Maritime Monday for August 29th, 2016: Sods Opera

Monkey Fist
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August 28, 2016


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 lifeline; an Island Institute video by Dominique Hessert

Isle au Haut is an island in Penobscot Bay, Maine, USA, with a population of 73 at the time of the 2010 census. Lobster fishing is the main industry. While portions of Acadia National Park (which covers about 60% of the island) attract a few tourists. Vacation houses, (far fewer than those of the nearby summer colonies of North Haven, Vinalhaven and Mount Desert Island,) more than double Isle au Haut’s population during the summer.

What’s it like to operate the only ferry service on a Maine island? On Isle au Haut at least, it’s about being there for the islanders, all year, with genuine care and friendship.


National Ocean Service – On July 15, 1942, German submarine U-576 sank the freighter MV Bluefields, just before the merchant ship convoy and its US military escorts returned fire and sank the U-boat minutes later off of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

Both the Bluefields and U-576 remained undisturbed until their discovery by NOAA in 2014. This week through September 5, NOAA and its partners will visit the remains of the two ships.  FULL STORY

ss city of lisbon
SS City of Lisbon – Iberian Star Line of Panama This magnificent liner has every modern comfort and convenience Post Card Lumitone Photoprint New York Made in U.S.A. 1949. renamed Partizanka
PARTIZANKA in the Port of Dubrovnik (2571 × 1851)
immigrant ship
Yougoslavia, Croatia, Year 1948 – PARTIZANKA the first and only Yugoslav trans-ocean passenger ship. She made 4 voyages from Rijeka to South America and 2 voyages from Rijeka to Australia. Also known as the Emigrant Ship. more Pre-war Jugoslavian passenger ships
USS Monssen Beached – Found Photo — In 1962, USS Monssen (DD-798) was being towed down the east coast when the towline parted in heavy seas during a strong Nor’easter. With seas running 10 to 15 feet and wind gusting to 50 knots, she went aground on March 6th at Beach Haven Inlet, New Jersey. (See also) She remained there for 6 weeks before being pulled off and completing her journey. Declared unnecessary to the defense of the United States, Monssen was sold, 21 October 1963, to the Union Minerals & Alloys Corp., New York, New York, for scrapping. Monssen received eight battle stars for her World War II service. more
Ex-USNS Pecos (T-AO-65) laid up in reserve in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, James River Group, June 1975

USS Pecos (AO–65) was laid down 20 April 1942 by the Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. as a type T3-SE-A1 tanker, Chester, Penn., as Corsicana (MC hull 325); launched 17 August acquired by the Navy 29 August 1942; and commissioned 5 October 1942.

After operations along the Atlantic coast, the oiler transited the Panama Canal and sailed 18 February 1943 for Fanui Bay, Bora Bora, mothering a brood of 11 subchasers, five yard minesweepers, and one net tender. Four motor torpedo boats nested in cradles in the forward and after well decks. Pecos fueled each small craft every four days. Throughout the voyage, groups of boats came alongside the tanker for fuel; then, replenished, gave place to others. Pecos received seven Battle Stars for World War II service. more

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French Navy type No.201 torpedo boat FR 209. Built – FC de la Gironde, Bordeaux – 1898 – (1800 x 1119)
Graving docks and slipways; Readheads Yard 6th May 1963; John Readhead and Sons, South Shields 6th May 1963 – Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (1081 x 910)

founded in 1865 in South Shields as Readhead and Softley; Swan Hunter bought the company in 1967; closed in 1984. source

nurse at the autoclave; hospital ship Centaur ca. 1942 – State Library Victoria Collections


Australian Hospital Ship (AHS) Centaur; attacked and sunk by a Japanese submarine off the coast of Queensland, Australia, on 14 May 1943. Of the 332 medical personnel and civilian crew aboard, 268 died, including 63 of the 65 army personnel.

The Scottish-built vessel was launched in 1924 as a combination passenger liner and refrigerated cargo ship and operated a trade route between Western Australia and Singapore via the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), carrying passengers, cargo, and livestock. In January 1943, Centaur was handed over to the Australian military for conversion into a hospital ship, as the ship’s small size made her suitable for operating in Maritime Southeast Asia.

Before dawn on 14 May 1943, during her second voyage, Centaur was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine off North Stradbroke Island, Queensland. The majority of the 332 aboard died in the attack; the 64 survivors were discovered 36 hours later. The incident resulted in public outrage as attacking a hospital ship is considered a war crime under the tenth 1907 Hague Convention.

Protests were made (by both the British and Australian governments) to Japan were made to determine the people responsible so they could be made to stand at a war crimes tribunal. In the 1970s, the probable identity of the attacking submarine, I-177, became public. The wreck of the Centaur was found on 20 December, 2009.  More on wikipedia

Borucki's Lakers
Sept 4, 1937; SS Schoellkopf Leaving Cass bridge towards Saginaw, Michigan USA

Schoellkopf was originally a straight-decker, built in 1907 as Hugh Kennedy by American Ship Building in Lorain for Buffalo Steamships. Sold to American Steamship Co in 1922 and renamed Schoellkopf. She was part of the Erie Sand fleet late in her life.

