Autonomous Mayflower, Technological Breakthrough or Hazard to Navigation?

On September 16, 1620, four hundred years ago today, the merchant ship Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers. The mix of religious separatists and entrepreneurs referred to today as Pilgrims would establish the first permanent European settlement in New England.

Today, a high tech autonomous ship, also called the Mayflower, was unveiled. The craft was originally intended to set off to replicate the voyage of the original Mayflower on the anniversary of the original’s departure but was delayed by the pandemic. The plan is now to test the craft, referred to as the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS), over the next six months and to attempt the voyage in April, 2021.    

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Ice Apocalypse — Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers Collapse Accelerating

Last February we posted “The Doomsday Glacier — the Thwaites Glacier Melting From Below,” about the flow of warmer water that is melting the massive West Antarctic glacier from below. Thwaites is referred to as the “Doomsday Glacier” because it’s collapse could eventually lead to the collapse of the entire West Antarctic ice sheet, which contains enough ice to raise the sea level by about 10 feet. Currently, sea levels are rising about 3.5 millimeters a year, and Thwaites alone contributes about 4% or 5% of the total.

The Washington Post reports that a study of the Thwaites and the adjacent Pine Island glacier, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that a naturally occurring buffer system that prevents the glaciers from flowing outward rapidly is breaking down, potentially unleashing far more ice into the sea in coming years. In other words, the collapse of the Doomsday Glacier is accelerating. The collapse may take centuries but could be unstoppable.

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CMA CGM Brazil, Largest Container Ship to Call on US East Coast

Over the weekend, the container ship, CMA CGM Brazil, docked at the marine terminal in Port Elizabeth, NJ, part of the Port of New York and New Jersey on Newark Bay.  At 15,148 TEU, it is said to be the largest container ship ever to call on any port on the U.S. East Coast.  To make this possible, the Port Authority invested $1.6 billion dollars to dredge the channel and raise the roadway on the Bayonne Bridge to allow the new larger neo-Panamax ships to transit, as well as spending $40 million for new container cranes and equipment.

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Orca That Carried Dead Calf Gives Birth Again

The new calf, J57, with its mother, J35. Credit: Katie Jones, via Center for Whale Research

In the summer of 2018, a female orca whale became of a symbol of the perilous state of the Southern Resident orca pods of the Pacific Northwest. The whale, designated J35 by researchers, had given birth to a calf that died. The mother orca carried the calf with her for 17 days in what appeared to be an act of mourning. Now two summers later, orca J35 has given birth again to what is described as a “robust and lively” new calf, in what may be a ray of hope for the endangered Southern Resident population. 

For the last five years, the Southern Resident orca population has been in trouble, suffering from a scarcity of fish, noise pollution from ships and boats, and toxic pollutants in their food chain. The Southern Resident population includes three pods that largely stay near Washington State and British Columbia. They numbered 88 when they were listed as endangered in 2005 and have since dwindled to 73, including the newborn calf.

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Oceanbird, Proposed Sailing Car Carrier, Cuts Emissions by 90%

A Swedish consortium that includes Wallenius Marine has designed Oceanbird, a five-masted sailing car carrier, that could have a huge impact on the development of modern commercial sail.  The design is intended to be finished in 2021 with potential delivery by 2025.

Oceanbird is a revolutionary design. It is not a small vessel. Whereas another sailing ro/ro project is working toward building a ship with a capacity of fewer than 500 vehicles, the Oceanbird design is a full-sized car carrier, 200 meters long with a 40 meter beam, and a capacity to carry 7,000 vehicles. If built, Oceanbird will be the largest sailing cargo ship that the world has ever seen.

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All Available Boats — Remembering the Amazing Manhattan Boatlift of 9/11

The events of 9/11 are still more clear in my memory than I would like. The dry, clear morning. The call from my wife from the mezzanine of the World Trade Center after the first plane hit the North Tower. The orange blossom of flame when I saw the second plane hit the South Tower. The maelstrom of dust, smoke, and fire after the towers collapsed.

There was a part of that day, however, that was not only worth remembering but worth celebrating — the amazing, virtually miraculous, spontaneous maritime evacuation of somewhere between 300,000 and one million people who were trapped in lower Manhattan on the afternoon of September 11, 2001. It truly was an American Dunkirk.

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Restored Windjammer Peking Returns to Hamburg

In all her former glory, the restored Flying P Liner Peking has returned to her home port of Hamburg. Four years ago, we posted about the Peking‘s departure from New York’s South Street Seaport. During the summer of 2017, she was carried across the Atlantic on a heavy lift ship and underwent a three-year restoration at Peters Werft shipyard in Wewelsfleth, Germany.

This week, the Peking was towed back to Hamburg, greeted by a flotilla of supporters and throngs of wellwishers along the riverbanks. The ship will be the centerpiece of a new German Port Museum, part of Historic Museums Hamburg, scheduled to be completed by 2025. In the meantime, the Peking is alongside her provisional berth on the Bremen Quay.

