and USS Akron (ZRS-4), each carried five single-seat Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk for scouting or two-seat Fleet N2Y-1 for training.  The airships were designed to serve as long range scouts to locate and report on enemy ships, using onboard scout planes, which the airships could both launch and recover. The were intended to be the high-tech early-20th-century version of 18th century frigates, which also served as the “eyes of the fleet.”

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Snug Harbor Shanties, A Short Documentary — Singing the History that Can’t be Found in Textbooks

snugharborshantyMy novel, The Shantyman, begins with a fictionalized Bill Doerflinger recording the tale told by a retired ship’s captain of a shantyman who saved his ship and its crew. The old captain lives close to the sailor’s retirement home, Sailor’s Snug Harbor, on Staten Island, NY.

The real Bill Doerflinger did indeed record shanties in the 1930s and 1940s at Sailor’s Snug Harbor. These days, a group of lovers of the songs of the sea from around the New York metropolitan area gathers every month at Snug Harbor to sing shanties at the William Main Doerflinger Memorial Shanty Sessions. The group meets to sing the old songs in the same hall where Doerflinger recorded shanties sung by the retired sailors.

Gabriel Baron and Leia Grossman are producing a short documentary, Snug Harbor Shanties, about the shanty sessions and the singers who have been getting together for close to two decades to sing timeless songs of ships and the sea. They are raising money to complete the documentary on Indiegogo. I have donated to the cause and invite all lovers of sea shanties to join with me.  Click here to learn more.

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Pride of the Ladies’ Gunboat Association — CSS Georgia Artifacts Recovered

Propeller from the CSS Georgia. US Army Corps of Engineers photo by Michael Jordan

Propeller from the CSS Georgia. US Army Corps of Engineers photo by Michael Jordan

Navy divers, working with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, are attempting to raise what is left of the 250′ long CSS Georgia, an ironclad warship from the Civil War, in preparation for dredging the Savannah River.  The river is being dredged to allow for larger ships to call, following the widening of the Panama Canal.

The ship was also know as the Ladies’ Ram or the Ladies’ Gunboat as it was built with money raised by the Ladies’ Gunboat Association. Led by the women of Savannah, statewide fundraising resulted in over $115,000 in donations used to build the ship.

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Mysterious Whale Deaths on the Coast of Alaska

bearswhale

Bears feeding on dead whale

Since May, 30 dead whales have been found along the coast of Alaska. This compares to a total of five dead whales reported for all of last year.  According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified cetaceans have been found stranded on Alaskan beaches. Because so many of the locations are remote, researchers have only been able to examine one whale carcass so far.  There are also reports of an additional six dead whales found along the coast of British Columbia.

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Spirits of the Passage: Stories of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Opens on the Cutter Lilac

sotpLilacSpirits of the Passage: Stories of the Transatlantic Slave Trade opened yesterday on board the ex-USCG cutter Lilac at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25.  The exhibit explores the transatlantic slave trade through a display of nearly 150 historical objects, many salvaged from sunken ships, and was created by the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. The museum was established by diver Mel Fisher, a treasure hunter who found the sunken wrecks of the Spanish galleons Nuestra Senora de Atocha and Santa Margarita. The exhibit will be on display through Sunday, September 27. The ship is open free to visitors from 4:00 to 7:00 pm on Thursdays and 2:00 to 7:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

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Sail Amsterdam 2015 — Sail In Parade

Sail Amsterdam bills itself as the world’s largest nautical festival. Every five years, more than 600 ships navigate along the North Sea Canal before mooring in and around the IJhaven in Amsterdam. The ninth edition of SAIL Amsterdam takes place from 19 to 23 August 2015.  The festival features an impressive flotilla of vessels of all shapes and sizes; from tall ships, to traditional Dutch craft to Volvo Ocean racers and smaller private yachts. Crowds of 2-3 million visitors are expected to attend. Here is a video of the Sail In Parade. Thanks to Irwin Bryan for contributing to this post.

