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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Schooner Kirk and Sweeney — the Rum-Runner Behind the Rum

A March snowstorm has descended on the banks of the Hudson River. To be ready for all contingencies, I went out and purchased a decent bottle of rum. One can never be too prepared. I chose a 12 year old Dominican rum, Kirk and Sweeney, named after a Prohibition-era rum-running schooner.  That it is named after a schooner wasn’t the only reason that I bought the rum, but it contributed to the decision. 

I became intrigued by the schooner behind the rum. According to the distiller, 35 Maple Street,  “In 1924, [the Kirk and Sweeney] was seized off the coast of New York with a massive amount of rum aboard.”

The USCG web page — RUM WAR!  The Coast Guard & Prohibition tells a similar story : 

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Maiden Voyage for Boaty McBoatface, the Yellow Submarine

Having successfully completed sea trials, the new yellow submarine Boaty McBoatface is about to be deployed on its maiden voyage, on a research expedition to some of the the deepest, coldest waters on earth. 

Boaty McBoatface is one of three autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) developed at Britain’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC) designated as Autosub Long Range vehicles. Each are able to travel thousands of kilometers on missions lasting several months at a time.  The NOC website notes: The ability to travel under ice and reach depths of 6000 metres will enable Boaty and friends to explore 95% of the ocean. Boaty and similar autonomous vehicles will help oceanographers investigate the processes driving change in the Polar Regions, including the extent of the ice melt, and conduct a range of research in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans without the need for the constant presence of a research ship. Scientists won’t need to wait to get access to the data, since Boaty will periodically surface and transmit the data back via a radio link. Continue reading

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Chris Bertish — First Person to Cross Atlantic by Paddleboard

On Thursday, South African Chris Bertish paddled his ocean-going stand-up paddleboard into Antiqua’s English Harbor becoming the first person to cross the Atlantic by stand-up paddleboard. He left Agadir, Morocco, 93 days ago, on the epic 4,050-mile voyage.  Bertish was wholly unassisted and unsupported during the trip.  He averaged 44 miles a day — paddling mostly at night to avoid exposure to the sun — and alternated between resting and paddling every two or three hours. Bertish also set a new world record for paddling a 24-hour solo open ocean distance of 71.96 miles.

Man Paddle Boards Across Atlantic Ocean Unassisted

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Collapse of Malta’s Azure Window

The Azure Window collapsed in a storm on March 8, 2017. Before and after.

The Azure Window is no more. The iconic limestone arch on the island of Gozo in Malta was destroyed in a winter storm on March 8th. The 92′ high arch, a product of the erosion and collapse of two sea caves, finally succumb to erosion and entirely collapsed into the sea. The arch had been growing progressively wider over the last thirty years as portions of the top slab and pillar of the arch fell away. In 2014, after rocks falls in 2012 and 2013, it was made illegal to walk on the arch. 

The Azure Window was a major Maltese tourist attraction served as the backdrop for numerous movies and television programs, including Game of Thrones, Clash of the Titans, The Count of Monte Cristo and the Odyssey.

The video below includes photos of the Azure Window from 1880 to the present. 

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Jewel of Muscat — 9th Century Dhow Inspired by Tang Shipwreck

We recently posted about a new exhibit at New York City’s Asia Society featuring artifacts from the wreck of an Arab dhow which sank with a veritable treasure trove of Tang Dynasty goods off Indonesia’s Belitung Island in the 9th century. The shipwreck was discovered by local fishermen in 1998 and represented the first example of sea trade between the Middle East and China in the period. In addition to the historical value of the cargo, the remarkably well preserved ship proved to be invaluable to archaeologists and maritime historians. Based on the dimensions taken from the wreck and the construction details observed, a replica of the trading ship was built in Oman in 2008 and was christened Jewel of Muscat. In 2010, Jewel of Muscat recreated a 9th century trading voyage from Oman to Singapore

The Jewel of Muscat is now on display in the Maritime Experiential Museum in Singapore. The museum was built to to house the ship and some of the 60,000 artifacts salvaged from the Belitung shipwreck.

