Maritime Monday 231: Octopi in the Sky


The Cephalopoda

In 1898, the steamship Valdivia left Hamburg for a nine month scientific voyage to the Atlantic, Indian and Great Southern oceans [map]. Known as the German Deep-Sea Expedition, the mission was led by Leipzig University Professor of Zoology, Carl Chun and  investigated chemical, zoological and physical characteristics encountered in the oceans during the voyage.

The Valdivia was equipped with state of the art biological and chemical laboratories, a first-class scientific library and ample storage space for marine specimens collected while at sea. With these specialist ship fittings and overall imageexpedition objectives as well as vessel size, the Valdivia resembled the famous HMS Challenger from the 1870s, which had essentially established oceanography as a scientific discipline.

And, like the Challenger expedition, the German Deep-Sea Expedition gave rise to an extensive series of post-voyage scientific publications. Professor Chun contributed a book on cephalopods (with a corresponding illustration/photograph atlas) to a multi-volume work called ‘Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse der deutschen Tiefse eexpedition auf dem Dampfer Valdivia’ (From the Depths of the World Sea: Descriptions of the German Deep Sea Expedition).


The Oil Spill Endgame: ‘A Work in Progress’

Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen doesn’t like to give deadlines for operations on BP’s blown Macondo well anymore—and you can’t really blame him. Almost every estimate Allen has given on how long it will take to finally kill BP’s well has proven overly optimistic.

The final bottom kill — which was supposed to be completed by mid-August—has dragged on and on, as BP and its government counterparts have struggled to deal with one unexpected obstacle after another. Those problems haven’t led to any additional oil leaking into the Gulf—the well has been effectively capped since mid-July, and Allen declared the threat over when a new blowout preventer was installed recently—but the delays have made the oil spill endgame almost as long as everything that came before it. "This remains a work in progress," Allen told reporters on Sept. 9. "I’m giving you what we have as we’ve got it."

The main problem remains the same: the engineers are concerned about the condition of the annulus, or outer casing, of the original well, which may have been partially filled by cement during the static kill that was performed way back in early August.

image"The well does not constitute a threat to the Gulf of Mexico as of this point," retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad W. Allen told reporters in a briefing this afternoon. "We basically have secured this well."

80 Beats: BP Report on Gulf Disaster Spreads the Blame Around »

Back in May, when executives from BP, Halliburton, and Transocean were hauled in front of Congress to account for the Gulf of Mexico disaster, it was a merry-go-round of blame. With BP publishing online its own internal investigation into the accident this week, it’s more of the same.

BP’s report is far from the definitive ruling on the blowout’s causes, but it may provide some hint of the company’s legal strategy — spreading the blame among itself, rig owner Transocean, and cement contractor Halliburton — as it faces hundreds of lawsuits and possible criminal charges over the spill. Government investigators and congressional panels are looking into the cause as well. [AP]

Op-Ed: OFFSHORE OIL DRILLING: Keep In Mind What Happened & Do Not Let It Go »

Throughout the unfolding of the drama, this was all too painfully apparent: How unprotected we the people are against corporate money. All of you, NOAA, the EPA, the DEP, The National Marine Park Program* the United States Coast Guard and all you other agencies directly or indirectly involved in this catastrophe, you have let us down.

Barron’s: Transocean May Settle With BP for $1B to $2B, FBR Says »

Shares of Transocean (RIG) are up 49 cents, or 1%, today at $55.79, after the stock held gains of 4% or more during much of yesterday. As I wrote, investors seemed to be breathing a sigh of relief that the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico seemed to emerge from BP’s (BP) report on the matter relatively unscathed after mounting a vigorous defense.

image Houston Chronicle Editorial: Any Investigation Must Answer Questions About the Oil Giant’s Corporate Culture »

It doesn’t qualify as light summer reading, but BP’s report on the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in April figures to be a page-turner for interested parties in many law offices and corporate suites around Houston and in other oil and gas centers globally. And in more than a few corners of Washington, D.C. Early reviews of the BP document are in and, no surprise, they’re less than kind.

The oil giant is accused of using the long-awaited report as a launching pad for its complicated legal defense and as a platform to shift blame for the tragedy to others involved. Would anyone have seriously expected something different?

