General Maritime History

News and Information about Marine History in General

  • Australia shipwreck tale clue to French explorer disappearance

    In 1785 Jean-Francois de Galaup de La Perouse was sent by King Louis XVI to chart the globe and map lands that had eluded English explorer Captain James Cook

    From Mail Online

    An Indian seaman's tale of being shipwrecked on a remote northern Australian island could shed light on the 230-year-old disappearance of a renowned French explorer, one of maritime history's greatest mysteries, an anthropologist said Thursday.

    In 1785 Jean-Francois de Galaup de La Perouse was sent by King Louis XVI to chart the globe and map lands that had eluded English explorer Captain James Cook.

    Three years later the explorer and his 220 crew were shipwrecked after setting sail from Botany Bay in New Holland -- now Australia -- in the direction of New Caledonia. His two frigates were eventually found off the tiny Solomons island of Vanikoro, northeast of New Caledonia and locals said the survivors built a vessel to sail back to France.

    After they left, they were thought to have vanished at sea. But the survival story of an Indian sailor, Shaik Jumaul, hints at a bloodier end for La Perouse and his crew -- some 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) back towards Australia.

    Jumaul's tale, chronicled in The Madras Courier newspaper in 1818 but largely ignored until now, detailed the shipwreck of his merchant ship off northern Australia in 1814, according to Australian National University anthropologist Garrick Hitchcock.

    Hitchcock, who detailed his research in The Journal of Pacific History, said the Indian sailor was marooned on Murray Island in the Torres Strait. When he was rescued by merchant ships in 1818, he told the crew he saw cutlasses and muskets on the islands that were not English made, as well as a compass and a gold watch.

    "When he asked the Islanders where they obtained these things, they related how approximately 30 years earlier, a ship had been wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef to the east, in sight of the island," Hitchcock said.








  • WWII bombs in Solomons

    A New Zealand navy diver recovers unexploded ordnance in the Solomons

    From Radionz

    It involves personnel from New Zealand, Australia, Britain and Canada.

    Operation Render Safe is a three-week-long exercise to remove explosive remnants from World War II that can be found scattered over land and sea in the Solomons.

    The commander of HMNZS Manawanui, Lieutenant Commander Muzz Kennett, said the New Zealand team had been working in the Russell Island group, to the northwest of Guadalcanal, aiming to ensure communities and the waters they relied on were safe.

    "We have found 250 pound bombs and smaller ordnance - one village we found up to 52 pieces of ordnance that we removed and detonated some explosives to get rid of them.

    "It's working really well, we have been busy, and in the last five days we have got rid of approximately 400 pounds of ordnance."

    Full story...







  • UW duels: How Soviet submarines held their own in WWII

    Great Patriotic War of 1941-45.The Black Sea Fleet. Ships and submarines on a mission, 1942.

    From Alexander Vershinin - Russia Beyond the Headlines

    On the eve of WWII the Soviet submarine fleet was the largest in the world. In terms of the number of subs it was twice as big as the fleet in the U.S. and almost four times as big as the Kriegsmarine, the German navy.

    Nevertheless, the challenges placed before it were rather narrow. Due to its geographical position the USSR could not fight for supremacy in the oceans. It had only two entrances to the open ocean, but both the North Pole and the Far East did not present the necessary possibilities to set up full naval infrastructures.

    What remained were only closed seas: the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. It was believed that after the beginning of the war the Soviet navy would be able to strike the enemy communications located in these regions.

    But the Soviet submarines could not compete with those from Germany, while the position of the UK (which had the biggest fleet in the world) in the event of a war was unclear.

    Therefore the decision to develop the submarine fleet was very logical: Relatively low production costs helped create a powerful force, capable of playing an important role in the war's naval battles.

    Full article...







  • Amazing 500-year-old diving bell

    Ancient diving bell

    From Ancien Origins

    A vow of silence has protected the mystery behind an ingenious invention for nearly 500 years. The secrets behind Guglielmo de Lorena’s amazing diving bell, a technical marvel, would have remained an engineering puzzle if not for the attentions of a curious maritime researcher.

    The article “Guglielmo’s Secret: The Enigma of the First Diving Bell Used in underwater Archaeology” as written by researcher Dr. Josheph Eliav and published in International Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology, hypothesizes a solution to the longstanding mystery of how two men in the 1500s were able to remain deep underwater for hours at a time in order to examine ancient wrecks and return to the surface with amazing artifacts.

    Italian Guglielmo de Lorena is credited with inventing the first one-man diving bell. It boasted a revolutionary air-supply mechanism which would exchange the air inside while maintaining pressure, allowing the diver to remain underwater for hours.

    In July 1535, set on exploring a sunken Roman vessel in Lake Nemi, Guglielmo de Lorna and partner Francesco de Marchi used the invention to examine and document sunken barges which had lain at the bottom of Lake Nemi. These wooden barges had once reputedly served as floating platforms for infamous Roman emperor Caligula in the first century A.D.

    Full article...


  • Archaeologist has found evidence of De Soto's expedition

    Ethan White, 15, left, uses a screen to sift sand at the circa 1606-1608 San Buenaventura de Potano Spanish mission location at his family'­s property in north Marion County

    By Fred Hiers - News Chief

    Hernando De Soto's route through Florida is as elusive to modern archaeologists as the gold the famed Spanish explorer sought throughout the southeastern United States.

    Ever since De Soto's 600 men set foot on the shores of Tampa Bay, arriving from Cuba almost 500 years ago, historians have debated the exact direction of his failed treasure-hunting expeditions as far north as Tennessee and North Carolina.

    But in north Marion County, an archaeologist has found what his contemporaries deem rarer than the gold De Soto was seeking — physical evidence of the explorer's precise journey through Marion County and enough information to redraw Florida De Soto maps and fuel many more archaeological digs based on his findings.

    "It gets rid of the guesswork now on the route through Marion County," said Ashley White, a local archaeologist who found the site. "Now, we know for sure he came up through the Black Sink Prairie to Orange Lake and looped around through Micanopy."

    From the De Soto site, which sits on the one-time Indian town known as Potano, De Soto eventually marched to Utinamocharra in present day Gainesville and later to Tallahassee for the winter.

    Full story...

  • History of the Carolinas: Women Pirates

    From Cary Citizen

    Tell Me a Pirate Story Daddy

    When Gordon’s daughters were young, any long trip in the car meant; “Dad tell me a pirate story.”

    Daughter Beth, who would become a reporter, editor and public relations officer, had high standards. Pirate stories must contain risk, danger, buried treasure and surprise endings to get the seal of approval.

    Daughter Lisa, who later became a banker, wanted to review the logic of the plot development when the story ended. Beth liked ghosts but Lisa felt this confused the facts.

    Pirate Books

    We found pirate books in great demand. One bookstore owner indicated that if a used book on pirates arrived, it would be sold in a matter of hours. One trend in pirate literature, he told us, is interest in women pirates.

    We found documentation of over 41 women pirates. We also found a few myths about piracy.

    Pirates & Privateers

    There were two kinds of sea marauders, legal privateers and pirates. Privateers had the authorization of a government and became heroes for looting and pillaging the government’s enemies. Pirates, without government sponsorship, would be hung for their sea crimes.

    Pirate Treasure

    What about stories of treasure ? Pirates divided the treasure but usually sold stolen goods and spent all money after a few days in port.

    Pirate ships were crowded and disease filled but the allure of instant plunder and adventure attracted many including women during the golden age of piracy from 1650-1726.

    Anne Bonny, Mary Read and Calico Jack Rackham

    Two famous women pirates were Anne Bonny and Mary Read whose pirate activities centered on the Atlantic Ocean and West Indies.




  • Drakes Bay to being named explorer's official landing site

    Sir Francis Drake

    By Bob Norberg - The Press Democrat

    Exactly where Sir Francis Drake sought refuge from a storm on the West Coast 441 years ago has been a matter of study and often colorful debate for six decades, a debate that is about to be settled.

    Professional and amateur archaeologists and historians since before World War II have promoted a number of different spots, from Drakes Bay at the Point Reyes Seashore to Campbell Cove in Bodega Bay and even places along the Oregon coast.

    The debate even spurred a highly publicized hoax by members of E Clampus Vitus, a Gold Rush-era historical fraternity, who in 1936 fashioned an authentic-looking brass plate purportedly left by Drake that ended up enshrined in UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library.

    Now, the federal government is about to put its official imprimatur on Drakes Bay in the Point Reyes National Seashore as the likely spot by granting it National Historic Landmark status.

    “It is a significant step, It is the final step,” said John Dell'Osso, chief of interpretation and resource education at Point Reyes National Seashore.

    The nomination was approved in November by the National Park Service's landmarks commission, a panel of scientists and archaeologists that gives all nominations a grueling and exacting review.

    It subsequently was endorsed by a parks service advisory committee.

    Landmark status now awaits just one more step, the signature of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
    “They give it another look.

    They are looking to see if there are any flaws,” said Ed Von der Porten of San Francisco, a maritime archaeologist and historian.

    Full story...


  • Why scouring sea for sunken treasures is big business

    By Eoghan Macguire - The Denver Channel

    Deep sea treasure hunters may evoke storybook images of swashbuckling buccaneers on daring ocean adventures.
    For those in the rapidly expanding sector of marine archeology however, scouring the depths of the sea for sunken riches is business -- big business.

    "There are multi-hundreds of billions of dollars of potential in this industry," says Sean Tucker, founder and managing member of Galleon Ventures, a U.S. based historical  shipwreck and salvage exploration company.

    "Treasure bearing ships that have historical artifacts, coins, emeralds" dating back hundreds of years are lying at the bottom of the sea just waiting to be brought to the surface, he adds.

    UNESCO estimates there to be as many as three million shipwrecks scattered across the bottom of the world's oceans.

    Although Tucker points out that only 30,000 of these are likely to bear treasure of any value, discoveries such as the $3 billion of platinum located on a World War II merchant vessel by American salvage company, Sub Sea Research, last month confirm the industry's potential.

    The possibility to reap such bountiful rewards has inevitably led to increased industry investment in recent years, says Tucker.

    Hedge funds, private equity firms as well as cash rich individual investors have all been eager to provide the capital to back increasingly specialized treasure ventures.

    As a result, the biggest salvage companies are now able to utilize the same advanced tools used by big oil firms to locate deep sea drilling opportunities, explains Tucker.