Sail Amsterdam 2015 Sail In Parade

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The Clipper Ship Noonday & the Ships of Badger’s Island

Noontime

Noontime

Last year, the wreck of a the clipper ship, Noonday, was located just west of San Francisco. There was no great mystery where the ship sank in 1863, as the submerged rock where she struck has been known as Noonday Rock ever since. Nevertheless, the exact location of the ship had been lost until the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration surveyed the area with the help of a remote-controlled submarine equipped with sonar and video. The ship remains buried beneath bottom and will be left undisturbed.  In 1934, the ship’s bell from the Noonday was recovered when it became entangled in the net of a fishing trawler.

Noonday was the last clipper ship built at the Fernald & Pettigrew shipyard on Badger’s Island in the Piscataqua River at Kittery, Maine, directly opposite Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Noonday was built for Henry Hastings, of Boston, who also commissioned the previous clipper ship from the yard, named Midnight.

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Dame Ellen MacArthur — Circling the Globe and the Circular Economy

In 2005, Ellen MacArthur broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe, sailing 27,354 nautical miles in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes 33 seconds at an average speed of of 15.9 knots. Recently she gave a TED talk about the perspective that she gained sailing around the world alone. She returned with new insights into the way the world works, as a place of interlocking cycles and finite resources, where the decisions we make today affect what’s left for tomorrow. She proposes a bold new way to see the world’s economic systems: not as linear, but as circular, where everything comes around.

The surprising thing I learned sailing solo around the world

Learn more at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

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Dream Symphony — a Clipper Ship for the 21st Century

dreamsymphonyWhen delivered sometime in 2016, Dream Symphony will be a clipper ship for the 21st century. Like the 19th century clippers, Dream Symphony will carry an impressive cloud of sail and like the clippers, it will be built of wood.  That alone is remarkable as Dream Symphony is 462’7″ft (141m) long. Historically, wooden vessels could not be built longer than around 300′ long.

Conventional carvel planked wooden construction was just too flexible for longer ships. The longest schooner ever built was the Wyoming, which was 350′ on deck. Despite being heavily strapped with iron, the ship flexed and twisted in heavy seas, opening her seams and requiring constant pumping to keep her dry.

To avoid the traditional limitations of wooden vessels, Dream Symphony is built of glued layers of wood laminates. The whole structure is highly engineered and the product of extensive finite element modeling. The wood/epoxy laminates are also protected by fiberglass on the outer hull surfaces.

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One Leg of a Long Journey — S.S. Columbia Heading Soon to Buffalo

The 113 year old, SS Columbia, the oldest remaining excursion steamship in the United States, is one leg closer in her long journey to restoration and operation. She has just completed a drydocking in Toledo, Ohio and is being prepared to move to to Buffalo, NY for further work. The plan is to restore the boat to her 1902 appearance with the goal of operating the historic steamer on the Hudson River. The estimated $10-million restoration will take about five to 10 years to complete. Click here to help bring this wonderful vessel back to its former glory.

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500 Year Old Sea Monster Figurehead from the Bottom of the Baltic Sea

Divers exploring the wreck of the Gribshunden have recovered a figurehead of a sea monster with ‘lion ears and crocodile-like mouth’ which has lay on the bottom of the Baltic Sea for roughly 500 years off the coast of Ronneby in southern Sweden.  The Gribshunden, which belonged to Danish King John, is believed to have sunk in 1495 after it caught fire on its way from Copenhagen to Kalmar on Sweden’s east coast.

Medieval ship’s ‘sea monster’ figurehead raised from Baltic

Thanks to Irwin Bryan for contributing to this post.

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South Street Seaport Museum to Get $10.4 Million Federal Funding for Superstorm Sandy Repairs

Great news!  Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) and the South Street Seaport Museum announced that the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is awarding the museum $10.4 million from FEMA’s Public Assistance Program as part of federal efforts to assist in repairing damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“We’ve been working for more than two years to secure funding for Sandy recovery. This grant is a strong step in the right direction for the Seaport Museum,” said Captain Jonathan Boulware, the Museum’s Executive Director. “Congressman Nadler’s support of our efforts has been meaningful and we’re encouraged by this news as we undertake larger efforts to improve and expand Museum programming.”

