Tuesday, January 26, 2016


26 January 2016: Astute readers of this blog might recall we posted a couple of pieces on the Costa Concordia - during the largest salvage operation in maritime history. Well, thanks to a German photographer with a great deal of verve, we now can show you some images of what that ill-starred ship looks like today....

To refresh your memories:

On Jan 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia struck a submerged rock on its way around the Mediterranean Sea and sank near the island of Giglio. The tragedy claimed the lives of 32 people. Captain Francesco Schettino, who left the ship while it sank, was later found guilty of 32 counts of manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

The Costa Concordia wreck was towed to its final resting place in the Italian port of Genoa in July 2014, where it will eventually be dismantled.

Four years after the cruise ship capsized off the Italian coast, stunning images taken by photographer Jonathan Danko Kielkowski give a rare look inside the wreckage. 

Photographer Kielkowski, who's based in Germany, swam out to the wreckage  to document the scenes of the abandoned ship's once-buzzing rooms. The images are featured in his new book "Concordia," published by White Press.

"The wrecked Cruise Ship is visible and attracts me like a magnet, so I finally venture to swim across," Kielkowski writes in his book. "Against all odds, I find the shipwreck freely accessible — neither fences nor security personnel! Rather, the doors are open, lights are turned on, no man can be seen—nothing in the way to document…"

I don't think my words will add anything further here, so we'll just look at Mr. Kielkowski's wonderful images.


Amazing pictures and a little sad as well - to see this grand cruise ship as it is now....
With thanks to Huffington Post for the information and to Mr. Kielkowski for having the courage to get these fine images.
Until next time,
                                   Fair Winds,
                                            Old Salt

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


20 January 2016: They were built to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to aid the allied effort in World War I, but wound up unused, abandoned, stripped and finally scuttled.
Almost a century later, the "ghost fleet" of Mallows Bay in the Potomac River, 30 miles south of Washington D.C., is positively brimming with life again.
Nature has taken hold amid the rotting hulls and rusted bows of the scores of historic vessels, with flora and fauna inundating the areas where sailors and passengers once stood.
"It has become this really amazing mecca for wildlife," Joel Dunn, president and CEO of Chesapeake Conservancy, said recently. 
What is this "Ghost Fleet" Mr. Dunn refers to?
  Over the years, ships no longer useful have been abandoned in Mallows Bay on the Potomac River, a junk yard, if you will, for vessels not even worth scrapping for their metal.
It started after WWI;
the majority of ships clustered in Mallows Bay date back to the early 20th century. The so-called "ghost fleet" was part of an unprecedented shipbuilding program undertaken by the U.S. to assist its European allies during World War I.
"When America entered the war in April 1917, two out of four ships leaving a British, French or Italian port was being sunk," Don Shomette, a well-known Chesapeake historian and writer, explains. "So the process of continuing the war was going to go in Germany's favor."
With the allies needing boats, and fast, President Woodrow Wilson answered the call for help, setting up the Emergency Fleet Corporation to build and operate merchant and military fleets.
"Within a year we had a million men building ships, cutting the timber, mining the iron for them, building the machinery for them. At one point we became the greatest shipbuilding nation in the history of the world," Shomette says.
"We had to create from nothing a shipping industry that was going to build a thousand wooden ships in 18 months -- normally it would take a year and a half to build a wooden steam ship."
At Hog Island in Pennsylvania, one of three major steel shipyards built by the government, 50 shipways extended for a mile and a quarter down the Delaware River. At its peak, its 30,000-strong workforce was launching vessels every five to six days.
When the war ended, however, these ships - the ones that survived the German attacks - quickly became surplus and the question arose of what to do with them. Mallows Bay became the answer. 

 "We have 185 archeologically-documented shipwrecks in a 14-square-mile area, which makes it one of the most densely-populated places in the western world for historic vessels." Says Mr. Shomette
It is one of two sites -- the other is on Lake Michigan in Wisconsin -- being considered for sanctuary status by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
The announcement made by President Obama in October 2015 was the first time since 2000 that an official nomination for national marine sanctuary status had been made.
If successful, Mallows Bay will join 14 existing ecological havens including the Florida Keys and Thunder Bay in Lake Huron -- one of the five Great Lakes -- where nearly 100 vessels have been discovered to date, earning it the nickname "Shipwreck Alley."
Final determination will be made possibly this month. It will be a coup for the Chesapeake Conservancy, the people living near by, the flora and fauna now taking over, and those  who wish to explore this ghostly but thriving area called Mallows Bay.
Thanks to CNN and Don Shomette for contributing to this post. Don, by the way, is the author of "Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay And Other Tales of the Lost Chesapeake" -- a book borne of a deep-rooted attachment to the site which began on a camping trip with his father in the 1950s.
Until next time,
                               Fair Winds,   
                                       Old Salt

