Maritime Monday for March 25, 2013: Boom, Boom, Blub, Blub (or Stow High In Transit)

Monkey Fist
Total Views: 67
March 24, 2013


Wreckage of the USS MAINE
3,000 × 2,295
US Navy battleship that sunk after a mysterious explosion in Havana Harbor
Havana, Cuba, 15 February 1898 – see also


Sent to protect US interests during the Cuban revolt against Spain, she exploded suddenly and without warning; sinking quickly and killing nearly three quarters of her crew.
2131 × 1613


panorama; wreckage of the USS Maine


1024 x 648
The cause of the Maine’s sinking remains the subject of speculation. +


Rauchen Verboten!


Steam Ship, Lady Gertrude Cochrane
UK Coaster & Explosives transport; Built: 1904 as Foyers
Used to transport dynamite from the factory at Ardeer, Scotland
Owners: Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI)
1910: Sold to Nobels Explosives, renamed Lady Gertrude Cochrane
1952: Broken up at Port Glasgow

Named for the wife, Lady Gertrude, of Thomas Horatio Arthur Ernest Cochrane, 1st Baron Cochrane of Cults DL, JP, LLD (1857 – 1951)  a Scottish soldier and Unionist politician. another view


Zoroaster; World’s First Oil Tanker, Built by Nobel Bros.
1,300 × 970  — see also

In 1876, Ludvig and Robert Nobel, brothers of Alfred Nobel, founded Branobel (short for Brothers Nobel) in the oil-rich region around Baku (modern day Azerbaijan).

ludvigLudvig was a pioneer in the development of early oil tankers. By the late 19th century, Branobel was one of the largest oil companies in the world.

At first, refineries simply put the kerosene in wooden barrels and shipped it on barges across the Caspian and up the Volga River to markets in Russia. This wasn’t as easy as it might seem. First of all the wooden barrels were expensive because there wasn’t any timber in Baku. Additionally, they leaked. That made the process difficult, dangerous and inefficient.

Before production could be economically increased further, the challenges of distribution had to be tackled. Ludvig Nobel became the “King of Baku” primarily because he figured out how to distribute oil – not because he discovered it. His solution?  Pump it directly into the hull of a ship that was specially designed to navigate the Volga.


The Caspian Sea, known for being stormy and rough,
made transporting oil products in large tankers very dangerous.
The Branobel History; Distribution

baku 2

View of Baku developing during the Oil Boom
Baku Nobel Heritage Fund

Azerbaijan’s Oil History


Baku Oil Fields by Edward Burtynsky
His website is full of more oil shots and a few other essays on the decay of industrialization. The pictures of ship breaking are other-worldly.

It took oil from Baku, across the Caspian and up the Volga, where it could be distributed across Russia. A fleet of such ships made Baku the world’s busiest port. The Oil Tanker Zoroaster was launched in 1878. +

more about the design of the Zoroaster

Designed in Gothenburg, Sweden;  Zoroaster was widely studied and copied. Nobel refused to patent any part of it.  In October 1878, he ordered two more.

In 1881, the Zoroaster’s sister-ship, the Nordenskjöld, exploded in Baku while taking on kerosene. The pipe carrying the cargo was jerked away from the hold when the ship was hit by a gust of wind. Kerosene then spilled onto the deck and down into the engine room, where mechanics were working in the light of kerosene lanterns. The ship then exploded, killing half the crew.

The Nobel Brothers and the development of the oil tanker

Branobel; Baku, Azerbaijan
Flickr set (152 images)


Nobel Industries Limited was founded in 1870 by Swedish chemist and industrialist Alfred Nobel for the production of the new explosive dynamite.

The Ardeer peninsula in Scotland was the site of a massive dynamite manufacturing plant built by Nobel. The Nobel Harbour on the coast at Ayrshire was chosen for the company’s first factory because of its isolation and desolation.

Nobel acquired 100 acres (40 ha) and established the British Dynamite Factory in 1871, and went on to create what was described then as the largest explosives factory in the world.

