Here is a wonderful story of Justin Beckerman, an 18-year-old high school student in New Jersey, who is in the final testing phase of designing and manufacturing a fully-operational one-man submarine. Thanks to Irwin Bryan for passing the story along.
The parade, which attracts over 750,000 spectators yearly, is an annual kickoff to the summer seasons, featuring artists and performers in wild and imaginative costumes, often with an aquatic theme. The parade is again on schedule for June 22 at 1PM.
The carrack Mary Rose was King Henry VIII’s flagship. After thirty three years of service, it sank in the Solent on July 19, 1545. Out of 500 sailors, 35 survived. The wreck was located in 1971 and the ship was raised from the ocean floor in 1982 in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology.
The St. Augustine Monster,1897, by DeWitt Webb, photograph
In most cases, no one ever manages to find the carcass of a dead sea serpent or lake monster washed up on a beach. The one big, literal and figurative, exception are the”globsters,” massive carcasses which have been washing shore for more than a century. A globster is usually defined as a large, unidentified organic mass that washes up on the shoreline of an ocean or other body of water. In many cases they have no eyes, head, or identifiable bone structure. One such globster was the “St. Augustine Monster” which washed ashore on the coast near St. Augustine, Florida, in 1896. Partially covered by sand, the exposed portion was over 18 feet long and 7 feet wide. It was estimated to weigh over five tons. The mass had no apparent bones but appeared to have tentacles, so it was originally identified as a new type of giant octopus.
At around 2:50 AM Monday night a fire broke out on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Grandeur of the Seas, which had been bound for Coco Cay, Bahamas. The ship was rerouted to Freeport, Bahamas where the 2,224 passengers and 796 crew were disembarked. No serious injuries were reported. The passengers are being flown home from Freeport. The fire started on an aft mooring deck and spread to the fourth deck at the crew lounge area before it was extinguished, U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Marilyn Fajardo said. Information on the fire’s cause wasn’t available, she said. Some passengers are reporting hearing “big explosions” during the fire. Unlike previous fires in cruise ship engine rooms, the ship never lost power.
The new S-80 class submarines under construction for the Spanish Navy are high-tech wonders with an “air-independent-propulsion” system which allows the non-nuclear submarines to operate independently of the surface by using bio-ethanol engines and fuel cells. It was announced recently, however, that the first submarine of the series has a significant technical short-coming. Due to increased weight aboard the submarine, it appears unlikely that the submarine has enough buoyancy to dive and resurface. Bottom line: the submarine may not float. Additional buoyancy could be added by lengthening the 233 ft submarine, but lengthening would cost an estimated 7.5 million euros per added meter. The four submarines had a projected cost of 2.2 billion euros, one of the most expensive contracts in Spain’s military history, but could now be facing a much larger bill. The design flaw is expected to delay the delivery of the first submarine to the Spanish Navy from 2015 until possibly 2017. Thanks to Phil Leon for contributing to this post.
Next to a 7-11 convenience store on 8th Avenue, about a half block from the beach, in the New Jersey shore community of Belmar, there is a tall sewer standpipe, a vertical vent designed to carry the noxious smells from the local sewers. What is unusual about the sewer vent is that there is a small historical plaque at its base. (Or at least, there was a historical marker. Belmar was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy last year, so I don’t know the status of the plaque.)
The historical marker has nothing to do with Belmar’s sewer system. The “pipe” is, in fact, the foremast of the sailing ship Malta, which sank just offshore on November 24, 1885. The wreck of the Malta is still visible from the beach.
The sailing ship Malta began its life in 1851, as Queen of the South, a three masted iron hulled auxiliary steamer with four boilers and two inclined 2 cylinder engines developing 800 horsepower driving a single screw. She had a speed of 9 knots and had accommodations for 130 passengers.
It is a conical shaped structure built of boulders, roughly 230 feet in diameter, 30 feet high and weighing an estimated 60,000-tons, 40 feet underwater in the Sea of Galilee. And archaeologists have no idea what it is. Based on the build up of sediment, it is between 2,000 and 12,000 years old, which is too wide a range to help identify it. It’s not even clear if the structure was built on land when the sea levels were lower, or if it was constructed underwater. The structure was located in 2003 by sonar scan. Now ten years later, researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority are mounted an expedition to attempt to learn more about the unexpected mound of boulders, which they speculate could have been a burial site, a place of worship or even a fish nursery.
One unexpected victim of Superstorm Sandy was New York’s Coney Island Mermaid Parade, or more specifically, the historical museum, performance space and gift shop that helped to financially support the free parade. The parade is ”an American celebration of ancient mythology and honky-tonk rituals of the seaside, … kicking off the summer with incredible art, an entrepreneurial spirit and unflagging Coney Island pride.” The Mermaid Parade attracts close to a million people each year. See our post about last year’s 30th Mermaid Parade. As a result of the devastating storm, the organizers of the 31st Coney Island Mermaid Parade face a budget shortfall of $100,000. All is not yet lost however. A Kickstart Fundraiser is underway to raise the money.
What is the plural of Atlantis? Atlanti? Atlantises? Recently two different underwater areas have been in the news, both of which are referred to as ”Britain’s Atlantis.” One is called Doggerland, a huge undersea region swallowed by the sea around 6500 BC, while the other is the the lost medieval town of Dunwich, which slipped into the ocean progressively between 1286 and the turn of the twenty-first century.
