Vampire Lampreys Falling From the Sky in Alaska?

Arctic Lamprey, Yukon River near Kaltag. (Randy Brown/USFWS)

Arctic Lamprey, Yukon River near Kaltag. (Randy Brown/USFWS)

The headlines are great. CBS News reports: Terrifying “vampire fish” falling from the sky in Alaska.  Huffington Post chimes in: Hellacious Eel-Like Fish Are Dropping From The Sky In Alaska. The Washington Post offered, Why these mysterious, blood-sucking fish fell from the Alaskan sky.

It seems that live arctic lampreys were found on shore in Fairbanks Alaska, having apparently fallen from the sky. A rain of live fish is strange enough, but lampreys, over a foot long, look like something out a horror movie. They have a sucker-like mouth with five rows of teeth which they use to attach themselves to larger fish and other marine animals.

How these strange fish happen to fall from the sky?  Alaska Department of Fish and Game information officer Nancy Sisinyak says that gulls likely picked up the fish in the nearby Chena River and then dropped them from their mouths mid-flight over the town.  “When the fish wiggles free, and the bill scrapes the gills off the fish, it leaves a V-shape on either side,” Sisinyak said.

And how may fish have fallen from the sky? A grand total of four lampreys have been found ashore so far.

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Tall Ship Kruzenshtern Rams Icelandic Coast Guard Vessels

The Russian Sail Training Ship Kruzenshtern was maneuvering to depart the old harbor in Reykjavík, Iceland, yesterday, when she rammed two of the largest Icelandic Coast Guard vessels, Týr and Thor. Both ships suffered damage, although well above the waterline. There are no reports on damage to the Kruzenshtern.

STV “Kruzenshtern” collision in Reykjavik

The collision from a different angle.

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Alaric Bond’s The Scent of Corruption — (The Fighting Sail Series Book 7)

scentofcorruptionAlaric Bond’s latest novel, The Scent of Corruption, the seventh in the Fighting Sail series, is now available on Kindle and will soon be available in print. A great read.

About the novel:  Summer, 1803: the uneasy peace with France is over, and Britain has once more been plunged into the turmoil of war. After a spell on the beach, Sir Richard Banks is appointed to HMS Prometheus, a seventy-four gun line-of-battleship which an eager Admiralty loses no time in ordering to sea. The ship is fresh from a major re-fit, but Banks has spent the last year with his wife and young family: will he prove himself worthy of such a powerful vessel, and can he rely on his officers to support him?

With excitement both aboard ship and ashore, gripping sea battles, a daring rescue and intense personal intrigue, The Scent of Corruption is a non-stop nautical thriller in the best traditions of the genre.

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l’Hermione Greeted by Fireworks at Mount Vernon

hermionefireworks1The French frigate l‘Hermione was greeted by a dramatic fireworks display on its arrival at Mount Vernon, Virginia, George Washington’s plantation home. In 1780, the original frigate L’Hermione, carried the 23 year old Gilbert du Motier, better known as the Marquis de Lafayette, to America with the secret news that France was committing 5,500 men and five frigates to help George Washington and his forces in the revolution against Great Britain. Over the course of the war, Washington and Lafayette developed a close relationship. It is often said that Washington saw in Lafayette the son he never had, which gave the arrival of Lafayette’s frigate at George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon a special significance. To see more of the photographs by NinjaPix, click here.

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In Transatlantic Race, Can Dorade Repeat the Magic of 84 Years Ago?

Photo: Billy Black

Photo: Billy Black

Toward the end of June, the 52′ yawl Dorade will be joining 40 other yachts to race 2,800 nautical miles in the Transatlantic Race 2015, which starts in Newport, R.I., and finishes off the southwestern coast of England. This is not the first time Dorade has competed in this race. In the 1939 Transatlantic Race, when the boat was just a year old, Dorade was the first boat to finish and the race’s overall champion on corrected time.  This year, Dorade‘s owners, Pam Levy and Matt Brooksshe, will see if the grand old yacht can win it again.

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The Great New Jersey Shore Tsunami, That Wasn’t


It looked like a tsunami rolling in from the Atlantic toward the beach at Sea Girt on the Jersey Shore.  Except that it wasn’t rolling in. It just hung there.  It wasn’t a tsunami. It was merely a beautiful if somewhat threatening fog bank.  The National Weather Service later released their own explanation of the fog.

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Happy World Oceans Day, For What It’s Worth

Google_underwater_Street_ViewHappy World Oceans Day. June 8th has been celebrated, unofficially, as World Oceans Day since 1992, and has been officially recognized by the United Nations since 2008. This year the theme is “Healthy Oceans. Healthy Planet.”

What does World Ocean Day mean, from a practical perspective? Probably not too much. It feels like another marketing campaign focused on “awareness” rather than substance or policy. Unfortunately, the sponsoring organization has not fully abandoned their past “Wear blue, tell two” campaign, where to celebrate WOD, you were directed to wear blue clothes and tell two friends or colleagues about the importance of the world’s oceans.  One useful initiative this year is the “Better Bag Challenge” which recommends not accepting disposable plastic bags for a year. The “Challenge” is buried in a poorly coded, virtually graphics free web site, so I doubt many will see it in any case.

