Happy Birthday US Navy, Not to be Confused with Navy Day or the Founding of the Navy

usnavylogoHappy 239th birthday to the United States Navy! On Friday, October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress voted to fit out two armed sailing vessels to cruise to attempt to seize arms and stores from Royal Navy transports. The rebel forces were short of just about everything in the early days of the revolution, so stealing whatever they could from the British was an eminently practical idea.  Technically, these ships were the beginning of the Continental Navy and not the United States Navy as the United States did not yet exist.  At the end of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Navy was disbanded, the ships sold and the sailors sent home.  The US Navy was later authorized by the United States Congress on April 30, 1798. So why does the Navy celebrate their “birthday” on October 13, 1775? And what is Navy Day, and why is it celebrated on October 27?

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Fire Surfing, Really

After posting yesterday about someone who tried to run 1,000 miles across the Gulf Stream to Bermuda in an inflatable hamster cage, and failed, here is a slightly less insane and more successful example of craziness on the water.  The video is more than three years old, but is new to me. Thanks to Bonnie K. Frogma and Bjoern Kils for pointing it out on Facebook. For your viewing pleasure — fire surfing.

Flaring Up – Surfing with a Flare – Red Bull Minor Threat

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After Coast Guard Rescue, Reza Baluchi Says “I Want My Bubble Back!”

bubblebYou really can’t make this stuff up. Extreme runner, Reza Baluchi, attempted to run from Florida to Bermuda, a distance of roughly 1,000 miles, in an inflatable bubble with a metal frame, looking something like a giant hamster wheel.  It didn’t go well.  A few days into the attempt, Baluchi activated a personal locator beacon after becoming disoriented and exhausted. The Coast Guard responded. A chopper lowered a rescue swimmer into the water and found Baluchi lying down inside his bubble.  The rescue is estimated to have cost taxpayers roughly $144,000.

Now, Baluchi is claiming that he never wanted to be rescued and that he wants his bubble back. Apparently the bubble destroyed when a fishing boat attempted to tow it into port. Baluchi claims that “the transponder button was struck accidentally.” The Coast Guard has a somewhat different view.  Coast Guard spokesman, Petty Officer Mark Barney, noted, “He activated both his spot beacon and personal locating beacon. That’s a distress call. When he activated those two things, he was calling for help.

‘I want my bubble back,’ says man rescued by Coast Guard

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Replica of Henry Hudson’s Ship Half Moon May Move to Netherlands

halfmoonfrontThe story is regrettably familiar. A historic vessel, unable to find a suitable berth, is forced to move elsewhere. Yesterday, Chip Reynolds, Director of the New Netherland Museum and Captain of the replica ship, Half Moon, announced the museum’s intentions to move to the ship to the Hoorn in The Netherlands. The replica of the ship Henry Hudson sailed to the river which now bears his name in 1609 has been unable to find a berth on the river.

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The Nautilus at 60 — Nuclear Power Tested in an Idaho Desert

450px-Nautilus_(SSN_571)_Groton_CT_2002_May_08Just over 60 yeas ago, on September 30, 1954, USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear powered submarine was commissioned in New London, Connecticut. Following commissioning she continued trials and testing, until she put to sea for the first time  on January 17, 1955 and signaled her historic message: “Underway on nuclear power.”  USS Nautilus was also the first submarine to complete a submerged transit to the North Pole on 3 August 1958.

What made the Nautilus unique was her nuclear reactor, the first to be put on a submarine. Initial testing of the reactor was done, not on the ship, but at a top secret Navy facility, hundreds of miles from the ocean in the high desert of Idaho.  Recently the Atlantic Monthly re-posted an article from 1959, by Commander E. E. Kintner, a Navy officer closely involved with the testing. The overall project was managed by then Captain Rickover.  From Admiral Rickover’s Gamble:

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Journey of the Jubilee Hope

LAKE-HOSPITAL1-586x319The hospital ship Jubilee Hope was recently christened by the Princess Royal, in Tanzania on Lake Victoria. The 160 ton ship will provide health services to 150 remote island communities with 400,000 people on the large inland lake. She will be operated by Vine Trust, an international charity.