Problems of transport and distribution were formidable. The railway companies would not accept dynamite as freight so the practice of bulk transport by sea was soon established. +

The factory had its own jetty on the River Garnock in Irvine Harbour  to serve ships disposing of time expired explosives or importing materials for the works. +

logo above from Secret Scotland
below: Alfred Nobel Vintage Cigar Box


‘The British Dynamite Company, having erected extensive works at Ardeer, Ayrshire, near Glasgow, with all Mr. Nobel’s recent improvements for the manufacture of dynamite, are now prepared to execute orders for Home Consumption and Export.’ +


A view of Irvine, North Ayrshire, Scotland c. 1870
The old parish kirk, manse and powder house/ gunpowder magazine are prominent
Full resolution ‎(3,056 × 1,968 pixels)

This quay was connected by rail with the rest of the works and had its own travelling crane. Blasting gelatine, gelignite, ballistite, guncotton, and cordite were also produced here. +

The remains of old storage magazines are prominent in the landscape around the old Nobel’s Explosives site in Ayrshire, many protected by large earth banks which acted as blast walls.  +  see also: The Irvine pouther magazine

At its peak, the factory was employing nearly 13,000 men and women. In 1926, the firm merged with Brunner, Mond & Company, the United Alkali Company, and the British Dyestuffs Corporation, creating a new group, Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), then one of Britain’s largest firms.

In 1994, Nobel merged with Dutch multinational Akzo (parts of which can be traced back to 17th century companies) forming Akzo Nobel, then later with ICI in 2007/2008. +

On September 8, 2007, about 20:00, a large explosion occurred at the site, with reports of the blast being heard from distances of up to 20 miles. The subsequent blaze involved up to 1,700 tons of nitrocellulose (used in ink and coating manufacture) stored on the site, with 20 fire appliances and 75 firefighters attending.

Strathclyde Police later stated that three boys, two aged 14 and one aged 10, were the subject of a report to the Children’s Panel in connection with the incident. +

AkzoNobel Official company website

photos: chemical industries at Gateshead


History of fouling control
In 1625 William Beale was the first to file a patent for a paint
composition containing iron powder, copper and cement.


painting the side of HMS Cumberland
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

International Paint, an Akzo Nobel subsidiary, are makers of marine and protective coatings, and are headquartered in Gateshead, UK.

imageIn 1881, Charles Petrie, along with German brothers Max and Albert Holzapfel, founded the Holzapfel Compositions Company Ltd. in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, producing marine coatings for the local shipping industry. In 1904 the company moved to a larger factory in Felling-on-Tyne, where the 21st century headquarters are still located.

By 1889, the company had expanded production to include overseas countries, such as Russia, Denmark, Italy and Germany, and in 1901 to the United States, where it was registered under the name International Paint Co Inc, in. New Jersey, with production in Brooklyn, New York.

International Paint is now the leading brand name of the AkzoNobel Marine & Protective Coatings (M&PC) business unit. The company has approximately 5,500 employees, in more than 50 countries. +

source, barrel image

Official brand website

It Began in 1881… (pdf)


Painting the Great Ocean Liners
a historical primer on ship paint
(primer… get it?  nyuck-nyuck!)


Painting the HIMALAYA, by David Moore
(4788 x 3808)

SS Himalaya was British passenger ship of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, launched in 1948, which operated mainly between Britain and Australia. She was withdrawn from service in 1974 and scrapped the next year.



Art deck-o: Grounded ship is used as blank canvas for graffiti artists
who transform it from rusting wreck into colourful masterpiece

The hull of the Duke of Lancaster steamer has been used as a blank canvas for colourful graffiti by some of Europe’s most talented street artists.

imageShe was launched in 1956 by Harland and Wolff, who built the Titanic and HMS Belfast. The ship has sat in a dry dock at the Dee estuary in Flintshire, North Wales, since 1979.

After serving as a Sealink passenger ferry, she was renamed the Fun Ship and used as a bar and flea market, but closed to the public in the mid-Eighties.

A spokesman said: ‘The artists have really enjoyed working on such a huge project, it’s not every day you get the chance to paint a ship.’

more photos on the DailyMail


Shipyard #19, Qili Port, Zhejiang Province
Edward Burtynsky; Photographs of China, Shipyards


Freight, History, Shipping, Shit
on freightfordummies

shitIn the 16th and 17th centuries, everything had to be transported by ship. Being the days before the invention of commercial fertilizers, large shipments of manure were quite common.

It was shipped dry, because in dry form it weighed a lot less than when wet, but once water (at sea) hit it, not only did it become heavier, but the process of fermentation began again. From which, a by product is methane gas…

keep reading


USS Pyro (AE-1)

Ammunition Ships

The first ammunition ship; (AE-1) Pyro, was laid down 9 August 1918 at the Navy Yard, Puget Sound, Washington, and launched 16 December 1919; as “Ammunition Ship #1”.