    The most expensive exploration projects, which are almost always in a deep sea environment, can cost in the region of $30 million dollars to undertake, he adds.

    High tech developments are a logical progression for a sector where the rewards for success are so high.

    But Tucker also points out that the potential to make vast profits has led some companies to explore wrecks that modern day governments still claim ownership over without permission.

  • Some lost treasure tales are true !

    Treasures !

    By Murphy Givens - Caller

    Probably every place on the Gulf of Mexico from the Florida Keys to the Yucatan Peninsula has its lost treasure legend. Certainly the Texas coast has its own legends, including some that are true and some that are romantic fantasy.

    One true story started on April 9, 1554, when a fleet of Spanish galleons set sail from Veracruz for Spain loaded with the plunder of the conquistadors. It was said to be the richest treasure fleet that ever sailed.

    When a storm scattered the fleet, several galleons went down, three reached Spain, and one limped back to Veracruz. Three ships — the Santa Maria de Yciar, San Estebán, and Espíritu Santo — wrecked on Padre Island.

    Three hundred survivors, including soldiers, sailors, priests, women and children, were attacked and killed by Karankawa Indians as they fled down the island. Only two men survived, a Spanish friar and another man who hid at the wrecked ships.

    In 1904, Alex Meuly of Corpus Christi claimed he found the remains of one of the Spanish galleons 420 feet from shore, 35 miles down the island.

    He claimed it held a vast fortune in gold. He built a special trailer to transport the treasure, but for some reason he could never find the ship again.

    But ancient and encrusted Spanish doubloons were found so often in one sand dune on the island that it was called Money Hill. Some of the coins were dated 1525.

    One story told of a man going egg-hunting on the island and returned with his pockets filled with Spanish coins. Another man, an Englishman known as "Buttermilk" Bill, found $4,000 in gold coins near Devil's Elbow.

    Many of the treasure tales along our section of the coast are connected to the pirate Jean Lafitte, who was driven from Galvez's Island in 1820 and established two bases in this area, at Cedar Bayou and at the south end of St. Joseph's Island, across the pass from today's Port Aransas.

    The wife of one of his pirates, a woman known later as "Grandma" Frank, told the story that Lafitte's treasure — more than $500,000 he took away from Galveston — was buried in a mott of live oak trees at False Live Oak Point.

    After the last of the treasure was buried, and Lafitte came back alone, he supposedly told Mrs. Frank, "There is enough treasure in those woods to ransom a nation."



  • What's the total value of the world's sunken treasure ?

    Underwater Treasures

    By Rob Goodier - Popular Mechanics

    Three historic shipwrecks have been in the spotlight recently, with cargoes of platinum ingots, gold, and silver estimated at $4.5 billion in total. These huge hauls made us wonder: Just how much money is buried at sea ?

    When the last responders leave the sunken cruise liner Costa Concordia, the wreck's status may shift from grave site to treasure trove.

    Its passengers and interior decorators reportedly left behind a wealth of cash, jewels, antiques, and thousands of pieces of art. Souvenir hunters, looters, and even the mafia may have plans to dive the wreck for a piece of that fortune.

    It's been a busy month for shipwreck headlines and shipwreck hunters. The team that announced the discovery of the Port Nicholson, a World War II–era British merchant ship found 50 miles off the coast of Maine, says it bore 71 tons of platinum ingots worth about $3 billion.

    Other shipwreck hunters turned up the HMS Victory, which sank in the English Channel in 1744 with a "secret" cargo of gold valued at $1 billion.

    And, in an episode that shows the high stakes of shipwreck salvaging, Spain is currently recovering the estimated $500 million haul of gold and silver from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes that sank in 1804; an American company found the ship but lost court cases to Spain over the rights to the treasure.

     All this undersea treasure hunting got us wondering: Just how much money is out there buried at sea? We put the question to marine archeologists, a historian, and a shipwreck hunter. Their answers ranged from "Who knows ?" to "$60 billion"—and each was instructive. 

    An estimate of the value of sunken treasure in the world begins with a guess at the number of sunken ships. James Delgado, director of the Maritime Heritage Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), estimates that there are a million shipwrecks underwater now.

    "Given everything that's charted and all the rest, I would say that the majority of them remain undiscovered," Delgado says. After all, 70 percent of the planet's surface is water, and humans have only begun to be able to reach the depths. "[Considering] this, 95 percent of the ocean still remains unknown to us.

    It's the last frontier," Delgado says. "We know more about the surface of the moon than what's at the bottom of the sea."

    Maritime historian Amy Mitchell-Cook at the University of West Florida says she doesn't think it's possible to make an estimate. "Even in Pensacola Bay, where I am, I don't think we have an accurate number of shipwrecks," she says.

    "There were Spanish, French, English, and Americans all in the area, as well as international trade. We know a lot of ships sank, but we don't have a complete set of records."

    Full story...

  • The Royal Navy's darkest day recalled

    The Royal Navy's darkest day recalled

    By Chris Warne - Stroud News and Journal

    Seventy years ago last month, 840 British sailors perished in the lukewarm waters of the South China Sea when Japanese torpedo bombers descended from a cloudless sky to ambush two Royal Navy battleships making haste for Singapore.

    The devastating two-hour aerial assault, which left HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse rooted to the seabed, was the greatest single defeat suffered by the Royal Navy during the Second World War and has been dubbed ‘Britain’s Pearl Harbour’ by historians.

    With the passage of time the tragedy has faded from the national consciousness but for Stonehouse resident Charles Wright, 92, the events of that fateful day will never be forgotten.

    Indeed, the memories of the chaotic scramble to help wounded comrades emerging from below deck, many of them severely scalded by steam from burst pipes, are never likely to be forgotten by him.

    Ebley-born Charles Wright was in charge of the starboard aft 5.25-inch gun turrets mounted atop the HMS Prince of Wales on December 10, 1941.

    "They estimate that 92 aircraft attacked us," he said.

    "We never had a chance really. We kept putting barrages up but they just kept coming.

    Full story...

  • Russia offers Azerbaijan to conduct underwater archaeological work

    From Trend

    The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) offers Azerbaijan to conduct joint underwater archaeological work in the Caspian Sea, Director of the Archaeology and Ethnography Institute of the Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences (ANAS) Mais Rahimov told Trend.

    She said Russia is very interested in carrying out underwater excavations in the Caspian Sea. It is expected that cooperation in conducting the excavations will be discussed by the leadership of RAS and ANAS President Mahmud Kerimov.

    Discussions may be held during the RAS leadership's visit to Baku to attend the upcoming forum on humanities.

    A lot of money is required for underwater archaeological excavations in the Caspian Sea, Rahimov said.

    According to the Institute director, there are no experts in underwater archeology in Azerbaijan to conduct excavations. Therefore, Azerbaijan may send its employees to Russia to gain experience.

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  • Isle of Wight. Clarendon shipwreck remembered

     The wreck of the Clarendon in 1836 inspired engravings and poems

    By Dave Gilyeat - BBC News

    The poor communities in an isolated part of the Isle of Wight once relished the chance to plunder the wrecks of unfortunate ships that crashed upon the shore.

    But their fortunes changed following the sinking of the Clarendon in 1836 which saw a lighthouse built at St Catherine's Point.

    All but three of the Clarendon's 27 passengers and crew perished within 10 minutes of it being wrecked at the coastal ravine called Blackgang Chine.

    The 175th anniversary of the disaster is on 11 October, but maritime historian Stuart Haven said the Clarendon was "not as widely known as it should be".

    Mr Haven, from the Royal Marines Museum in Southsea, said: "The incidence of a shipwreck is a combination of things - it's either a time capsule for modern archaeologists to study or it can be thought of as a moment of human drama where the passengers have their own story to tell.

    "This is one of those great stories that's been forgotten over the course of the years."

    The Clarendon left the West Indies on 28 August 1836 with the captain, 16 crew and 10 passengers, including several children.

    It was battered by gales in the Atlantic Ocean and by the time it entered the English Channel the storms had increased, forcing it towards Portsmouth.

    Seeing the Clarendon's plight, an islander called John Wheeler and a group of local fishermen ran to Blackgang Chine to help.

    Wheeler tied a rope around his waist and jumped into the sea as the ship hit rocks at the chine. Three crew members were subsequently rescued from the water.

    Ken Phillips wrote in his 1988 book Shipwrecks of the Isle of Wight: "According to the survivors, those on board could see their would-be rescuers waiting, helpless to reach them against the fury of the storm.

    Full story...

  • Treasure wrecks in Spain



    By Annie Maples - Euro Weekly News

    Around 3,000 wrecked ships lie off the coast of Spain, many still laden with gold, silver and gems.

    “We always say there is more gold in the Gulf of Cadiz than the Bank of Spain,” said Juan Manuel Gracia, president of the Spanish Galleons Rescue Association.

    At least 850 hulks lie beneath the Bay of Cadiz and salvage experts estimate that 180 of these contain treasure worth a total of €25 million.

    “It’s as though we’ve lived with our backs to the sea,” explained Javier Noriego, director of Nera Subacuatica. “We have more wrecked ships than any other country in the world, but do less than anyone else to recover their riches,” agreed Gracia.

    Both criticised lack of help on the part of the Spanish government in supporting exploration and salvage operations.  

    They called for comprehensive protection of the entire Spanish coast to safeguard the national heritage, together with more backing and funding.

    Spain’s sunken treasures also had to be protected against a further foe: unscrupulous professional treasure hunters.

    “Spain was their chief victim and principal target throughout the 20th century and they have preyed on immensely rich underwater sites,” Noriega said.

    “They do their job,” said Juan Manuel Garcia in reference to Odyssey, the US salvagers recently ordered by an American court to return to Spain plundered treasure worth €400 million. “But they have been fooling us for years in the Gulf of Cadiz.”

    “For years permits have been given to pseudo-scientific missions which are in fact looking for Spanish gold and silver,” agreed Javier Noriega.

    Years of unchecked plundering could soon be over for the Gulf of Cadiz at least, now that the Culture and Defence ministries have embarked on their own mission to stop unauthorised ransacking of wrecks.

    Navy minesweepers are currently charting the Gulf of Cadiz’s sunken treasure ships although the findings will remain classified information.

