Sunday, March 27, 2016


27 March 2016: to those of you who celebrate such things, happy Easter. Today's post comes from the Independent, a British news source, and is kind of in keeping with some of the stories we've posted in the past month. Unlike the German sub raised from Lake Ontario, this one is real and makes for an interesting read.
Thanks to David Keys, archeology correspondent, for contributing to this article.


Two long-lost First World War German warships have been rediscovered – forgotten for decades in Portsmouth Harbour.

Archaeologists found them by examining aerial photographs from the 1940s – and by then searching through local newspaper reports from the 1920s .

Researchers say that the two destroyers are among the very few surviving vessels from the Imperial German Navy that can still intermittently be seen above water anywhere in the world.

Archaeologists believe that the vessels are the  V44 and the  V82 (both launched in the German port of Kiel –  in February 1915 and July 1916, respectively). The V44 is particularly significant from an historical perspective – because it played a crucial role in the strategically important escape of the German fleet after the key phase of the Battle of Jutland at the end of May 1916. It was one of the vessels which successfully used torpedoes to prevent the British pursuing and destroying the 93 ships that remained of Imperial Germany’s High Seas Fleet.
1917 painting by German artist Willy Stower showing V44 firing torpedoes at British ships in Battle of Jutland 1916
Next month,  archaeologists from Britain’s Maritime Archaeology Trust, will carry out a detailed survey of the two vessels, which are only visible at extreme low tide, and even then very difficult to access because of highly hazardous quicksand-style mudflats. One of the warships is thought to still have its boilers and some other machinery intact.
Originally the two destroyers were among the 70 German warships which surrendered to the Royal Navy in November 1918 and were subsequently interned in Scapa Flow Harbour in the Orkneys. However, in June 1919, in violation of the Allied/German armistice agreement, those German naval personnel, still  on-board their ships in Scapa Flow, hatched a plot to defiantly re-fly their battle ensigns and then scuttle their entire fleet. Much of the plan worked – for they succeeded in sinking the majority of their vessels (thus preventing the Royal Navy getting permanent possession of them). They failed in only two dozen cases, two of which were the  V44 and the V82 – because Royal Navy officers managed to intervene on those vessels to prevent the Germans opening the bilge valves and flooding those particular ships.
1920's painting of V82 aground in Portsmouth Harbor by English aritist William Wyllie
The  V44 and the V82 (and a third ship, a cruiser called the Nürnberg) were then taken to Portsmouth and subsequently used for naval ‘big gun’ target practice. The Nürnberg was sunk in the English Channel -  while the two destroyers were deliberately run aground by the Royal Navy on tidal mudflats near Whale Island in the eastern part of Portsmouth Harbour.
In the early 1920s, thieves looted the two destroyers for loose scrap metal – and later in the same decade, both ships were sold for scrap. However, only parts of the vessels were removed by the scrap merchants. The substantial remnants – including much of the ships’ hulls – were then abandoned and rapidly forgotten. Eight decades then passed before they were rediscovered by the archaeologists.
Obviously, a great deal of work remains to be done and as we learn of progress, we will post it here on Maritime Maunder.
Until next time,
                                Fair Winds,
                                            Old Salt

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


23 March 2016: Yesterday was the anniversary of a melancholy day in American History - the death in a duel in 1820 of Stephen Decatur, hero of the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812. Some years ago, I received a pamphlet (common in the early days to sway political opinion) published shortly after his death by relatives of James Barron which contained the correspondence between the two men, and was likely published to ease the animosity most felt toward Barron for killing a true hero.

Stephen Decatur

On 22 March 1820, Commodore James Barron and Commodore Stephan Decatur met on the Bladensburg MD dueling grounds to settle a personal grievance that had festered, at least in the mind of Barron, for twelve years. While both men were wounded in the pistol exchange, Decatur’s wound proved fatal and he died the next day. Barron recovered.  

What led up to this fateful meeting that took the life of one of America’s foremost heroes of the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812? An exchange of letters, precipitated by James Barron, gives us some answers. Possibly out of a sense of justification, Barron had the letters published in a pamphlet within months of the duel and so they remain for posterity, filled with venom and innuendo, personal slights and accusations, that might help explain the mindsets of these two men.  

