NOAA Expands Thunder Bay’s Shipwreck Alley Sanctuary Tenfold

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.

A Sanctuary for Sunken Ships

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Bicentenial of the Battle of Plattsburgh — the False Nile & Defeat of the Royal Navy

Battle of Plattsburgh

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.

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Repost: BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience

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.

BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience

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A Super-Hero Suit to Dive on Antikythera Shipwreck

exosuit-main1An international team of archaeologists and divers wearing an Exosuit will be diving on the Antikythera shipwreck this month. The suit is described as a part robot and part submarine, and evocative of the suit from the “Iron Man” movies and their hero, Tony Stark. With the Exosuit, divers can descend safely to 1000 feet (300+ m) and stay for hours, without having to decompress on the way back to the surface. It is fitting that the most modern high-tech suit is using to explore the shipwreck that was the source of the most advanced high-tech device know from the ancient world, the Antikythera mechanism.

Exosuit Hublot

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Ship From Franklin Expedition & Possibly the Battle of Baltimore Found

HMS Terror in ice

HMS Terror in ice

The wreckage of one of two missing ships from Franklin’s lost expedition of 1845 is believed to have been found. It is not known yet if the wreck is of HMS Terror or HMS Erebus. The Franklin expedition was an attempt to traverse the last unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage.  Franklin, 128 men of the expedition and the two ships, were all lost.  Searches for the lost expedition began in 1848, and continued through much of the 19th century. Since 2008, Parks Canada has led six major searches for the ships. A remotely operated underwater vehicle searching the Victoria Strait made the discovery on Sunday.

Before serving as an expedition ship, HMS Terror played a memorable role in American history. Indeed, so did a ship named HMS Erebus. Continue reading

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Great News — California Blue Whales Rebound to Near Historic Levels

bluewhale1Despite 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.”

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Chinese Supercavitating Supersonic Submarines? Is Supercavitation the Future of High Speed Ocean Travel?

shkval2The 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.

Supercavitation is very different, however. Continue reading

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Floating Library Launches on the Lilac

floatinglibrarylilacStarting today and running through October 3rd, the 1933 lighthouse tender Lilac, on the Hudson River at Pier 25 in New York, is being transformed into the Floating Library, a mobile device-free salon for reading, writing, research, debate, and fearless dreaming. Created and organized by artist Beatrice Glow, who also brought the Aquarium from Austronesia to the the ship in 2012, custom-made lounge furniture and bookshelves filled with donated books offer space to relax and ideas to inspire. Workshops, discussions, and presentations will provide further food for thought. Activities take place almost daily Wednesday through Sunday and hours will vary. Please consult the calendar for times and details of the events.

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Mystery Munitions Recovered from Lake George

AMMO1_19079A 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.

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A New Owner for HMS Pickle

HMSPicklereplica2We 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.

An article in In the Boatshed, identifies the owner as Malcolm Nicholson who also owns the 1926 iron hull Humber sloop Spider T.   From In the Boat Shed:

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Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival 2014

thamsetallshipAnother great event that I wish I was attending.  Starting tomorrow September 5th and lasting through the 9th, the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival will take place at three sites across Royal Greenwich and one in neighboring Canary Wharf.  The tall ships will start arriving on the Thames today after an exciting race from Falmouth.  More than 50 tall ships will be participating.  The event is said to be the largest gathering of tall ships on the Thames in over 25 years.

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Tuvalu — Tiny Pacific Island Nation in the Age of the Internet

Tuvalu_-_Funafuti_-_ApproachTuvalu 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?

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Italian Navy’s Operation Mare Nostrum Rescues 4,000 Refugees

boat-carrying-african-immigrants-sinks-off-libya-coastYesterday, 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.

Italian Navy Rescues 4,000 Migrants Off the Italian Coast

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Migrant Offshore Aid Station — A Millionaire’s Vision to Save Refugees

Chris and Regina Catrambone and their daughter Maria Luisa have launched what they say is the world’s first privately funded vessel to help migrants in trouble at sea. Specifically, they hope to assist refugees in distress attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR estimates that 1,889 have died in these waters since the start of the year, 1,600 of them since the beginning of June. The Catrambones have funded the outfitting of the Phonenix, a 130′ vessel, which was originally a fishing trawler, later converted to a research vessel and them a training ship. They have named their operation Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS).

As reported by the BBC, “The entire project, the couple say, has cost them “millions” with the total running costs of the ship’s initial 60-day mission being 2m euros, (£1.59m, $2.64m) which they say is the extent of their budget… They are hoping to crowd source extra funding for MOAS, aside from their own cash, and extend it into an all-year-round operation.”    Thanks to Alaric Bond and Phil Leon for passing along the story.

The Migrant Offshore Aid Station Trailer

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A Rainbow of Lobsters — from Blue to Calico to Striped

Photo: Associated Press

Photo: Associated Press

Recently, Meghan LaPlante, 14, and her father Jay, caught a blue lobster in one of their traps. Not a blueish lobster or blue tinted lobster but a extremely bright blue, cerulean lobster.  Said to be a 1 in 2 million catch, the lobster, nicknamed Skylar, has been spared the cooking pot and will live out the rest of its days at Maine’s State Aquarium.