The most succinct response to the report we’ve seen was offered by Chronicle cartoonist Nick Anderson, who morphed the ubiquitous BP flower symbol into petals shaped like pointing fingers in Thursday’s cartoon. Yes, the BP fingers were pointing: At Transocean, which owned the rig; at Halliburton, which performed cement jobs on the well; and at Cameron, which built the blowout preventer that failed to stop the fatal explosion.

US Marines at Right Place, Right Time in Somalia Ship Rescue

image The Marines from Camp Pendleton who stormed a pirate-held ship in the Gulf of Aden were combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, where they learned the skills necessary to disarm and arrest the nine Somalis without firing a shot, their officers said Friday.

"This was not their first rodeo," said Capt. Alexander Martin, commander of the Force Reconnaissance Platoon of the maritime assault team. Martin has served three tours in Iraq. The Dubuque is due to return to its home port in San Diego by year’s end. Part of the U.S. fleet since 1967, the ship is set to be decommissioned in the spring.

Igor Grows Into Hurricane as it Quickly Strengthens

image Forecasters say they expect Igor to strengthen significantly within the next 12 hours, achieving maximum sustained winds of 110 miles an hour or more.

This NOAA satellite image taken Saturday shows a mass of clouds in the eastern Caribbean Sea associated with a tropical disturbance that has a chance of development over the next few days. This area will be watched closely for further development. Tropical storm Igor grew into a low-level hurricane overnight, becoming the fourth hurricane to form during the 2010 Atlantic season. AP Photo/Weather Underground

imageA Coast Guard rescue team from Sandy Hook, NJ, races to the scene of the World Trade Center terrorist attack. USCG photo by PA2 Tom Sperduto

Remembering 9/11: The Coast Guard Response

Many Americans recall images of the maritime evacuation of New York after the attack on the World Trade Center, and New Yorkers were comforted by the sight of cutters such as the USCGC Tahoma as they patrolled the waters around the city in the weeks after.  The Coast Guard response at Ground Zero was much more extensive, however, and lasted in some parts until the conclusion of debris removal.

imageIn Pictures: Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival 2010 »


imageJake Green outside of the New Era Book Shop, 1975. (PW photo) 

8 Bells: African American Communist and WW II Seaman Dies at 107

imageBALTIMORE – Jacob Green, an African American seaman who braved Nazi U-boats while supplying the Soviet Union during World War II, and later served as chairman of the  Communist Party of Maryland, died Feb. 19. He was 107.

Born June 28, 1902 in Charleston, S.C., Green worked as a fisherman, coal yard worker, and bander in a cotton mill before going to sea in a sailing ship in 1927, an age when "seamen were made of iron and ships were made of wood."

While unemployed in New York someone handed him a copy of the Daily Worker. He joined the Communist Party in 1930. In 1937, he helped found the National Maritime Union (NMU), a strong, left-led union that fought the shipowners’ starvation wages and brutal working conditions winning dramatic improvements for seafarers. Howard Silverberg, a close friend and fellow NMU seaman, wrote in a tribute, that Green "was known among seamen in every port as a fighter for their union rights and an expert on the union contract. He stood up to the shipowners, settled the ‘beefs,’ and rejected open bribes from shipping agents."

Allen Dale June, imageOriginal Navajo Code Talk Developer, Dies at 91

Allen Dale June, one of the 29 original Navajo Code Talkers who encrypted American military communications during World War II using principles of indigenous language, died Wednesday night in Prescott, Arizona, at age 91.

imageA man paddles a dugout canoe past whaleboats being loaded with cargo and passengers at Baramoto Port in Kinshasa, Congo Monday, Sept. 6, 2010. In a country of dense rain forests with few paved roads, boarding an overcrowded boat on a treacherous river is a way of life. This week, journeys on the dangerous waterways stole the lives of up to 270 people. (AP Photo/John Bompengo)

200 Feared Dead as Boat Capsizes in Congo

Survivors of a river ferry disaster in the Democratic Republic of Congo were struck with paddles by fishermen as they tired to swim to safety, it was claimed today.

6th September 2010 – More than 200 people were feared to have died after the boat laden with fuel and passengers caught fire and capsized during the night-time tragedy.

Just 15 people survived and some told how they tried to swim to the nearby fishermen who refused to come to their aid. Some even struck survivors with paddles as they chose instead to grab cargo floating in the wreckage on the Kasi River.