  • Caribbean pirate life: tobacco, ale … and fine pottery

    By Owen Jarus - Live Science

    They smoked like the devil, drank straight from the bottle, annoyed the Spanish and had a fascination with fine pottery.

    Oh, and they didn't use plates ... at least not ceramic ones.

    Based in 18th-century Belize, they were real "Pirates of the Caribbean" and now new research by 21st-century archaeologists is telling us what their lives were like.

    Their findings, detailed in a chapter in a recently published book, suggest that while these pipe-smoking men acted as stereotypical pirates would — drinking, smoking and stealing — they also kept fancy, impractical porcelain in their camps. The fine dinnerware may have been a way to imbue the appearance of upper-class society.

    From historical records scientists had known that by 1720 these Caribbean pirates occupied a settlement called the "Barcadares," a name derived from the Spanish word for "landing place." Located 15 miles (24 kilometers) up the Belize River, in territory controlled by the Spanish, the site was used as an illegal logwood-cutting operation.

    The records indicate that a good portion of its occupants were pirates taking a pause from life at sea.

    Their living conditions were rustic to say the least. There were no houses, and the men slept on raised platforms with a canvas over them to keep the mosquitoes out. They hunted and gathered a good deal of their food.

    Capt. Nathaniel Uring, a merchant seaman who was shipwrecked and spent more than four months with the inhabitants, described them in the book The Voyages and Travels of Captain Nathaniel Uring (reprinted in 1928 by Cassell and Company) as a "rude drunken crew, some which have been pirates, and most of them sailors."

     Their "chief delight is in drinking; and when they broach a quarter cask or a hogshead of Bottle Ale or Cyder, keeping at it sometimes a week together, drinking till they fall asleep; and as soon as they awake at it again, without stirring off the place."

    Eventually Captain Uring returned to Jamaica and, in 1726, published an account of his adventures.



  • Sailors from two centuries ago to be remembered

    By Mark McNeil - The spec

    With the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 fast approaching, a special commemoration of the loss of 53 American sailors on the Scourge and Hamilton is being arranged for Aug. 7.

    The hour-long ceremony will take place at The Hamilton and Scourge Naval Memorial Garden at Confederation Park to acknowledge the sailors who died in what was the largest loss of life suffered by the United States Navy in that war.

    The warships sunk to the bottom of Lake Ontario in the early morning hours of Aug. 8, 1813 when they were struck by a sudden squall that took down the ships in a matter of minutes or even seconds.

    Michael McAllister, Coordinator of the Hamilton Military Museum, says there have been commemorations sporadically over the years, but with the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 coming up next year, organizers have decided to host services each year until 2014.

    This year’s ceremony will include a chaplain from the American Legion of Veterans.

    McAllister says the memorial garden at Confederation Park was built to remember the American sailors and raise public awareness of the tragedy, even though the site is a considerable distance from where the sinkings actually took place.

    The closest community on the shore is Port Dalhousie.


  • An American warship attacks Libyan pirates… circa 1801

    The fight between USS Enterprise and the Barbary Corsair, Tripoli, 1 August 1801

    By Rob Almeida - gCaptain

    Exactly 210 years ago today, during the First Barbary War, the schooner Enterprise, commanded by Lieutenant Andrew Sterett, encountered the Barbary corsair Tripoli west of Malta and prepared for engagement.

    After a three-hour battle and false surrenders by Tripoli’s commander, Admiral Rais Mahomet Rous, Enterprise broadsided the vessel. Admitting defeat, Rous surrendered and threw the Tripolitan flag into water.

    Text extracted from Dudley Knox‘s “A History of the United States Navy,” page. 62. Sterrett reported that, “The carnage on onboard the Tripolitan was dreadful, she having twenty men killed and thirty wounded…

    Her mizzen-mast went over the side…

    We had not a man wounded and sustained no material damage in our hull or rigging.”


  • Documenting local ‘Shipwrecks’

    By Meg Hagerty - Post Star

    Queensbury resident Bob Benway likes the thrill of the hunt.

    He may not stalk big game animals in Africa, but he has pursued the hulking frames of vessels that lurk below the surface of Lake George.

    The underwater photographer and videographer, along with Saratoga Springs underwater archeologist Joseph Zarzynski, discuss their most captivating findings in "Lake George Shipwrecks and Sunken History," published by The History Press.

    "Below the surface of picturesque Lake George are cultural resources that help tell the full history of the colonial soldiers, boaters, visitors and others that have lived here. Journals, diaries and primary literature can only tell part of the story," Zarzynski said.

    "When you combine the results of underwater archaeological investigation with the known archival record, you get a much better understanding of the lake's bountiful chronicles ... and I think this enriches us as a people today."

    Within the book's 160 pages, readers can glean information on some of the discoveries made by Bateaux Below, a non-profit organization which has been preserving shipwreck sites in the lake for over 23 years.

    The compilation of articles appeared in the Lake George Mirror from 2004 through last December.

    Benway and Zarzynski first began investigating shipwrecks in Lake George after taking a three-day workshop on underwater archaeology in 1987.

    A group of six from the class, including the two authors, was interested in finding out more about the underwater history of the lake and formed Bateaux Below.

    They eventually uncovered the 260 year-old Land Tortoise radeau shipwreck, a 52 foot-long British vessel outfitted with seven cannons, a discovery which Benway said was "extremely significant."

    "It was the only vessel of her kind ever found. She's listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also a National Historic Landmark, which is only one of six shipwrecks ever listed on that rating," he said.

    Benway recalled being at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake in 1988 with Zarzynski while researching old newspaper clippings on bateaux, British transport vessels.

    Full story...


  • Sea hunt for ancient Chinese ship off African coast

    Chinese and Kenyan archeologists probe waters near Lamu Island for sunken ships from the 1400s

    By Erin Conway-Smith - Global Post

    Did the Chinese come to East Africa before the Europeans ?

    China says yes, as do a growing number of Western historians. To prove the theory, Chinese and Kenyan archeologists are now searching the African coast for the fabled wreck of a Ming dynasty junk — an ancient Chinese sailing vessel — from the fleet of legendary 15th-century explorer Zheng He.

    A new report, obtained by GlobalPost, reveals that the researchers have identified several shipwrecks of interest off the Kenyan coast near the World Heritage site of Lamu.

    Despite years of excitable hype by China’s state media, the underwater archaeologists involved in the search are warning that the newly discovered wrecks could be from any era or country — and even if a sunken Chinese ship is found, it may no longer be intact or even identifiable.

    Some reports in the Chinese and Kenyan media have implied that the wreck of a ship from Zheng He’s fleet has already been found — and by extension, irrefutable historical proof that Chinese explorers visited Kenya before the Europeans.

    Evidence that China had friendly trading relations with Africa before the colonialists arrived would add luster to the Asian giant’s rapidly expanding presence on the continent.

    According to this historical perspective, 600 years ago, Chinese sailors swam ashore after their vessel was shipwrecked off the coast of Pate Island, near Lamu. The Chinese sailors married the local people, and their descendants can still be identified by their almond-shaped eyes and light skin.

    But the problem is that so far, there is no concrete proof that this tale is true. While archeologists have found Chinese coins and ceramics in Kenya, these could be explained by ancient trade routes that took Chinese goods through the Malacca Strait, and into India and the Arab world.

    China state media claims that DNA tests have proven Chinese ancestry for some of the residents of Pate Island, but results have not been released. The light skin of these residents could just as well be explained by longstanding trade between the area and India, and migration from the Arab peninsula to the Swahili coast.

    The first phase of a $3 million, three-year project to try to find conclusive evidence of Zheng He's journey occurred between late December and January.

    A draft of the archaeology team’s first progress report, obtained by GlobalPost, lowers expectations that this missing ship will be found, warning that “we are not searching for the Zheng He or the Chinese shipwrecks alone,” but rather looking for “underwater archaeological heritage” from any era.

    The report does tout the success of researchers in locating several potential shipwreck sites, found through interviews with local fishermen, seabed imaging, literature reviews and probe diving.

    In the Lamu archipelago, three underwater sites were identified to have features likely to be shipwrecks: the area just off Mwamba Hassan — a large rock off Pate Island that the Chinese ship is said to have hit — as well as areas off Manda Toto island and Shela village on the island of Lamu. Five other shipwrecks were discovered, one believed to be from the 14th century, near the coastal city of Malindi.

    “The discovery of these sites in Lamu, where Zheng He’s ship is believed to have sunk, was a major success and step towards discovery of this shipwreck,” says the report.

    The second phase of the project, scheduled to begin in November, will further study the shipwreck sites by using diver surveys and analysis of artifacts.

    “Since we know how Chinese junks were built and their likely cargo of that time, they are easy to identify,” the report says. “However this depends on whether the ship is well preserved under the sea."

    Full story...

  • Conquistador silver may not have sunk Spain's currency

    Silver coin

    By Sara Reardon - Science Mag

    Between 1520 and 1650, Spain’s economy suffered crippling and unrelenting inflation in the so-called Price Revolution.

    Most historians have attributed that inflation, in part, to the importation, starting in 1550, of silver from the Americas, which supposedly put much more currency into circulation in Spain.

    But in a report out this week, a team of researchers argues that for more than a century the Spanish did not use this imported silver to make coins, suggesting that the amount of money circulating in Spain did not increase and could not have triggered the inflation.

    Between the 16th and 18th centuries, the Spanish extracted as much as 300 tons of silver per year from mines in Peru and Mexico.

    If the heavy bars managed to survive the hazards of the Atlantic, both natural and piratical, they could either be coined into pieces of eight or be traded with other countries to offset Spain's many costs, which at this time included financing wars in the Netherlands and importing porcelain and silk from China.

    But did the Spanish actually use the imported silver to make coins ? To find out, archaeometrist Anne-Marie DeSaulty and colleagues at the University of Lyon in France used mass spectrometry to measure the ratios of several metal isotopes—atoms of the same element with different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei—in 91 old coins: 24 ancient coins from Greece and Rome, 23 medieval coins from around Europe, 25 coins minted in Spain from the 16th and 18th centuries under a succession of different kings, and 19 coins minted from Latin American silver.

    The Latin American coins generally had a broader mix of different silver, lead, and copper isotopes than the European coins, likely because of the geologic complexity of the volcanic caves that hosted the New World’s most prolific silver mines, the researchers report online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    The ratio of the silver-109 isotope to silver-107 turned out to be much higher in New World silver than in the European coins.