For reasons that no one seems to understand, there has been an apparent increase in the number of oddly colored lobsters showing up in lobster traps these days.  Normal lobsters are a mottled greenish-brown, and turn red when cooked.  Bright blue, orange, yellow, calico and albino lobsters are being reported more and more often.  Last year a lobsterman caught a lobster that was striped half orange and half brown, a variation believed to be the rarest of all.  The colored lobsters apparently taste and look very much like regular lobsters when cooked. They all turn red, except for albinos, which lacking pigment, stay white.  Why are we seeing such a range of odd colored lobsters?

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The Whaleship Charles W. Morgan Returns to Mystic — and the Voyage Continues

The Charles W. Morgan has returned to the Mystic Seaport Museum from her 38th voyage.  Her previous voyages, between 1841 and 1921, took her around the globe hunting whales, whereas the 38th voyage took the wooden whaling ship to ports in New England, including New Bedford, where the ship was built at the Jethro and Zachariah Hillman shipyard. The historic ship underwent a five year rebuild and restoration at Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard in Mystic prior to setting sail again.  Crowds gathered to see her at every port, and fittingly, whales swam alongside the Morgan as she sailed off Cape Cod’s Stellwagen Bank.

A short video about the historic ship’s return to Mystic. No doubt she will continue to fascinate, inspire and teach visitors to the seaport as she has for more than seventy years since she first arrived in Mystic.

The Charles. W. Morgan: Back Home at Mystic Seaport

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Struggle over Kurdish Oil — Tanker United Kalavrvta Goes Dark in Gulf of Mexico

A still image from video taken by a U.S. Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft shows the oil tanker United Kalavyrta carrying a cargo of Kurdish crude oil, approaching Galveston, Texas last month. (Reuters)

A still image from video taken by a U.S. Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft shows the oil tanker United Kalavyrta carrying a cargo of Kurdish crude oil, approaching Galveston, Texas last month. (Reuters)

The Suezmax oil tanker United Kalavrvta has been motoring in large circles in the Gulf of Mexico for over a month. Today her AIS (Automatic Identification System) transponder was turned off, making her far more difficult to track. The ship has, at least electronically, gone dark.

United Kalavrvta is fully loaded with $100 million worth of crude oil belong to … well, that is a point of contention. The Kurdish oil is claimed by both the government of Iraq in Baghdad and Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq. In July, a US court ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to take control of the cargo, on behalf of the Iraqi government. A few days later, however, the court said it lacked jurisdiction to carry out the seizure as the tanker was about 60 miles offshore. That prompted the Kurds to file a request to vacate the order. The request was granted on Monday.

Disputed Kurdish oil tanker mysteriously goes dark off Texas coast

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Rocking the Boat in Hunts Point — Where Boats Build Kids

wbI recently learned about Rocking the Boat, a wonderful organization in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, one of the five boroughs of the City of New York.  Since 1998, the after-school program has been teaching neighborhood kids to build wooden boats. In the last 15 years, students have built about 50 vessels.  But Rocking the Boat is more than just boatbuilding. Their tag line is — “Kids don’t just build boats, boats build kids.”

Rocking the Boat provides their students with a safe place to work together with others, to set goals, learn skills and accomplish something real and tangible. The program also provides counselling and job skills training.  And yes, they build some beautiful boats. Their website notes that “seven Rocking the Boat Job Skills Apprentices are nearing the final stretch of a two-year effort to construct a 29-foot whaleboat on commission for the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut….for the Charles W. Morgan whaleship.”

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30th Annual Gloucester Schooner Festival


Photo: Doug Mangum

The schooners start arriving in Gloucester, MA tomorrow for the 30th Annual Gloucester Schooner Festival.  Twenty three schooners are participating this year. The US Coast Guard barque Eagle, while definitely not a schooner, will also be visiting. On Saturday, the schooners will be at the dock for visitors, while onshore, the town will be celebrating Maritime Gloucester Heritage Day. Sunday begins with a Parade of Sail followed by the Mayor’s race for the Esperanto Cup.  Click here for information on reserving a place aboard one of the schooners during the Parade of Sail.

A video of the Parade of Sail from last year: Continue reading

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John Broadwater’s USS Monitor – A Historic Ship Completes Its Final Voyage, a Review

monitorrevOn December 31, 1862 while under tow in a gale off Cape Hatteras, USS Monitor sank. The Monitor had been in service for only ten months and yet in that brief time had revolutionized naval warfare. The wreck of the Monitor was finally located in August of 1973. In his book, USS Monitor – A Historic Ship Completes Its Final Voyage, John Broadwater tells the remarkable story of the ship and of the dedicated teams of archeologists, historians, divers and engineers who worked over the last forty years to preserve the ship and to rescue what could be saved from the wreck.

Broadwater is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the “ship that changed everything.” He was the only person involved in the Monitor from the discovery of the wreck in 1973 through preservation, management and the recovery of the portions of the ship being preserved ashore today. He recently retired from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, where he served as chief archaeologist.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of the USS Monitor. Continue reading

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