Converted to self-unloader in 1933, repowered in 1950 (steam turbine) and 1975 (coal to oil), and bow thrusters added in 1960. In 1967, the ship damaged the I-75 drawbridge at Zilwaukee, forcing traffic reroutes for several days. Made last shipment in 1979; dismantled in Italy in 1980. More on Borucki’s Lakers (album; 63 images)

Buffalo Dredging: 1905 – Circa 1905. “Waterworks and Niagara River, Buffalo, N.Y.” Panorama made from three 8×10 inch glass negatives. Detroit Publishing Company. View full size on Shorpy
Belfast, Northern Ireland; SS Nomadic – The ship built to ferry passengers and goods to the doomed Titanic is now the last remaining White Star Line vessel.

“I want to go to there” – Commissioned in 1910 by the White Star Line, SS Nomadic was designed by Thomas Andrews (designer of the Titanic) and built by Harland and Wolff in the Belfast shipyards (yard number 422, same as Titanic and Olympic). Unlike the larger and more famous ships she was built to tender, Nomadic is still afloat.  see full post

Collier’s Magazine New Photographic History of the World’s War, 1918 (38 images)

SS Tuscania (1914) was a luxury liner of the Cunard subsidiary Anchor Line, named after a town in Italy. She was torpedoed in 1918 by the German U-boat UB-77 while transporting American troops to Europe and sank, sending 210 people to their deaths.  more

USS Cyclops (AC-4) was one of four Proteus-class colliers built for the United States Navy in the years before World War I. The loss of the ship and 306 crew and passengers without a trace within the area known as the Bermuda Triangle some time after 4 March 1918 remains the single largest loss of life in US Naval history not directly involving combat. As it was wartime, there was speculation she was captured or sunk by a German raider or submarine, because she was carrying 10,800 long tons (11,000 t) of manganese ore used to produce munitions, but German authorities at the time, and subsequently, denied any knowledge of the vessel. The Naval History & Heritage Command has stated she “probably sank in an unexpected storm” but the ultimate cause of the ship’s fate is unknown. more

Sod’s Opera Lovelies on Sods Opera Online

The Sods Opera is essentially a ship’s concert which can have either a formal structure, taking place on a stage with costumes and sometimes a band or perhaps piano accompaniment, or it can refer to a more relaxed or ad-hoc or situation or sing-a-round that has either been arranged or which spontaneously occurs in canteen, bar room or ships mess deck.

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The Formal Sods Opera – has its foundation in the ‘Ships Operatic & Drama Society’. In Victorian times, each ship would possess a drama group, the costumes usually controlled by the PT officer or Ships Padre  – It would be customery (to have) at least once in a voyage, a ships concert.

Such concerts have by popular consent, always (well at least since the close of the Napoleonic Wars (circa 1815/16), taken inspiration from the days of the music hall., in which there would be acts featuring comics, animals, and of course singers. There would also be short cameo acts or dramatic sketches, which on board would often in humour featuring the officers or senior rates, without intended malice.

Such short sketches and monologues were also parodies of those also seen on the music hall stages. In the Post WW2 era, such content would still have been familiar. The acts are limited only by the imaginations of the sailor himself, and could include musical extravaganzas, animal acts, escapology, or juggling.

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Miss Monkey notes: Sod operas seem to have fallen out of favor after a BBC documentary series called “HMS Brilliant – In a Ship’s Company” by the journalist Chris Terrill in 1994; which apparently painted a very unfavorable portrait of the tradition. Cause of the trouble seems to have been due to “unkind humour towards female shipmates”.

Sod Operas do exist these days, but usually under the pseudonym of ‘Deployment Review’. (more on

british honour
Admiralty tanker MV British Honour off Aruba, 1941 – click image for more
San Francisco Harbor c.1875 see full size (1371 x 873)
Types UB III & UC II U-Boats at Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany; circa 1917 – If judged only by the numbers of enemy vessels destroyed, the UC II is the most successful submarine design in history: According to modern estimates, they sank more than 1800 enemy vessels.
Europe-Canada Line Seven Seas; departing Bremen in 1960

USS Long Island (CVE-1) was the first escort carrier of the United States Navy.  Laid down on 7 July 1939, as the C-3 cargo liner Mormacmail, under Maritime Commission contract, by the Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Chester, Pennsylvania, and launched on 11 January 1940.

Long Island decommissioned on 26 March 1946 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 12 April, she was sold to Zidell Ship Dismantling Company of Portland, Oregon on 24 April 1947 for scrapping. However, on 12 March 1948, she was acquired by the Canada-Europe Line for conversion to merchant service. Upon completion of conversion in 1949, she was renamed Nelly, and served as an immigrant carrier between Europe and Canada.

In 1953, she was renamed Seven Seas and in 1955, chartered to the German Europe-Canada Line. On 17 July 1965, she had a serious fire and was towed to St John’s, Newfoundland. She was repaired and started her last voyage on 13 September 1966. Then bought by Rotterdam University and employed as a students’ hostel until 1977, then scrapped in Belgium. more

coming into port at Yokosuka, Japan; USS Midway circa 1975-77. Album, 28 images

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