Maritime Monday for April 11th, 2016: “We Seek Christians and Spices”

Monkey Fist
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April 10, 2016


(found on Facebook; source unknown)


Vasco de Gama arrival in Calecut on 1498: Spices in History: The Explorers

Pepper Your Worlds

I blog about the sea; things that float on the sea, people that ride in things that float on the sea, industries associated with maintaining the people that make their living on the sea…  Science about the sea; weather on the sea, what lives in and around the sea, and the goofy earth-crust shenanigans that shape the sea. Words people have written and pictures they have painted of the sea… The distinct worldview, folklore, craft, language, and tradition of self-government of, (by and for) people who have taken to the sea. All of it is fascinating to me.

Sailors have a rich and colorful history; from the first knuckle-dragger who noticed that the stick he just threw in the water floated away instead of sinking, to NASA Astronauts; navigating a very different sea. All carried the compulsion to explore, sense of wonder, resume of landmark accomplishments, and rogue’s gallery of colorful characters, quirks, lexicon and traditions along with them in their imaginations.

If you pick at the tat-box of any interesting story, you will find the inevitable historical connection to any one of the, if not several, topics listed above. Maritime history has shaped our world. “All history is maritime history,”* World’s Oldest Global Culture, your mileage may vary. Many connections are huge, glossy, and impossible to miss. Others are humble, commonplace, and so insignificant that we brush them casually off the table linen with a simple wave of our hand.

peppernUp until the end of the 17th century, long pepper was still available in Europe. By the 1700s, long pepper had fallen out of use. Trade routes by sea had out-competed overland trade routes, and since black pepper traveled by water, it won out over long pepper.

It’s a story of geography, of supply and demand, and of quantity winning out over quality.

keep reading


The Spice That Built Venice on Smithsonian

The trade was changed by the European Age of Discovery, during which the spice trade, particularly in black pepper, became an influential activity for European traders. The route from Europe to the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope was pioneered by the Portuguese explorer navigator Vasco da Gama in 1498, resulting in new maritime routes for trade. wikipedia

pepperloveMedieval pepper was prized for it’s many benefits, including the ability to “”provoke phlegm and wind: being pungent and hot, and capable of increasing the semen”
Long Pepper: A short-ish history on
(Gives new meaning to “long pepper”)

Santa Caterina

 Armed Portuguese merchant carrack, thought to be the Santa Caterina; built to serve as one of the larger merchant ships of the Portuguese East Indies (spice) trade. Seized by the Dutch East India Company off Singapore in 1603. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Less Than Savory


Selknam natives en route to Europe to be exhibited in a Human Zoo, 1899

The Selk’nam, also known as the Onawo or Ona people, were an indigenous people in the Patagonian region of southern Argentina and Chile, including the Tierra del Fuego islands. They had little contact with ethnic Europeans until settlers arrived in the late 19th century, and promptly took over their ancestral hunting grounds to graze sheep. So the Selk’nams started shooting the sheep, and well, things kinda went downhill from there.  more


Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale; Paris, 1907

In the 1870s, exhibitions of exotic populations became popular in various countries. Human zoos could be found in Paris, Hamburg, Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Milan, New York, and Hagenbeck. Also called “ethnological expositions”, they displayed humans in cages, often nude or semi-nude.  In what was enthusiastically termed a “parade of evolutionary progress,” visitors could inspect the “primitives” (in an) exhibition (complete with full size replicas of their rustic living quarters) erected to exhibit the inherent backwardness of the inhabitants. The purpose was to highlight both the “civilising” influence of American and/or European rule and the economic potential of colonization.  more


Greetings from the Colonies: Postcards of a Shameful Past (more)

What is this mystery giant creature swimming in the River Thames?


A Firsthand Account of What It Takes to Pilot a Voyaging Canoe Across the Ocean

I first learned about the vessel in about 1986, two years or so into my move to Hawai‘i to study geography in graduate school. One of the founders of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Ben Finney, was a professor of anthropology on the next floor down. He came up and gave us a talk one day about Hokule-a, and I was immediately hooked.