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Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm — Remembering the Deadly 1900 Galveston Hurricane

One hundred and twenty years ago yesterday, on September 8, 1900, the city of Galveston Texas was struck by what today would be classified as a Category 4 hurricane, with winds of 145 mph and a storm surge of 14 feet. Somewhere between 6,000 and 12,000 people died, making it the deadliest hurricane in US history.  An updated repost from several years ago.

The story of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 lives on in music. The song “Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm” was first recorded in 1934 by a preacher named “Sin-Killer” Griffin for the Library of Congress by folk song collector, John A. Lomax. The song has also been recorded by Tom Rush, Emmylou Harris and James Taylor, among others. A variation of the song, called “Wasn’t that a Mighty Day” was recorded by the Chad Mitchell trio and the Highwaymen. Sin-Killer Griffin sings below. Other versions after the page break.

Sin-Killer Griffin – Wasn’t That A Mighty Storm

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Crisis on Maersk Etienne Escalates — Three Migrants Jump Overboard

Photo: Maersk Tankers

In early August, the Maltese government asked the tanker, Maersk Etienne, to help a nearby boat in distress. The crew of the tanker found an overcrowded, wooden fishing boat carrying 27 African migrants — including a pregnant woman and a child. They rescued the migrants and proceeded to Malta. After the Maltese authorities requested that the tanker rescue the migrants, the ship was refused permission to dock. Now, 36 days later, the Maersk Etienne sits at anchor off Malta with its 27 passengers, in increasingly dire conditions.

Over the weekend, three of the desperate migrants jumped overboard. They were recovered by the ship’s crew and are being cared for on the ship. 

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QAnon Conspiracy: Did J.P. Morgan Sink the Titanic?

The QAnon conspiracy nuts seem to be growing in number, so it seems to be a good time to look at an older conspiracy picked up by the current QAnon crowd.  The conspiracy theory claims that J.P. Morgan sank the Titanic, or at least arranged to have it sunk. It doesn’t make any particular sense, but here is how the story goes.

J.P. Morgan was supposed to be aboard the Titanic on its ill-fated maiden voyage but canceled at the last minute. Morgan’s rival millionaires Jacob Astor, Isidor Straus, and Benjamin Guggenheim had also booked passage on the ship. The conspiracy goes on to claim that Morgan somehow arranged for the ship to sink, killing 1,503 of its 2,224 passengers, in order to get rid of Astor, Straus, and Guggenheim. How Morgan arranged the rendevous with the iceberg and how he could have assured that his targets would be among the drowned and not the more than 700 survivors is not clear, but conspiracy theories are like that.

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Navy Captain Mike Desmond Sets Unofficial Record for Time at Sea

Due to Covid-19, the Navy’s Captain Mike Desmond has inadvertently set an, as of yet, unofficial record for continuous-time deployed at sea. When the pandemic broke out, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group canceled port calls in Europe and remained at sea to avoid contact with the coronavirus.

The USS Eisenhower would ultimately remain at sea for 206 days, setting a new record, along with the cruiser USS San Jacinto. Captain Desmond served aboard the Eisenhower but late in the deployment was transferred to take command of the Ticonderoga class cruiser USS Vella Gulf. The Vella Gulf docked in its homeport of Norfolk one day after the Eisenhower, so Captain Desmond logged 207 days of continuous sea time.

The previous record is believed to be 160 days, a record set in 2002 by the carrier Theodore Roosevelt at the beginning of the Afghanistan War. 

Update: Second Survivor Rescued After Livestock Carrier Capsizes in Typhoon

Eduardo Sareno, a survivor of capsized Gulf Livestock 1. A second survivor has now been rescued.

Two days after the capsize and sinking of the livestock carrier, Gulf Livestock 1, in Typhoon Maysak, the Japanese coast guard has rescued a second survivor. Jay-nel Rosales, 30, of the Philippines, was found floating alone in a life raft off the island of Kodakarajima in the East China Sea. Rosales was conscious and able to walk unaided. 

The only other survivor located thus far is Eduardo Sareno, the vessel’s 45-year-old chief officer, who found wearing a lifejacket after spending 24 hours in the water. The body of a deceased crew member has also been recovered. The remaining crew of 40 are missing and feared dead.  The ship’s cargo of over 5,800 cattle also perished.

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The AC75 | Designed to Fly

Here is a fascinating short video on the AC75 foiling monohulls preparing to race in the 36th America’s Cup to be held in March 2021 in Aukland, New Zealand. Described as  “monohulls on steroids”, the boats are amazing feats of engineering from the twin-skinned wing sails to the canting foils and just about everything in between.

The AC75 | Designed to Fly

East & West Coast Online Chantey Sings — NY’s South Street Seaport & SF’s Hyde Street Pier

We have posted previously about New York’s South Street Seaport Museum’s monthly virtual Sea Chanteys and Maritime Music events that take place on the first Sunday of every month. The next Virtual Chantey Sing is this Sunday from 2-4. Click here to learn more or to download a free background for Zoom.

