Maritime Monday for April 24th, 2017: Ultima Thule

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April 23, 2017

Torsten Billman, a Swedish graphic artist, draftsman, and mural painter worked as a coal trimmer and stoker on various merchant ships from 1926-32

Thule as Tile on the Carta Marina of 1539 by Olaus Magnus, where it is shown located to the north west of the Orkney islands, with a “monster, seen in 1537”, a whale (“balena”), and an orca nearby.

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.

Monster Drawings on Post-it Notes by John Kenn, his blog here
Sea Monsters on Pinterest: Cartes marines, mappemonde, avec quelques cartes géographiques terrestres (16th century)

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.

The conservation process will take five or six years and will cost more than the city can afford by itself. So far, the costs have been defrayed by a combination of private donations, grants and city funds, but the long-term preservation and display of the ship requires significant additional funding. The City of Alexandria has set up a donation page on its website.

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.

keep reading

Life-saving medieval medicine: “A hero of mine is John Woodall, who featured boldly in my story about sea surgeons on whaleships, Rough Medicine.” –maritime historian Joan Druett

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. 

keep reading on Joan Druett’s World of the Written Word

The Guardian – Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images

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

BBC News: Friday is thought to be the first time the nation has not used coal to generate electricity since the world’s first centralised public coal-fired generator opened in 1882, at Holborn Viaduct in London. more
The Story of British Coal In Photos: 1930-1950
unknown ship taking on a cargo of coal; Hartlepool UK History Then and Now
Four masted ship Duke of Devonshire, tied up at the coal wharves at South Brisbane, ca. 1898; State Library of Queensland
Coal; the British Empire and the Royal Navy: In 1897, Navy and Army Illustrated, a fantastic publication, ran a story about ‘How a ship is coaled.’ Accompanied by photos, it explains the process which was done every 7-10 days on naval ships throughout the steam era. more
USS New Hampshire taking on Coal at the Brooklyn Navy Yard; c.1909 – The speed with which coal could transferred varied considerably, and was highly dependent on weather. On 31 May, 1898 USS Brooklyn took on coal at a rate of eighteen tons per hour, while eight days later her crew managed nearly fifty-seven tons per hour. Coaling a ship is a dirty job at best, but in hot weather and high winds it was a nightmare. At night it was much worse.

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

Coal trimmers bunkering an ocean liner in Hoboken NJ – A coal trimmer or trimmer is a position within the engineering department of a coal-fired ship which involves all coal handling tasks starting with the loading of coal into the ship and ending with the delivery of the coal to the stoker. more on wikipeida
Tinted Japanese photo postcard of Minnesota coaling at Nagasaki – The Atlantic Transport Line
another ship coaling at Nagasaki, c. 1910; Old Tokyo; Vintage Japanese Postcard Museum
Why Nagasaki was such a popular coaling spot: The Hashima Coal Mine; c1910 – commonly called Gunkanjima (meaning Battleship Island) lies approx 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the city of Nagasaki, in southern Japan. The 6.3-hectare (16-acre) island was known for its undersea coal mines, established in 1887, which operated during the industrialization of Japan. more

Coal was first discovered on the island around 1810, and the island was continuously inhabited from 1887 to 1974 as a seabed coal mining facility. Mitsubishi Goshi Kaisha bought the island in 1890 and began extracting coal from undersea mines, while seawalls and land reclamation (which tripled the size of the island) were constructed. More

Gunkanjima Island: A Ruin, For 40 Years, Untouched

im in ur fleet, scaring ur prince (via everythingisahoax)

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

The Steam Turbine and Other Inventions of Sir Charles Parsons

Turbinia, designed by Charles Algernon Parsons and made by the Marine Steam Turbine Co, on display at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle – Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History

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.

The Invincible-class battlecruisers all used propulsion systems manufactured by the company. The last ship to use a Parsons propulsion system was HMS Glamorgan launched in 1964.

His company survives in the Heaton area of Newcastle and is now part of Siemens, a German conglomerate. *

VIDEO: The First Steam Turbine (1927) on British Pathe
“Eldarskans”, 1942; men on a ship by Torsten Billman (1909 – 1989)
One of five Anchor Handling Tugs loading a total of 9000 meters of heavy chain that will be used to anchor an offshore installation in Brazil – FyeahTugboats
Jean Painleve, “Crab Claw” (1928)

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

Jean Painlevé with a Debrie camera in a waterproof box (1935) (© Archives Jean Painleve?, Paris, courtesy Ikon Gallery, Birmingham) on Hyperallergic
Dockrats hunted by police, New York, 1889 – photo by Jacob Riis (via thispunforhire)
via thispunforhire

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