Search Continues for 22 Crew Missing After VLOC Stellar Daisy Sinks off Uruguay

So far, only two of the crew of 24 have been rescued after the Very Large Ore Carrier (VLOC) Stellar Daisy capsized and sank suddenly on Friday, March 31st. The 266,00 DWT Marshall Island registered  bulk carrier was reported to have been in calm conditions, roughly 2000 miles off Montevideo, Uruguay, when she capsized. The ship departed from Brasil bound for China on March 26 with a full load of iron ore. The Stellar Daisy had a crew of 14 Filipinos and eight South Koreans.

On Friday, someone on the ship sent a text message to Polaris Shipping, the ship’s owner, saying the freighter was taking on water.  The ship managers attempted to contact the ship but to no avail. Not long after, an emergency rescue beacon was activated.

The two Filipino crew members who were later rescued reported that the Stellar Daisy had developed a 15 degree list, making the ship’s boats unlaunchable. One of the men escaped on a ship’s life raft and the other jumped into the water and swam away from the capsizing ship. The capsize was reported to have taken place in only about 5 minutes. The survivors said that they saw cracks in the plating on the main deck through which water was flooding in. 

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Hauling Draken Harald Hårfagre at Mystic Seaport Museum

The Viking longship Draken Harald Hårfagre was hauled out of the water Friday, March 31 at the Mystic Seaport Museum, for several days of routine maintenance in the museum’s shipyard. The vessel has been spending the winter at Mystic Seaport after her 2016 expedition to North America from Norway. See our previous post — The Dragon in Winter — Draken Harald Hårfagre at Mystic Seaport.

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Whale Breaching Delays Basketball Game

They probably shouldn’t have built the gym over the water.

Whale Breaches Before a Basketball Game

Happy April Fool’s Day.

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NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown Returns After Record Deployment — 1,347 Days

NOAA’s largest oceanographic research vessel, Ronald H. Brown, is based in Charleston, SC, although if you haven’t seen her in her homeport for quite a while, you are not alone. She only recently returned from a record deployment of 1,347 days, which is to say 3 years, 8 months and 7 days in service. During the lengthy deployment, the research vessel spent nearly 800 days at sea and traveled nearly 130,000 miles conducting scientific research and servicing buoys that collect a wide variety of environmental data.

From the NOAA press release:

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Joe Stead, R.I.P.

We have learned that Joe Stead has passed away. He was a folk singer who sang with everyone from Paul Robeson to Pete Seeger. Around the turn of the 21st century, his focus shifted more toward the sea with his fourth CD ‘Valparaiso Round the Horn.’ In the summer of 2001, he formed the shanty group ‘Kimber’s Men.’ If you are not familiar with Joe, click here for a more complete biography from his website.

Below is a shanty sung by Joe Stead and the Kimber’s Men, “Leave Her Johnny Leave her.” It was the last shanty to be sung before leaving the ship, which seems fitting. “For the voyage is done and the winds don’t blow …”

Kimber’s Men – Leave her Johnny leave her

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Congratualtions to Hōkūleʻa’s Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson

Congratulations to Nainoa Thompson who was honored recently with the 2017 Explorers Club Medal, the most prestigious recognition in exploration. The award was presented to Thompson at the 113th Explorers Club Annual Dinner at Ellis Island in New York City. Thompson was recognized for his historic work to revive and perpetuate Polynesian wayfinding and for leading the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage as captain and navigator of iconic sailing canoe Hōkūleʻa. Thompson has dedicated his life to teaching the art and values of wayfinding to generations of navigators throughout Polynesia and from across the globe. He was the first Native Hawaiian to practice long-distance wayfinding since the 14th century and consequently inspired a voyaging renaissance throughout the Pacific.

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Giant Squid, Cocaine & the Footballer

Last week, Peruvian customs officials, in the port of Callo, found more than a tonne of cocaine in three shipping containers packed with filets of giant squid about to be loaded on board a ship bound for Belgium. The cocaine was estimated to be worth $85 million. 

One unusual aspect of the seizure was that roughly half of the cocaine packages were branded in the name of the Argentine football star, Lionel Messi, who plays as a forward for Spanish club FC Barcelona and the Argentina national team. The other half of the cocaine was branded “King” with the the seal of the king of Spain. There is no indication that Messi or the Spanish monarch had anything to do with the cocaine.

