Schooner Virginia Cuts Season Short, Will Be Put Up For Sale

Schooner23The bad news just keeps coming.  The Virginia Maritime Heritage Foundation has announced that the schooner Virginia will be suspending the remainder of her 2014 season and will be returned to Hampton Roads in August, where she will be put up for sale.  The Virginia has gone in and out of lay-up for several years over financial problems. In a press release, the Foundation states that the “revenue from operations and other sources has proven inadequate to support her current operating model and the resources required to sail the vessel appear to be unsustainable over the long term. Accordingly, the sale of the vessel appears to be the most prudent decision at this time.

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Ocean Classroom’s Spirit of Massachusetts, Harvey Gamage, & Westward to be Auctioned

Harvey Gamage

Harvey Gamage

The rumors had been dire for some time and now they appear to be confirmed.  Marlinspike Magazine is reporting that  the Ocean Classroom Foundation‘s three vessels, the schooners Spirit of Massachusetts, Harvey Gamage, & Westward will be auctioned.  As reported by Marlinspike:

All three vessels are said to be in rough shape, particularly SPIRIT, which is currently unrigged and out of the water at Portland Yacht Services. GAMAGE was in service this past winter, but is reportedly not cleared to sail until more work has been done. The steel-hulled WESTWARD, formerly operated by SEA, has not sailed in some time.

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New Dory for Tall Ship Gazela

dorygazela1Tall ship Gazela Primeiro, the official tall ship of Philadelphia, carried 30 dories when it fished the Grand Banks of the Atlantic Ocean. A dory is a small wooden boat used by a solo fisherman who tended a long line with many hooks in the quest for cod. When Gazela came to Philadelphia at the end of its nearly 70 year fishing career there were still 6 dories on board.. Over the last 43 years those dories have deteriorated to where there was only one original dory left in very sad condition.

To enhance Gazela’s role as a 113 year old living museum teaching ecology and the preservation of natural resources it is important to show how fishing was done in the days of the long line where only the larger fish were taken, one at a time, in a way that preserved the fishstock. So in 2011, Tony Souza of Ottsville, PA, a volunteer member of the Gazela crew decided to build a new dory in his home workshop. Dory, ‘37’, joined the ship in May 2011 and has been with the ship on its visits to ports on the east coast ranging from Norfolk, VA to Nova Scotia.

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What is the Bloop? Giant Sea Monster or Calving Ice Shelf?

In 2009, we posted about the “bloop.”   What is the “bloop,” you well may ask?  The “bloop” was an mysterious ultra-low frequency underwater sound detected by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) several times during the summer of 1997.

NOAA was using an acoustic hydrophone array in the Pacific ocean originally developed by the US Navy to track Russian submarines.  The ”bloop” was heard on multiple sensors over a range greater than 5,000 km.  The sound appeared to be somewhere around 50° S 100° W (in the Pacific of the southwest coat of South American).  Scientists agreed that the bloop matches the audio profile of a living animal, but no known animal could have produced the sound.  Also given the range across which the sound was heard, any animal that created such a sound would have to be significantly larger than a blue whale, the largest creature ever know to have lived on the planet.  Was the bloop caused by a giant sea monster?

A more recent theory is somewhat more prosaic.  NOAA now thinks that the “bloop” may have been the massive calving of an ice shelf.  The video explains.

What Is the Bloop?

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Final Voyage of the Costa Concordia

The Costa Concordia has begun her final voyage from the Tuscan island of Giglio to the scrapyard in Genoa, Italy, the port city where the ill-fated cruise ship was built.  The ship sank and partially capsized in January 2012 after striking a reef. Thirty two passengers and crew died. Read more here. Thanks to David for contributing to this post.