    More important to the debate over the Price Revolution, the researchers discovered that coins with dates and heads indicating that they were minted in Spain prior to the reign of Philip V (1700 to 1746) had an isotopic makeup similar to medieval European coins.

    Full story...

  • Gardiners Island: A nearly 400 year family history of pirates, treasure and triumph

    An aerial view of Gardiners Island

    By Nicole A. Flotteron - Hamptons

    Gardiner's Island - Approximately five square miles in size, Gardiner's Island, a part of the town of East Hampton, has a rich, tumultuous history that spans nearly 400 years of ownership by the same family.

    It is the only real estate intact in the United States that is part of an original royal grant from the English Crown.

    The Island has survived Indian wars, pirates, invasion by British forces, war, and family issues.

    It is home to more than 1,000 acres of old growth forest, the largest stand of white oak trees in the Northeast, 1,000 acres of meadows, rare, birds, Indian artifacts, and structures that date back to the 17th century.

    Robert David Lion Gardiner, the last heir to bear the name Gardiner, said of his founding ancestors survey of the Island, "When he walked over it he found it had magnificent forests, saltwater ponds and fresh streams that he could dam and use for his lifestock."

    The island was settled in 1639 by a man named Lion Gardiner after he retained a grant from King Charles I of England.

    Gardiner purchased the island from the Montaukett Indians after his support of the tribe during the Pequot War, in exchange for a large black dog, a few Dutch blankets, and some powder and shot.

    Originally called the 'Isle of Wight' after the Isle of Wight in England, the royal patent issued to Gardiner gave him the "right to possess the land forever," as well as the title "Lord of the Manor."

    In 1641, Gardiner's wife gave birth to a daughter named Elizabeth, who was the first English child born in New York, and would be responsible for initiating the first witch hunt and witch trial in the American colony.

    In February 1657, 15-year-old Elizabeth lay deliriously ill in East Hampton.


  • Gary Griggs, our ocean backyard: Shipwrecks in the sanctuary

    The Active stranded on Its Beach in 1876
    Photo Santa Cruz Natural History Museum 

    From The Sant Cruz Sentinel

    On the night of Oct. 1, 1924, the combination of high seas and a course too close to the shoreline put the La Feliz on the rocks directly in front of where Long Marine Laboratory exists today.

    The 100-ton vessel was carrying canned sardines from Monterey to San Francisco when she wrecked. Local residents drove out to the top of the 30-foot bluff and used their headlights to illuminate the ship and help rescue the crew of 13.

    The mast was removed, leaned against the cliff and used with a block and tackle to recover the cargo of sardines as well as equipment from the ship.

    Somewhat surprisingly, comparing photographs of the shipwreck with the site today, neither the rocky shelf where the ship was grounded nor the cliff has changed much in the subsequent 86 years.

    Standing today on the deck of the Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Laboratory, you can see what looks like a tilted telephone pole, rising from the shoreline and extending up above the cliff top.

    Amazingly, this is the mast of the La Feliz, still standing proudly, 86 years later.

    While 2,000 feet away at Natural Bridges, two of the three arches have collapsed over the years; the cliff in front of the Marine Discovery Center remains intact.

    One important reason for this difference is the presence of a very hard rock platform in the Santa Cruz mudstone at the base of the cliff.

    The very resistant rock that impaled the La Feliz has protected its mast and also buffered the adjacent cliffs from direct wave attack. On low tides you can also see the remains of the ship's drive shaft on the beach just east of the mast.

    The La Feliz wasn't the only local shipwreck. Forty-eight years earlier in October 1876, the Active, a 92-foot schooner, went aground on Its Beach just below the old lighthouse.


  • Treasure hunters eye underwater cultural heritage in Mexico

    From Mangalorean

    Hundreds of sunken boats and thousands of other items lying hidden in the ocean, rivers, lakes, and cave pools, which make up part of Mexico's cultural heritage each year, are the much-desired booty of marine treasure hunters.

    According to Pilar Luna, a pioneer of marine archaeology in Mexico, there are up to 250 sunken boats registered in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. But it is estimated that there are thousands of vessels, both large and small, that sank off the country's coasts.

    In addition, some 30 areas of items have been tallied in cenotes and sunken caves, where ancient civilizations like the Maya deposited bodies, personal objects, and food in conducting their spiritual rituals.

    The treasures of Mexico are exposed to looting by adventurers who erase the traces of the country's forebears, said Pilar Luna, an expert with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), who has devoted over 30 years of work to the investigation and preservation of underwater cultural heritage.

    The boats that sank in Mexico belonged to the series of fleets that, starting in the 16th century, were used by the colonisers to transport people and merchandise from the New World to Spain.

    These vessels were mainly loaded with cargos of gold, silver, and precious stones that the colonies sent to Madrid as a tribute to offset the expenses of the Spanish monarchy.

    "The interests have not changed. It continues to be the precious metals that are pursued by treasure hunters at any cost and by those who forget that, beyond their economic value, it is history and culture," Luna said.

    Since 1970s, INAH has declined over 30 requests to do salvage work on sunken vessels that have been found in Mexican waters.

    One of those requests came from Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., which became famous in 2007 after salvaging $500 million in gold and silver coins from the wreck of a Spanish ship that sank in an 1804 battle off the coast of Portugal, though US courts must still decide whether the treasure rightfully belongs to the firm or to the Spanish government.


  • Historian: Great Lakes take toll on ships

    By Katherine Sanderson - South Bend Tribune

    The Great Lakes are in a terrible location, said Travis Childs, director of school programs for the Center for History in South Bend.

    Cold blasts from the Arctic Circle meet tropical gusts from the Gulf of Mexico. It makes sailing in the latter months of the year especially dangerous.

    Childs talked about Great Lakes shipwrecks the day after the 35th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior. His speech was given to the American Heritage Round Table at the downtown Mishawaka Library.

    Most of the shipwrecks he talked about happened in October, November and December.  And they go back to the first ship built to sail the Great Lakes.

    The Griffon was built near Buffalo, N.Y., and in 1679 took explorer Robert LaSalle across Lake Erie, through Lake Huron, across the Straits of Mackinac to what would become Green Bay, Wis. There, LaSalle left the ship and continued his exploration through the Mississippi Valley, including a stop at what is now Riverview Cemetery in South Bend in December of that year.

    The ship headed back east. "They never saw the Griffon again," Childs said.

    There was no word after the Griffon left Green Bay, although the theory is that the ship made it through the Straits of Mackinac and sank in upper Lake Huron. No vessel has been found, however.

    "It's the holy grail of trying to find shipwrecks," he said.

    With no highways in those days, the Great Lakes were perfect for transportation, but not for every ship.

    The Cyprus sailed for 24 days in September and October of 1907 before it sank in Lake Superior.

    The L.R. Doty left Chicago in 1898 full of corn, towing the Olive Jeanette. They hit a gale and the tow line was severed leaving the crew of the Olive Jeanette to ride it out. The Olive Jeanette made it to Racine, Wis. The wreckage of the L.R. Doty was eventually found off Milwaukee.

    Childs said that for a long time no one knew where the Doty sank, but this past May it was located in Lake Michigan in 300 feet of water.

  • Knoxville's shipwreck ?

    By Jack Neely - Metropulse

    Last Saturday at 3 p.m., a small group of interested people convened in a banquet room at Calhoun’s on the River, ostensibly to discuss the First Creek Tennessee River Shipwreck Project.

    It takes some swagger to schedule anything on the last Saturday afternoon before Christmas, when friends and relatives are starting to blow through town and the stores are full of frantic shoppers. But Jim McNutt is a laid-back kind of guy.

    He’s enjoying a pint of beer and the company of a small group of curious people: a rescue diver, a prominent attorney who happens to live nearby, and some friends and relatives.

    Billed as an “informal meeting,” it was certainly that. McNutt gave no presentation, but on the occasions when one of the guests expressed curiosity about the shipwreck, he gestured toward a table.

    “It’s all over there,” he said. On the table was a plastic bag with a sawn-off piece of weathered wood with a rusty 10-inch spike in it and some rough sketches of what he was talking about.

    What he’s talking about is something many of us have noticed on the shore. Planted in the sandy beach between the Volunteer Princess excursion vessel and the mouth of First Creek, there are rectangles of symmetrical wooden beams, looking a little worse for wear, and usually underwater except in wintertime.

    Metro Pulse ran a column about it a couple of years ago, based on the assumption that it was all the foundation of buildings, wharves, or warehouses that had once stood there.

    McNutt is convinced the wood is the remains of nautical vessels. He first encountered the ruins around 1977, when, before waterfront restaurants, few ever ventured to the riverbank. Now the proprietor of a business called Marine Geographic, McNutt has convincing experience. He says he has done salvage work in the Virgin Islands, Honduras, Aruba, and even Cuba, sometimes hunting for 18th-century Spanish and English wrecks.

    He’s worked on old riverboat sites on Florida rivers. He wrote a book, Quest for Shipwrecks, about his adventures. (It’s out of print, but he had a couple of copies on his table.)

    He’s also recently worked on practical salvage operations in this area, like recovering a Caterpillar earth mover that fell into the water near the mouth of Third Creek.

    “I do a lot of underwater work,” says the gravelly voiced troubleshooter. “I love it.”

    “There are boats wrecked all the way up and down here,” he says. He talks about one near Island Home, and another on the Holston, a marble boat that is clearly visible.


  • Francis Drake Captained England's Swell

    Sir Francis Drake

    By J. Bonasia - Investor's Busines Daily


    Francis Drake was the first Englishman to sail around the world, completing the three-year journey in 1580. Upon returning home, his ship loaded with treasure, Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I.

    Decades earlier, a Portuguese crew under Ferdinand Magellan became the first one ever to circle the globe. Yet Magellan died along the way in the Philippines in 1521.

    Drake (1540-96) survived the punishing voyage to earn his courageous place in nautical history. He was a skillful navigator who beat back the Spanish fleet over many expeditions in the late 16th century.

    "Drake was considered either a great privateer or a great pirate, depending on which side you were on," said William Cogar, CEO of The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va., and a former history professor at the U.S. Naval Academy.

    British history often portrays Drake as a brave leader who extended the nautical reach of Elizabethan England against its colonial rivals Spain, France and Portugal. Drake clearly overcame many hardships, from raging storms and mutinies to plain starvation and illness.