I am at the helm with a young trainee, and we are guiding the canoe by Mars over the starboard boom. What brought me here is the same thing that brought all the rest of the crew members here: an enchantment with oceanic voyaging, and a hope to crew on a leg of Hokule-a’s Worldwide Voyage.

Keep reading on Smithsonian

See also: These Light-Up Fishing Nets Could Save Sea Turtles


SCIENCE REVEALS!!:  Real Moby Dick: Some Whales Ram With Their Heads

Washington Post: Moby Dick could totally have sunk that whaling ship


Because Manatees – 20 Photos Of Manatees Doing Manatee Things

Biochemist resurrects ancient trilobites by 3D printing them in metal

triloTrilobites emerged in the mid Cambrian, some 520 million years ago, reigning the global waters for over 200 million years before ultimately going extinct. They’re among the most common fossils you can find.

The first step was to look at as many trilobites as possible and choose one. Ultimately, he settled on Ceraurus, one of the more iconic and sturdier species. Through 3D printing, he created molds and ultimately cast the trilobites from steel, bronze, and eventually silver. more

__BBC listenBBC: Paperless passports: the future of international travel?

160404-N-CM124-002 GREAT LAKES, Ill. (April 4, 2016) Engineman 2nd Class Shanice Floyd, a recruit division commander, ensures the proper fit of Seaman Recruit Megan Marte's white enlisted hat, or "Dixie cup," during uniform issue at Recruit Training Command. Marte was among the first female recruits to be issued the Dixie cup as part of the Navy's efforts for uniformity in service members' uniforms. (U.S. Navy photo by Sue Krawczyk/Released)

UNIFORM UNIFORMITY – Female Recruits Issued ‘Dixie Cup’ Covers at RTC

Dixie Chicks

GREAT LAKES, Ill. (April 4, 2016) Engineman 2nd Class Shanice Floyd, a recruit division commander, ensures the proper fit of Seaman Recruit Megan Marte’s enlisted hat, or “Dixie cup,” during uniform issue at Recruit Training Command. Marte was among the first female recruits to be issued the Dixie cup as part of the Navy’s efforts for uniformity in-service members’ uniforms. (U.S. Navy photo by Sue Krawczyk)

“It’s really awesome how something as simple as our cover is so symbolic in regards to equality and the uniformity in the military. It’s a sense of pride knowing that we are a part of getting the first Dixie cups.”  – Seaman Recruit Madeleine Bohnert.

full story on

lady pirate flat

The Chinese Female Pirate Who Commanded 80,000 Outlaws

At the dawn of the 19th century, a former prostitute from a floating brothel in the city of Canton was wed to Cheng I, a fearsome pirate who operated in the South China Sea in the Qing dynasty.

Though the name under which we now know her, Ching Shih, simply means “Cheng’s widow,” the legacy she left behind far exceeded that of her husband’s. Following his death, she succeeded him and commanded over 1,800 pirate ships and an estimated 80,000 men.  keep reading


Drug testing a touchy issue on New Bedford’s waterfront – NEW BEDFORD, MASS — Last fall, local scalloper Rick Lynch, 44, talked frankly about his personal experiences and observations of drug use on New Bedford’s waterfront, now and nearly 30 years ago. 

“Back then, Union Street was crazy,” Lynch said. “There was cocaine running around, there was heroin everywhere. There used to be bags of cocaine on the galley table on the boat, because we were working crazy hours back then, you know. Everything was illegal, in what we did fishin’. I mean, we brought in illegal small scallops because there was a scallop count back then. We were jumping over the Canadian line and staying up for days because we’d loaded the boat so much. Guys were eating No-Doz like they were going crazy”  keep reading


The Ghost and Mrs. Doubtfire – Churchill as painter; Florida, 1946 (Bettmann/Corbis)

The Illustrious History of Misquoting Winston Churchill

This month marks 50 years since the death of one of history’s most quotable people. Churchill’s speeches, letters and published works contain an estimated 15 million words—“more than Shakespeare and Dickens combined,” London Mayor (and Churchill biographer) Boris Johnson tells Smithsonian.

