Confirmed: Franklin’s HMS Erebus Found in Victoria Strait

Erebus_imageIn September, we posted about the discovery of one of two missing ships from the Franklin Expedition of 1845.  The two missing ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were both originally built as bomb ships. As bomb ships they were built to be extremely strong and as such were especially suitable to be refit as expedition ships for Arctic expeditions.  Because the two ships were of roughly the same size and similar in other respects, the archaeologists from Parks Canada were not initially able to identify which of the two ships had been found.  They now confirm that the ship wreck located is the HMS Erebus.   Sir John Franklin, captain HMS Erebus and in overall command of the expedition, had been searching for the fabled Northwest Passage.  HMS Terror has still not been discovered.  Thanks to Alaric Bond for passing on the news.

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Sting’s The Last Ship — A Musical of Love and Loss in a Tyneside Shipyard

lastshiplogoJust over a year ago, I was surprised — shocked might be a better word — to hear of a play about a shipyard. The Boat Factory was set in Harland & Wolff of Belfast, the shipyardyard that built theTitanic as well as roughly 1,700 other ships. The play was staged in a small off-Broadway theater and had a cast of only two, yet it was heartfelt and very entertaining. I also suspected that it might be the last play I would ever see about a shipyard. I was wrong.

Last night, my wife and I saw the first preview performance of a new Broadway musical, “The Last Ship,” with music and lyrics by Sting and a book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey.  Said to be inspired by Sting’s childhood, the musical is set in a shipbuilding town on the Tyneside at the Wallsend Swan Hunter shipyard.

So how was it? I can say without a doubt that it was the best Broadway musical set in a shipyard that I have ever seen. OK, that is setting the bar too low.  Continue reading

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Lucky Sturgeon — A Riverkeeper’s Beer

luckysturgeonsign-LRaeIn 2011, we posted about the Elissa I.P.A. (India Pale Ale) brewed by the Saint Arnold Brewing Company, which bills itself as Texas’ oldest craft brewery.  The Elissa I.P.A. was named after Elissa, the official tall ship of the state of Texas.  Every bottle of the limited edition beer sold included a donation toward repairs to the historic ship.

Now, two breweries in Westchester, NY  — Peekskill Brewery and Elmsford-based Captain Lawrence Brewery — are teaming up to create an I.P.A. to benefit the Riverkeeper.  The public was invited to help choose the name of the new brew. Of the roughly 300 names suggested, Lucky Sturgeon was the name chosen.

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Collision Between between Colombo Express and Maersk Tanjong in Suez Canal

This isn’t supposed to happen. The Hapag-Lloyd 8,749-teu MV Colombo Express and the 8,112-teu MV Maersk Tanjong collided today at the northern end of Egypt’s Suez Canal, near Port Said.  No casualties were reported.  MV Colombo Express suffered a 20-meter dent on her port bow and lost three containers over the side.  The collision is expected to delay traffic in the canal in both directions, pending and investigation and retrieval of the lost containers. From the video and AIS trackof the accident it appears that MV Colombo Express steered into MV Maersk Tanjong

Accident between two vessels in suez canal 29/09/2014 in portsaid

Collision between Colombo Express and Maersk Tanjong off Suez Canal

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Oceans Older than the Sun

UpsilonAndromedae_D_moonsThe oceans could indeed be older than the sun. A team of scientists from the University of Michigan now believe that up to half the water on our planet is older than the sun. Earlier theories had assumed that interstellar ice particles evaporated with the formation of Earth and reformed later to create the oceans. Now, these scientists have calculated that if the old theory was valid, that the amount of deuterium found in terrestrial water would be far lower than it is. Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen that has an extra neutron attached.  The only explanation they have found for the higher levels of deuterium observed is if more of the interstellar ice particles helped form the world’s oceans directly. They calculate that as much as 50% of the earth’s water might come from these ice particles, which have higher levels of deuterium. This might suggest that water on distant planets is far more common than previously thought.