Bangladesh Court Bans Ship-Breaking Leases

image DHAKA — Bangladesh’s high court has banned the lease of coastal land to ship-breaking yards, a lawyer said Friday, in a ruling welcomed by environmentalists who say the industry destroys fragile eco-systems.

"The court has ruled the government and local authorities cannot issue leases on beaches or coastal land for commercial purposes," Iqbal Kabir, of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, which brought the case, told AFP.

The government will have to designate specific areas of coastline for ship-breaking, Kabir said, adding that the court also revoked leases of five new yards set up on forest department land last year.


Busy Georgia Port May Lose Race with Panama Canal

SAVANNAH, Ga. – The Port of Savannah is falling behind in the race to deepen its busy shipping channel by the end of 2014, when cargo ships too large to navigate the Savannah River are expected to begin passing through the Panama Canal, the Georgia Ports Authority’s top official said Thursday.

Curtis J. Foltz, the ports’ executive director, told a business forum that a two year delay in a final government study on the $588 million project most likely means the long-sought Savannah harbor expansion won’t get done until 2015.

Port officials fear that if the project falls too far behind, companies importing and exporting goods through Savannah – the nation’s fourth busiest seaport – will start going elsewhere.

imageGaddani ship-breaking yard by Raja Islam; more images from Pakistan & Gaddani coast »

Book Review: From Shipbreaking to Sustainable Ship Recycling by Tony George Puthucherril

The Basel convention on the “control of trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal” lays emphasis, in its preamble, on awareness of the serious consequences of disposing waste material. In practice, however, the developing countries do not respect the spirit of the convention. Given this and the fact that ship-breaking is an area that is not properly understood, this book — published as part of the series, “Legal aspects of sustainable development” edited by David Freestone — is a welcome addition to the literature on the subject.

Ship-breaking, being an unregulated industry, naturally thrives in poor countries, where a huge mass of cheap labour is available. Since it contributes significantly to the local economy, the authorities tend to turn a Nelson’s eye to the deleterious impact it has on the community at large and the human suffering it causes. As the author says, “the facilities are not only big cemeteries for dying ships; they are also a graveyard for the ship-breakers who toil hard to dismember them.”

Bowsprite: How to Simulate the Tugboat Feeling

You have tugboat life envy? I have tugboat life envy. Envy no more! now you can enjoy the same benefits tugwomen/men have in the comfort of your own home:

  • imagePut diesel fuel in your humidifier instead of water, and set it on “high”.
  • Using a spray bottle filled with diesel fuel, lightly mist your clothes.
  • Leave a lawn mower running in your living room 24 hours a day, to provide the proper noise level and exhaust odor.
  • Once a month, take apart every major appliance in your home, and put it back together again.
  • more »

imageThe Bid’niz: US Weakness Could Leave Holiday Shipping Up in the Air

"Every year at this time, you’re throwing the dice," said Masoncup, who owns Geppetto’s Toy Box in Oak Park, Illinois, with his wife Brandy, and is still hoping for signals that will help him get his holiday order just right.

The couple is working hard to regain its footing after getting stuck with too many toys in the dismal holiday season last year. "I cut back last year. This year, I don’t know what to do," said Masoncup, who will receive goods by air or from importers who brought goods in early by ocean transport.

Meanwhile, toy maker Hasbro has been working since this summer to convince store owners to take early delivery of holiday shipments brought over months earlier than usual due to space shortages on ocean cargo vessels.

imageThe MV Nordic Barents, laden with 40,000 tons of iron ore, leaves Kirkenes harbor in northern Norway on Saturday for China on an Arctic Ocean shortcut route through the Northern Sea’s melting ice. The route is about one-third shorter than the usual shipping routes. (EPA)

Cargo Ship Embarks on Historic Non-Stop Arctic Passage

REUTERS; Sep 4, 2010 – OSLO: The MV Nordic Barents is lugging 40,000 tons of iron ore from Norway to China on an Arctic Ocean shortcut through melting ice — and making a little history in the process.

Steaming east along Russia’s desolate northern coast, the ship departed on Saturday as the first non-Russian commercial vessel to attempt a non-stop crossing of a route that skirts the receding Arctic ice cap.

"We’re pretty much going over the top," said John Sanderson, the Australian CEO of the Norwegian mine where the iron ore comes from.


