Category Archives: History

From the “Hole-in-the-Wall” to the Bridge Café — Gallus Mag to Hurricane Sandy

In March, we posted about “The Captain Rose House of 1773 & Kit Burns Rat Pit of 1870,” at 273 Water Street in Lower Manhattan. In addition to being the third oldest building in Manhattan, the building has a rich … Continue reading

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Burial at Sea in a Bed-Sheet? Really?

As part of a new exhibit, Rough Medicine: Life and Death in the Age of Sail, at the South Australia Maritime Museum, sail maker Don Lucas was asked to sew a shroud for a child, actually a child-sized manikin, fortunately, to … Continue reading

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Twenty Five Years Ago Today, Exxon Valdez Grounded in Prince Edward Sound

On March 24, 1989, the 210,000 dwt crude oil tanker Exxon Valdez sailed from Valdez Marine Terminal and entered Alaska’s Prince William Sound. At 12:04 am, the single hulled ship ran aground on Bligh Reef, resulting in the largest oil spill in … Continue reading

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Mapping 1,200 Years of Scottish Shipwrecks

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) has published a remarkable and potentially dangerous interactive map of 1,200 years of shipwrecks in Scottish waters. The map is part of an effort to enhance the maritime record … Continue reading

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USS Texas at 100 Years Old — A Proud History & an Uncertain Future

I remember visiting the battleship USS Texas in the San Jacinto River in Texas as schoolboy from Dallas while on a family vacation, almost fifty years ago.  Her 14″ guns were impressive and I still recall climbing around her anti-aircraft guns … Continue reading

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Terrible Tilly and Two Other Killer Lighthouses

Lighthouses can be dangerous places. They are placed specifically near hazards to navigation, where the seas are the roughest and the rocks the most treacherous. Here is a brief look at three deadly lighthouses. Tillamook Rock Lighthouse — Off the … Continue reading

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The Captain Rose House of 1773 & Kit Burns Rat Pit of 1870

On my way to an informal gathering of water-bloggers on Saturday, I passed by Captain Joseph Rose’s House at 273 Water Street in Lower Manhattan.  I wanted to stop by because one scene in my next novel, The Shantyman, is set … Continue reading

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Flying on Ice — Iceboating on the Frozen Hudson River

Not all sailors in the Northeast are sick of winter. For some ice boaters on the Hudson, this has been a great season and isn’t over quite yet. Ice boating, or ice yachting, as some call it, is a cross … Continue reading

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The Vikings, the Rus’ & Kiev — the Entangled History of Russia and Ukraine

Stepping away for a moment from the unfolding current events in the Ukraine and Russia,  it might be worthwhile to look at the history of the region, which was shaped by the arrival of merchant adventurers rowing long ships.  As … Continue reading

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The True Story of the Mary Celeste

The story of the “ghost ship” Mary Celeste is one of the great mysteries of the sea. The merchant brigantine was found 400 miles east of the Azores on December 5, 1872, unmanned and apparently abandoned in fair weather.  What happened … Continue reading

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Happy President’s Day – Lincoln’s Camel

In the United States, today is “Presidents’ Day,”  a national holiday on the third Monday of February, falling between Lincoln’s (February 14th) and Washington’s  (February 22) birthdays.  Here is a repost of the tale of Lincoln’s camel that we ran back … Continue reading

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Building New York With Ships’ Ballast — Cobblestones, Blitz Bricks & Bristol Basin

In the almost 6,000 miles of streets, roads and highways in the five boroughs of New York City, only about 15 miles are still paved with cobblestones. As noted by the New York Times: Starting in the 17th century, cobblestones … Continue reading

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Was Albert Einstein a Lousy Sailor ?

The first word that comes to mind when thinking of Albert Einstein is probably not “sailor.”  Nevertheless, Einstein enjoyed sailing and appears to have done at least some of his most important work while on sailing vacations.  A friend described … Continue reading

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The Oldest Indian Ocean Shipwreck and the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea

Sometime around the 60 CE, a Greek merchant, whose name is lost to history, wrote a guide, The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.  Periplus is the Latinization of the Greek word περίπλους (periplous, contracted from periploos), literally “a sailing-around.”  While Erythraean literally … Continue reading

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Sleeping Beauty — Britain’s WWII Motorized Submersible Canoe

In World War II, the British government set up the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe. An unusual group, they were also known as “the Baker Street Irregulars,” (because their headquarters was on Baker Street in … Continue reading

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No, Noah’s Ark Was Not Round (& No Cannibal Rats)

We recently endured the media farce in which dozens of newspapers and websites reported that “a ghost ship filled with cannibal rats may be headed straight for Britain,” even though the ship has probably sunk and the bit about the rats … Continue reading

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Clipper Ship City of Adelaide — Close to Home but Short on Cash

The world’s oldest surviving clipper ship, City of Adelaide, has arrived in Port Hedland, Western Australia. She has been carried from Scotlandon the deck of the heavy-lift ship MV Palanpur, with intermediate stops to load and discharge other cargo.  MV Palanpur is … Continue reading

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Were Hobbit’s Ancestors Ancient Sailors?

For the land-bound, the sea is a boundary. For sailors, it is a path to other shores. But how long have humans been sailing? We can be reasonably sure that humans have been sailing in rafts, boats or ships for … Continue reading

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New York City — Once The City of Ships

Sometime during the Civil War, the poet Walt Whitman wrote a poem about New York City, titled “The City of Ships.” The first stanzas begin: City of ships! (O the black ships! O the fierce ships! O the beautiful, sharp-bow’d … Continue reading

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Monitor Lab at Mariner’s Museum Shut By Lack of Fed Funds

For several years now, there has been a webcam of the 90,000 gallon treatment tank where the 120 ton wrought iron turret of the USS Monitor is being preserved by electrolysis and desalination.  After spending 111 years underwater, the turret will need … Continue reading

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