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Alien Sailors, FRBs & LightSails

An artist’s illustration of a light-sail powered by a radio beam. Image: M. Weiss/Center for Astrophysics

Theorists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have a intriguing idea as to what might be the nature of FRBs (fast radio bursts), an unexplained phenomenon first observed about ten years ago. FRBs are very short but incredibly powerful bursts of radio activity that appear on occasion from outside our galaxy.

In a recent paper, Fast Radio Bursts from Extragalactic Light SailsAbraham Loeb and his co-author Manasvi Lingam suggest that the FRBs might be the light propulsion for alien sailing ships.

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Three Years Later, Raising the Sewol Ferry — the Tragedy Which Helped Bring Down Korea’s President

On April 16, 2014, the cargo/passenger ferry Sewol capsized off the southwestern coast of Korea. Of the 476 passengers and crew aboard, 304 died, the majority of which were high school students on a school field trip. Now, almost three years later the ferry has finally been salvaged.  

Sewol-ho ferry placed on semi-submersible ship, separated from two barges

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Captain John Barry — the Other Father of the US Navy

John Barry by Gilbert Stuart 1801

John Barry by Gilbert Stuart 1801

This seems like a good day to celebrate birthdays.  A repost from two years ago.

Happy birthday to Commodore John Barry, born on this day in 1745, in Tacumshane, County Wexford, Ireland.  He is considered by many to be the “father of the United States Navy.”  But wait, isn’t John Paul Jones also considered to be the “father of the United States Navy?”

As the saying goes, success has many fathers. Over the years, the birthday of the US Navy has been celebrated on at least four different dates. Likewise five different cities and towns lay claim to its birthplace. So, perhaps it is not surprising that the Navy has more than one candidate as father.

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Admiral Paul Zukunft & the State of the Coast Gaurd — Billion Dollar Drug Busts and Geriatric Cutters

We recently posted about a budget proposal by the current administration which would drastically cut the US Coast Guard’s budget. While the budget proposal is unlikely to survive in its current form, it does suggest a fundamental lack of an understanding of the critical role that the Coast Guard plays in our national security. Within a few days of the budget proposal’s release, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft, in his annual State of the Coast Guard speech at the National Press Club in Washington, addressed why the Coast Guard should be expanding, rather than cutting its operations and its fleet.   

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Update: Coast Guard Report — Kayaks & NYC Ferry Collision, Enough Blame to Go Around

On August 30, 2016, just before 6PM, a commuter ferry collided with a group of nine kayakers, shortly after departing from the NY Waterway terminal at 39th Street on the Hudson River in Manhattan. Four of the kayakers were injured included the group guide who suffered a nearly severed arm. Now, the Coast Guard’s report on the accident concludes that blame for the accident was shared by all parties.

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First New Citywide Ferry Sets Sail For New York City

The first of twenty new ferryboats has begun the 1,700 mile voyage from the Gulf Coast to its new home in the waters of New York harbor.  The new ferry is the first of a new fleet of aluminum catamaran ferries to be operated by Hornblower Cruises, as part of the Citywide Ferry Service (CFS), a major expansion of ferry service in New York City.

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US Navy — Take Bribes, Reveal Secrets, Get Caught & Convicted, Keep Your Pension, For Now

Last June, Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau became the first active duty admiral in modern times to plead guilty to a felony. He will be sentenced next month and faces up to five years in Federal prison for charges related the massive “Fat Leonard” bribery scandal. Despite his conviction Gilbeau and six other senior officers convicted in the scandal are still collecting their full pensions from the Navy. Gilbeau’s pension is reported to be approximately $120,000 per year.  Whether the seven continue to receive their pensions will be up to the courts and the Navy.

As reported by the Washington Post: “Gilbeau is one of seven current or former Navy officers who have pleaded guilty in an epic corruption and bribery scandal but are still eligible for generous retirement benefits, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.

In exceptionally rare cases, military officers who are sentenced to prison or classified as deserters can be “dropped from the rolls” — the harshest category of discharge — and their rank, privileges and benefits erased completely. Continue reading

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Vendee Globe Racer Kito de Pavant’s Boat Hit Sperm Whale

Last December we posted — so far, of the original 29 competitors in the Vendee Globe singlehanded around the world race, 5 have been forced to retire after being damaged by collisions with UFOs, unidentified floating objects. One of the five, French skipper Kito de Pavant, on his boat Bastide Otio, struck an object in the Southern Ocean which destroyed his keel housing, ripped off his aft keel mountings and left the appendage supported only by the hydraulic keel ram. Pavant was subsequently rescued by a French research and supply vessel.