Each is fascinating in its own right. I only wonder whether Atlantis is the right designation, however. Atlantis was, after all, the legendary island from in Plato’s dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written about 360 BC. Atlantis was a great naval power lying “in front of the Pillars of Hercules” which sank into the ocean “in a single day and night of misfortune”. The two designated British sites given the appellation Atlantis each took far longer to sink. Perhaps, however, considering the full span of history, the difference is not so important.
Today, in the United States, is National Maritime Day. There is a presidential proclamation and everything. The day, May 22nd, was chosen because that was the date that the American steamship Savannah set sail from Savannah, Georgia in 1818 on the first ever transoceanic voyage under steam power. Well, partially under steam power, at any rate. Perhaps, tellingly, the Savannah was not a commercial success and was converted back to a pure sailing ship shortly after her return voyage from Europe.
A gray whale has been sighted in Walvis Bay, Namibia. This is amazing news, as gray whales were hunted to extinction in the North Atlantic by the 18th century and have never been sighted before south of the equator. Gray whales were also hunted to near extinction in the Pacific in the 20th century. Scientists now speculate that either the sighting is an indication of the population’s recovery or alternatively, that climate change is disrupting the whale’s feeding habits.
Many of the classics of nautical literature are stories of young men who set off to sea, often compelled, in equal parts, by necessity and a longing for adventure. Joan Druett’s A Love of Adventure is just such a tale, with an important twist or two. Her young hero, Abigail Pandora Sherman, is a heroine and has no need to run off to sea, as she was born and largely raised aboard her father’s merchant brig, with which she shares her middle name. “A Love of Adventure” is a wonderfully written and highly entertaining novel, carrying the reader from New Zealand to New Bedford and back again, by way of Panama and the wilder coasts of South America. It is a rousing adventure and coming of age story that also includes elements of mystery and intrigue.
The Howell Automobile Torpedo of 1889 was the first self-propelled torpedo in United States Navy service. Only fifty were built and until recently, only one was known to have survived. Then in late April, Navy dolphins located a lost Howell torpedo off the coast of Coronado, California. The dolphins were being trained to retrieve objects underwater and to tag mines. Their Navy trainers were perplexed when two dolphins identified an object in an area where they had not placed any targets. As reported by the LA Times:
A dolphin is then ordered to dive and search. If it finds something, it is trained to surface and touch the front of the boat with its snout. If it has found nothing, it touches the back of the boat.
When a dolphin named Ten surfaced from a shallow-water dive last month and touched the front of the boat, Navy specialists were nonplused. “It went positive in a place we didn’t expect,” said Mike Rothe, who heads the marine mammal program.
A week later, a dolphin named Spetz did the same thing in the same area. This time, the dolphin was ordered to take a marker to the object.
Navy divers and then explosive-ordnance technicians examined the object, which was in two pieces, and determined that the years had rendered it inert. On one piece was the stamp “USN No. 24.”
Lilac is America’s only surviving steam-powered lighthouse tender. Built in 1933 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Lilac is now a museum ship owned by the non-profit Lilac Preservation Project.
Joan Druett’s Beckoning Ice, the fifth in her series of Wiki Coffin nautical mysteries, is free today and tomorrow on Kindle. Joan’s detective, Wiki Coffin, is a half-Maori, half-Yankee “linguister,” who is also the representative of American law and order with the U.S. Exploring Expedition fleet in 1839. Against the backdrop of the treacherous Southern Ocean, Wiki is called upon to solve the murder of a young naval lieutenant, while avoiding the increasingly determined attempts on his own life. A great mystery. (See our also our review from last December.) Click here to download a free copy of Beckoning Ice.
My novel, Hell Around the Horn, is also free today and tomorrow. Based on an actual voyage, the novel is set on a British windjammer rounding Cape Horn in the particularly brutal winter of 1905. Hell Around the Horn, is a story of survival and the human spirit. Click here to download a free copy of Hell around the Horn.
The opening line of this seven minute video suggests that “men build [wooden] boats because they can’t have babies.” I am not sure that I buy into that idea. Then again, most boats and ships that I have built or worked on or around are either fiberglass or steel. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating short video, even for the non-wood addicted.
PortSide NewYork is hosting an open-house (open-ship?) on the historic tanker MARY A WHALEN this Tuesday, May 21, at Pier 11, Atlantic Basin, Red Hook, Brooklyn, from 1-7pm, with cake and remarks from 5-7pm. May 21 is also the 75th anniversary of the launch of the coastal tanker. Access to the MARY A. WHALEN on Pier 11 in Atlantic Basin is via the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal pedestrian gate at Pioneer Street and Conover Street.
All the reporting on this story talks about a “ghost ship” for sale by auction in Newburyport, MA. “Newburyport ‘ghost ship’ on the block,” is pretty typical. The “ship” in question is, in fact, an Endeavour 37 sailboat, a bit small to be termed a ship. No one is thought to have died on board the boat and there are no report of a haunting of the vessel, though a presumed death is the cause of the boat’s sale. The most interesting part of the story may be the disappearance and presumed drowning of the sailboat’s owner, Richard Decker.