The Story of the Jewel of Muscat

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She Sells Seashells by the Seashore — Remembering Mary Anning

Mary Anning

Remember the old tongue twister, “She sells seashells by the seashore?” (Try saying that three times fast.) The tongue twisting seashell seller was inspired by a real woman named Mary Anning, who was an English fossil collector, dealer, and paleontologist, and who did indeed sell seashells by the seashore, as well as accomplishing much, much more. She died 170 years ago today.  

Despite a lack of education and a life of poverty, Mary Anning became known as the “the greatest fossilist the world ever knew.” She is credited with the finding the first correctly identified ichthyosaur skeleton as well as the first nearly complete Plesiosaurus.  She also found the first British Pterodactylus macronyx, a fossil flying reptile; the Squaloraja fossil fish, a transitional link between sharks and rays; and the Plesiosaurus macrocephalus.

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Proposed Budget Slashes Billions from Coast Guard to Fund Border Wall

The current administration is considering major cuts to the Coast Guard budget in order to fund it’s plans to build a multi-billion-dollar border wall and to crack down on illegal immigration. In the draft budget proposal, the already over-stretched Coast Guard will have its funding cut by 14% from $9.1 billion to about $7.8 billion.

The taxpayer-funded border wall is notionally intended to protect the less than 2,000 mile southern border with Mexico. Notably, illegal crossings of the southern border are already at a 40 year low. The wall would come at the expense of the Coast Guard’s protection of the nation’s 12,000 mile coast. The shoreline itself, including bays, rivers and capes is over 85,000 miles long. 

In addition to saving mariners’ lives, the Coast Guard plays a critical role in coastal security, drug interdiction, and environmental protection. As reported by Politico: Continue reading

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Secrets of the Sea — A Tang Shipwreck and Early Trade in Asia

A new exhibit opens today at the Asia Society Museum in New York City, ‘Secrets of the Sea: A Tang Shipwreck and Early Trade in Asia.‘  The exhibit features a selection of 78 artifacts including ceramics, gold and silver items and bronze mirrors, from the 9th century Belitung shipwreck. On view for the first time in the United States, these objects are evidence of an active trade between between far-flung kingdoms in Asia over a millennium ago.

In 1998, Indonesian fishermen diving for sea cucumbers discovered a shipwreck off Indonesia’s Belitung Island in the Java Sea. The ship was an Arabian dhow with a rich cargo of Tang dynasty ceramics, and objects of gold and silver. The ship is believed to have been on its return voyage from China, bound for what is now Iran or Iraq, when it sank around 830 CE.

The exhibit at the Asia Society runs from March 7 through June 4, 2017. In the video below, Asia Society Executive Vice President Tom Nagorski discusses Secrets of the Sea with Museum Director and Vice President for Arts & Cultural Programs Boon Hui Tan:

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Danny Spooner — Thames Bargemen, Historian & Folk Singer

We have learned that Danny Spooner died last week.  Spooner was a well loved singer of traditional and contemporary folk songs of Britain and Australia. As a social historian, he explored British and Australian culture through folk music. Leaving school at the age of 13, Spooner went to work on a Thames sailing barge, learning songs from working sail from the deck of the barge. In 1962, he moved to Australia and became deeply involved in the folk music scene. He performed in folk clubs and music festivals all over Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Canada and the US.  He will be missed.

Danny Spooner sings for The National Library of Australia collection

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Will Royal Cone Snail Venom Help Solve the Opioid Overdose Epidemic?

The United State is facing an epidemic of fatal drug overdoses due to the use of prescription opioids as painkillers. In the US in 2015, there were over 20,000 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin. Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers. Now, researchers may have found an alternative to opioids in the venom of the royal cone snail, a mollusk found in shallow waters from the Caribbean to the Brazilian coast.

The royal cone snail, known scientifically as Conus regius, has a fish-immobilizing sting that can be venomous enough to be potentially fatal to humans. The chemical mix in the venom has been of interest to scientists because of its pain blocking characteristics. One compound in the venom, Rg1A, has been found to act very differently from opioids. Unlike opioids which dull the brain’s awareness of pain, and are dangerously addictive, Rg1A acts on the pain receptors in the body itself, dulling the pain at its source. The compound also has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.