    To Spaniards, Drake was a rogue buccaneer who attacked their undefended vessels and looted hard-won riches. They called him El Draque, or Draco the Dragon. Some saw him as a wizard with devilish powers.

    So many fantastic myths grew up around Drake's legend that scholars find it hard to separate facts from folklore, says Jennifer McNabb, a history professor at Western Illinois University.

    "Drake was certainly an accomplished sailor and strategist and politician. At the same time, it's hard to escape the sense that he was a plunderer," she told IBD. "As for whether he was a scoundrel or a hero, he seems to have been a bit of both."


  • Recovering China's Past on Kenya's Coast

    From Online

    A team of Chinese archeologists arrived in Kenya last week, headed for waters surrounding the Lamu archipelago on the country's northern coast. They hadn't made the trip to study local history. They came to recover a lost Chinese past.

    In the early 1400s, nearly a century before Vasco da Gama reached eastern Africa, Chinese records say that the great admiral Zheng He took his vast fleet of treasure ships as far as Kenya's northern Swahili coast.

    Zheng visited the Sultan of Malindi, the most powerful local ruler, and brought back exotic gifts, including a giraffe. "Africa was China's El Dorado—the land of rare and precious things, mysterious and unfathomable," writes Louise Levathes in her 1994 history of Zheng's voyages, "When China Ruled the Seas."

    Now the Chinese government is funding a three-year, $3 million project, in cooperation with the National Museums of Kenya, to find and analyze evidence of Zheng's visits.

    The underwater search for shipwrecks follows a dig last summer in the village of Mambrui that unearthed a rare coin carried only by emissaries of the Chinese emperor, as well as a large fragment of a green-glazed porcelain bowl whose fine workmanship befits an imperial envoy.

    Although Ming-era porcelains are nothing new in Mambrui—Chinese porcelains fill the local museum and decorate a centuries-old tomb—the latest finds suggest that the wares came not through Arab merchants but directly from China.

    For a resurgent China with often-controversial business ventures in Africa, Zheng's voyages epitomize what the 20th-century literary critic Van Wyck Brooks called a "usable past"—a historical tradition that serves present needs.

    Falling somewhere between history and myth, a usable past selects and emphasizes what is relevant and resonant for the present and omits the contradictory or distracting.

    It both shapes and communicates identity, whether national, ethnic, artistic, religious, institutional or personal.

    What you believe, or want to believe, about your past says a lot about who you are in the present. Americans celebrate the settlers at Plymouth Plantation as immigrants seeking religious freedom, thus allowing more-recent arrivals of very different faiths to identify with their story.

    The Pilgrims "journeyed many a day and night / To worship God as they thought right," declares a children's Thanksgiving poem, glossing over the particulars of their separatist beliefs and their disenchantment with the tolerant Dutch society from which they had fled.

    Nuanced history isn't the point. A usable past may be anachronistic or imprecise, but it always contains an inspiring element of truth.

    As a usable past, Zheng He's story says three important things about China: It was powerful and technologically advanced, more so than European nations. It was outward-looking and adventurous. And it came to trade, not to conquer or exploit.

    As the long-insular country becomes a global power, this narrative maintains China's connection to its history while reassuring other countries of its benign intentions and, of course, presenting China as materially and morally superior to Europe—a bearer of "peace and friendship" rather than a colonial power.


  • A thousand shipwrecked stories from a Baltic seabed

    By Aira-Katariina Vehaskari - Times of Malta

    Riikka Alvik rests her chin in her palm as she imagines the last terrifying moments of the life of a 13-year-old girl trapped in a cabin on the St Mikael as it mysteriously sank in the icy Baltic.

    “We found her skeleton,” says Ms Alvik, a marine archaeologist and curator with Finland’s National Board of Antiquities.

    “She never got out. Think of the panic she felt as the cabin filled with icy water – it was November, after all... November 1747, that is.

    It is Ms Alvik’s life’s work to piece together the histories of shipwrecks, stories she finds more meaningful and valuable than any sunken treasure.

    Finland’s coastline is so treacherous that even modern-day sailors must strictly adhere to maps to navigate the labyrinth of islands, shallow water, skerries and rocks that have doomed countless boats over the centuries.

    And yet the waters have low levels of corrosive salt, a unique absence of ship-eating worms and very little sunlight, all of which create ideal conditions for preserving sunken wrecks.

    There are 1,500 confirmed wrecks in Finnish waters and nearly half of them are more than a century old, according to the Board of Antiquities, but most experts believe the actual number to be much higher.

    Ms Alvik says new sightings are reported every year.

    “Seeing an intact ship on the bottom of the sea is heart-stopping,” says Rami Kokko, a marine archaeologist who has made countless dives to the bottom of the ocean.

    “But the wrecks from the Middle Ages are also intriguing, because even though they are in worse shape, they still hold the pottery and cargo from the era,” he says.

    Painstaking research into the ships, their cargo and sometimes the remains of those still trapped inside reveal not only moving personal stories but clues to the life of that era.

    For example the St Nikolai, a Russian war frigate which sank in the battle of Svenskung in 1790, shows that around 400 men were packed into a ship that was only around 40 metres (around 130 feet) long.

    “Most people then didn’t know how to swim, and with all that gunpowder, some of them caught fire,” remarked Ms Alvik.

    But it is the Vrow Maria, a Dutch vessel jammed on the seabed 41 metres below the surface, that captivated Ms Alvik from the first moment she dove to it.


  • Shipwreck sees new interest as it turns 300

    Boon Island’s rocky groundPhoto Jeremy D'Entremont

    By Susan Morse - Nashua Telegraph

    The shipwreck of the Nottingham Galley on Boon Island, a tale of winter survival and cannibalism, is a story that still fascinates 300 years later.

    Richard Bowen, program specialist for The Museums of Old York in York, and lighthouse expert Jeremy D’Entremont, of Portsmouth, will commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Nottingham Galley shipwreck at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, at Nubble Light, Sohier Park in York.

    On a clear day, Boon Island can be seen from the York shoreline, six miles out to sea.

    “I would place it in the top 10 New England shipwrecks,” said D’Entremont, author of “Great Shipwrecks of the Maine Coast.”

    “How horrible it must have been out there, the misery of being shipwrecked and crawling up on rocks in a storm,” Bowen said. “If something like that happened today, people would be quickly rescued. Surviving hardship is a topic that fascinates.”

    Stephen Erickson, of Portsmouth, recently published an article about the Nottingham Galley shipwreck in the New England Quarterly. “These sailors were particularly ill-equipped for the conditions they faced,” he said.

    “They had no fire, they didn’t get off (the ship) with a single overcoat, there was almost no food. They picked up cheese found floating in the water and soon suffered hypothermia ... it was a particularly miserable set of circumstances.”

    The Nottingham Galley was on its way from England to Ireland and then to Boston when it crashed into Boon Island during a sleet storm Dec. 11, 1710. All 14 men aboard survived the wreck, crawling up the slippery rocks onto the 300- by 700-foot rock that is Boon Island.

    At only 14 feet above sea level, the men didn’t know that first night whether the entire island would soon be covered by water, according to D’Entremont.

    As the first Boon Island lighthouse was built in the 1800s, there was no shelter.

    The men made a makeshift tent out of sailcloth, where they slept on bare rock. First Mate Christopher Langman managed to kill a seagull, which was eaten raw because there was no wood for a fire.

    The cook died on the second night. “People say they ate the cook ... they were not desperate enough at that point,” D’Entremont said.

    When the ship’s carpenter died about two weeks later, the men were desperate. Capt. John Deane cut the flesh into thin slices and wrapped the pieces in seaweed. The man’s head, hands, feet and bowels were buried at sea, according to stories written by D’Entremont.

    Two other men drowned at sea in an attempt to get to the mainland aboard a raft made out of wood from the ship.

    Rescue for the remaining men came 24 days after the shipwreck, when people on the mainland discovered the raft and sent a search party looking for survivors. The men were taken to Portsmouth.


  • Descendant of Mayflower passengers helps others trace roots

    Nicholas Maher

    By Cathy Carter Harley - Island Packet

    Stephen Hopkins was a minister's clerk who survived a 1609 shipwreck, joined a mutiny then survived a death sentence before successfully sailing aboard the Mayflower in 1620. He's also one of the most colourful ancestors of Nicholas Maher of Lady's Island. 

    Hopkins is one of three of Maher's ancestors -- including Thomas Rogers and William Brewster -- who were aboard the Mayflower when it left England Sept. 6, 1620, and arrived 66 days later in America.

    "Stephen Hopkins was a bit of a rogue," Maher said. "He helped co-found Jamestown, Va., in 1607, which would have been the oldest English colony in America, but it failed after eight years.

    He was in Bermuda where he participated in a mutiny and was sentenced to hang, just prior to joining the Mayflower."

    Maher is a member of the Mayflower Society, which is composed of descendants of the more than 100 Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 and established Plymouth Colony, in what was then called the northern part of Virginia.

    Maher began serving as the South Carolina historian for the society two years ago, and 125 new members have since registered with the group. There are about 900 members statewide.

    Historical records show Hopkins was fined for letting visitors drink beer at his residence on a Sunday, for allowing excessive drinking of beer in his home and for selling it without a license.

    Maher joked that Hopkins actually did make a mark on history besides being fined for illegal ale.

    He said Hopkins was also known for communicating with the American Indians and as having served as the governor's assistant. Maher's other well-known ancestor, Brewster, was the religious leader of the group that helped form the Mayflower Compact.

    Maher said some of his family's oral histories passed down through the generations included references to having an ancestor on the Mayflower.

    It wasn't until he started researching the family tree in 2006 that he confirmed his connections to the three men.

    As Maher documented his ancestors aboard the Mayflower using birth and death certificates, he found many of those old family stories to be true.

    Now Maher, 73, helps other society applicants document their family histories.

    "It's a journey, and it is really fun to learn about your family. Joining the Mayflower Society is not about snob appeal, it is just fascinating to research your family and to find things you never knew.

    "When you get past your great-grandparents it gets extremely difficult to find unless there are a lot of written records."

    The society will accept secondary copies of documents such as gravestones, deeds, wills and family Bible records.

    The society has genealogical records for the first five generations of those on the Mayflower.