The “unidentified floating object” which damaged Kito de Pavant’s boat, Bastide Otio, is unidentified no more. After analyzing video footage found on a hard drive taken from the sinking boat, the distinctive head of a sperm whale can be seen briefly surfacing aft of the boat shortly after the collision. Sadly, it seems unlikely that the whale survived being run down at 16 knots by the keel of the 8 tonne IMOCA Open 60 racing sailboat. Pavant was not injured during the collision.

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Museo Atlántico, Europe´s Only Underwater Sculpture Museum

In 2012, we posted about the Museo Subacuático de Arte, MUSA, an underwater museum of art between the islands of Isla Mujeres and Cancun. MUSA displays the sculpture of Jason deCaires Taylor. Now a new museum featuring Jason deCaires Taylor’s work has opened off Playa Blanca, Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. The Museo Atlántico is Europe´s only underwater sculpture museum.  The museum includes over 300 life-sized sculptures across 12 installations on the sea bed accessible to divers 39 feet below the surface.

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PT-305, U.S.S. Sudden Jerk, Comes Roaring Back, Sudden Jerks and All

The National WWII Museum has fully restored PT-305 and is putting her back in service on Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain. PT-305, nicknamed U.S.S. Sudden Jerk, is the only surviving fully-operational patrol torpedo boat to have seen combat in World War II. She has now earned U.S. Coast Guard approval to carry passengers, with public rides expected to begin on April 1.

The restoration of the boat, originally built by Higgins Industries in New Orleans in 1943, has been a ten year project involving over 200 volunteers and more than 105,000 hours of labor.  As reported by Maritime Executive, 10 other PT boats are known to exist in the U.S., four of which are partially or completely restored but not operational, and four of which have undergone little or no restoration. (The remaining boat, PT-658, is restored and operational but not a combat veteran.)

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Humpback Whale Super-Pods?

Strange and interesting doings in the world of humpback whales. Over the past few years, scientists have observed large numbers of humpback whales feeding together off the southwestern tip of South Africa between St. Helena Bay and Cape Point. While dolphins and orcas are known to form, from time to time, what are called “super-pods,” large groups of different extended families, humpback whales have been considered to be far more solitary creatures, usually swimming alone or in in pods of two or three. Now, however, groups of between 20 and 200 humpbacks have been observed feeding together. Scientists have observed 22 instances where these groups have formed over the last several years. They are not sure what to make of what appears to be a significant change in humpback whale behavior.

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

stlouisGiven the current heated debate over immigration and refugees, this seems like a good time to remember the consequences of when the United States slammed the door on refugees. On Throwback Thursday, here is a revised and updated post from two years ago.

With immigration and refugee policy at the center of significant polciy disagreement, 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 passengers were denied entry to Cuba, the United States and Canada. Finally, the ship turned around and returned to Europe. Despite the US government’s refusal to accept the refugees, private Jewish aid groups in the United States did manage to place most of the refugees in Belgium, France and Holland, to avoid returning them to Nazi Germany. Tragically, many were later captured when the Nazis invaded. Two-hundred-and-fifty-four of the refugees are believed to have died in the German death camps. The voyage has been the subject of at least one book and two movies. The movie, Voyage of the Damned, in 1974 was based on the book of the same name by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts.  A second movie, The Voyage of the St. Louis, was released in 1995.  Here is an A&E documentary from 1998, narrated by Patrick Tull.

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Admiral & Eight Officers Arrested in “Fat Leonard” Sex for Secrets Scandal

A retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral and eight other high-ranking Navy officers were arrested on Tuesday on charges of accepting luxury travel, elaborate dinners and services of prostitutes from foreign defense contractor “Fat Leonard” Francis, the former CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), in exchange for classified and internal U.S. Navy information. GDMA used the information to overbill the US Navy for services by more than $30 million.

The highest ranking of those charged was retired Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, who was arrested at his home in Coronado, Calif. Loveless was the former Navy director of intelligence operations and had retired from the service in October.

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