What started the whole imbroglio? James Barron was aboard the U.S. Frigate Chesapeake in June of 1807 when, having left Hampton VA for the Mediterranean where Barron was to assume control of the squadron there, the ship was attacked by HMS Leopard seeking Royal Navy deserters. After a dreadfully lopsided engagement, Barron ordered his ship surrendered to the British; Captain Humphries, commander of the Royal Navy ship, refused to take Chesapeake as a prize (it would have been adjudged illegal in any case as the United States and England were not at war). The British took four deserters from the American ship (three later were returned as Americans) and went on their way. Chesapeake limped back into Hampton with three dead and over twenty wounded, including Commodore Barron.  
James Barron

Following the court of inquiry, a court martial found Barron guilty of only one of the four charges brought against him and sentenced him to a five year suspension from the Navy, a rather harsh punishment in the minds of many. Stephen Decatur sat on the court martial board along with John Rodgers, James Lawrence, William Bainbridge, David Porter, and others. Decatur had requested that the Secretary of the Navy excuse him from this duty as he felt he was prejudiced against Barron; his request was refused based on the few captains available to serve. He also made clear his predisposition on the case to Barron’s civilian attorney, without avail. 

When the War of 1812 began, just over four years later, many felt that Barron should return from Europe, where he had taken up residence for the term of his suspension, and help the cause. He did not. Following the war, he requested reinstatement to rank and position in the Navy. Decatur was, perhaps, the most vocal in his arguments against the reinstatement and thus began a feud, which would end on 22 March 1820.

Decatur's funeral was an extravagant affair, effectively closing down Washington City for the day. Naturally, all the politicians turned out, but also so did all the Supreme Court Justices. The funeral procession was over a mile long and was joined by mourning civilians who truly missed the great man. As I mentioned, a melancholy day!

Until next time,
                                  Fair Winds.
                                    Old Salt


Monday, March 21, 2016


21 March 2016: I thought on the first day of spring, this video, courtesy of the US Naval Institute might be appropriate. It's pretty neat. Enjoy

Hartford in warmer water!


By the way, Maritime Maunder has now passed 12,500 readers! Amazing! Thank you all!

Until next time,
                                   Fair Winds,
                                     Old Salt

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


15 March 2016: In the previous post we mentioned that there would be a follow on to the piece on the New York area ship graveyard. Here it is, from writer Caitlin Knightly, a British lady residing in Australia, who contributed this piece to the Vintage News.

You will, perhaps, recall from the previous post, that this "graveyard" sits in the Arthur Kill, between Staten Island NY and the coast of New Jersey. The ships have been left to rot there, basically untouched, since the early 1900's, and the numbers seem to be growing. The collection includes ferry boats, and tugs mostly, but the assortment is not by any means limited to those vessels.
Here now, the rest of the story from Ms. Knightly:

Operational since the 1930s, Witte’s Marine Equipment company in Rossville served to dredge, salvage, and resell materials from the wrecked and disused vessels of the New York and New Jersey waterways.  Eccentric owner John J. Witte refused to dismantle the majority of the ships that came to rest in the yard, amassing a prodigious collection of over 400 historic watercraft.

As the ships slowly decomposed and the area gained a reputation as a mecca for artists and photographers, Witte gained his own reputation as a ferocious defender of his property, known for scaring off unsolicited visitors personally until he passed away in 1980.  

The yard is now controlled by the Donjon Marine Company, which seems to be taking a more proactive approach to actually salvaging materials from the wrecks and keeping the curious out, erecting 12-foot metal walls around the perimeter of the yard with signs prohibiting any and all photography.

Apparently the prohibition on photography is not stringently enforced!

An amazing and sad story. And heaven only knows what's in the mess leaching into our waterways - even if the Arthur Kill is likely the dirtiest stretch of water on the eastern seaboard of the United States!

Until next time,

                                              Fair Winds,
                                             Old Salt

Saturday, March 12, 2016


12 March 2016: This is quite incredible and a surprise to me. And I live near by to this! Great pictures, too. Remember the post we did about Mallows Bay a month or so back? That was in the Potomac River not far from Washington, DC; this one is in New York's back yard! Stunning!

New York City may be known for its luxury skyscrapers and bustling streets, but just a few miles south of Manhattan, there is an altogether different sight to behold. Languishing in the water just off Staten Island, scores of boats are left to rust in a little-known ship graveyard – just a stone’s throw from the city’s lights.
Images captured by US photographer Gordon Donovan reveal the haunting scenes at the Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard in Rossville, Staten Island, which is only accessible by meandering through a cemetery and knocking on private homes to ask for permission to pass. The photographs show great hunks of metal languishing in the water on the south side of Staten Island, which is fewer than 20 miles from Manhattan and 18 miles from Brooklyn.
 The Arthur Kill ship graveyard was never meant to become such a decrepit spectacle. In the years following World War II, the adjacent scrapyard began to purchase scores of outdated vessels, with the intention of harvesting them for anything of value. But the shipbreakers couldn’t keep pace with the influx of boats, especially once people started to use the graveyard as a dumping ground for their old dinghies. 