    It is the sixth through eight generations that can be tough to find, Maher said.

  • History: Bermuda and the Blockade Runners

    Confederate blockade runner
    From Bernews

    April, 2011 will mark the 150th anniversary of the Confederate bombardment of the Federal Army’s Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina — initiating the devastating American Civil War (1861-65) and turning Bermuda into a mid-Atlantic front in the bloodiest conflict in US history.

    The island can likely anticipate some cultural tourism starting next year as Americans hold somber, nationwide observations to mark the outbreak of the Civil War — during which an estimated 600,000 people were killed. more than combined US casualties in World War One, World War Two, Korea and Vietnam.

    Beginning in December, 1860, a total of 11 Southern states started to secede from the Union. Among other things, the slave-holding states disagreed with the anti-slavery views of the Union.

    During the war, Union forces used their navy to create a blockade of Southern ports — hoping to break the South’s economy, deprive its troops of materiel and munitions and force the newly-created Confederate States of America to surrender.

    Known as the Anaconda Plan, this blockade stretched from Maryland down the Eastern seaboard, around Florida, and into the Gulf of Mexico.

    As a consequence of the naval blockade, Bermuda — along with the Bahamas and Cuba — became a centre of Confederate commerce. A steady stream of fast-running ships from the South clandestinely skirted the Union blockade, passing through St. George’s carrying cotton from Charleston, South Carolina and Wilmington, North Carolina for English manufacturers; they made the return journeys freighted with European armaments.

    Bermuda was both a transhipment point where cotton was directly exchanged for British weapons warehoused here and a refuelling depot for Confederate blockade runners making transatlantic runs.


  • First Americans 'reached Europe five centuries before Columbus discoveries'

    Christopher Columbus did not introduce the first native Americans to Europe, according to new researchPoodlesRock/Corbis

    By Giles Tremlett - The Guardian

    Scientists claim first Americans arrived long before Columbus bumped into an island in the Bahamas in 1492.

    When Christopher Columbus paraded his newly discovered American Indians through the streets of Spanish towns at the end of the 15th century, he was not in fact introducing the first native Americans to Europe, according to new research.

    Scientists who have studied the genetic past of an Icelandic family now claim the first Americans reached Europe a full five centuries before Columbus bumped into an island in the Bahamas during his first voyage of discovery in 1492.

    Researchers said today that a woman from the Americas probably arrived in Iceland 1,000 years ago, leaving behind genes that are reflected in about 80 Icelanders today.

    The link was first detected among inhabitants of Iceland, home to one of the most thorough gene-mapping programs in the world, several years ago.

    Initial suggestions that the genes may have arrived via Asia were ruled out after samples showed they had been in Iceland since the early 18th century, before Asian genes began appearing among Icelanders.

    Investigators discovered the genes could be traced to common ancestors in the south of Iceland, near the Vatnajˆkull glacier, in around 1710.

    "As the island was practically isolated from the 10th century onwards, the most probable hypothesis is that these genes correspond to an Amerindian woman who was taken from America by the Vikings some time around the year 1000," Carles Lalueza-Fox, of the Pompeu Fabra university in Spain, said.


  • The 'miracle' of the Sea Venture immortalized

    Sir Thomas GatesPhoto Kageaki Smith

    By Meredith Ebbin - Bermuda Sun

    The shipwreck that led to Bermuda's settlement had broad implications for the New World. A monument to the eclectic band of sailors who made history was unveiled yesterday in St. George's.

    On June 2, 1609, a fleet of nine ships set sail from Plymouth, England, headed for Jamestown, Virginia, leaving in its wake the hopes and dreams of an entire nation.

    The ships were packed with passengers and supplies for the Jamestown colony, which was founded two years earlier.

    Jamestown was another disaster waiting to happen. The English had made numerous attempts to establish a foothold in Americas, where the Spanish reigned supreme. All had been spectacular failures and Jamestown was headed in that direction.

    As every Bermudian schoolchild knows, seven weeks later, on July 28, after a brutal storm lasting four days, the Sea Venture was wedged onto a rock off Fort St. Catherine and the 150 passengers, two of them pregnant women, scrambled ashore, wet and bedraggled, but miraculously alive.

    The expedition leaders — Admiral Sir George Somers, captain Christopher Newport and Sir Thomas Gates, the governor-designate of Virginia, were inexplicably, all sailing together aboard the Sea Venture.

    Others making the journey were writers Silvester Jourdain and William Strachey, whose first-hand accounts of the shipwreck and the survivors’ 10-month sojourn in Bermuda gave renewed hope to Virginia Company investors and became the inspiration for Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

    Passengers who went on to earn a permanent place in New World history were John Rolfe, Stephen Hopkins and Anglican minister, Rev. Christopher Bucke.

    Much lower down on the social scale, in a world in which class and rank were paramount, was Christopher Carter. He is the only one of the 150 passengers to have stayed put in Bermuda and is considered the first Bermudian.

    Yesterday afternoon, at a ceremony organised by the Corporation of St. George’s and the St. George’s Foundation, a monument etched with the names of 50 people whom historians have definitely identified as Sea Venture passengers was unveiled at Barry Road, St. George’s.

    Historian George Cook, a retired president of the Bermuda College, has made it his mission to track down and compile the names of passengers — a journey that has taken him to Virginia to inspect 17th century census records.


  • Victory at Yorktown won on the water

    Old map

    By Amanda Kerr

    In September 1781 a naval battle between the British and French at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay set up the eventual victory for the Siege of Yorktown.

    British ships were coming down from New York to anchor for the winter. Gen. George Washington, who had arrived at Yorktown with his troops, feared being trapped by the British by land and sea. He pleaded with the French to send help.

    Rear Adm. Francois Joseph Paul Comte de Grasse brought his fleet from the Caribbean and succeeded in blocking the British. Adm. Thomas Graves’ fleet was so badly damaged that it had to sail back to New York for repairs, leaving Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis to fend for himself in Yorktown.

    “That’s what set the stage for the Siege at Yorktown,” archaeologist John Broadwater said in an interview in advance of Yorktown Day next week. “That made it possible for the land siege.”

    A month after the Battle of the Capes, other ships figured prominently along the coast of Yorktown.

    Broadwater, who has studied, surveyed and excavated the Cornwallis ships in the York River, will discuss the maritime significance during a presentation this weekend at the Yorktown Victory Center. This summer Broadwater surveyed a newly discovered ship along the town shoreline, near the Betsy.

    The presentation coincides with the 229th anniversary of the siege, celebrated annually on Oct. 19.

    Cornwallis had an interior fleet of more than 50 ships to support his troops in town.

    Broadwater explained that in the days before the siege, Cornwallis tried to break the French blockade in the Chesapeake Bay by using fire ships, rigged to burn and shoot out flames in an effort to damage other boats.

    But the French were able to cut their anchors loose before any of their boats were damaged by the flaming ships.

    Broadwater said that once Cornwallis realized he was vulnerable to an amphibious assault, he scuttled 10-12 ships to block the shoreline at Yorktown.

    In some ships crews bored a hole near the bow. In the Betsy, a merchant ship Broadwater excavated in the 1980s, a piece of planking below the water line had been chopped out.

    “I guess whatever they could do to sink the ship in a hurry,” Broadwater surmised.


  • That ‘New World’ feeling: Nina, Pinta replicas in Winona

    By Danielle Wick - La Crosse Tribune

    Columbus used the stars. They use GPS. Columbus’ crew slept on deck. They sleep below. Columbus and his men were on the sea for 50 days at time. They dock in a new port every few days.

    The Columbus Foundation’s crew on the Pinta and Nina may not suffer as their predecessors did, but their ships are the closest replicas currently sailing the ocean blue — or, for a few weeks this summer, the Mississippi River.

    The Pinta and Nina set sail in March from Gulf Shores, Ala., and made 15 stops on their way to dock Thursday afternoon in Winona.

    The scale-size Nina has a 65-foot-long deck and is the most accurate copy of Columbus’ beloved ship ever built, according to Archaeology Magazine. Its traveling companion, the Pinta, is a little bit bigger than scale, with an 85-foot-long deck.

    “People always ask about pirates,” Pinta senior deckhand Bradley Johnson said. “The ships were covered in tar; so since they’re black, people think they’re sinister.”

    Not a single one of the seven crew members is a pirate, but the members do gain their sea legs over time. Volunteer Dave Balog, a retired electrician from Indiana, is on a three-week trip with the ships.

    “It wasn’t on my bucket list,” Balog said. “But I didn’t know you could put something like this on the bucket list. When my wife saw (that people could volunteer), she said ‘This is you !’”


  • Malouines, histoire d'un contentieux multiséculaire


    Par Catherine Gouëset - L'Express

    Alors que la tension monte entre l'Argentine et la Grande-Bretagne après le lancement, par Londres, d'une campagne d'exploration pétrolière au large des Malouines, retour sur les grandes dates de l'archipel, situé à moins de 500 km de la côte argentine.

    XVIème siècle : l'archipel des Malouines est signalé sur les cartes des explorateurs européens.

    1690 : des marins britanniques accostent et nomment les deux principales îles du nom du trésorier de la marine Britannique, le vicomte Falkland. Le nom sera plus tard étendu à l'ensemble de l'archipel.

    1764 : le navigateur français Louis-Antoine de Bougainville nomme l'archipel "Malouines" en référence aux marins de Saint-Malo, premiers colons de ces îles.

    1765 : les Britanniques s'installent dans l'île de West Falkland, mais ils en sont délogés en 1770 par les Espagnols qui ont acheté la colonie aux Français en 1767.

    1820 : l'Argentine, qui a proclamé son indépendance de l'Espagne quatre ans plus tôt, déclare sa souveraineté sur l'archipel.

    1831 : le navire américain "Lexington" fait détruire Puerto Soledad après l'arraisonnement de trois navires américains pour un contentieux sur les zones de pêche. les Américains rejettent le droit de Buenos Aires de règlementer les zones de pêche autour des îles malouines.

    Tout l'article...

  • Africatown project locates graves of ex-slaves who survived 1859 shipwreck


    AfricaTown project

    By Mark R. Kent - Al

    A Virginia archaeologist is using modern technology to locate and mark gravesites in the older half of Old Plateau Cemetery.

    The cemetery is at Bay Bridge Road and Cut-Off Road, near the Cochrane-Africatown Bridge.