FALL FASHION REPORT: Nautical themes will have a strong influence… look for SNS Herning and Inis Meain knits this season.  From the Norfolk Museums and Archeology Service on the older traditional sweaters worn by fishermen:

A fisherman’s gansey was once his most distinctive feature. A navy blue jumper, patterned on the top half and part of the sleeves was a proud possession. It was likely to be knitted by a loved one and carried a pattern characteristic of the fishing port or the family. Ganseys could be found all around the North Sea and the British coasts from the early 19th century to the middle of the 20th century and the tradition lives on with a few Norfolk fishermen today. Theirs were perhaps the most finely knitted of them all, especially those from Sheringham.

FDA Says Genetically Modified Salmon Is Safe to Eat; Decision Looms

imageSeptember 7th, 2010 – In about a week and a half, officials at the Food and Drug Administration must complete their final deliberations over whether or not to approve a genetically modified salmon as the first GM animal in the world sold for human consumption.

It would seem they’re leaning toward “yes.”

Last Friday, while the country was preparing to go on vacation, the FDA released an analysis of the transgenic salmon created by AquaBounty Technologies of Waltham, Massachusetts, declaring it safe to eat and safe for the environment.

imageThe closer vessel on the right might bear some resemblance to the one found at the World Trade Center site. “It is a bit more modern, but it’s not bad,” Warren Riess, an archaeologist, said. “That type of ship came right out of the 18th century and had a full stern like the W.T.C. ship.” –Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York, 1851

The Gudgeon Did It: Small Detail Settles a Maritime Mystery

NY TIMES – Forget whether it was brig or brigantine. The archaeologists who are trying to decipher the 18th-century ship recovered this summer from an old landfill at the World Trade Center site had to agree first on whether they were looking at its bow or its stern.

Only about half the vessel — 32 feet — survived the construction of a retaining wall roughly along the line of Washington Street, close to what was once the edge of the Hudson River. To unseasoned eyes, the fanlike array of ribs at one end of the mud-encased craft strongly suggested that it was the stern.

But more discerning experts like Warren Riess, of the Darling Marine Center at the University of Maine, recognized in the same pattern the lowermost portion of a bow.  It wasn’t until the wooden elements of the hull were gingerly removed by AKRF, a consulting firm, from the excavation site in Lower Manhattan, cleaned up at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory and inspected by shipwrights from Mystic Seaport in Connecticut and other nautical archaeologists that the question was settled.

A gudgeon helped seal the case…

History: Dispatches from Disney Studios and the War Effort

imageHere’s a fascinating pamphlet that was part of the Clair Weeks collection. Titled “Dispatch From Disney’s”, this 1943 publication was distributed to Disney employees who were serving in the war effort.

The first section includes an introduction by Walt, an article on the power of animation to educate by Major Alexander P. de Seversky (author of Victory Through Air Power), a cartoon feature by Roy Williams, and newsy info on Disney artists.

The last part contains an article from Oliver Wallace describing how he was inspired to write “Der Fuhrer’s Face”, some doodles by Roy Williams on life as an Air Raid Warden, a feature on the Disney Studio exercise coach Carl Johnson, news on the South American tour, and detailed information on the Disney wartime training films.

*The page shown here, the final one in the collection, shows Disney character mascots for various squadrons, Divisions, and Battalions in World War II.  My father’s unit aboard the Hamilton, Mine Division 19, used the character Pluto with a whisk broom on his tail, pulling mines.

From the “Tell Us Something We Didn’t Already Know” Department; Whale Researchers Get High

image From Bitter Old Ma… er, I mean Bitter End

Whale Researchers Hitch A Ride On Zeppelin

EVERETT, WA  – Boaters and beach walkers in north Puget Sound may be startled Tuesday and Wednesday by a low-flying Zeppelin over the water. The giant airship is carrying whale researchers to film orcas before returning to its home base in California. KPLU’s Tom Banse reports.

image LV18 wearing regular lightship red enhanced by Pirate BBC Essex banner. Built in 1958 it served Britain at various points around its coastline before being decommissioned in 1993 as remotely controlled lightships were established.

Historic Light Vessel Finds a Home, “Probably”

image Maritime Journal, 09 Sep 2010 – After many months of party political bickering a berth has been established for the UK’s last remaining manned light vessel at Harwich UK, the town renowned as the home port of these distinctive vessels. (source image right)

The mooring was always planned to provide a base for the ex-Trinity House light vessel LV18, which is now a museum ship, retaining its original accommodation and layout. The 1957 built LV18 has proved a popular attraction whenever it has been berthed on the pier, although public access has not been possible.

