Category Archives: History

“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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Is the Explosive-Laden SS Richard Montgomery a Target for Terrorists?

Anti-terror police in the UK are suddenly concerned that the SS Richard Montgomery, a Liberty ship which sank over seventy years ago loaded with high explosives in the Thames estuary, might be a potential target for terrorists.  Reportedly, the government … Continue reading

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San Jose, “Holy Grail of Shipwrecks” — the Legal Battles are Just Beginning

Battles at sea usually last a few hours. Battles in court can last far, far longer.  In the Battle of Santa Maria on October 5, 1804, when a British squadron attacked a Spanish treasure fleet, the ship Nuestra Señora de … Continue reading

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Remembering Mocha Dick, the Real Rogue White Whale Who Inspired Moby Dick

Today in theaters in the US, the movie “In the Heart of the Sea” opens. It is based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s book, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.  (I will be reviewing the movie tomorrow.) … Continue reading

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The PBY Seaplanes of Pearl Harbor — Rare Images from 74 Years Later

Minutes before the beginning of the attack on the warships of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese Imperial Navy planes bombed the nearby U.S. Naval Air Station on the east coast of Oahu, destroying twenty-seven Catalina PBY seaplanes on … Continue reading

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Remembering the Halifax Explosion and the Boston Christmas Tree

Ninety-eight years ago today, on the morning of December 6, 1917, the French freighter SS Mont-Blanc collided with the SS Imo, a Norwegian ship chartered to carry relief supplies to Belgium, in the Narrows, a strait connecting the upper Halifax Harbour … Continue reading

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Colombia Announces Finding Galleon San José, the “Holy Grail of Ship Wrecks”

Today, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos announced that it has found the wreck of the galleon San José, what some have called the “holy grail of shipwrecks.”  He announced the discovery on Twitter.  In June of 1708, during the War of … Continue reading

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Voyage of the Mayflower II, 1957

Happy Thanksgiving! As a “Throwback Thursday” — Thanksgiving edition, here is a short video of the voyage of the Mayflower II across the Atlantic in 1957, under the command of Captain Alan Villiers. Voyage of the Mayflower II, 1957

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Coast Guard Pumps Benzene from Argo, 78 Year Old Lake Erie Toxic Wreck

This weekend the US Coast Guard recovered 10,000 gallons of benzene from the wreck of a tank barge that sank 78 years ago in Lake Erie. The Coast Guard has pumped the first of 8 tanks on the wrecked barge. In … Continue reading

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Pre-Fab Marble Church to be Assembled after 1500 Years on Sea Floor

Around 1847, Henry Manning, a London carpenter, started building houses in components that could be easily stowed on ships and reassembled by emigrants on the other side of an ocean. Several hundred “Manning cottages” were shipped to Australia. It turns … Continue reading

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Remembering the MS St. Louis and the “Voyage of the Damned”

Given the current heated debate over Syrian refugees, it seems worthwhile to remember the ill-fated voyage of the German ocean liner St. Louis in 1939. The ship carried 908 Jewish refugees who were fleeing from Nazi Germany. The ship and its … Continue reading

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Hedy Lamarr — Radio-Controlled Torpedo Designer and Movie Star

Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, better known as Hedy Lamarr, was born to Jewish parents in Austria on November 9th, 1914, one hundred and one years ago today. At the height of her movie career, she was known as the “most beautiful … Continue reading

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Edwin Fox, Teak East Indiaman at Picton, NZ

Ben Talman, a reader and contributor to the Old Salt Blog, visited the Edwin Fox in Picton, New Zealand and took a series of wonderful photos of the historic ship. The Edwin Fox is an East Indiaman built in 1853 of teak in Calcutta, India. … Continue reading

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“The Finest Hours” — New Movie About Heroic Coast Guard Rescue

The US Coast Guard rarely gets enough credit for the remarkable work that they do in routinely rescuing mariners in often extremely dangerous conditions. A new movie, “The Finest Hours“, is coming out this winter, which tells the story of … Continue reading

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