    Often known as Africatown Cemetery, it is the final resting place for Cudjoe Lewis and 109 other surviving African slaves from the slave ship Clotilde.

    On a Sunday in July 1859, the Clotilde, also known as the Clotilda, struck a sandbar the Mobile River.

    The federal government had outlawed slave importations since 1808, but slavery still was legal in Southern states. The Clotilde was the last ship known to have carried African slaves to the United States.

    After the ship's slaves were freed, they founded Africatown in what is now Plateau and Magazine Point.



  • A sense of injustice lasting 130 years

    By Les Leyne - Times Colonist

    George Abbott made his legislature debut as minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation this week, and one of the first orders of business is a request for an apology.

    There's lots to be sorry about in his new job, given how the last two centuries of history have left the original inhabitants of B.C.

    And there's one specific incident that has slowly become an issue.

    Some native people on the west coast of Vancouver Island want the present-day government to atone in some fashion for what now appears to have been an atrocity 130 years ago.

    The story, very briefly, is that after a shipwreck, word made its way to Victoria that survivors had been massacred by the Indians.

    A gunboat was sent up the coast to investigate.

    It shelled a native village and nabbed two suspects, Katkinna and John Anietsachist.

    They were tried and found guilty in Victoria, then taken back home, baptized en route, and hanged.

  • Cannon balls really could sink ships, study finds

    From Live Science

    Long before the Navy used torpedoes, rockets and nuclear missiles to fire at the enemy, ship captains relied on more blunt weapons - cannonballs.

    But how effective were cannonballs at sinking battleships ?

    New research shows that cannon fire could have brought down at least one battleship, a recently discovered 19th-century warship that sank off the coast of Acre, Israel.

    The ship's oak hull was unusually thick, leading researchers to question the possibility of cannon ball penetration.

    Experimental firings of cannons at replicas of wooden warships have been carried out in other countries, but due to the cost and complexity of such experiments, they have been few and far between.

    In general, they were only firing demonstrations, and scientific data has not always been obtained. So it was still hard to tell for sure whether the cannonballs found in the wreck off the coast of Acre would have been capable of sinking this particular ship.

    University of Haifa's Yaacov Kahanov, who studies maritime civilizations and underwater archaeology, developed a unique model along with his colleagues that enabled firing experiments to be carried out on a reduced scale, thereby reducing costs, and enabling controlled, measured and documented experimentation.

    Five scale models of the ship's hull, based on the archaeological findings, were constructed and fired at using an experimental gun to shoot steel balls at 225-1,100 mph (100-500 meters per second), modeling the cannon fire of the 19th century.

    More to read...


  • Support for bid to clear pirate

    Captain Kidd

    From BBC News

    The Scottish Parliament has been asked to support a campaign to clear the name of a captain who was hanged for piracy more than three centuries ago.

    Captain William Kidd had been appointed by the Crown to tackle piracy and capture enemy French ships.

    In 1698, he looted the Armenian ship the Quedagh Merchant, which was apparently sailing under a French pass. However, the captain of the ship was an Englishman and Capt Kidd was executed in London in 1701.

    The Quedagh Merchant had been carrying satins, muslins, gold and silver when she was attacked by Kidd.  It is thought that a large amount of the booty belonged to the British East India Company.

    As well as the piracy charges, Capt Kidd was accused of murdering one of his crewmen during a row in 1697.

    More to read...


  • Who Went With Columbus ? Dental Studies Give Clues

    By Kari Lydersen - the Washington Post

    The first planned colonial town in the New World was founded in 1494, when about 1,200 of Christopher Columbus's crew members from the 17 ships that made up his second journey to the Americas settled on the north coast of what is now the Dominican Republic.

    Beset by mutiny, mismanagement, hurricanes and disease, the settlement of La Isabela lasted only a few years.

    The ruins remained largely intact until the 1950s, when a local official reportedly misunderstood the order from dictator Rafael Trujillo to clean up the site in preparation for visiting dignitaries, and had them mostly bulldozed into the sea.

    Little remained but the skeletons below ground in the church cemetery, which lay undisturbed until excavations began in 1983.

    In the past few years, sophisticated chemical studies of the skeletons, especially their teeth, have begun to yield new insights into the lives and origins of Columbus's crew.

    The studies hint that, among other things, crew members may have included free black Africans who arrived in the New World about a decade before the slave trade began.

    La Isabela was not the first settlement established by Columbus. When the Santa Maria ran aground off Hispaniola on Christmas Eve, 1492, during his first voyage, the 39 stranded sailors built a fort they christened La Navidad. When Columbus returned the next year, the fort had been burned and the crew massacred.

    The study of the La Isabela skeletons grew out of a project in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, where in 2000 researchers were surprised to find the remains of West Africans among those buried in a mid-16th-century church cemetery in Campeche.

    Vera Tiesler and Andrea Cucina from the Autonomous University of Yucatan invited T. Douglas Price, director of the Laboratory for Archaeological Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, to do isotopic analysis of those skeletons' teeth.

    More to read...

  • Declassified MI5 file shows nazi spy almost changed course of war

    By Michael Evans - The Times Online

    A nazi spy came within days of uncovering one of the Allies' most important missions and possibly changing the direction of the Second World War.

    The story of a Portuguese wireless operator and the dramatic decision to pluck him from his vessel on the high seas to prevent him from betraying the position of a huge convoy bound for North Africa is revealed for the first time in a declassified MI5 file released by the National Archives.

    Gastao de Freitas Ferraz was being paid by German intelligence to send coded messages about convoys to U-boat commanders and was on the tail of the Allied warships.

    The convoy included the USS Augusta, an American light cruiser that was carrying no less a person than General George S.Patton.

    General Patton was at that time in command of Operation Torch, the planned invasion of French North Africa, which was aimed at destroying the Axis forces fighting the British there and improving naval control of the Mediterranean.

  • The 'coffin brig' that sailed the ultimate voyage of discovery

    By Peter Davies

    A ship that was thought likely to sink became the craft that took Darwin around the world.

    No one who witnessed the launch of HMS Beagle at Woolwich naval dockyard on the Thames on May 11, 1820, could possibly have imagined that this unremarkable, not to say dowdy, craft was destined to sail into the pages of history on one of the most famous voyages of scientific discovery ever undertaken.

    Ships like the Beagle, ten-gun brigs (two-masted square-rigged vessels) displacing barely 250 tonnes - a tenth of the size of Nelson's Victory - were regarded as one of the lowest forms of naval life.

    Their nickname “coffin brigs” expressed the generally held belief in the Navy that once out at sea in any kind of heavy weather, they shipped unacceptable amounts of water and were highly likely to sink.

    Planned as a class of ship for inshore blockading operations as the Napoleonic wars drew to a close, they were produced in droves, but after 1815 no immediate use could be found for them.

    Beagle never saw action. Instead she spent the first few years of her naval life in reserve, moored afloat.

  • Sailing into history

    La Nina

    By John Wilkens

    It's one of the most famous ships in history, whose name is memorized by generations of schoolchildren learning about Christopher Columbus, the ocean blue and 1492.

    The Niña. In the mind's eye, it's a majestic vessel, larger than life, not so much slicing through the water as conquering it.

    But those who visit a full-size replica of the ship when it docks in San Diego this week for a 13-day stay will learn the truth: The Niña was a runt.

    “People are usually surprised by how small she is,” crewman Vic Bickel said. “The first time I saw the ship, I thought it must be a three-quarter-scale model. But it's not.”

    The replica, built by hand with Old World tools and techniques in the late 1980s, is not quite 94 feet long – about one-third the length of San Diego's resident maritime marvel, the Star of India.

    Like the Star, the Niña is a floating museum, but it rarely stays in one place for long. It has visited hundreds of coastal and inland river ports in the Western Hemisphere in the past 17 years – sometimes drawing protests from people who link Columbus to oppression and genocide. This is the third time it has been to San Diego.

    More to read...

  • Did Noah's Flood start in the Carmel ?

    Noah's ark

    By Etgar Lefkovits

    A deluge that swept the Land of Israel more than 7,000 years ago, submerging six Neolithic villages opposite the Carmel Mountains, is the origin of the biblical flood of Noah, a British marine archeologist said Tuesday.

    The new theory about the source of the great flood detailed in the Book of Genesis comes amid continuing controversy among scholars over whether the inundation of the Black Sea more than seven millennia ago was the biblical flood.

    In the theory posited by British marine archeologist Dr. Sean Kingsley and published in the Bulletin of the Anglo-Israeli Archaeological Society, the drowning of the Carmel Mountains villages - which include houses, temples, graves, water wells, workshops and stone tools - is by far "the most compelling" archeological evidence exposed to date for Noah's flood.

    "What's more convincing scientifically, a flood in the Black Sea, so far away from Israel and the fantasy of a supposed ark marooned on the slopes of Mount Ararat, or six submerged Neolithic villages smack-bang in the middle of the Bible Land?" Kingsley said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post.


  • Zoo's shipwreck replica offers glimpse into explorers' past

    By Tom Galusha


    In 1779, English sailors attempted to hold a Hawaiian chief hostage until a stolen boat was returned.

    Fearing for their king, Hawaiians crowded the beach everywhere, the men carrying weapons and wearing war mats. To avoid bloodshed, the captain of the Resolution gave up the "enterprise."

    But sailors fired on canoes attempting to leave the bay, apparently without the captain's orders. Learning that a chief had been killed, enraged Hawaiians menaced the captain, who fired his pistol.

    The first barrel, loaded with small shot, could not penetrate the Hawaiian's mat armor; the other barrel, loaded with ball, killed a Hawaiian.

    The incensed natives attacked. At the water's edge the captain called out for the men to cease firing.

    Stabbed in the back, he fell with his face in the water. This was the tragic end of Capt. James Cook, who made the European discovery of Hawaii, on his third voyage.

    Full story...

  • Old book sheds new light on Great Lakes shipping history

    By Sharon Hill


    An archivist who was digging through old documents in the basement of a Harrow chuch says she has unearthed a 19th century ledger that provides a rare glimpse into Great Lakes shipping history.

    "It was as I went through the book and went closer to the back ... I realized this was something unbelievable and exceptional," Debra Majer said Wednesday.