Owned and managed by a charity, The Pharos Trust, it has been moored in the River Stour and has functioned as the home of ‘offshore’ radio revivals for various broadcasters, including BBC Radio Essex.


Investigation Continues In Ferry vs. Yacht Collision

Cedar Island, N Carolina – The Coast Guard continues to investigate the cause of a Saturday night collision between a 220-foot ferry and a 35-foot yacht. The collision happened at 8:40 p.m. Saturday, ten minutes after the ferry left Ocracoke bound for Cedar Island, according to a Coast Guard press release.

The yacht crossed the bow just before the collision, according to a North Carolina Department of Transportation release. The collision tore a hole in the yacht from the deck to near the water line, as seen in pictures released by the Coast Guard.

Jerry Greenberg’s Offshore Outlook: Rigs Still  Leaving the Gulf

imageWORKBOAT.COM – Officially, the deepwater drilling moratorium ends around Nov. 30 or so. But will it? It looked like the industry was on the right track until the recent Mariner Energy platform accident in the Gulf. Now, with Congress in a bad mood, who knows how this will affect any new laws and regulations?

Anyway, rigs continue to exit the Gulf as a result of the deepwater drilling moratorium and the new and lengthy permitting process for shallow-water exploration. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) reported recently that only four drilling permits for new wells were issued since the Department of Interior issued its Notice to Lessees (NTL) 2010-05 and 2010-06.

imageThe file photo shows the submersible Jiaolong sticking a Chinese national flag in the seafloor during one dive in the South China Sea in July of 2010. A China-made manned submersible, dubbed "Jiaolong" and designed to dive to a depth of 7,000 meters, had successfully reached 3,759 meters beneath the waves during a manned test, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the China State Oceanic Administration announced Thursday.  MORE PHOTOS »

Jiaolong – World’s Deepest Diving Submersible Being Tested by the Chinese

OLD SALT BLOGJiaolong, in Chinese folklore, is a shape-shifting water dragon.  For several months this summer the Chinese government has been quietly testing a new submersible, named Jiaolong, designed to dive to 7,000 meters.  If successful, it will be the deepest diving submersible in the world, diving deeper than the Japanese Shinkai 6500, which can dive to 6,500 meters and the American submersible Alvin which can dive to 4,500 meters.

Kenyan Court Convicts, Sentences 7 Somali Pirates

AP; NAIROBI, Kenya — A Kenyan court has convicted and sentenced seven Somalis of piracy to five years in jail, a defense lawyer said Tuesday.

A court in the Kenyan port town of Mombasa found the Somalis guilty of attacking a German naval supply ship in the Gulf of Aden on March 29 last year, said Jared Magolo, their lawyer. He said his clients plan to appeal the verdict made Monday.

"Even though we believe that the verdict was not very heavy, but the conviction was not proper," said Magolo. The European Union anti-piracy task force said it welcomes the court’s decision.

Mar-Ex: The Obama Infrastructure Plan

imageOP-ED by Tony Munoz, Editor-in-Chief of the Maritime Executive Magazine and MarEx Newsletter

September 9th, 2010 – As President Obama announced his robust infrastructure investment program touting an immediate infusion of $50 billion for improvements to the nation’s infrastructure, images of a newly revitalized U.S. maritime industry swirled around me in a twilight zone moment. The six-year plan is estimated to cost about $350 billion to fix 150,000 miles of broken roadways, 233,000 miles of dilapidated railroad track, and 150 miles of aging airline runways. Yet not a word was uttered about increasing funding for America’s Marine Highway Program or rejuvenating the shipbuilding industry.

Marine Scientists Seek Standards For Future Spill Research

Vermont Public Radio – Much of the scientific effort that has followed the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has focused on how much oil escaped and where it’s gone. But biologists want to know how that oil might affect marine life over the long term, and many say they’re puzzled by the lack of an organized research effort to measure the damage.

John Reynolds, the director of marine mammal and sea turtle research, was one of those scientists. "Tissue samples can be acquired," he said several weeks ago, "but Unified Command governs how those tissue samples are used, by whom, and then [they] apparently own all the data and all the information. And that ownership may last decades."