Her principal operations were conducted between ports which extended from Puget Sound on the west coast to as far north as Boston on the east coast. Her most, frequent ports of call included Mare Island, San Francisco, San Pedro, San Diego, Balboa, Guantanamo Bay, Norfolk. Philadelphia, and New York. Besides ammunition and explosives, she also carried general cargo and some passengers.

service history on wikipedia


USS Pyro II (AE-24)
Highlining pallets of five-inch gun powder canisters to
USS Turner Joy (DD-951) during the Vietnam War

USS Pyro II (AE-24) 1957-2012 on wikipedia

imageIn early 1994, The USS PYRO (AE-24) was decommissioned, and after time at Bremerton, WA, spent several years at the Suisun Bay, CA –  February 2012, PYRO departed San Francisco Bay under tow for scrapping at New Orleans, LA.

image right


USS Nitro; AE 2
on Global Security

USS Nitro (AE–2) was laid down 19 March 1919 by Puget Sound Navy Yard; launched 16 December 1919 and commissioned 1 April 1921. Carrying explosives and ammunition for the Battle Fleet, Nitro averaged three cruises yearly between the east and west coast by way of the Caribbean and Panama Canal. In addition, she made five voyages from the west coast to Pearl Harbor, seven to Manila, and one to Shanghai.

On 20 April 1944, she sailed for Belfast, Northern Ireland with ammunition for the invasion of Europe. She operated from Belfast, Plymouth, and Roseneath, Scotland, supplying battleships with the heavy projectiles they fired with such effect during the Normandy invasion.

Transferred to the Maritime Commission 30 March 1948, Nitro was sold to Welding Shipyards, Inc., New York 19 September 1949.



1864 Explosion of the barque Lottie Sleigh on the Mersey River

The Lottie Sleigh explosion

imageIt all started with a simple accident on board the ship as she lay at anchor in the river. Fire broke out after a steward upset and ignited a can of oil as he trimmed a paraffin lamp. The fire spread quickly and a passing ferry took off the crew. Doubtless it quickly dawned on them what was about to happen – the Lottie Sleigh was carrying 11 tons of gunpowder…

“Its effects in every part of Liverpool were severely felt and created indescribable terror. At the same time the most solid blocks of warehouses, offices and private dwellings were shaken to their base – doors locked and bolted were thrown wide open – hundreds, yea even thousands of squares of glass were smashed.”

The shattered wreck was later beached at New Ferry where it was broken up. Remarkably, the figurehead of the Lottie Sleigh survived and is in the collections of the Merseyside Maritime Museum. +


SS Sultana: America’s Titanic


Memphis, Tennessee, US, April 27, 1865

SS Sultana was a Mississippi River steam paddle wheeler that exploded on April 27, 1865 in the greatest maritime disaster in United States history. An estimated 1,600 of Sultana’s 2,400 passengers were killed when three of the ship’s four boilers exploded and the Sultana sank near Memphis, Tennessee.

sultan covThe wooden steamship, intended for the lower Mississippi cotton trade, was constructed in 1863 by the John Litherbury Shipyard in Cincinnati. For two years, the Sultana, frequently commissioned to carry troops, ran a regular route between St. Louis and New Orleans with a crew of 85.

With a legal capacity of only 376, Sultana was severely overcrowded after taking on over two thousand men, mostly Union soldiers recently released from Confederate prison camps.  Passenger overflow was so severe that the decks were completely packed with men who had been weakened by their incarceration and associated illnesses.

The boilers, straining under the excessive load  and to combat the spring river current, gave way at 2:00 AM when the steamer was 7 to 9 miles (11 to 14 km) north of Memphis. The explosion was so enormous that it destroyed a huge section of the ship, flung deck passengers into the water and rained  hot coals on the remaining superstructure, turning it into an inferno. +

above right: Surviving the Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History. Harper, 2010 by Alan Huffman


USS Vesuvius (1888)
A model of this ship appears in Alec Baldwin’s office in the NBC comedy 30 Rock.

The Vesuvius did not explode, yet she still belongs in this narrow topic column for one reason; Vesuvius was a unique vessel in the Navy inventory and a singular experimental departure from more conventional forms of main battery armament. She spat dynamite.

Laid down in September 1887 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by William Cramp and Sons, and  launched on 28 April 1888; under sub-contract from the Pneumatic Dynamite Gun Company of New York City.