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Massive Explosions in Chinese Port City Tianjin Kill at Least Fifty

tianjinfireExplosions at a warehouse containing hazardous materials rocked the Chinese port city of Tianjin on Wednesday, killing at least 50 and injuring over 700, 71 critically. Tianjin, 100 miles east of Beijing, is the fourth largest urban area in China. Buildings within a 1.5 miles radius had windows blown out, office blocks were destroyed and hundreds of cars caught fire.  Chemical and oil tankers have either been stopped from entering the port or discharging their cargoes for fear of further explosions.

The first explosion and fire at the Ruihai International Logistics warehouse, shortly after 11AM local time on Wednesday, was estimated to be the equivalent of 3 tons of TNT. The first blast is believed to have set off a second, much larger, explosion, equivalent to 21 tons of TNT.  The explosions registered between a magnitude 2 and 3 on the Richter scale in Beijing. The blasts caused a huge fireball that could be seen from space. Fires at and near the warehouse have been burning out of control. There is considerable concern about the toxicity of the chemicals burning in the fires.

As reported by the New York Times:

According to the Tianjin Tanggu Environmental Monitoring Station, the company stored a collection of toxic industrial chemicals, including sodium cyanide, toluene diisocyanate and calcium carbide. The company was also licensed to handle highly combustible substances such as compressed and liquefied natural gas. Continue reading

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“Son of Migaloo” Sighted off Australia’s Gold Coast

sonofmigalooRecently, there has been considerable excitement over the sighting of a white humpback whale off Australia’s Gold Coast.  Initially, the whale was thought to be Migaloo, an albino humpback first seen in 1991. The white whale, however, appears to be smaller and younger than Migallo and to lack the older whale’s distinctive markings. Some are dubbing the newly sighted whale “Son of Migaloo.”

Four years ago, we posted, “Of Migaloo and the New White Calf” about Migaloo and the appearance of a white humpback whale calf sighted off Queensland, Australia. Migaloo, or “white fella” in an Aboriginal language, may be the most popular humpback whale in the world, being the subject of several web sites (see also here and here) and Facebook and Twitter pages, (of course) as well as over a dozen Youtube videos.

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Sail the Seven Seas — the Seven Seas for Sale

sevenseas1Movie director Steven Spielberg is putting his $200 million, 282′ mega-yacht, Seven Seas, up for sale, reportedly because it is too small. He is having a new yacht built, costing roughly $250 million, which, oddly, at 300′, is only 18′ longer than Seven Seas.

Seven Seas was built by Oceanco Yachts in the Netherlands and is only five years old. As described by the The RichestThe Seven Seas has accommodation and luxury amenities for 12 guests along with a crew of 26, including a private owner’s deck centered on a large master stateroom with a study and private deck area with a Jacuzzi. Other luxury touches include a helipad, fully equipped gymnasium, a spa and massage room and another, indoor cinema. Special stability systems allow the yacht to travel smoothly in any weather at 20 knots so the director doesn’t get jostled while viewing his latest masterpiece.

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Pitcairn Island — Tropical Living, Free Land and Internet!

pitcairnboathouseHow would you like to escape to a tropical island, well off the beaten path, where land to build a house is free,  temperatures stay above 62F all year round and there is even an internet connection? If that sounds good to you, you might want to consider Pitcairn Island.

Yes, that Pitcairn Island, Britain’s smallest colony, the tiny island originally settled by mutineers from HMS Bounty.  The population has been dwindling in recent years and now stands below 50.

As reported by the Telegraph: “We’ve been appealing for more people to boost the population,” said Jacqui Christian, 44, who represents the island in Europe. “We’ve had many enquiries but only one person has applied to move to Pitcairn.

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