"Of course it’s frustrating," says Reynolds. That was in August. Since then, other marine scientists are reporting the same frustration. They know that some scientific data on the effects of the spill may become evidence in court, and they’re not sure how to proceed.

imageMore Herzog/Kinski theatrics: Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (original title;in German with English subtitles) Entirely a true story, set in the 1600s, following the annihilation of the Incas Empire, when the Spanish Conquistadors explored and roamed most of South America, a legendary expedition set out in Peru into the Amazon River to locate the mythical City Of Gold, El Dorado.

Movies About Ships: Fitzcarraldo

image Werner Herzog can never be accused of taking the easy route to film-making. For his 1982 film, in which Klaus Kinski plays the titular, opera loving, would-be rubber baron Fitzcarraldo, the plot called for a 300 ton paddle steamer to be pulled across a mountain in the middle of the jungle. Most people would take the easy way out – make a scale model, or use a green screen. But with the help of local villagers and a complex rope system, hoisted the ship up and down the hill, placing it back in the river on the other side. Herzog said himself that no one before or, most likely, again will achieve something of this magnitude, and referred to himself as the ‘Conquistador of the Useless.’

As you would expect from a shoot that involved travelling to the middle of some of the harshest and unfriendliest terrain in the world to  not only pull a boat over a river but to film the same boat hurtling down the deadly rapids on the river with the crew still inside, production was often a strained process. Strained in particular by the parallel animosity and friendship that existed between Herzog and Kinski. Kinski was often described as unstable, and at one point fired a gun into a hut where several crew members were sitting, blowing the finger off one, and putting all their lives in danger. At another point, when Kinski threatened to leave the set, Herzog apparently held to gun to the actors head, threatening to shoot him unless he continued acting.

*Fitzcarraldo Out-takes Drinking Game: see video of Herzog and Kinski going at it like only Germans stuck in the rainforest can.  Take a drink every time you hear an insult  involving a kraut’s favorite body part »

Speaking of Crazy Germans: Berlin Cannibal Restaurant Revealed as Hoax »


Netherlands-based Heavy Lift Operator Mammoet Maritime Acquires Multi-Purpose  Pontoon

imageHeavy Lift – The 85-m pontoon is designed for use as a ro-ro platform and can be used for conventional transport of heavy lift and project cargoes as well as ship and yacht transport and launching. Recently, the operator launched a frigate and a large yacht from the pontoon.

The possession of the pontoon will give the Schiedam-based operator an edge, says the company, as there are few multipurpose pontoons currently available in Europe. Use of the pontoon is expected by clients in the offshore, shipbuilding and civil engineering industries in the Benelux, Germany, Scandinavia, France and the UK.

New Cutter Suction Dredger for Panama Canal Launched at IHC Merwede

imageA custom-built cutter suction dredger destined for the Panama Canal was launched by IHC Merwede in The Netherlands on 6 September.

The 12,000kW vessel was designed and built by IHC Beaver Dredgers at its Sliedrecht shipyard in The Netherlands for the Panama Canal Authority.

QUIBIÁN I was named and launched before invited guests at Sliedrecht, and will now be completed by IHC Merwede. The vessel will be delivered to the ACP in April 2011, within the schedule agreed when the contract was signed in March 2008.

Op-Ed: Are Some Disasters Inevitable?

On September 8, 1934, the Morro Castle caught fire off the coast of New Jersey, and the maritime disaster that ensued, might be a better symbol of the war in Afghanistan than the much better known sinking of the Titanic in 1912. On the evening of Friday, September 7, 1934, the "farewell dinner," on the ocean liner Morro Castle, had been marred by the fact that Captain Robert Willmott fell ill and retired to his cabin. He died and the second in command, chief officer William Warms, who had worked a Friday shift that ended at 8 p.m., took command of a ship which was contending with a storm. At 2:56 a.m., on September 8, 1934, his first day in command, Warms heard the fire alarm sound. Warms made some decisions which were questionable at best. He maintained speed and headed into the gale. image

While spending a portion of the 2012 Labor Day weekend as a sick day, this writer did some recreational reading with a new column not being on the agenda in the least way. One of the books, The Aspirin Age 1919 1941, yielded up some twenty five pages for an article by William McFee titled: "The Peculiar Fate of the Morro Castle" and suddenly it seemed like a column needed to be written.