The 8,585 mile voyage of the Jubilee Hope is as remarkable as her new service. She began her life as RMAS Dunster, a Royal Navy tender. Converted to a hospital ship on the Clyde by BAE Systems, the ship has a full dental surgery, operating room, two consulting areas, an eye surgery and a laboratory. It will host life-changing cataract operations, offer a dentistry service and provide help for difficult labors and a range of other healthcare needs.

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Update: Columbus’ Ship Santa Maria Not Found Off Cap-Haitien

santamariaLast May we posted that marine archaeologist Barry Clifford had announced that he believed that he had located the wreck of Christopher Columbus’ ship Santa Maria  which ran aground and sank on Christmas Day 1492 off Haiti near Cap-Haitien.   UNESCO has now scuttled that claim. In a report issued on Monday they concluded that the wreck was farther from shore than historical accounts would indicate and that the fasteners found on the wreck site indicate a technique of ship construction that dates the ship to the late 17th or 18th century rather than the 15th or 16th century. There are also possible signs of copper sheathing, which would put the likely date of the ship wreck in the late 18th century.

UNESCO sinks claim Haiti wreck was Christopher Columbus’s ship

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The Real and Deadly Lake Monster of Lake Nyos

Lake Nyos

Lake Nyos

We recently posted about video of a “lake monster” in Lake Lagarfljót near Egilsstaðir in Iceland.  Notwithstanding that a local panel voted that the “monster” was real, the video has been generally debunked. In Lake Nyos, in the Northwest Region of Cameroon, there is a real lake monster. The deep volcanic crater lake was normally extremely tranquil, yet on August 21, 1986, the lake boiled in great fountains of tumbling water and roiling foam. The waters turned blood red. By dawn, 1,746 people and 3,500 livestock within 25 kilometres of the lake were dead.  Atlas Obscura explains what happened:

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Lighting The Way : Learning about Lighthouses at Mystic Seaport

Another interesting video by Mystic Seaport Museum.

Lighting The Way For Ships: Learning about Lighthouses at Mystic Seaport

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600 Year Old Waka, a Voyaging Canoe, Links New Zealand to Polynesia

wakaA waka, a 600 year voyaging canoe, was recently found on the New Zealand’s South Island’s West Coast.  The results of a study by University of Auckland researchers appeared recently in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   The waka, built in New Zealand of matai, an indigenous pine, has direct ties by design and distinctive carvings to the peoples of Eastern Polynesia. Carbon dating showed that the vessel was last caulked with bark around 1400.  As reported in Stuff.co.nz:  The newly described canoe seems to represent a mix of that ancestral plank technology and an adaptation to the new resources on New Zealand, since the boat has some big, hollowed-out portions but also sophisticated internal ribs, Johns and colleagues wrote.

The turtle carving on the boat also seems to link back to the settlers’ homeland.  Turtle designs are rare in pre-European carvings in New Zealand, but widespread in Polynesia, where turtles were important in mythology and could represent humans or even gods in artwork….  The canoe shares some design elements with a canoe found about 30 years ago on Huahine in the Society Islands.

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A Modern Viking Funeral With a Little Help From the Coast Guard

Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class Cynthia Oldham -- Coast Guard

Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class Cynthia Oldham — Coast Guard

Andrew Haines, a World War II veteran who emigrated from Norway as a child, wanted a Viking funeral.  He realized that building a pyre on a full sized Viking ship would be impractical, so Haines decided to build a small replica to carry his ashes.  He ultimately built five small boats before deciding on a 54″ model.  Andrew Haines, died in late August at age 89 and the US Coast Guard, Station Atlantic City, helped give him the Viking funeral that he had dreamed of for years. On September 29th, Andrew Haines ashes were set into his tiny Viking ship and set ablaze three miles offshore.  As reported by the Navy Times:

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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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