Up to half of Earth’s water is older than the sun

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The Wanderer — the Slave Ship Flying a Yacht Club Burgee

USS_Wanderer_(1857)The schooner yacht Wanderer was built in 1857 for Colonel John D. Johnson, a New Orleans sugar baron. At just over 100 feet long, she was luxurious, sleek and extremely fast, reportedly capable of sailing at 20 knots.  The Wanderer is not remembered, however, either for her beauty or her speed. She is remembered as the last slave ship to carry a human cargo to the shores of the United States.

In her only voyage as a slaver, she flew the New York Yacht Club burgee at her peak. That turned out to be a critical detail. The burgee and the complete implausibility of a luxury yacht whose owner wore the uniform of the New York Yacht Club, operating as a slave ship, allowed the ship to slip past the American and British anti-slavery patrol on the African coast.

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Masts Stepped on the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry

ohpmastThe main mast on the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry was stepped in a dockside ceremony on Wednesday at the Hinckley Company in Portsmouth, R.I.  The 200′ tall ship is the first full-rigged ocean-going ship to be built in the United States in the last 110 years.

The mainmast towers 120’ above the deck of SSV Oliver Hazard Perry and is made up of three sections. The 65’ long lower section is made of steel. The upper two sections (called the topmast and t’gallant) are made of Douglas fir, which came from a private tree farm in Rainier, Oregon and was turned in Washington State on the largest spar lathe in North America.  The ship’s foremast had been stepped earlier in the month and the mizzen mast was stepped Wednesday afternoon following the stepping of the main.

OHPRI has raised over $14 million toward the completion of SSV Oliver Hazard Perry and has $975,000 left to raise before the ship transitions into its operational phase for hosting education-at-sea programs next Spring.

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Update: Icelandic Panel Certifies Lagarfljótsormurinn Video “Authentic”

lagarfljotsormurinn_lake_monster_serpentTwo years ago we posted about a video of what was purported to be the Lagarfljót Worm.  An Icelandic commission has now narrowly voted that the video is “authentic.” The video, which shows undulating movements of  something long and very slender, has been viewed 8 million times on the internet.  Lagarfljótsormurinn, the Lagarfljót worm monster, is said to live in the Lake Lagarfljót near Egilsstaðir in East Iceland.  There have been “serpent” sightings in the lake as recently as 1998, as well as dating back to a reference in the Icelandic Annals of 1345.

An analysis of the video in 2012 by Finnish researcher, Miisa McKeown, showed that the object in the video is not actually moving forward in the water but is stationary and undulating back and forth in the swift current. The movement of the ice and muddy water flowing around the object gives it the appearance of forward motion. This motion is consistent with an ice-caked fishing net caught on an underwater branch or rock — and completely inconsistent with a living animal.  There is no indication that the video was faked or an attempt at a hoax. It seems to be merely not what it may appear at first glance.

Nevertheless, an Icelandic commission of 13 en-paneled to review the video determined by a 7-6 vote that the footage was an authentic image of the lake monster. Continue reading

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Tank Bennett, the Only American Sailor in the Royal Navy

Tank Bennett

Tank Bennett

One of the causes of the War of 1812, was the impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy. But that was two centuries ago, and Yanks now, generally, do not serve in the British navy. As a result of love and an unexpected family history, Tank Bennett is said to be the only American sailor in the Royal Navy.

Born in Louisiana, he was serving in the US Navy on the USS Mahan, when he met his future wife, Diane, on a UK port call in Plymouth in 1989. They kept in touch, fell in love, married and settled in the United States. Tank promised Diane that if she ever wanted to move back to Plymouth, they would.  After a few years, she missed her family, so Tank quit the US Navy and they moved back to the UK. Things have changed since 1812. As a foreigner, Tank would have had a long wait to join the Royal Navy. After researching his family tree, he discovered that the father he never knew was, in fact, a British citizen. Tank had been raised by an uncle. He discovered that his family had a history of moving back and forth across the Atlantic. By virtue of his British heritage, Tank was able to join the Royal Navy.  His only real problem, so far has been his Louisiana accent. As noted by the Plymouth Herald:

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The Two SS Athenia, Torpedoed by U-Boats

Athenia 1923-1939

Athenia 1923-1939

Seventy five years ago this month, the Donaldson Line passenger liner SS Athenia became the first British ship to be sunk by a German U-boat in World War II.  The 13,465 gross ton liner sailed from Glasgow bound Montreal.  On September 3, 1939, only hours after Great Britain had declared war on Germany, the German submarine U-30 under the command of Oberleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp, on patrol about 250 miles northwest of Ireland, about 60 miles south of Rockall banks, torpedoed SS Athenia.  Of the 1,418 aboard, 98 passengers and 19 crew members were killed.  Of the dead, 54 were Canadian while 28 were American citizens.

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Pride of Baltimore II Boston to NYC: Setting Sail on a Tallship

A great video to start the week by Gale Browning aboard the Pride of Baltimore II .

The Pride of Baltimore II is a replica of an 1812-era Baltimore Clipper topsail schooner built in 1988 in Baltimore harbor to be a Goodwill Ambassador for the state of Maryland. I signed on to be working guest crew on a passage from Boston to New York City in September 2013. The breeze was perfect for setting most of the sails including the top gallant, fore topsail and stun’sail. After motorsailing through the Cape Cod Canal, we sailed most of the way to New York City. Come aboard and meet some of the characters that sail on tallships.

Pride II Boston to NYC: Setting Sail on a Tallship from Gale Browning on Vimeo.

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Clipper City Craft Beer Tasting Cruise Goes Aground

cc1The topsail schooner Clipper City set sail from Manhattan yesterday on a “Craft Beer Tasting Cruise,” which ran somewhat longer than expected. The steel ship grounded in New York harbor, south of the Statue of Liberty. Apparently many of the passengers were not aware of the grounding until boats came to ferry them ashore. All 121 passengers made it to shore safely.  As the ship grounded near low tide, she floated free when the tide came in, without any reported damage to the ship or pollution of the harbor. What’s the old saying? “If you’ve never run aground, then you’re not much of a sailor.”  And no doubt, the craft beer was tasty.

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Historic Steamer SS Columbia Coming to New York!

columbiaThe passenger steamer SS Columbia is heading toward New York!  The goal is to restore the historic steamer, built in 1902, and to put her in service on the  Hudson River.  SS Columbia is the oldest surviving passenger steamship in the United States and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The SS Columbia has been towed from the Detroit River to the a drydock in Toldeo in preparation for the journey next year up the St. Lawrence and then down the Atlantic Coast to New York for the rest of her restoration.

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Crowdsourcing “Rescue of the Bounty -The Film”

BountyundersailfullviewscottmaquireAward winning film maker David Wittkower has teamed with writer Michael Tougias to create a documentary, “Rescue of the Bounty,” looking at the loss of the Bounty in 2012.  Tougias is the best selling author of the book by the same name.  Wittkower has made two previous films about tall ships, one about a youth sail training program in Los Angeles and the other about the US Coast Guard’s barque Eagle. They are attempting to raise $15,000 through crowd sourcing on Indiegogo to fund the film.  All contributions  are tax deductible. Click here to learn more. Click here to contribute: Rescue of the Bounty -The Film.

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On “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” Why Romanticize Thieves and Murderers?

jack-en-piratas-del-caribeOn 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.

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Tommy Thompson, SS Central America & the Plague of Gold

TTbillboardOdyssey 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.”

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From Blue Water, White Death & Jaws to Katherine the Great White Twitter Shark

Katharine, Celebrity Great White Shark

Katharine, Celebrity Great White Shark

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!

How times have changed.   Continue reading

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The Schooners Columbia — 1923 & 2014

Columbia  1923 launch (left) Columbia 2014 launch (right)

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.

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Frigate Hermione is Under Sail!

accueil__066374100_1654_28062007After 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.

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Battle of Trindade — Battle of the Doppelgänger Passenger Liners

Sinking_Cap_TrafalgarOn 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.

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