One of the first lifeboats, boat 3, which was able to carry 70, took sixteen of the crew and no passengers to safety. On line sources list the number of passengers who died as 86 and the number of crew members who died as 49.

“For a while, after the Morro Castle fire, every fire in a ship’s hold was blamed on ‘Reds’ or sabotage, as though ships had never had any fires in their hold before the Russian Revolution…”

Oxygen "Sags" and Oil "Snow Storm" Near Spill Site

image – A new report from the Joint Analysis Group (JAG), which includes the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found that oxygen levels have dropped by about 20% below average in locations around the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The zones of depleted oxygen, called "sags" extend some 100 kilometres from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead. The sags are the result of microbial activity breaking down the oil and are not low enough to cause dead zones in the deep ocean, says Steve Murawski, Chief Science Advisor for NOAA Fisheries and head of the joint agency team.

The findings, based on data collected between 8 May and 9 August, dispel questions raised in the JAG’s second report over whether low oxygen signals were simply due to fouled instrumentation. Academic scientists have been documenting significant oxygen drops for months, but the previous JAG report raised concerns that these measurements were “false positives”.  The oxygen levels are a good indicator that microbes are munching up the oil and that the oxygen is being replenished by the surrounding oxygen-rich water.

Saving the Bayonne Bridge, and the NJ/NY Port

imageThere are less dangerous, less expensive alternatives to trying to get monster ships to inappropriate ports.

THE Bayonne, an almost perfectly engineered arch bridge, is one of the most beautiful in the harbor, and is said to be an obstacle to large container ships passing under it on the way to and from Newark Bay. 

Some vocal port interests have proposed replacing the bridge, which has only 150 feet of clearance above the Kill Van Kull, barely enough to allow passage for vessels bound for ports Elizabeth and Newark and not enough to allow passage for the much larger ships expected to use the ports in the future. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has commissioned a study by the Army Corps of Engineers and has authorized up to $10 million for planning and engineering services to develop options to deal with the bridge’s low clearance.

The authority’s study proposes three options. The "quickest" option is a $1.3 billion project to jack up the bridge 40 percent above its 150 feet, which might be completed by 2019 at the earliest. It will need a clearance of 215 feet to handle the new ships.

image Sunken anchor from a shipwreck recently found under the Mediterranean Sea.

Shipwrecks Reveal Shift to Modern Shipbuilding

Three recently discovered shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea could give archaeologists new insights into the transition between medieval and modern shipbuilding.

MSNBC – The remains of the three craft — all dating from between 1450 and 1600 — were found in the straits between Turkey and the Greek island of Rhodes. One ship appears to be a large English merchant ship, while the other two are smaller — perhaps a patrol craft from Rhodes and a small trading boat that could have been Turkish, Italian or Greek.

Though the three shipwrecks were discovered near each other, they are not thought to be related, or to have foundered in the same event.


Smithsonian’s Surprising Science: A Jellyfish imageSummer

Last week, Bruckner Chase of Santa Cruz set out to become the second person ever to swim across Monterey Bay. He intended to use the publicity surrounding the 14-hour slog to raise awareness about ocean issues.

But then the ocean did a little awareness raising of its own. Thirty minutes into the swim, jellyfish—whose swelling numbers are considered by many to be a symptom of unhealthy seas—began to swarm.

“I’m like, ‘Come on guys, I’m trying to help here,’” Chase said later. The jellies could not be reasoned with—Chase was soon being stung everywhere, even inside his mouth.

imageThe Staten Island Ferry Andrew J. Barberi. Photo from The Travels of Tug 44

Suicidal Staten Island Ferry Jumper Saved by NYPD Harbor Police

NYPD Harbor cops pulled off a dramatic rescue Saturday night, plucking a suicidal woman out of New York Harbor after she leaped off the Staten Island ferry.

A three-man NYPD boat was patrolling the waters near lower Manhattan when a report of a woman overboard crackled over its police radios about 7:50 p.m., cops said. The unidentified jumper plunged into the water near the Statue of Liberty, drawing gasps from passengers on board the Andrew J. Barberi ferry.


Trading Places: The World’s Largest Container Ports

imageAug 24th 2010 / The Economist – The changes in distribution and cargo-handling capabilities of the world’s biggest container ports show the shifts that the world economy has undergone over the past two decades. The volume of cargo traded through the world’s biggest container ports has increased nearly six fold in the past 20 years as globalization has taken hold.

