On this the official “Talk Like A Pirate Day,” all I can say is, “No, thank you. I would rather not.” The problem is that there are still real pirates plying their trade around the globe, abusing and and too often killing merchant seamen. So, pretending to speak in some stilted form of 17th century nautical English, by way of Hollywood and Disney, while pretending to be a faux-pirate, seems in bad taste, at best. The larger question is, why romanticize pirates in the first place? In the real world, pirates, whether of the so-called “Golden Age of Piracy,” or of today, were and are nautical thieves and, more often than not, murderers as well.
Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. recently wrapped up recovery efforts on the wreck of the SS Central America for the year. In last five months, they have recovered more than 15,500 gold and silver coins, 45 gold bars and hundreds of nuggets, jewelry and other artifacts from the wreck, which lies in 7,200 feet of water, 200 miles off the Carolina coast. After repairs and study of the data collected thus far, Odyssey plans to return to the site in 2015.
Odyssey got the contract to salvage the cargo of the SS Central America from a court appointed receiver representing investors in a venture once lead by Tommy Thompson, which located the wreck in 1988. Therein hangs a tale of Tommy Thompson and his “plague of gold.”
In 1971, Blue Water, White Death, a documentary about great white sharks hit the big screens. I recall the documentary as thrilling and absolutely terrifying. White sharks were portrayed as monstrous killing machines, swimming in every ocean, ready to gobble us all up. And if that was not enough reason to stay out of the water, scenes from Blue Water, White Death were said to have inspired Peter Benchley’s best-selling 1974 thriller, Jaws. (Benchley also borrowed heavily from Melville’s Moby Dick, swapping out a white whale for a white shark.) Jaws the book was followed by Jaws the movie, followed by three sequels. The message was clear — sharks were viscous and terrible beasts. Be afraid! Be very afraid!
Columbia 1923 launch (left) Columbia 2014 launch (right)
The Columbia of 1923 was a fishing schooner built at the Arthur Dana Story shipyard in Essex, MA, from a design by Starling Burgess. She was famous for her speed and seaworthiness and for winning international schooner races, including one against Bluenose.Columbia was lost with all hands in a hurricane off Sable Island, Nova Scotia in 1927.
The Columbia of 2014 was recently launched at Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City, FL. The 141 foot long schooner was also built to the same design as her namesake, although the new Columbia is built as a yacht rather than as a fisherman and of steel rather than wood. Burgess’ plans were adapted for steel construction by Gilbert Associates, naval architects in Boston. Columbia will continue to undergo outfitting and begin sailing trials. She will also be exhibited at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show October 30th – November 3rd, 2014.
After close to two decades of construction, the frigate Hermione is finally under sail. In 1997, a group of historical and tall ship enthusiasts formed the Association Hermione-La Fayette and set about building a replica of the French frigate, Hermione, which carried Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, across the Atlantic in 1780 to join the American rebels in their struggle for independence.
The original Hermione was built in eleven months in 1779, in Rochefort, France by the shipwright Henri Chevillard. The replica took seventeen years in what proved to be part shipbuilding project and part living history museum. While observing the requirements of current safety regulations, the shipyard used primarily 18th century shipbuilding techniques and invited visitors to learn about the process. The 25 million euro cost of the project was largely financed by 3.7 million visitors to the shipyard during the years of construction. The Hermione Association has attracted artisan craftsmen from all over the world and now has close to 8,000 members.
On September 14th, 1914, one hundred years ago today, off the Brazilian island of Trindale, one of the stranger naval battles of World War I was fought between two converted passenger liners, one of which was disguised to look like the other. In a battle of doppelgängers, the German liner lost to the British ship that it resembled.
Cap Trafalger was a passenger liner built for the Hamburg-South America Line for their service between Germany and the River Plate. She was 613 feet long with a beam of 72 feet, 18,710 GRT and could carry nearly 1,600 passengers. She went into service in April of 1914, but by August, with the outbreak of war, she was requisitioned by the German Imperial Navy as an auxiliary cruiser. Cap Trafalger rendezvoused at the remote Brazilian island of Trindade, 500 miles east of the Brazilian mainland, with the gunboat SMS Eber, which transferred naval officers, ammunition and armaments to the liner. Two 4.1 inch guns and six one-pounder pom-poms were installed on the ship. All were manned by German naval personnel. The ship was given the mission to act as a commerce raider, sinking British merchant shipping.
At around 6AM, 200 years ago today, the British Royal Navy began a fearsome bombardment of Fort McHenry at the mouth of Baltimore harbor. The British had attempted to take Baltimore by both land and sea. The British army attack stalled the day before, with the loss of Major General Robert Ross. As the British Army prepared a second attack on the American earthworks, the Royal Navy took its turn. Baltimore’s defenders had sunk 22 ships in the main channel. Any attempt to clear the channel would bring the British under the the guns of Fort McHenry and other American batteries.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is increasing the size of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron from 448 square miles to 4,300 square miles, doubling the number the number of shipwrecks protected to 200. Located in northwestern Lake Huron, Thunder Bay is adjacent to one of the most treacherous stretches of water within the Great Lakes system. Unpredictable weather, murky fog banks, sudden gales, and rocky shoals earned the area the name “Shipwreck Alley.” Thunder Bay is the only Marine Sanctuary in fresh water.
