Category Archives: History

Harriett Tubman and the Great Combahee Ferry Raid

This is an updated repost from 2014. Now that it has been announced that Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackon on the US $20 bill, it seems worthwhile to recall the Great Combahee Ferry Raid, which Harriet Tubman helped plan, scouted and … Continue reading

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SS Great Britain — “The Greatest Experiment Since the Creation”

  I recently visited the museum ship SS Great Britain, in Bristol, UK.  When she was launched in 1843, the iron-hulled luxury passenger steamship SS Great Britain was described as “the greatest experiment since the Creation.”

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Throwback Thursday: New York Harbor Tugs — Then & Now

When I arrived in New York back in the mid-70s, a vast fleet of tugs swarmed across the harbor like so many water beetles.  Most kept busy assisting ships in docking. Now there are fewer but larger ships, many with … Continue reading

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German WWI Destroyers V44 & V82 Lost and Now Found in Portsmouth Harbor

British archeologists have located the wrecks of two German destroyers, V44  and V82, from World War I in an unlikely location — on the tidal mudflats near Whale Island in the eastern part of Portsmouth Harbour, opposite the Brittany Ferries … Continue reading

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Peter Stanford, South Street Seaport Museum Founder, Dies at 89

Peter Stanford, an icon of maritime historical preservation in the United States, died yesterday at the age of 89. In 1967, Peter and his wife Norma founded the South Street Seaport Museum on New York City’s East River waterfront. Peter Stanford … Continue reading

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Lost US Navy Tug USS Conestoga Discovered After 95 Years

On March 25th, 1921, the US Navy ocean-going tug, USS Conestoga, with a coal barge in tow, steamed out of Mare Island, California, bound for Tutuila, American Samoa, by way of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The tug, barge and crew disappeared. … Continue reading

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USS Vesuvius and the Amazing Dynamite Gun

The US Navy is currently testing some potentially revolutionary new weapons, including electromagnetic rail guns. This is not the first time that the navy has experimented with new and exotic weapons systems, not all of which have been successful. USS … Continue reading

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Wreck of Vasco da Gama’s Lost Ship Esmeralda Believed Found Off Oman

The wreck of the Esmeralda, a ship from Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama’s  second voyage to India in 1502 and 1503, is believed to have been found close to Al Hallaniyah island, near the coast of Oman according to an … Continue reading

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Remembering Weymouth History at the Weymouth Leviathan

I am attending the Weymouth Leviathan, a maritime literary festival, in the lovely, historic port at the mouth of the River Wey in Dorset on the south-western coast of England. It is a fitting locale. Most of the writers attending … Continue reading

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Did a 100,000 Year Old Iceberg Sink the Titanic? Or Perhaps a 4 Year Old Iceberg?

The headlines are great. “Iceberg that Sank the Titanic 100,000 years old” and “Titanic iceberg was a 100,000-year-old giant” and “Iceberg that sank the Titanic was 100,000-years-old and of monstrous size” and so and so on. Dozens of headlines and … Continue reading

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New Masts for the 1895 Lumber Schooner C.A.Thayer

Last week, the 1895 lumber schooner C.A. Thayer, the last surviving West Coast lumber schooner, returned to her berth at San Francisco Maritime‘s Hyde Street Pier, after having three masts and a bowsprit installed by the Bay Ship and Yacht … Continue reading

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Update: Battle over the Pocket Battleship Graf Spee’s Nazi Eagle

What has been referred to as the Second Battle of the River Platte, may be coming to an end. In 2010, we posted about a legal battle over the salvaging of the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee which was scuttled … Continue reading

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Remembering the SS Marine Electric — a Tragedy that Made Us All Safer

Thirty-three years ago today, on February 12, 1983, the collier SS Marine Electric loaded with 24,800 tons of steam coal, capsized and sank in a storm 30 miles off the coast of Virginia. Thirty-one of the 34 crew members died. While nothing … Continue reading

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“The Finest Hours,” Greatest Small Boat Rescue in History — Movie Review

Originally posted on gCaptain. Reposted with permission. “The Finest Hours” is far from a perfect movie. Nevertheless, it recounts a remarkable story of heroism at sea that is well worth retelling. For anyone who has spent any time around ships, … Continue reading

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Remembering SS Dorchester & the Four Chaplains

On February 3, 1943, the troopship SS Dorchester was in a convoy bound for Greenland when it was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat. Of the 904 soldiers and crew aboard, 672 died. Among the dead were four US … Continue reading

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Ships of the Future Past — the Demise of Commerical Hovercraft

In the late 60s and early 70s, hovercraft ferries were the ships of the future. Hovercraft, flying on cushions of air, operated across the English Channel carrying passengers and cars at speeds of 40 to 60 knots. Some imagined that one-day hovercraft … Continue reading

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100 Year Difference — MS Allure of the Seas vs RMS Titanic

Numbers are fine but sometimes the best way to communicate scale is visually.  The image above is what it would have looked like if the largest passenger liner of roughly 100 years ago, RMS Titanic, was followed closely by the … Continue reading

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Ships in Bottles — A Bit of the History and Lore

A Facebook video by my friend Frank Hanavan showing him inserting a ship in a bottle (after the page break) got me thinking about, well, ships in bottles. When, where and why did sailors start putting ships in bottles? After … Continue reading

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Wrecks from the Lost Whaling Fleet of 1871 Found in Alaska

In 1871, a fleet of 33 American whaling ships became stuck in the ice off the coast of Alaska.  Over 1,200 whalers were rescued by the seven ships which managed to avoid being trapped in the ice floes. Remarkably, all … Continue reading

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The Strange & Grim History of Battleship Island

Hashima Island lies nine miles off the port of Nagasaki, Japan. Between the seawall which encircles the small island and the abandoned apartment blocks rising from it, many think that it looks like a battleship, earning the nickname, Gunkanjima, or … Continue reading

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