Marine Cafe: What a Difference Two Decades Make

Earlier this week, The Economist online edition posted the 2009 list of the world’s largest container ports side by side with the list of 20 years ealier. Never mind the magazine’s one-paragraph commentary on how Asian ports have dislodged their European and American counterparts from the Top 20. Everyone knows that. What struck us was that Manila was still on the honour roll just two decades ago, placing 20th right behind the US ports of Oakland and Seattle. 

image Labor Day weekend saw a 1907 tugboat move a 1914 covered wooden barge the 50 miles between Brooklyn and Cold Spring, a tiny village on a bend just beyond West Point in the Hudson Highlands.   Authentic vessels and experienced crew brought vessels and contra-dancing to Cold Spring, across the river from Storm King, entrance to the Hudson Highlands.

imageLord Prescott, below, attends the launch of ‘Sea-Wheeling’, in aid of Apostleship of the Sea. David Savage, above, centre, leads the Apostleship team

UK: Cyclists Hope to Raise £100,000 for Seafaring Charity Apostleship of the Sea

On September 3 a Round-Britain Bike Ride set off from the port of Hull. Sea-Wheeling is a charity bike ride consisting of 60 towns in 60 days with one aim: to raise funds for Apostleship of the Sea’s work with seafarers.

Lord Prescott, the former deputy Prime Minister, attended the launch at the Hull Seafarers’ Centre to show his support for the event, the team of pedallers and Apostleship of the Sea (AoS). The Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) is a registered charity and an agency of the Catholic bishops’ conferences of England and Wales and Scotland.

AoS trustee David Savage will be blogging about his cycle experience as he goes along. If you would like to keep up to date with the adventure you can by visiting David’s blog at

UK: Plymouth’s Marine Academy Launched by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

image The first man to sail solo around the world without stopping has opened Britain’s first marine academy in Plymouth. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston gave an inspirational speech on Saturday as Marine Academy Plymouth (Map), formerly known as Tamarside Community College, was officially launched in St Budeaux. The specialist state-funded school will be sponsored by the University of Plymouth, Cornwall College and Plymouth City Council, which will offer wider community support.

The 71-year-old seafarer told his audience there were huge career opportunities based on marine activities, both on land and at sea, through jobs such as working with a Queen’s Harbour Master.  Before unveiling a plaque, he told onlookers: "Follow your own advice and instincts; it doesn’t matter what you do so long as you’re the best at it."

U.S. Names Asian Carp Czar

The White House has tapped a former leader of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Wildlife Federation as the Asian carp czar to oversee the federal imageresponse to keeping the invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

On a conference call today with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and other congressional leaders, President Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality announced the selection of John Goss to lead the near $80 million, multi-pronged federal attack against Asian carp.

"This is a serious challenge, a serious threat," Durbin said. "When it comes to the Asian carp threat, we are not in denial. We are not in a go-slow mode. We are in a full attack, full-speed ahead mode. We want to stop this carp from advancing."

Wisconsin: Onalaska Man Gets in Deep on Maritime Mutinies

image Contrary to popular belief and movie portrayals, mutinies aboard merchant and whaling ships of old were rarely successful. That’s one of many things Onalaska resident John Grider learned while on a research trip funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A “We the People” grant from the NEH allowed Grider to spend six weeks this summer in Mystic Seaport, Conn., where he studied the history of mutinies aboard American whaling ships. Grider spent most of his summer studying the subject of mutiny aboard ships of old thanks to a grant from the National Endowment of Humanities. Mutinies were not as successful as some would believe.  link

Grider, an assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, was one of 20 NEH grant recipients to conduct research on American maritime history from the colonial era to the present at the Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies.

image70.8%Dorna Sail & Oar, the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project, & Ruminations on Both »image711111111[1] 

image117111111[1]Monkey Fist is a smack-talking, potty mouthed, Yankee hating, Red Sox fan in Portland, Maine.  In addition to compiling Maritime Monday, she blogs about nautical history, marine science, art, current events, and coastal New England life on Casco Bay Boaters blog & Tumblr. (NEW!)
Submit story ideas, news links, photographs, or items of interest to her at  She can also out-belch any man.

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