Vesuvius carried three 15-inch (38-cm) cast iron pneumatic guns, mounted forward side-by-side at a fixed elevation of 16 degrees. Gun barrels were 55 feet (17 meters) long with the muzzles 15 feet (4.6 meters) above the deck 37 feet (11 meters) abaft the bow. In order to train these weapons, the ship had to be aimed, like a gun, at its target. Compressed air from a 1000 psi (70 atm) reservoir projected the shells from the “dynamite guns.”

The shells fired from the guns were steel or brass casings 7 feet (2 meters) long with the explosive contained in the conical forward part of the shell. The explosive used in the shells themselves was actually a “desensitized blasting gelatin” composed of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerine, less sensitive to shock than regular dynamite. Ten shells per gun were carried on board, and 15 shells were fired in 16 minutes 50 seconds during an 1889 test. The shells employed an electrical fuze which could be set to either explode on contact or delayed to explode underwater.

vesuv 2

On 13 June, 1898, Vesuvius conducted the first of eight shore bombardment missions against Santiago, Cuba. After approaching shore shore under cover of darkness, Vesuvius opened fire. Her devastating shells came in without warning, unaccompanied by the roar of gunfire usually associated with a bombardment.

Although the dynamite guns were relatively quiet, detonation of their large high explosive shells sounded different than contemporary gunpowder-filled artillery shells; and soldiers later remarked that the explosions “made holes like the cellar of a country house.”

keep reading

more: Zalinsky Pneumatic Dynamite Guns


The Norwegian Imo beached on the Dartmouth shore after the explosion
from Winnipeg Free Press (more)

The Halifax Explosion

On the morning of Thursday, December 6, 1917. SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship fully laden with wartime explosives, collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo in a strait connecting the upper Halifax Harbour to the Bedford Basin. The resultant fire aboard the French ship quickly grew out of control.

At 9:04:35 am, the out of control fire aboard Mont-Blanc caused her highly volatile cargo to explode. The ship was instantly disintegrated; the remains of her hull launched high into the air. Temperatures of 5,000 degrees centigrade and pressures of thousands of atmospheres accompanied the moment of detonation at the centre of the explosion.

Approximately 2,000 people were killed by debris, fires, and collapsed buildings, and an estimated 9,000 others were injured. The barrel of one of Mont-Blanc’s guns landed approximately 5.6 km (3.5 mi) north of the explosion site, and part of her anchor landed 3.2 km(2.0 mi) south.

The blast was the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weapons. Boston sent as many supplies and people as they could to help with the devastation the explosion caused. To this day, Nova Scotia sends a huge Christmas tree as a thank you. +

The Halifax Explosion website on CBC

Halifax Explosion 1917 Online
on Nova Scotia Archives

Ships of the Halifax Explosion
on Maritime Museum of the Atlantic


Aftermath from the Halifax Explosion that leveled much of the city


Artiglio II in Cherbourg, c. 1932 – inset: Explosives carrier Florence H
another view of Artaglio II

Florence H & Artiglio

In the afternoon of Sunday, 7th December 1930 a violent explosion tore into the heart of a wrecked American cargo ship. The nearby steam salvage vessel Artiglio was tossed in the air in what appeared to be an enormous bubble, broke in half and sank with the loss of fourteen crew.

The bodies of two divers, Alberto Gianni and Aristide Franceschi, were found drifting in air-filled diving suits, with their bronze diving helmets smashed flat by the explosion. What had happened? +


wreckage from the explosion of Artiglio I
a Flickr set by maxviator

At the time of her loss in 1930, Artiglio (“talon” or “claw”) was the world’s most modern salvage ship.

Built in Glasgow in 1906, she was the flagship of a small fleet outfitted in the twenties and used for the recovery of sunken ships after the First World War. Crewed by a group of experienced divers, the fleet was equipped with innovative equipment considered futuristic at the time.  The first modern and functional atmospheric diving suit and  decompression chambers were standard equipment.

The Artiglio was sent to Belle ÃŽle, in the northwest of France, to recover the Florence H, which, carrying a large quantity of explosives, had sunk in 1917 on the harbor front, obstructing the passage.

During the demolition of Florence H., it was erroneously assumed that the explosives, submerged for more than 13 years, would not be not reactive…

keep reading


SS Egypt at dock in 1920 – see also
Read more about the salvage of SS Egypt on

L’Artiglio e l’oro dell’Egypt
(The Artiglio and the Egypt’s Gold)

by David Scott

imageAboard the Artiglio lived the journalist and writer David Scott, special correspondent for The Times of London, who promptly dispatched articles by radio.