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Sailing Summer Camp on the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry

Sounds like great summer sailing on the brand new tall ship Oliver Hazard Perryfor kids from 13-18. There are one and two week programs in July and August. Click here to learn more.


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l’Hermione Arrives in Yorktown

In 1780, the French frigate, l’Hermione carried the Marquis de Lafayette to America with the news of French support for the American revolution. Now a replica l’Hermione has arrived in Yorktown, VA, the first of twelve ports that the frigate will visit on her reeanctment of her namesake’s historic voyage.


l‘Hermione arrive à Yorktown, le souvenir de La Fayette à bord

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Two Great Hidden Harbor Tours — “Made in Brooklyn” & “Family Fun Day”

hhtours1If you are near New York harbor, the Working Harbor Committee Hidden Harbor Tours® has two great new tours coming up — “Made in Brooklyn” on Thursday, June 11th, and a “Family Fun Day Boat Tour” on Saturday, June 20th.

Made in Brooklyn” — Join Working Harbor Committee for a tour of Brooklyn waterfront industry, past and present. From Newtown Creek through Sunset Park, the 8 miles of Brooklyn shore facing the Harbor’s Upper Bay were once filled with manufacturing, shipping, and commerce. Highlights include Brooklyn Navy Yard, the city’s new waterfront recycling facility at Gowanus Bay, and the working rail-to-barge connection at Brooklyn Army Terminal. The tour is narrated by Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman and Captain Margaret Flanagan, Maritime Operations, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. The 2-hour boat tour departs at 6:00pm sharp. Boarding begins at 5:30pm.  Click here for tickets.

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Moving Lighthouses on Martha’s Vineyard & Block Island

gayheadlight1Recently, Gay Head lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts, was very carefully jacked up and moved 135 feet inland, far enough away from the crumbling red clay cliffs of Gay Head to prevent it toppling into the ocean.  The lighthouse should be reopened to the public by sometime in July.  There has been a lighthouse on Gay Head since 1799. The current lighthouse dates from 1856. There is a video of the move after the page break.

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Yangtze River Tragedy — 14 Survivors, 444 Dead or Missing, Far More Questions Than Answers

orientalstar2Was MV Dong Fang Zhi Xing (Oriental Star) unsafe and unstable or was she just at the wrong place at the wrong time? Should the captain have anchored, as did several other ships on the river, when he received warning of bad weather, or would the ship have capsized at anchor or underway when hit by the tornado? As the Chinese come to terms with the greatest nautical tragedy in decades, there are far more questions than answers.

The official Xinhua News Agency is reporting that only 14 had been rescued, and more than 70 confirmed dead, of the 458 aboard the ill-fated passenger ship that capsized in the Yangtze River on Monday night. The captain, Zhang Shunwen, along with the chief engineer, was one of the few survivors.  He has been detained by the police for questioning.

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The Secret Opera — Opera Cabaret on the Cutter Lilac, June 4th

secretopera1If you are in the area tomorrow night, June 4th, be sure to stop by the Cutter Lilac at Pier 25 at N.Moore at West Streets on the Hudson River in Manhattan, for Opera Cabaret performed by The Secret Opera between 7 and 8:30 PM.  The performance is free and open to the public.

What is The Secret Opera, one well might ask? George Grella of New York Classical Review describes them as “one of the small, imaginative opera companies rapidly proliferating in New York City. They are nimble, make the most of limited resources, and present talented singers and new works that are outside the physical and financial scope of the Metropolitan Opera.”  The Secret Opera — Opera Cabaret is part of the Lilac Arts Series.

America’s only surviving steam-powered lighthouse tender, the former Coast Guard Cutter Lilac is operated as a museum by the non-profit Lilac Preservation Project.

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Frigate l’Hermione Arrives Off the Virginia Capes


U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Sandberg

The French frigate l’Hermoine arrived off the Virginia Capes yesterday where she was greeted by the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher. l’Hermoine is scheduled to visit Yorktown, Va. on June 5 on her twelve port East Coast tour.  The ship is a replica of the frigate l’Hermione which carried the Marquis de Lafayette to America 1780 with the news of French support for the American revolution.

l’Hermione arrived on the American coast very close site of the Battle of the Capes (also known as the Battle of the Chesapeake) of 1781 in which a French fleet commanded by Rear Admiral François Joseph Paul, the Comte de Grasse, defeated a Royal Navy fleet commanded by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Graves. The French victory at helped to ensure the victory of American and French forces in the Seige of Yorktown.

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MV Dong Fang Zhi Xing Capsizes in Yangtze — 458 Aboard, Over 430 Missing

ostarcapsizeLast night, around 9:28 p.m, the river cruise vessel, MV Dong Fang Zhi Xing, capsized in a storm on the Yangtze River while carrying 458 passengers and crew, including 406 elderly Chinese tourists, 47 crew members and five tour guides.  The ship was on a 1,500km (930 mile) voyage from Nanjing to Chongqing via the Yangtze river when it was reported to have been hit by severe weather near Jingzhou and quickly capsized. There was no distress call and initial reports put the number of survivors at seven, including the captain and the chief engineer.  Roughly a dozen additional survivors have been reported to have been found, including a 65-year-old woman, who was pulled from the capsized ship.  The captain and the chief engineer have been detained by the police.

