Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Sea Stories

It is Sunday once again and, here in the U.S., Mother's Day. So happy, happy to all the mothers among the Brethren. Here's a few offerings for your reading and viewing pleasure.

First off, you can once again walk the streets of the town of Epecuen, Argentina. The place has "come up for air" after being underwater since 1985. See amazing photos here.

Over at the Berkshire Eagle, there's word that famed sailor and author Herman Melville's homestead is getting a makeover.

Meanwhile, it looks like the STARZ network is jumping on the series bandwagon with a new one about a subject near and dear to my heart: the Golden Age of Piracy. Watch the trailer for "Black Sails" here. (Thanks to my friend Ken over at "A Woodrunner's Diary" for the head's up on this.)

Do you like Vikings? Of course you do. So you'll love that the British Museum has revamped a building to display the largest Viking ship ever discovered.

Still hungry for more? Might I suggest my dear friends Undine and Blue Lou's new ventures on the web: Strange Company and The Journal of Blue Lou now at Wordpress, respectively. You won't be able to stay away.

Header: A cog or caravel rendered in gold, mother-of-pearl and semiprecious stones as a brooch made in the 16th c via my friend Erick on Twitter.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Iron

And, I'm back. Miss me? Just time enough today for a look at the word iron at sea and on the dock. And we're not just talking about the famous ironclads CSS Virginia (ex-Merrimack) and USS Monitor here.

So let us start, then, with ironclad vessels. Also spoken of as ironcased, coated or plated, these were the ships, emerging in the 19th century, entirely encased in iron plates. The trick of making such vessels seaworthy was one that led to the practice of putting plate on only specific parts that were more open to missiles until the dawn of the 20th century iron age ship.

By the 19th century, most ships had some iron parts. Iron work was the general name for these and any pieces of iron used in the construction of ships or equipment for ships. Iron bound blocks were those fitted with iron strops. The "iron horse" was the latter-day iron railing of the head attached most usually to the fore- or boom-sheet. A ship was said to be iron-sick when her iron work was coming loose from the timbers and her sheathing nails are rusted. A sorry condition that no right-thinking sailor would allow.

A coast may be spoken of as iron-bound when it is made up of rocks that are predominately perpendicular to the sea as they rise up from it. These are dangerous shores indeed, and should be avoided at all costs.

A ship may be said to be in irons when, as Admiral Smyth explains in The Sailor's Word Book:

... by mismanagement, she is permitted to come up in the wind and lose her way; so that, having no steerage, she must either be boxed off on the former track, or fall off on the other; for she will not cast one way or the other, without bracing in the yards.

Irons are the tools used by caulkers, of which my grandfather was proudly one, to hammer oakum into the wooden seams of a vessel. These are sometimes known as boom irons, probably for their loud racket while in use. Grandpa went deaf caulking. Irons were also, of course, the bilboes that would be fitted around a miscreant sailor's ankles to keep him both in place and in discomfort. Sailors, with their sarcastic wit, might euphemistically refer to same as "iron garters."

And a ship might be lovingly spoken of as having "iron-sides" when she seemed immune to the blasts of enemy cannon. Here in the U.S., we still know one of our first frigates, USS Constitution, as "Old Ironsides."

Thus ends another addition of SMS. Fair winds and following sees, Brethren, until next we meet...

Header: Hudson River Under the Moonlight by M. F. Hendrik de Haas via American Gallery

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday Sea Stories

Since my time is limited right now, but my curiosity continues at a pace, I'll try to update the Brethren on stories from history and around the web on Sunday afternoon. Nothing fancy of course, but hopefully a good read or two to start off your week.

First up, the awesome paintings above are from this article over at the UK Telegraph entitled "Historical Figures for the 21st Century." Of course there's Nelson as above, a little heavier due to his modern fate as a desk jockey but with a splendid prosthetic arm. Whatever would Emma say? Also in the mix are Henry VIII looking vaguely like Gerard Butler, his daughter good Queen Bess and a surprisingly hipster Will Shakespeare. Who knew?

Next, this little winner from NBC News. A women's group thought they were hiring an pirate expert to speak on the Golden Age. Instead they got a victim of modern piracy with a harrowing tale of survival. But, being a good sport, he did stay to judge the pirate costume contest after his lecture.

While not particularly related to seafaring per ce, this article from the NYT's continuing series on the Civil War should be of interest to anyone with a fascination for history in general and women's history in particular. Entitled "Rape and Justice in the Civil War", the author discusses the Leiber Laws and their application to Southern women attacked by Union troops; both free and slave.

On a modern note, USS Anchorage arrived on Tuesday in hers and my home city, Anchorage, Alaska, for her commissioning today.

Also of interest: On May 3, 1810, George Gordon Lord Byron along with his friend and marine lieutenant Ekenhead of HMS Salsette swam across the Dardanelles Strait.

Today, May 5, in 1828 the American Seaman's Friend Society of New York City was established. Their mission: to supply books via "floating libraries" to U.S. Navy and Merchant ships at sea. Also on this day in 1861 the U.S. Naval Academy moved from Annapolis, Maryland to Newport, Rhode Island for the duration of the Civil War.

And so I will leave you with a quote: The real difference between civilized and savage man consists in the knowledge of knots and rope work. ~ A. Hyatt Verrill