On the day of the sinking he was on land, but he was present during the later  campaign to recover the treasure of the SS Egypt, a passenger liner that sunk in the English Channel after a collision on 20 May 1922. 252 people were rescued from the 338 passengers and crew on board at the time. The subsequent salvage operation recovered most of the cargo of gold and silver.

He was very close to the crew and later wrote several books on the events related to the company that had so much success, thus helping to create the myth of the Italian divers. +


SS Fort Stikine, which exploded in Bombay on 14 April, 1944


Aftermath of the Bombay Explosion

British steam freighter SS Fort Stikine

The SS Fort Stikine, a 7,142 ton freighter built in 1942 in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, caught fire while docked in Bombay, India. The ship exploded, showering the city with  debris and blazing cotton. The explosion sunk or badly damaged 21 other ships, and killed or wounded nearly 1,400 people.

Her cargo; 1,395 tons of explosives including 238 tons of sensitive “A” explosives, torpedoes, mines, shells, munitions, a Supermarine Spitfire fighter aircraft, bales of raw cotton, barrels of oil, timber, scrap iron and £1–2 million of gold bullion in bars stowed in 31 crates.

Ship’s captain Alexander Naismith recorded his protest about such a combination of material, describing it as “just about everything that will either burn or blow up”.

keep reading

The First and Last Voyage of the Fort Crevier
witness recount of the catastrophic explosion of the Fort Stikine at Bombay, India


SS Grandcamp


Storage tanks burn in Texas City, Texas
a few hours after the cargo ship Grandcamp exploded

April 16, 1947: Ship Explosion Ignites 3-Day Rain of Fire and Death

1947: A cargo ship explodes at dockside in Texas City, Texas. The blast and the fires that follow kills at least 581 people, (including all but one member of the Texas City Fire Department) and injures some 3,500 more.

The  French-registered Grandcamp, a World War II Liberty ship that had been converted to a merchant vessel, was taking on a load of ammonium nitrate fertilizer at a quay next to a complex of Monsanto chemical factories, offices and labs. The ship’s carpenter smelled smoke in the No. 4 hold around 8 a.m. on April 16 and found that a few bags of fertilizer were on fire… +


Wreckage of the Wilson B. Keene, 2,538 × 1,506 pixels

The Texas City disaster was the deadliest industrial accident in U.S. history.  The 437-foot-long (133 m) vessel, originally named the SS Benjamin R. Curtis, had served in the Pacific theatre and had been mothballed in Philadelphia at the end of World War II. Assigned to the French Line to assist in the rebuilding of Europe, it was carrying  2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer on its way to farmers in Europe, small arms ammunition, machinery, and bales of sisal twine…

Also destroyed in the explosion and resulting fires was the nearby cargo ship High Flyer and the Wilson B Keene (above) One of the propellers on the High Flyer was blown off and later found almost a mile inland. +

Ripple Rock, April 1958

Ripple Rock was an underwater, twin-peaked mountain, hazardous to ships passing through the Seymour Narrows of the Discovery Passage in British Columbia, Canada. It was destroyed with the help of 1270 tonnes of Nitramex 2H explosives. via gizmodo

In other news…

image, MM’s favorite marine biology website, needs your help:

Do you know anyone who lives near Seadrift TX, east of Corpus Christi/West of Houston?  I have a satellite tag that came ashore in Espiritu Santo Bay, inside Matagorda Is. and I’d love to get it back.  It was on a female whale shark called Lucy, who was tagged near Isla Contoy, Mexico.  The tag came off in the Flower Garden Banks offshore from Texas and gradually drifted inshore.  I’m pretty sure its on the beach now.

Last ping was 28.333N 96.598W, or the green arrow in this map

Beer Found in Shipwreck to be Replicated by Finnish Brewery

imageIn July 2010, bottles of beer were found in a 200-year-old shipwreck in the Aland archipelago and will now be replicated by Finnish brewery Stallhagen, the NY Daily News reports. The brewery plans to release the beer for sale in 2014.

Stallhagen’s managing director Jan Wennstroem said in a statement:

There is ever-increasing demand for specialty beer on the international market and we are convinced that our product is going to interest beer enthusiasts around the world.”


Ship’s company, U.S.S. Maine
8 x 10 in. glass negative
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

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