Plenty of ships fell into such disrepair that they were no longer worth the effort to strip, especially since many teem with toxic substances. And so they’ve been left to rot in the murky tidal strait that divides Staten Island from New Jersey, where they’ve turned scarlet with rust and now host entire ecosystems of hardy aquatic creatures.

Next time we'll show you some more pictures and tell you a bit more about this amazing - and yet disgraceful - graveyard of ships.

Until then,
                                    Fair Winds,
                                     Old Salt

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


8 March 2016: Today in 1862, the era of wooden ships passed into history. The precursor to Battle of Hampton Roads - often called the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack (9 March, 1862) proved that survival of a warship depended on it being constructed of iron (later steel).

When the Yankees abandoned Hampton Roads, VA early in the Civil War, they burned and sank a frigate, USS Merrimack. Steam propulsion was already in use (USS Constellation - the one in Baltimore - was the last all sail propelled ship built for the U.S. Navy - 1854) and after failing to find a shop that could build an engine suitable to propel the weight of an iron clad ship the South leadership thought that raising the hulk of the Merrimack and taking out the engine would answer nicely. Once they got it up, they determined to use the whole ship, cladding it in iron. They also made it a ram, meaning it was designed to  ... yes, ram another ship and sink it. So they towed the hulk to a graving dock (think Drydock) and began the process. They armed the ship with 10 guns: 6 9" smooth bore Dalhgrens, 2 6.4" and 2 7" Brooke rifles. Initially, she was only given a single "shell" of iron; had that remained the case, the Battle of Hampton Roads might have gone somewhat differently! In the end, she wore plates of 2" thick iron backed by 24" thick laminate of iron and pine. She was commissioned on 17 February as CSS Virginia.

CSS Virginia steamed into the Chesapeake Bay on the morning of 8 March with the intent of laying waste to the wooden Union warships anchored off Hampton Roads. While the Yankee ships fired on the ironclad behemoth approaching them, their shot had little effect. USS Cumberland was chosen by Capt Buchanan of  the Virginia as his first target and he rammed her, holing her below the waterline.

She sank quickly, continuing to fire her guns as long as they remained above the water. With 121 of her men dead and another 30 wounded, it was a bad loss for the Union. The Confederate ironclad then turned to the other Union ships and while was unable to sink them, did do considerable damage. The toll was the worst Navy defeat until WWII!

The North had learned through their intelligence network what was cooking in Virginia and Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, requested Congress to fund the development of and then build an ironclad ship themselves. In August of 1861 the money was approved and a board appointed to consider designs. John Ericsson's design of a monitor was selected and USS Monitor was born.  
  She was built in Brooklyn NY and was a highly radical design, often  dubbed the "cheesebox on a raft."

 Ericsson armed her with a only two guns, each an  11" Dahlgreen mounted in a cylindrical turret. There was one flaw, a major one, as it turned out: the pilot house was mounted directly in front of the turret which meant that the guns could not fire dead ahead. She steamed down to the Chesapeake to take on the CSS Virginia and the meeting would change naval warfare forever.

The two met the morning of 9 March and the resulting battle lasted for hours.

Virginia dwarfs the Monitor
It ended when a shell from Virginia hit the little pilot house on Monitor and  temporarily blinded Capt. Worden with debris that flew into the viewing slits. Monitor had to withdraw, and the exec, Dana Greene took over. But Virginia, seeing their foe pull back, assumed it was over and withdrew themselves to repair the substantial damage she received.

So essentially, it was a draw, but the important thing here is the success of the ironclad ships.

Through a series of events I will not go into here, the Monitor later sank off Cape Hatteras and her sunken hulk was found and partially salvaged in the 1990's. The turret and one of her guns are currently undergoing conservation at the wonderful Newport News Mariner's Museum. 

In a marvelous exhibit devoted entirely to these historic ships, they have recreated the turret of Monitor as it looked just out of the water, full of mud and human remains, as well as a full sized mock up of Virginia loading aboard one of her guns. 

So while tomorrow, 9 March, is the anniversary of the fateful meeting of the "ironclads", it is today, 8 March that the world of warships realized that a wooden ship could never survive a meeting with an ironclad and thus, at Maritime Maunder, we credit this date as the real birthday of the iron/steel warship.
Until next time,

                      Fair Winds,
                         Old Salt

Sunday, March 6, 2016


6 March 2016: Today happens to the anniversary of when a Committee of the New York Provincial Congress instructed Major William Malcolm to dismantle the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. The tower stood in the then disputed territory of Sandy Hook and the good folks in New York were afraid the light would guide British ships around the treacherous waters of the "Hook" and into New York Harbor. Now, a glance at the light house would suggest that "dismantling" it might be challenging at best, impossible at worst.