Saturday, January 16, 2016


16 January 2016: Somehow we have been posting about stuff underwater - and for now, we are continuing that line of thought. Some of you may have seen the article about the Arctic whale ships that were recently discovered on the bottom up in the frozen north - in case you didn't (it was not widely circulated) here is the gist of it.


"Archaeologists have discovered the battered hulls of two 1800s whaling ships nearly 144 years after their sinking off the Arctic coast of Alaska along with a fleet 31 others," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced.


The shipwrecks and parts of other ships that were located are most likely the remains of 33 ships that became trapped by pack ice close to Alaska’s shores in September 1871," NOAA says. 
“Earlier research by a number of scholars suggested that some of the ships that were crushed and sunk might still be on the seabed,” said Brad Barr, NOAA archaeologist and project co-director. “But until now, no one had found definitive proof of any of the lost fleet beneath the water. This exploration provides an opportunity to write the last chapter of this important story of American maritime heritage and also bear witness to some of the impacts of a warming climate on the region’s environmental and cultural landscape, including diminishing sea ice and melting permafrost.”
The ships were destroyed by the ice in a matter of weeks, leaving the more than 1,200 whalers stranded until they were eventually rescued by other whaling ships in the area.

No one died in the incident, but it is cited as one of the major causes of the demise of commercial whaling in the United States, according to NOAA.

NOAA says the shipwrecks were first discovered back in September when a team of archaeologists from the Maritime Heritage Program in NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries searched a 30-mile stretch of coastline nearshore in the Chukchi Sea, near Wainwright, Alaska.

“Earlier research by a number of scholars suggested that some of the ships that were crushed and sunk might still be on the seabed,” said Brad Barr, NOAA archaeologist and project co-director. “But until now, no one had found definitive proof of any of the lost fleet beneath the water. This exploration provides an opportunity to write the last chapter of this important story of American maritime heritage and also bear witness to some of the impacts of a warming climate on the region’s environmental and cultural landscape, including diminishing sea ice and melting permafrost.”

some of the artifacts discovered
Thanks to NOAA and gCaptain for this interesting story. Should more come to the surface, I will be sure to pass it along.

Until next time,
                            Fair Winds.
                                 Old Salt

Monday, January 11, 2016


11 January 2016: a number of months back we wrote a piece on the discovery, during dredging of the Savanah River, of the remains of an ironclad warship. Because it was of too deep a draft to make it over the bar at the mouth of the river, it was used as a floating battery which would help defend Savanah in the event of a Northern attack. (It never fired a shot in 1864 when General Sherman marched into the city and took it handily - see below)

So, the decision was made to raise as much of it as possible for posterity and preserve what they could for future generations.

Leather boots, the hilts of swords and other lifestyle artifacts were among the nearly 30,000 artifacts recovered a few months back from the wreckage of the sunken ironclad Confederate gunship CSS Georgia.

More than half of what was brought up during the $14 million government project, however, was of a much more ordinary nature: nuts, bolts, washers, bent iron rails and other material that did  shed no light on the lives of sailors serving aboard the vessel. So rather than clutter up a display, the decision was made to pitch the stuff - back into the river.

Altogether, 16,697 artifacts weighing a total of 135 tons were returned to a watery grave at the bottom of the Savannah River, said Jim Jobling, project manager for the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University, which is tasked with cataloging, cleaning and preserving artifacts from the Civil War shipwreck.

Whatever the project manager deemed unique was retained, but the rest of the stuff recovered in the salvage effort was packed into containers, sealed, and buried deep into the muck of the Savanah River - out of the shipping channel (the deepening of which was the original reason for the dredging and hence, the discovery of the wreck)

The ship, CSS Georgia was scuttled in the face of Sherman's arrival to keep it from falling into Yankee hands.

Thanks to AP and Washington Post for the info in this post.