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Secrets of New York: Captains, Pirates and Ghosts

Captains, Pirates and Ghosts,” from the documentary series, Secrets of New York, hosted  by Kelly Choi.  It includes some nice shots of the South Street Seaport Museum‘s schooner Pioneer, with commentary by the museum’s Executive Director, Captain Johnathon Boulware.  Segments from the Bridge Cafe, were shot before Hurricane Sandy. The historic bar and restaurant were severely damaged by flooding. The restaurant has not reopened. Scenes from South and Water Streets, including Kit Burn’s Rat pit, shown in this episode are also featured in my novel, The Shantyman.

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Water Ghosts by Linda Collison — A Review

waterghostcoverIn Linda Collison’s new novel, Water Ghosts, seven troubled teenagers embark  on a vintage Chinese junk on a Pacific “adventure-therapy” voyage, to either help them work out their problems or just possibly to get them out of their parents’ hair.  Among the motley voyagers is fifteen-year-old James McCafferty.  While all teenagers, at one time or another, feel that no one sees the world as they do,  James has it far worst than most. He says, “I see things other people don’t see; I hear things other people don’t hear.”  Once at sea, James has premonitions of doom and believes that the ship is being taken over by Ming Dynasty spirits. It doesn’t help that the junk’s crew is disappearing or dying.

Collison, who has sailed the Pacific herself, captures the very tactile and real world of life aboard. At the same time, she evokes the otherworldly sense of being on a small boat adrift on an a vast, windless ocean where even time and space can also seem to come adrift.  Are the voices of the dead in the water real, or just in James’ head? Are the doldrums driving James mad or is something even more sinister at hand?  In Water Ghosts, the tension is as palpable as the equatorial heat and the rolling of the old junk in the incessant swells.

Water Ghosts is an absolutely gripping paranormal nautical adventure. While intended for young adults, it can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Highly recommended.

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The Strange Saga of the Mountain Submarine

In 1881, John Holland designed and had built at the Delamater Iron Company in Manhattan a working submarine. Funded by the Fenian Brotherhood and intended to sink British shipping, the submarines was in all reepcts successful, notwithstanding that it never fulfilled the bellicose intent it’s backers. Holland’s invention plays a central role in Antione Vanner’s latest nautical thriller, Britannia’s Shark.  Holland’s remarkable submarine, Holland Boat No. II,  often called the Fenian Ram, is on display along with an earlier design, Holland Boat No. 1, at the Paterson Museum, in Paterson, NJ.

Recently another, notably less successful submarine went on display at the Gilpin County Historical Society Museum  in Central City, Colorado.  Called the “Mountain Submarine” the craft was raised from the depths of Missouri Lake, a frigid body of water 9,000 feet high in the mountains near Central City, where it sank on its maiden voyage in 1898.  The submarine was designed and built by Rufus T. Owen, a mining engineer.  John Holland, by comparison was an Irish school teacher. Safe to say Rufus Owen was no John Holland. His submarine sank before he could attempt the first test dive. Based on the appearance of the wood framed, zinc covered craft, he was proablaby lucky that it did.  Thanks to Dave Shirlaw for passing along the news.

A submarine found in the mountains? Exhibit shows oddity

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Point Nemo & the Spacecraft Cemetery — Where Spaceships Go to Die

pointnemoFirst of all, notwithstanding the name, there is no point, as in point of land, to Point Nemo.  Which may be exactly the point.  Point Nemo is the point in the ocean furthest from any land mass. Named for Captain Nemo of Jules Verne’s classic sci-fi novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, this point sits at 48⁰25.6’ South latitude and 123⁰23.6’ West longitude. The closest land is is 2,700 kilometers south to Antarctica. The waters near Point Nemo are referred to as the South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area.  The waters may be uninhabited but they are not empty. These lonely waters are the site of the Spacecraft Cemetery.  As reported by Gizmodo:

The Spacecraft Cemetery is the final resting place of 145 of Russia’s Progress autonomous resupply ships, 4 of Japan’s HTV cargo craft, and 5 of the ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicles. 6 Russian Salyut space stations and the venerable Mir space station lie alongside the freighters that once supplied them.

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Piracy, Packet Ships and the Erie Canal — Why New York is the Center of US Publishing

Packet ship

Packet ship

This week, Book Expo America and Book-Con, collectively among of the largest book publishing events in the world, are being held in New York City, on the Hudson River in the Javit’s Center. (My novel, The Shantyman, is one of seemingly countless books on display.)

It seems a good time to ask the question, “Why did New York become the book publishing center of the United States?  Why not Philadelphia, or Boston or Chicago? The answer may be piracy, packet ships and the Erie Canal.

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