We may always associate September 11th with the tragic attacks of 2001. September 11th of 1814, however, 200 years ago today, saw a significant naval victory by the young American Navy at the Battle of Plattsburgh that may have changed the outcome of the War of 1812.
On this day, an American squadron, under the command of Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough, defeated the Royal Navy on Lake Champlain in a bloody battle at Plattsburgh Bay. The Battle of Plattsburgh turned back an invasion force of 11,000 British troops which was intended to do nothing less than redraw the map of the United States. Like the Battle of Lake Erie, a year before, the Battle of Plattsburg was fought in fresh water hundreds of miles from the ocean. It was not a large fleet battle, and yet, was no doubt one of the most important naval victories of the war.
On the thirteenth anniversary of the attacks 9/11, it seems worthwhile to revisit the amazing story of the spontaneous maritime evacuation of somewhere between 300,000 and one million people who were trapped in lower Manhattan on the afternoon of September 11, 2001. It truly was an American Dunkirk.
Here is an amazing video that captures the madness, wonder, determination and commonplace heroism of that Tuesday in September, thirteen years ago today.
Despite being hunted from 1905–1971, the California blue whale has rebounded so that today it is approximately 97% of pre-whaling levels. The journal Marine Mammal Science recently published a study, “Do ship strikes threaten the recovery of endangered eastern North Pacific blue whales?” The analysis by the researchers from the University of Washington investigated why the observed increase in the whale population has slowed in recent years. They asked whether the cause might be ship strikes — whales being killed when hit by ships. They concluded that while ship strikes were too frequent, the reason that the rate of growth of the blue population has leveled off is because they have reached the capacity of the habitat to support them.
“The real key finding here is that they are close to recovery, which is a bit of a surprise. … Our perspective is that we’d rather there were no ship strikes at all, and they are over the legal limit,” said Dr. Trevor Branch in an interview with the BBC. “They have to do something to stop it, but 11 per year is so much lower than historic catches.”
The headline in the South China Morning Post was, at the very least, eye catching — Shanghai to San Francisco in 100 minutes by Chinese supersonic submarine. The article makes it clear that while the Chinese may be researching such a submarine, they are no where close to actually building one. So how does one, even theoretically, build a “supersonic submarine?” The answer may be by using supercavitation. How close are the Chinese to actually designing and building one — not very.
Cavitation is the creation of water vapor bubbles in areas of low pressure on a hull or propeller underwater. In most cases cavitation is something to avoid, if possible. Cavitation bubbles forming and collapsing on a ship’s propeller can damage the blades. The formation and collapse of the bubbles is also noisy, so submarine designers try to design to avoid cavitation in order that submarines be a stealthy as possible. Cavitation also reduces the lift on hydrofoils.
A team of US Navy divers recovered five crates of live munitions from the bottom of Lake George, NY, in about 60′ of water. The munitions were found by recreational divers over the Labor Day weekend. The Navy divers are reported to have recovered 37mm shells, believed to be from an 1870s Hotchkiss gun, as well as German WWII anti-aircraft rounds. How and why the live munitions ended up at the bottom of Lake George remains a mystery.
The munitions apparently have whatsoever nothing to do with the history of the lake. Nevertheless, whoever dumped them happened to pick a location on the lake that has a legacy of bloody warfare. Today, Lake George is a tourist destination and many of the islands in the lake are popular sites for campers. The lake was not always so peaceful.
We have been following the 1995 built replica of the topsail schooner HMS Pickle for some time. In 2008, she was offered for sale for £350,000.00 (US$626,640). In July, she reappeared on the market on E-Bay where the winning bid was £69,500.00. The Seller’s Notes of Ebay read: “Pickle is in need of some work to bring her up to scratch.” The original HMS Pickle was the first ship to bring the news of Nelson’s great victory and tragic death at Trafalgar back to England.
Tuvalu is a tiny Polynesian island nation in roughly the geometric center of the Pacific Ocean. The CIA World Factbook describes the nation’s economy as follows: Tuvalu consists of a densely populated, scattered group of nine coral atolls with poor soil. Only eight of the atolls are inhabited. The country has no known mineral resources and few exports and is almost entirely dependent upon imported food and fuel. Subsistence farming and fishing are the primary economic activities. Fewer than 1,000 tourists, on average, visit Tuvalu annually. Job opportunities are scarce and public sector workers make up most of those employed. About 15% of the adult male population work as seamen on merchant ships abroad….
By pure luck, the growth of on-line video is helping to support Tuvalu. On-line video is booming. Last month, 190 million Americans watched online video content, according to comScore. So what does this have to do with Tuvalu?
Yesterday, we posted about Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), a privately funded operation to assist refugees in trouble attempting to cross the Mediterranean. While we obviously wish them well, a recent report reminded us again of the scope of the refugee crisis. The Italian Navy’s Operation Mare Nostrum recently rescued close to 4,000 refugees in the Mediterranean near Sicily. Helicopters, patrol boats and frigates were part of the combined rescue operation. Almost 110,000 people have been rescued since January, but nearly 2,000 have died attempting the crossing, according to the UN’s refugee agency. The Mare Nostrum operation, costs £7.5m per month and was started in October 2013 after 360 migrants drowned off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.