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Incat Passenger/Car Ferry Francisco — World’s Fastest Ship

The car/passenger ferry Francisco, built in 2013 by Tasmanian shipyard Incat, is billed as the fastest ship in the world. The 99 meter ferry has clocked speeds of 58 knots (67 mph; 107 km/h). Operated by Buquebus, an Argentine-Uruguayan ferry company, Francisco is capable of accommodating 1024 passengers and 150 cars. The ferry is an Incat wave piercing catamaran design, built of aluminium, and the powered by the two 22MW GE LM2500 gas turbines driving Wartsila LJX 1720 SR waterjets. The ferry is also notable in that it can run on either marine distillate fuel or liquefied natural gas (LNG.) Francisco operates on the River Plate between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Thanks to David Rye for contributing to this post.

World’s Fastest Ship: Incat’s Wave Piercing Catamaran

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When Peggotty Met Petunia Seaways — an iPad Assisted Collision

Photo: Sun UK

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) recently released a report on a collision between the 50 ft wooden WWII-era training boat Peggotty and the 32,000 GT cargo ferry Petunia Seaways on the UK’s Humber estuary. The report concluded that the use of an iPad as a primary means of navigation aboard Peggotty was a key factor behind the accident. In the collision with the much larger vessel, the Peggotty sankwhile the captain of the cargo ferry was not initially aware that a collision had taken place. 

At first glance it would be easy to say simply “another inexperienced mariner relying more on electronics than seamanship.” What makes this story interesting is that the statement is only half true. No doubt, too much reliance was placed on electronics, but the mariners involved were all professionals. The owner and skipper of the Peggotty, David Carlin, holds an unlimited master’s license and works as a pilot on the Humber.

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William Liebenow, Decorated WWII PT Boat Skipper, Dies at 97

William “Bud” Liebenow recently died at the age of 97. He served on patrol torpedo boats, PT boats, in both the Pacific and the Atlantic during World War II. He was best known as the commander of PT-157, which rescued Jack Kennedy and the ten other surviving crew of the PT 109 from behind enemy lines near the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, after Kennedy’s PT boat was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer in August of 1943. Kennedy would later become the 35th President of the United States. Liebenow briefly joined Kennedy on the campaign trial during that election and he and his wife, Lucy, were invited by Kennedy to his inaugural ball in 1961.

During the Normandy landings of 1944, Liebenow was in command of PT-199 that helped rescue approximately 60 survivors of the USS Corry, the lead destroyer of the Normandy Invasion task force, which was sunk by by German artillery fire. Later in the war, he ferried Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gen. George S. Patton aboard his PT boat. 

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Carnival’s First Ship — TSS Mardi Gras

Today Carnival Corporation is the largest operator of cruise ships in the world with a combined fleet of over 100 vessels across 10 cruise line brands. Back in 1972, however, it owned exactly one ship, the RMS Empress of Canada, which they renamed Mardi Gras. On the day after Mardi Gras, it seems like a good time to take a quick look back at Carnival’s very first ship.

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African American Whaling Ship Captains: Part 2 — William Thomas Shorey, the Black Ahab

WilliamshoreyAs we noted in our post yesterday, over nearly three centuries of whaling, some 175,000 men went to sea in 2,700 ships. Of the 2,500 masters who captained whaling ships, at least 63 were men of color. Many of the 63 sailed from the US East Coast, including Absalom Boston, Paul Cuffee, William A. Martin, and Collins A. Stevenson, among others. Here is a revised repost from 2014, about a black whaling ship master from the West Coast in last days of the whale fisheries, Captain Shorey. 

Captain William Thomas Shorey, who was affectionately nicknamed “Black Ahab” by his crew, was born in Barbados in 1859 and ran away to sea as a young man. He learned navigation from a British ship captain and became a ship’s officer by the age of 21. After only a decade at sea, he rose to command whaling ships sailing out of San Francisco.

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