Quoting Churchill accurately is not only tricky—it can be costly. Because of a decades-old copyright arrangement with his literary agency, Churchill’s estate charges a fee to quote from almost everything he published, including speeches. The fees go to a trust controlled by institutions and heirs.  See full article on Smithsonian

“Don’t talk to me about naval tradition. It’s nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash.”


 Churchill: The Nation’s Farewell 

The lowering of the cranes in silent tribute as Churchill’s coffin passed down the Thames has become one of the most iconic images of respect from footage of his state funeral.

“They [the dockers] didn’t like Churchill. I think I can speak for most, they didn’t like him. When they were asked to do it the atmosphere was ‘no’. They were paid to do it” reports John Lynch, a dock man in 1965. “Of course they were paid to do it… It was Saturday.”

nelsonWills’s Cigarettes “Nelson Series” issued in 1905
#48 The Nelson Barge, used to transport Nelson’s body from Greenwich to St Paul’s Cathedral for internment. Originally built for George III.

The Spot Where Nelson DiedDeath of NelsonNelson’s Diamond AigretteBust of NelsonDouble Headed Shot

The Self-Made Castaway Who Spent 16 Years on an Atoll With His Cats

castawayThis is the story of Tom Neale, dumped by boat on a tiny atoll in the Pacific, where he lived alone for 16 years. The New Zealand native rode out violent storms in a rickety shack, ate a diet heavy on fish and coconuts, and wore nothing but a loincloth. It is the remarkable tale of a shipwrecked survivor, but for one detail: Neale did not land on the atoll by accident or during a terrible storm. He traveled there willingly and enthusiastically, determined to live a simple, solitary existence on an island he could call his own.

castawaycatIn 1945, a ship passed by Suwarrow—an atoll 200 miles from the nearest populated land—to drop off supplies for the coastwatchers New Zealand had stationed there during World War II. Neale hitched a ride and saw Suwarrow’s gently swaying palm trees, pristine sands, and soothing turquoise waters. Enchanted, he decided he simply must live there. Armed with tins of food, tools, seeds, a motley collection of paperbacks, and two non-human companions: a cat named Mrs. Thievery (named for her favorite hobby), and her kitten, Mr. Tom-Tom, Neale moved house. 

keep reading


SS United States getting artifact donations from Mariners’ Museum, others

NEWPORT NEWS — The Mariners’ Museum and other donors are turning over more than 600 artifacts from the SS United States to the group spearheading the famed ocean liner’s return to prominence. The collection ranges from furniture and glassware to photographs and historic documents.

“After reviewing the entirety of our SS United States collection, we felt that these donated artifacts would better serve the SS United States Conservancy in telling the story of this historic ship,” said Elliot Gruber, president and CEO of The Mariners’ Museum. keep reading – (photo source)


Yet Another Dazzle-Ships feature on Smithsonian: World War I: 100 Years Later


Crewless ‘drone ships’ will be sailing the seas by 2020 – Remote-controlled “drone ships” will be plying the sea lanes without crews on board by the end of the decade, according to Rolls-Royce. “This is happening. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” said Oskar Levander, head of innovation for Rolls’s marine unit. “We will see a remote controlled ship in commercial use by the end of the decade.”  keep reading


Birthday Boy: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, 1857
Born 9 April 1806
210 years after his birth he is still widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest engineers.
We’re looking at the Great Eastern; his crowning glory and ultimate downfall. 


watch the Royal Museums Greenwich video


 Library of Congress– SS Rotterdam at Holland America Line Terminal, Hoboken
panorama created from three separate 8×10 glass plate negatives


Teignmouth Lighthouse on PostcardMemoryPalace  and some history

hott*Moby Dick Illustration – Rockwell Kent Gallery; Plattsburgh State Art Museum (see all)


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