Until next time,
                           Fair Winds,
                              Old Salt

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


5 January 2016: No, friends, the Panamanians didn't invent the submarine! But the story is interesting and I offer it here, courtesy of The Vintage News.

She's a bit reminiscent of the CSS Hunley - we wrote about the Hunley last year, I think - and that would be logical since she's the same vintage. Really? So the folks in Panama were building sub sea vessels too, during the American Civil War? No, this one, like the Hunley, was built in the U.S. Here's the story:

Nearly 14 years ago an archeologist and diver, Jim Delgado, found something magnificent.  He was on a ship passing the San Telmo Island in Pearl Archipelago, Panama when it occurred to him that the area was known for a sunken Japanese WWII submarine.  Intrigued by the story and the history behind the possible wreck, Delgado wondered about initiating a mission to find it.  Luckily, from his ship he saw something towering on the island.  It was all rusted out and Delgado felt he had to go investigate.
Delgado managed to find a beached submarine in the area mentioned in the stories he had heard. However, what he did not anticipate was that the submarine was not Japanese, as the stories relate.  Nor was it a submarine from WWII – it was much older.  Delgado, more intrigued than ever, knew he wanted to investigate the mysterious submarine.

Finding out the name of the submarine took almost two years. A colleague helped Delgado find an old blueprint in a 1902 magazine that had been signed by Julius H. Kroehl, 1864.  The magazine stated that there was a wreck around the San Telmo Island and described almost exactly what Delgado found.
Then Delgado found a New York Times article dated 1866 that outlined an event that happened on a New York river.  According to the article, Julius Kroehl, who was a German-American who invented one of the first submarines that could be fully submerged and travel under water, had been testing out his ship in the river when it sunk.  If this story is true, the sunken submarine is Kroehl’s Sub Marine Explorer.

But if the sunken submarine was Kroehl’s, then why would it be in Panama if it was only tested in a New York river? After more research, Delgado found out that the first trial was actually successful; that the submarine was then taken to Panama to be used for collecting pearls.  It is said that the submarine actually lasted a few weeks while collecting pearls, however, something must have gone terribly wrong to leave it rusted out in the middle of an ocean.

inside the vessel

The submarine managed to harvest pearls successfully for a while.  In 1869 another New York Times article stated that one of the pearl-harvesting missions brought up almost 10 tons of oysters and pearls which estimated about $2,000.  However, all men who had been on the submarine contacted fever and decompression sickness; the vessel was condemned as harmful to the crewmembers’ health.  A year after the submarine arrived in Panama, Kroehl himself died from decompression sickness from diving in the submarine.  The sub was then taken to the island where it has remained beached ever since.  Delgado found it nearly 130 years later.

Some story, what? Who'da thought such a thing!

Again, my thanks the Vintage News for this amazing tale!

Until next time,

                             Fair Winds,
                                Old Salt

Friday, January 1, 2016


1 January 2016:  Well, here we are; another year gone by and while we're all a bit older - OK just a year, but still.... - we have hopefully learned to press on, facing "come what may" in the new year. It's bright and shiny, filled with hope and promise of good stuff, accomplishments, a few resolutions, and maybe, some successes. So let's not screw it up! At least for a while! Good luck!

So, here's a little story about hope, success (at least so far) and some derring do.
 In 2013, the 62' traditionally built Hawaiian canoe, Hōkūle'a, set sail around the world. OK, you say, so what's the big deal? Well, there are NO electrics aboard. You can't use modern navigation instruments aboard the Hōkūle'a. Crew members must use only the sun and the stars to get themselves from point A to B. For many of us who can't seem to go the grocery without the assistance of GPS, here's a major big deal. Oh yes, and since they're sailing, their route is designed to be downwind pretty much all the time.

The 62-foot-long, double-hulled canoe set out from the Hawaiian shores in 2013. It will cover more than 60,000 nautical miles by the end of its journey. which is scheduled to finish in 2017.

 Each stop includes time for tours, lectures or traditional voyaging (that's what they're doing), and visits. Crew is all volunteer, trained, and changes often as people sign up for whatever time they can afford. Crew members take shifts steering and caring for the 40-year-old vessel, swapping stories over plates of line-caught fish, and sleeping under the stars. Sounds  pretty neat - and a little scary as well! But they look happy!


Here's a map of their route and projected stops.
 So there you are! Truly a fantastic voyage! Happy New Year!

Under next time,

                           Fair Winds,
                               Old Salt