Realizing the impossibility of the assignment they gave the major, the committee subsequently told him to "use your best discretion to render the lighthouse entirely useless." Which he did by removing the lens and oil lamps from the tower. Of course, it only delayed the British for a short while; they soon put new lamps and reflectors in place. And then invaded New York, which they still held at the conclusion of the Revolution in 1781! They did not pack up and leave until the Treaty was signed in 1783! The Patriots tried again to put out the light but using cannon mounted on small boats in Sandy Hook Bay and shooting at it. While they did manage some damage, they were chased away and the mission failed.
The light house was first turned on the night of 11 June 1764 after the Provincial Congress of New York had raised the funding for it by conducting two lotteries. This after 43 New York merchants requested it, having lost over 20,000 pounds sterling in shipwrecks at the Hook. Of course, then, the land was part of the colony of New York, not New Jersey. The two states bickered over who owned the land and the light house for many years, until, in 1787, the Federal Government assumed control of ALL lighthouses. IN 1996, Sandy Hook Light fell into the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, now part of Gateway National Recreation Area
the lighthouse and the Keeper's home today
 And this one I know is not a hoax!
Until next time,
                                  Fair Winds,
                                     Old Salt

Saturday, March 5, 2016


5 March 2016: OK - I was had, flummoxed, and conned! The piece I just posted on the German submarine found in Lake Ontario was totally fictitious!


I apologize to those of you who have already read (according to my info, quite a few have) and hope that your confidence in Maritime Maunder has not been too badly shaken. We always try to post real facts but occasionally, we get conned. My apologies.
In case you're wondering - here's the SNOPES link:

Thanks to my buddy in Chicago (who I had no idea actually read the blog) Rob Holt for sorting this out for me!

Until next time

                         Fair Winds,
                              an embarrassed Old Salt


5 March 2016: OK - I know, I did it again! Waited a week before posting. Sorry, but I really didn't have anything of great moment to share - until my friend Bob Kelly sent me this amazing story about a German (Nazi) submarine discovered a month or so ago in the Great Lakes (Ontario - near Niagara Falls!) and just raised. With thanks to Bob and a nod to Barbara Johnson who wrote the piece, here you are:

Niagara Falls| Divers from the U.S coast guard took part this morning, in a delicate wreck recovery operation to bring to the surface a Nazi submarine discovered two weeks ago  at the bottom of Lake Ontario.
Damn! that is COLD!
The U-boat was spotted for the first time by amateur scuba divers in late January and they had contacted the authorities. Archaeologists associated with Niagara University of  and master divers from the U.S Coast Guard were mobilized on site to determine what it was, and they soon realized that they were dealing with a German submarine that sank during World War II.

A wreck recovery vessel  of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society was mandated to refloat the ship and bring it back to Niagara Falls, where it must be restored before becoming a museum ship. The delicate recovery operation took nearly 30 hours to complete, but the submarine was finally brought down on the bank with relative ease.

The divers of the U.S. Coast guard braved the frigid water temperature to go attach cables to the wreck for the recovery operation.

The submarine was identified as the UX-791, a unique experimental German submarine, based on the U-1200 model, and known to have participated in the “Battle of the St. Lawrence”. It  was reported missing in 1943 and was believed to have been sunk near the Canadian coast.
Here she is!

Professor Mark Carpenter, who leads the team of archaeologists, believes that the U-boat could have traveled up the St-Lawrence River, all the way to the Great Lakes, where it intended to disturb the American economy.

A report from the dated from February 1943 suggests, that the ship could have attacked and destroyed three cargo ships and two fishing vessels, even damaging the USS Sable (IX-81), an aircraft carrier of the U.S. navy that was used for training in the Great Lakes, before finally being sunk by anti-sub grenades launched by a Canadian frigate.

“We have known for a long time that the Nazis had sent some of their U-boats in the St-Lawrence River, but this is the first proof that they actually reached the Great Lakes,” Professor Carpenter told reporters. “This could explain the mysterious ship disappearances that took place in the region in 1943, and the reported “Battle of Niagara Falls” which had always been dismissed as a collective hallucination caused by fear.”

The restoration of the submarine could take more than two years, but once completed, the museum ship is expected to become one of the major tourist attractions of the region.
How about that!!!
Until next time,
                                       Fair Winds,
                                         Old Salt