Here Be Dragons
What lies past the world’s edge?
Laphams Quarterly: Thule… considered in classical literature to be the northernmost part of the world. With Virgil’s Georgics, the term Ultima Thule came to denote any distant place located beyond the borders of the known world. Thule was the land of the midnight sun thought to be inhabited by blue pygmies and guarded by giant whales. Many believe this place to be what is now known as Scandinavia. More
The Greek explorer Pytheas is the first to have written of Thule, doing so in his now lost work, On the Ocean, after his travels between 330-320 BC. Nearly a half century later, in 77, Pliny the Elder published his Natural History in which he also cites Pytheas’ claim (in Book II, Chapter 75) that Thule is a six-day sail north of Britain.
When scientists of the Institute of Geodesy and Geoinformation Science of the Technical University of Berlin were testing the antique maps of Ptolemy, they recognized a pattern of calculation mistakes which occurred if one tried to convert the old coordinates from Ptolemy into modern geographical coordinates. After correcting for the mistakes, the scientists mapped Ptolemy’s Thule to the Norwegian island of Smøla.
The 1st century BC Greek astronomer Geminus of Rhodes claimed that the name Thule went back to an archaic word for the polar night phenomenon – “the place where the sun goes to rest”. Equally strong cases have been made by both ancient scribes and modern cartographers that Ultima Thule might have been referring to Iceland, Greenland, the Orkney islands, and even Ireland.
“Ultima Thule” is also the name of a Swedish rock band often criticized for being associated with White Nationalism in Sweden, and whose sound is based on what they call Vikingarock (“Viking rock,”) a short story by Vladimir Nabokov, and a poetry collection by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Update on 18th c. scuttled ship found in Alexandria
There’s news about the large piece of an 18th century ship discovered on the Potomac riverfront in Alexandria, Virginia, in December of 2015. Archaeologists have been studying the 50-foot section of hull which was deliberately scuttled to fill waterfront property.
Property records were able to narrow down the date of the ship’s burial to between 1775 and 1798, but it took dendrochronological analysis to discover the ship’s age. The tree-rings in the planks reveal that the trees used to make the timber were cut down in Boston after 1741.
John Woodall (1570–1643) was an English military surgeon, Paracelsian chemist, businessman, linguist and diplomat. He made a fortune through the stocking of medical chests for the East India Company and later the armed forces of England. He is remembered for his authorship of The Surgeon’s Mate which was the standard text to advise ships surgeons on medical treatments while at sea and contains an advanced view on the treatment of scurvy. bio on wikipedia
Born about 1570, Woodall was apprenticed to a London barber-surgeon at about the age of 16, and served in Normandy during one of the interminable wars of the time. In 1599, having been inured by then to the sight of blood and dismembered limbs, he returned to London to become a member of the Company of Barber-Surgeons.
His adventurous and rather gory career carried him on through a plague and a voyage in the tropics, to an appointment as the Surgeon-General of the East India Company.
It was a job he held down for thirty years, and is important because (a) he was the first man to devise and stock a medical chest for surgeons at sea and (b) because he wrote the first manual in history for seafaring medics, The Surgions Mate, which was first published in 1617.
Britain Goes Coal-Free for a Day, First Time in 135 Years
Once upon a time, Londoners coined the term “pea souper” for the thick, yellow-greenish combination of fog and smog that filled their city and gave it the distinctive look Charles Dickens described. That famous London fog was partly composed of particulate matter and sulfur dioxide from coal fires, and it killed untold numbers of children, the elderly, and people with respiratory problems.
Times have changed. On Friday, Britain’s National Grid produced 24 hours worth of electricity without burning a single lump of coal. It was the first time Britain’s power was coal-free in 135 years. The National Grid tweeted its accomplishment to the world around 3 pm local time. more
The United States Navy was the first to carry out under-way coaling experiments in 1899. The first significant underway replenishment (UNREP) operation at sea was with the collier USS Marcellus and the Navy battleship USS Massachusetts in 1899.
Technological Advancements in Taking on Coal on GlobalSecurity
Turbinia was the first steam turbine-powered steamship. Built as an experimental vessel in 1894, and easily the fastest ship in the world at that time, Turbinia was demonstrated dramatically at the Spithead Navy Review in 1897 and set the standard for the next generation of steamships, the majority of which were turbine powered. More
Parsons’ ship turned up unannounced at the Navy Review for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee at Spithead, on 26 June 1897, in front of the Prince of Wales, Lords of the Admiralty and foreign dignitaries. As an audacious publicity stunt, the Turbinia, which was much faster than all other ships of the time, raced between the two lines of large ships and steamed up and down in front of the crowd and princes with impunity, while easily evading a Navy picket boat that tried to stop her, indeed, almost swamping it with her wake. more
Sir Charles Algernon Parsons (June 13, 1854 – February 11, 1931) was an Anglo-Irish engineer, best known for his invention of the compound steam turbine. He worked as an engineer on dynamo and turbine design, and power generation, with great influence on the naval and electrical engineering fields. He also developed optical equipment, for searchlights and telescopes. more
In 1889, he founded C. A. Parsons and Company in Newcastle to produce turbo generators. In the same year he set up the Newcastle and District Electric Lighting Company (DisCO). Parsons was also interested in marine applications and founded the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company in Newcastle.
His company survives in the Heaton area of Newcastle and is now part of Siemens, a German conglomerate. *
Resurfacing the Work of a Filmmaker Who Was Obsessed with the Underwater World
In the early 20th century, Jean Painlevé used inventive film and photography techniques to capture the odd nature of marine life. Rather than document some exotic sharks or deep-sea creatures, he magnified the humble claw of a crab and the rostrum on a shrimp’s nose, transforming them into sculptural behemoths in large-scale, black-and-white photographs.
By the time of his death in 1989, Painlevé had created more than 200 films, from 1928’s The Octopus, which details the rippling tentacles of the cephalopod while noting that “the open eye is very human,” to the playfully macabre The Vampire (1945), which combines jazzy music and shots of an octopus creeping on a skull. keep reading