Celebration in Giglio as Costa Concordia heads for scrapheap

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Update: Sewol Ferry Disaster — Ferry Owner Yoo Byung-eun Found Dead

Yoo Byung-eun

Yoo Byung-eun

Last April, we posted about the capsizing and sinking of the South Korean ro/ro ferry Sewol with the loss of over 300, dead and missing.  Yoo Byung-eun, the effective owner and manager of Chonghaejin Marine Company, which operated the ferry, had been the subject of the country’s largest man-hunt since a Korean court issued an arrest warrant for him in May, on charges of embezzlement, breach of trust and tax evasion. That man-hunt ended with the announcement today that a body found on June 12 by a farmer in an apricot orchard in Suncheon, had finally been identified by DNA testing as Mr. Yoo.

The sinking of the ferry Sewol  was tragically typical of similar ferry losses. The vessel appears to have been poorly loaded, sailed with inadequate stability and with cargo not properly secured. When the ferry began to capsize  the captain was slow to respond, the crew failed to deploy life rafts and also instructed passengers to stay in the cabin — all actions that are believed to have dramatically increased the death rate.

If the ferry tragedy was typical, the ferry’s owner was not. Continue reading

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PortSide’s “Heavy Metal” Fundraising Sale!

mwheavymetalPortSide New York, the organization behind the historic tanker Mary A. Whalen,  is having an amazing marine hardware fundraising sale.  From their press release:

If you think a full-sized bollard makes the perfect doorstop, or that a collection of shackles is the centerpiece your table is lacking, or you just need turnbuckles (you know who you are), we have an event for you!

PortSide NewYork has three tractor-trailers filled with industrial marine objects, and everything must go. Bring cash or credit card, and haul away your favorite or much-needed marine items – just make sure to top up the air in your tires.

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Isabelle Autissier: Lessons from the Sea

Isabelle Autissier is a French sailor who has sailed around the world four times. In this TED talk, she shares some of what she has learned about life and living from the sailing the world’s oceans. She speaks of the importance of observing, understanding, and adapting to what nature gives, rather than trying to overpower the forces of the natural world.  Definitely worth watching.

Isabelle Autissier: Lessons from the Sea

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LaSalle’s Freeze-Dried Shipwreck La Belle on the Move

b-650x487Two years ago we posted about how a team of scientists at the Texas A&M University Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation were using freeze-drying to preserve large sections of French explorer’s Robert LaSalle’s flagship, La Belle, which sank in Matagorda Bay in 1686.  Now, the preserved sections of the ship are being moved from their labs in Bryan, TX to the Bullock Texas State History Museum, in Austin, TX.

In 1995, archaeologists discovered the wreckage of La Belle.  The lower portion of the hull had been preserved from decay by being covered in mud.  Excavating the hull risked immediate damage once the waterlogged timbers were exposed to the air. The team at Texas A& M used the biggest freeze-drying machine on the continent devoted to archaeology to prevent the three hundred year old wood from shrinking and cracking.

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“No Ordinary Women” — Reality TV and the Hyping of the Volvo Ocean Race

A few days ago, a trailer was posted on the internet for a four part documentary television series called, “No Ordinary Women.”   The voice over for the trailer begins, “‘No Ordinary Women’ is the story about eleven women ready to do something that has never been done before. They will sail around the world in the Volvo Ocean Race, the toughest race there is.”

The only problem is that the voice-over implies that eleven women sailing around the world in the Volvo Ocean Race is “something that has never been done before.”  The same theme has been picked up in other media sources. The Telegraph comments: “Ladies first: for the first time the Volvo Ocean race will have an all-female crew.” It makes for good copy, but simply isn’t true. The eleven women sailing for TeamSCA will be the third boat in the race with an all female crew.

Trailer “No ordinary women” – About Team SCA and their road towards the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15

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Crow’s Nests : Part 2 — Floki, Ravens and Fighting Tops

Stamp commemorating Floki and his ravens

Stamp commemorating Floki and his ravens

The crows nest, as a shelter for the lookout on whaling ships sailing the icy waters of the Arctic, was by all indications, invented by Captain William Scoresby around 1807.  (See yesterday’s post:  Crow’s Nests : Part 1 — Melville & Captain Scoresby.)  Nevertheless, many claim that the crow’s nest dates back much further.  According to the “Origins of Naval Terminology” page on the America’s Navy website, the crow’s nest can be traced back to the Vikings.  Their entry “crow’s nest” reads:

The raven, or crow, was an essential part of the Vikings’ navigation equipment. These land-lubbing birds were carried on aboard to help the ship’s navigator determine where the closest land lay when weather prevented sighting the shore. In cases of poor visibility, a crow was released and the navigator plotted a course corresponding to the bird’s flight path because the crow invariably headed towards land.