    The Catholic diocese of London archivist was holding a treasure trove: a ledger dating to the 1800s with hundreds of names of ships' captains and vessels with the dates they sailed and their fates.

    She held 255 pages detailing brigs, tugs and steamships that sailed the Great Lakes.

    She knew she'd found something unique when she saw a list of steamboats and propellers lost since 1857.

    At the bottom was a legend identifying how the ship was lost, whether it was foundered, run ashore, burnt, sunk by collision, exploded, sunk by ice, capsized or dismantled.

    One vessel is recorded as the Phoenix, 1846 with a dot to indicate it was burnt.


  • Britain at War: Bletchley Park and the War at Sea

    By Andrew Roberts

    ‘Such is the U-boat war:’ Winston Churchill told the House of Commons on 26 September 1939, ‘hard, widespread and bitter, a war of groping and drowning, a war of ambuscade and stratagem, a war of science and seamanship.’

    It was also a war of survival or surrender for Britain, which could not feed herself on her agricultural production alone and had to import all the oil that fuelled her tanks, warplanes and industry. 

    The continued prosecution of the Second World War therefore hung on the Battle of the Atlantic. Churchill’s mention of ‘science’ pointed to a providential opportunity, which when allied to the professionalism of the Royal Navy and the bravery of the Merchant Marine gave Britain the key to victory in the battle of the Atlantic.

    For the most important scientific development by far was the cracking of the German Enigma code by cryptographers working at Bletchey Park in Buckinghamshire. Material codenamed ULTRA, from its security classification, was invaluable in affording the Allies information about where the U-boats were meeting their mid-oceanic supply submarines. 

    During the battle of Britain, ULTRA decrypts warned the RAF where German bombers were headed for, at El Alamein Montgomery was pre-warned of Rommel’s capabilities and intentions, at D-Day it was known that the Germans had fallen for the deception campaign that pointed to the Pas de Calais as the invasion point rather than the Normandy, and so on.

    The military historian Professor Sir Michael Howard has likened the Allies’ possession of ULTRA to ‘playing poker with marked cards, albeit against an opponent with a consistently better hand than you’.

    Other scientific and technical developments that helped the Navy during the war included the sonar device ASDIC, airborne radar and improved depth charges.

  • Civil War arrived in Alaska - a bit late

    By Ned Rozell

    About 150 years ago, a few days after summer solstice, the gray skies above the Diomede Islands were heavy with smoke from whaling ships set ablaze by Confederate sailors who didn't know the Civil War had ended.

    "The red glare from the eight burning vessels shone far and wide over the drifting ice of these savage seas," wrote an officer aboard the Shenandoah, a ship commissioned by Confederate leaders to wreak havoc on Yankee whalers harvesting bowhead whales off the western and northern coasts of Alaska.

    Though their timing was off -- the Civil War had been over for two months when the Shenandoah reached Alaska waters from England (after an eight-month trip around the southern capes of Africa and Australia) -- the captain and crew of the Shenandoah succeeded in destroying the Yankee fleet, burning 22 whaling ships and capturing two others.

    "It was the last hurrah of whaling -- the place where commercial whaling died in the U.S.," said Brad Barr, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in Woods Hole, Mass.


  • Restless pirate still haunting Hop Hollow ?

    By Bob Crivello

    The annual family bonfire and cookout was loads of fun - riding four wheelers, playing chase the ace, cooking hot dogs and eating chili, good folksy conversations and tall tales. 

    And then, after darkness had settled in, we took our walk in the woods, with flashlights casting eerie shadows from creepy vines and old snags from dead trees that lined the trail.

    This year, there was no one in the woods to scare us. There were no grave markers, spider webs or snakes hanging from trees. 

    We laughed and joked about that old tale of the ghost of Jean Lafitte who roamed the woods at this time of the year.

    We are now much older and can't be scared anymore, and Jean Lafitte, that's just a lot of baloney. But maybe we shouldn't have been so loud! Maybe, just maybe, our voices carried a little too far in the woods and were heard by someone who was not invited to the party. 

    We all know the story of Jean Lafitte, that old pirate from New Orleans who was enlisted by General Andrew Jackson to help the American forces against the British in the Battle of New Orleans in 1812.

    After the war, this scalawag and his band returned to their old ways and set up a colony of privateers and made the mistake of attacking some American ships.

  • Vikings preferred male grooming to pillaging


    By Jonathan Wynne-Jones

    Cambridge University has launched a campaign to recast them as "new men" with an interest in grooming, fashion and poetry.

    Academics claim that the old stereotype is damaging, and want teenagers to be more appreciative of the Vikings' social and cultural impact on Britain.

    They say that the Norse explorers, far from being obsessed with fighting and drinking, were a largely-peaceful race who were even criticised for being too hygienic.

    The university's department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic has published a guide revealing how much of the Vikings' history has been misrepresented.

    They did not, in fact, wear horned or winged helmets. And they appear to have been a vain race who were concerned about their appearance.

    "It seems that the Vikings may not have been as hairy and dirty as is commonly imagined," the guide says.


  • Pirates to shiver timbers again

    From BBC News

    The execution of two pirates from Aberdeen is to be re-visited during September's Scottish Archaeology Month. Robert Laird and John Jackson were among the Granite City's lesser known sea robbers.

    They were hanged in 1597. 

    Their story will be explored during an event called Tales from the Tolbooth, which will include a re-enactment. 

    More famous Aberdonian pirates include Provost Robert Davidson who fought Highland forces at the Battle of Harlaw, near Inverurie, in the 1400s.

    Chris Croly, of Aberdeen City Council archaeology unit, said the pirates went to the gallows for a raid on a ship at anchor at Burntisland, Fife.



  • Blackbeard ? He was just a pussycat


    By Sandra Dick

    It was the aftermath of the doomed Darien Scheme, when Scots' pride had been dented in a failed bid to establish Scottish colonies in the Americas and anger towards the English was fuelled by their neighbours' refusal to answer pleas for help.

    And it couldn't have been a worse time for Captain John Green to sail his vessel, the Worcester, up the Forth seeking sanctuary from a violent storm. Soon the English captain and his crew were under siege, accused of piracy and murder.

    What happened next was the most spectacular of Edinburgh's pirate trials, the result of a bizarre sequence of events and played out against a feverish background of wounded national pride.

    Angus Konstam recalls the episode with a degree of glee – for there's nothing the Edinburgh-based international expert on all things to do with pirates likes more than a good swashbuckling yarn played out on home soil. 

    "The trial of the Worcester's crew was quite sensational at the time," explains Angus, whose new book claims to explode a catalogue of myths surrounding how we've come to view pirates. "It was probably the most famous of all Scottish pirate trials.


  • European woman 'arrived in New Zealand before Captain Cook'

    Captain Cook

    By Paul Chapman

    Scientists are baffled after carbon dating showed the skull, a woman's which was found near the country's capital, Wellington, dates back from 1742 – decades before Cook's Pacific expedition arrived in 1769. 

    The discovery was made by a boy walking his dog on the bank of a river in the Wairarapa region of the North Island, an area settled by Europeans only after the establishment of a colony by the New Zealand Company in 1840. 

    Dr Robin Watt, a forensic anthropologist called in by police who investigated the discovery, said yesterday: "It's a real mystery, it really is. "We've got the problem of how did this woman get here ? Who was she ? 

    "I recommended they do carbon date on it and, of course, they came up with that amazing result."

    Read more.../a>

  • Captains' logs yield climate clues

    By Jonathan Leake

    Britain's great seafaring tradition is to provide a unique insight into modern climate change, thanks to thousands of Royal Navy logbooks that have survived from the 17th century onwards. 

    The logbooks kept by every naval ship, ranging from Nelson’s Victory and Cook’s Endeavour down to the humblest frigate, are emerging as one of the world’s best sources for long-term weather data.

    The discovery has been made by a group of British academics and Met Office scientists who are seeking new ways to plot historic changes in climate. 

    This is a treasure trove,” said Dr Sam Willis, a maritime historian and author who is affiliated with Exeter University’s Centre for Maritime Historical Studies.

    “Ships’ officers recorded air pressure, wind strength, air and sea temperature and other weather conditions. From those records scientists can build a detailed picture of past weather and climate.


  • Zheng He's great voyages

    Zheng He

    By Times of

    This year marks the 603rd anniversary of the western voyages of China's great maritime explorer, who between 1405 and 1433 led huge fleets of Chinese sailing ships on seven transoceanic expeditions.

    The expeditions, which reached as far as the Red Sea and the east coast of Africa, were unprecedented in the history of maritime exploration.

    Details about the voyages and the ability of this great Chinese maritime explorer are being displayed until August 10 at St James Cavalier, in Valletta.

    Organised by the China Cultural Centre of Valletta and called Envoy Of Peace From China: Zheng He's Great Voyages (1405-1433), the exhibition includes replicas of contemporary maritime instruments and copies of porcelain ornaments and utensils.

    During his time as a trusted friend of Zhu Di, the Prince of Yan, Zheng He came into contact with the highest echelons of China's ruling class, greatly expanding his knowledge.

    In recognition of his extraordinary abilities and loyal service, the emperor chose him from among his most trusted advisors as the ideal commander for the western voyages.

    His voyages marked the beginning of the age of maritime exploration in both East and West.

    Undertaken before the invention of any type of mechanical propulsion and into largely uncharted waters, his voyages were exceptional feats.


  • Shipwrecks aplenty off Florida coast

    By Mike Reilly

    The bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean are home to more than 2,000 confirmed and documented shipwrecks. Experts believe there could be another 2,000 that are not documented.

    That's the word from David Southall, curator of education at the Collier County Museum. He gave a talk on the subject Tuesday at the Marco Island branch of the Collier County Public Library.

    The Friends of the Library sponsored his appearance.

    But his first comments to the large gathering were aimed at letting them know it was not going to be a discussion of where to find the lost treasures buried in the sea.


  • Dive team to scour Danube for Queen Mary's lost belongings

    By All Hungary News

    The legend goes something like this: after the disastrous Battle of Mohács in 1526, the twenty-one-year-old Queen Mary of Hungary fled the encroaching Ottoman army on a caravan of ships headed to Vienna.

    But, on her way up the Danube a few ships sank along with their valuable cargo.

    It is said that to this day they remain hidden in the murky depths of the river.

    Soon, any truth to this story may soon be discovered, or disproved.