Now, the West Coast is joining in the singing, as the San Francisco Maritime Association is partnering with the SF Maritime National Historical Park for a virtual Hyde Street Pier Sea Chantey Sing series to begin in mid-September. From their events page:

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Livestock Carrier Capsizes Off Japan in Typhoon Msysak, One Survivor Rescued

The Japanese Coast Guard reported receiving a single distress call from the Panamanian flagged livestock carrier, Gulf Livestock 1, with a crew of 43 aboard. The vessel’s last known position in the East China Sea was near Typhoon Maysak, a Category 3 storm, with winds of 115 mph. When the Japanese authorities searched for the ship, they found one surviving seafarer wearing a life jacket and an empty inflatable life raft. 

The mariner, Eduardo Sareno, the vessel’s 45-year-old chief officer, said the ship’s engine failed before it capsized after being hit by a wave. Sareno also said that the crew had been instructed to put on lifejackets and that he jumped into the water. He said he did not see any other crew members before he was rescued. Sareno was reported to have been in the water for almost 24 hours before he was located by the Japanese Coast Guard.

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Wakashio Oil Spill Off Mauritius Turns Deadly As Tug Sinks — 3 Dead, 1 Missing

The ongoing cleanup following the fuel oil spill from the grounded bulk carrier Wakashio off Mauritius turned deadly when a tug assisting in the effort sank after colliding with an oil barge. The tug Sir Gaetan Duval had a crew of 8. Four of the crew were rescued, 3 died, and 1 is still missing. 

There are conflicting reports about the barge status and condition, but it now appears that the barge was empty and remained afloat following the collision. Forbes reports that video taken by local fishermen on 1 September morning revealed the oil barge drifting unattached along the coast of Mauritius. There was no satellite anti-collision tracking transponder on the oil barge.

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SINKEX at RIMPAC, Goodbye to USS Durham

SINKEX sounds to me like a drain cleaner and RIMPAC could be something for a spare tire. In fact, RIMPAC is an acronym for Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, held in biennially on even-numbered years. This year, the exercise involved ten nations, 22 ships, one submarine, and approximately 5,300 personnel. It was held Aug.17-31 near the Hawaiian Islands. The exercise was limited to offshore activities and represented a smaller fleet than in previous years due to the ongoing pandemic.  In comparison, RIMPAC 2010 involved 14 nations, thirty-two ships, five submarines, over 170 aircraft, and 20,000 personnel. 

One highlight of the exercises is SINKEX, an exercise to sink a naval ship. Continue reading

Three Year Old Swept Out to Sea on a Unicorn, Rescued by Ferry

This seems like a suitable post for an overcast Monday morning. In the town of Antirrio in southern Greece, a three-year-old girl climbed aboard a unicorn at the beach. The unicorn’s wings caught the wind and soon the little girl and the unicorn were swept out to sea, where they were rescued by a fairy. No, that last bit isn’t right. The girl and her unicorn were rescued by a ferry, or more specifically, a quick-thinking ferry captain. 

A slightly less fanciful version of the story would be that a three-year-old girl was on an inflatable unicorn “floaty,” meant primarily for pools, but often seen at lakes and ocean beaches. As reported by the New York Times, the wind grabbed hold of both the girl and the inflatable toy before her parents could react. Within moments, she was carried out to sea, adrift and alone, clinging to the unicorn’s neck.

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Superyacht Wheels — the Other Jerry Falwell Scandal

Yacht Wheels

We recently posted about the arrest of Steven Bannon, ex-senior advisor to Trump, aboard Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui’s 152′ yacht, cruising in Long Island Sound. Earlier in August, another mega-yacht was central in an unfolding scandal that brought down yet another major Trump supporter.

In early August, a photo of Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell, began circulating on the internet. It showed Fallwell with his arm around a young woman who was not his wife. Falwell was holding a glass filled with a dark liquid. Both Falwell and the woman, who was later identified as Falwell’s wife’s personal assistant, had their pants unzipped. The photograph was reported to have been taken on board the 164′ luxury yacht, Wheels, owned by the billionaire NASCAR mogul Rick Hendrick.

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Banksy’s Rescue Boat Calls for Help

The two items in the news appeared within hours of each other. The first, dated August 28, 17:09, was headlined, “Street artist Banksy funds pink boat to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean.” The second dated August 29, 5:45 AM was titled, “Banksy’s migrant rescue boat says overloaded, stranded at sea.

The story behind the headlines is that the British street artist Banksy has funded a 31-meter boat to be used to rescue migrants in distress in the Mediterranean.  The boat is named Louise Michel, after a French feminist anarchist, and began operations last week. The former French Navy craft, daubed in pink and white, is captained by Pia Klemp and crewed by a team of rescue professionals from across Europe. 

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