The Norsemen carried the birds in a cage secured to the top of the mast. Later on, as ships grew and the lookout stood his watch in a tub located high on the main mast, the name “crow’s nest” was given to this tub. While today’s Navy still uses lookouts in addition to radars, etc., the crow’s nest is a thing of the past.

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Crow’s Nests : Part 1 — Melville & Captain Scoresby

"The Arctic Expedition -- the Crow's Nest"  1875

“The Arctic Expedition — the Crow’s Nest” 1875

The first of a two-part post on crows nests. Who would have thought that a crow’s nest deserves such attention?

A reader commented on the lack of a crow’s nest in the video of the Charles W. Morgan under sail that we posted over the weekend.   While whaling ships and crow’s nests are closely associated in modern culture, most American whaling ships did not fit crow’s nests for their lookouts.  The lookouts on the Charles W. Morgan probably watched for whales standing in open iron hoops.

The first crow’s nest is credited to Captain William Scoresby Snr., who said to have invented the barrel like shelter for whale ship lookouts in Arctic waters in 1807.  William Scoresby and his son of the same name sailed from Whitby in North Yorkshire, UK, in the Greenland whale fishery. Before the introduction of the crow’s nest, also apparently known as a “hurricane house,” sailors made their own shelters of canvas. Here is Captain William Scoresby, Jr., son of Captain William Scoresby, Snr, describing the evolution of the crow’s nest. (He notably seems less concerned with the welfare of the sailors standing watch than he does the captain, who must also spend time at the masthead, from time to time.)

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Congratulations to Joan Druett — The Beckoning Ice Makes the Long List

Congratulations to Joan Druett! Her crime thriller, The Beckoning Ice, the fifth of her Wiki Coffin series of maritime mysteries, is one of the longlisted titles for the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award.   We reviewed The Beckoning Ice in December 2012. An excerpt from that review:

The  Beckoning Ice is part nautical adventure, part murder mystery, and part thriller, as well as thoroughly researched historical fiction. A multi-award winning nautical historian and novelist, Joan Druett brings a historian’s eye for detail and a novelist’s imagination, sense of character, plot and pacing to the novel. The tension only keeps building and the actions never waivers. The Beckoning Ice is a marvelous read. Highly recommended.

Read the rest of the review

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Refloating the Costa Concordia

Two and a half years ago,  the cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground, sank and capsized with the loss of 32 passengers and crew, off the island of Giglio in the Tyrrhenian Sea off Tuscany.  This morning, the ship was re-floated  as salvors pumped compressed air into 30 large steel tanks welded to both side of the stricken ship.   In roughly a week, the cruise ship will be towed to Genoa to be scrapped.   The salvage of the Costa Concordia, which has cost $1 billion dollars, is one the largest salvage operations ever performed. 

Operation begins to refloat Costa Concordia cruise liner

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Captain William Thomas Shorey, the Black Ahab

WilliamshoreyToday is the 155th anniversary of the birth of Captain William Thomas Shorey, a famous captain in the last days of whaling,  who was affectionately nicknamed “Black Ahab” by his crew.  Shorey was born in Barbados in 1859 and ran away to sea as a young man. He learned navigation from a British ship captain and became a ship’s officer by the age of 21.  After only a decade at sea, he rose to command whaling ships sailing out of San Francisco.

In 1886 Shorey married Julia Ann Shelton, daughter of one of the leading black families in San Francisco. Together they had five children and Captain Shorey occasionally took his family to sea with him.  Captain Shorey was known as  a skilled and lucky captain. Nicknamed “Black Ahab,”  unlike Melville’s captain, Shorey had a reputation for “happy ships” and as a captain that brought his ships and crews home safely.  Returning to port in 1907 after surviving two typhoons, the crew testified that “nothing but Captain Shorey’s coolness and clever seamanship saved [it from] a wreck.”

As the whaling industry collapsed with the advent of cheap petroleum,  Shorey retired from whaling in 1908.  He died in the Spanish flue pandemic of 1919 at the age of 60.

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Whaler Charles W. Morgan Sails with Whales off Stellwagen Bank

What a wonderful juxtaposition. The whaling ship Charles W. Morgan, built in 1841, and recently rebuilt by the Mystic Seaport Museum, sailing with humpback whales as they migrate across Stellwagen Bank off Massachusetts. No harpoons were in evidence and the whales did not seem threatened in the slightest by one of the more successful whale ships of her day.

WHALE HO!

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New London’s SailFest 2014

New London’s Sailfest kicked off yesterday and will continue through Sunday, Jul 13th. It is billed as Southeastern Connecticut’s premier summertime event attracting over 300,000 people over the three-day festival. The festival features a major fireworks display, amusement rides, and over 200 vendors lining the downtown streets. Sailfest produces multiple stages of free entertainment with musical genres ranging in Rock, Celtic, Hip Hop, and Blues. Kids enjoy free shows at the City Pier stage. Sailfest also showcases the 4th largest fireworks display in the Northeast, sponsored by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.  It is unclear whether the schooner Amistad will be attending.   Saturday – 10:00am-11:00pm & Sunday – 9:00am-6:00pm.

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Update: Yang­­-suis & Archimedes Burning Mirrors

Yangsui, in a need of a good polishing

Yang-sui, in a need of a good polishing

One of the great stories from ancient history is of Archimedes Burning Mirrors.  Legend has it that Archimedes designed a series of curved mirrors to reflect and focus the rays of the sun and that these mirrors were used to set a fleet of Roman ships on fire during the Siege of Syracuse in 214–212 BC. Historians have often dismissed the story as a fanciful folk-tale. In January of this year, however, we posted of a modern, if accidental version of the burning mirrors in the form of London’s “Walkie Scorchie,” a glass office tower whose curved surface has been reflecting focussed sunlight, and has melted cars and fried eggs on the sidewalk.   A month later we also posted about a very intentional version of the “burning mirrors”  at the Ivanpah Solar Thermal Power Facility, which is currently the world’s largest solar thermal power system.

Recently, author John Perlin wrote the discovery of Bronze Age Chinese hand-sized “burning mirrors” in his book Let It Shine: The 6,000-Year Story of Solar Energy.   Perlin writesDuring the sixth century BCE, Confucius wrote about the common use of curved mirrors shaped from shiny metal to concentrate the rays of the sun for making fire. These became known as yang­­-suis ­­– translating to solar ignitors, or burning mirrors. 

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City of Water Day Festival, July 12th in New York Harbor

Photo: Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal

Photo: Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal

The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance is hosting its seventh annual City of Water Day festival this Saturday, July 12th, at multiple locations in New York Harbor.  Festivities will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  This year Hoboken is joining in the fun, hosting free kayak and ferry rides, along with a multitude of children’s activities, concerts and boat tours at Maxwell Place Park.  A free ferry between Maxwell Place Park, Paulus Hook in Jersey City and Governors Island will make five round-trip journeys throughout the day. No tickets are required, but all passengers must disembark at every stop.

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Grand Banks Oyster Bar on the Schooner Sherman Zwicker on the Hudson

zwickerI believe that this is the first straight-out restaurant review that we have done on the Old Salt Blog.  Then again the Grand Banks Oyster Bar on the schooner Sherman Zwicker is not your typical restaurant.  Sherman Zwicker is a  142′ long wooden auxiliary fishing schooner, originally built in 1942 for dory fishing on the Grand Banks. She is now alongside Hudson River Park’s Pier 25 in Manhattan with an oyster bar named Grand Banks on her deck and a soon-to-open exhibition by New Draft Collective in her hold.  The schooner is said to be the largest wooden vessel now afloat in New York.

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