Sunday, August 30, 2020


30 August 2020: My goodness! Summers almost done (well, if you count Labor Day as the "end" of summer) and we are soon to be in the wonderful cool, crisp, and bright days of September! Some of the best on-the-water days of the the year in my opinion - as long as the hurricanes stay away! 
Here in the Northeast US we "enjoyed"the remnants - greatly diminished - of Hurricane Laura which devastated the Louisiana/Texas coast earlier in the week. Our prayers go out to the good folks there who got wiped out and will be trying to restore their lives to some semblance of "normal" in the coming weeks. Hang tough folks!
Today's post was a revelation to your scribe; I had not heard of this first Missouri nor, obviously her history. Of course, everyone knows the battleship USS Missouri, home of the signing of the Japanese surrender following WWII. But this ship, this Missouri, is largely unknown. And she was the harbinger of things to come for the navy. Hope you enjoy the following from Navy History.

The first Missouri, a 10‑gun side‑wheel frigate, one of the first steam warships in the Navy, was begun at New York Navy Yard in 1840; launched 7 January 1841; and commissioned very early in 1842, Capt. John Newton in command.
Departing New York at the end of March 1842 on a trial run to Washington with sister ship Mississippi, Missouri grounded opposite Port Tobacco, Md., 1 April, and did not arrive in Washington until the 13th. The warship made numerous trial runs out of the Nation’s capital during the spring and summer of 1842, demonstrating the advantages of steam propulsion in restricted waters to the Government, and then departed for a long cruise to the Gulf of Mexico. The frigate returned to Washington 25 April 1843 and then underwent overhaul in preparation for extended distant service.

On, 6 August 1843, Missouri embarked the Honorable Caleb Cushing, U.S. Minister to China, bound for Alexandria, Egypt, on the first leg of his journey to negotiate the first commercial treaty with China. The same day the ship was visited by President John Tyler who came on board for a few hours’ cruise in Hampton Roads, observing the crew working the ship and the powerful twin paddlewheels in action. The President disembarked at Old Point Comfort, and the frigate steamed from Norfolk, via Fayal in the Azores, for Gibraltar on the first power crossing of the Atlantic by an American steam warship.

Missouri arrived Gibraltar 25 August and anchored in the shadow of the historic fortress. On the night of the 26th, the engineer’s yeoman accidently broke a demijohn of turpentine in the storeroom which soon ignited. The flames spread so rapidly that the warship was abandoned, the crew barely escaping with their lives. Minister Cushing was able to rescue his official letter to the Emperor of China, allowing him to later carry out his mission. In four hours, the splendid steam frigate was reduced to a blackened and sinking hulk and finally at 0320 in the morning of the 27th, the forward powder magazine blew up, destroying the still burning skeleton of the ship.

British ship‑of‑the‑line Malabar assisted Missouri in fighting the fire and took aboard some 200 of her men. The Governor of Gibraltar threw open the gates of that base to Missouri survivors in an unprecedented act of courtesy which was recognized by a resolution of appreciation from Congress. The remnants of the once proud frigate, a hazard to navigation, were painstakingly removed by divers, piece by piece, from the shallow waters of the harbor.


Who knew?! A short history to be sure, but she set the stage for the new modern navy, steam powered and no longer reliant on the vagaries of the wind!

Until next time, 
                              Fair Winds, 
                                    Old Salt

Tuesday, August 25, 2020


25 August 2020: Well, here we are: off and running for our 7th year of providing maritime trivia and other maundering ,following a short pause while your 'umble scribe underwent a bit of "knife and fork" work toward the end of last week. What's that you say? Are you all right now? Well, getting better daily and finally felt up to tackling the computer and finding something of interest. Thanks for asking! 
Today's bit comes to us from both Fox news and the British Daily Mail (both on line) and seems consistent with some of the writings we have seen lately regarding wrecks and WWII lost ships. And there's a pretty neat video along with it also. Enjoy!

A German U-boat that sank off the British coast during World War II has been captured on camera in remarkable images.

The pictures were taken by diving contractor Dive Newquay, which took a group of divers to see the remains of U-1021, British news agency SWNS reports. The vessel lies 9 nautical miles off the coast of Cornwall.

"The U1021 lies about nine nautical miles from Newquay Harbour and sits in 55m [180 feet] of water," a Dive Newquay spokesperson told the news outlet. "Dives of this depth are considered technical, which require special planning and different breathing gasses."

"It was the best visibility we have ever seen on the wreck," the spokesperson added of the "truly epic dive."
The wreck is near two other U-boats that also sank during the war.
Four divers took part in the 85-minute dive, of which 30 were spent at the bottom, the spokesperson added.
U-1021 served with 31st U-boat Flotilla before disappearing in March 1945.

Several other World War II submarines have been found in recent memory, including several German U-boats.
In February 2017, U-581 was found at a depth of 2,953 feet near the south coast of Pico Island in the Atlantic Ocean off the Azores.
In April 2018, Danish researchers discovered the U-3523 off the coast of Denmark’s northernmost town of Skagen, roughly 403 feet below sea level.

Click here for the video: video of sunken German U Boat

The wreck of Royal Navy submarine HMS Urge was discovered in November 2019, 77 years after it vanished in the Mediterranean during World War II.
In July 2019 divers discovered the wreck of one of the last U.S. Navy warships sunk by a German submarine during World War II, patrol boat USS Eagle PE-56, a few miles off the coast of Maine.

That's it for now, friends. Stay safe and wear your masks!

Until next time, 
                                 Fair winds, 
                                 Old Salt

Sunday, August 16, 2020


16 August 2020: While is it is a few days premature, we are celebrating the 6th anniversary of Maritime Maunder with a reprint of our very first issue in August of 2014! Other items of interest follow.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Welcome to Maritime Maunder

Welcome to

Here we will be putting up articles, historical and current, of interest to the maritime world, as well as of general historical significance to anyone. But first, let’s have an English lesson!

From the Oxford English Dictionary: MARITIME: Adj. 1. living or found near the sea. 2. Of a fighting force: intended for service at sea. 3. Connected with the sea in relation to navigation, commerce, etc. 4. Of, pertaining to, arising from, or existing in the sea.

MAUNDER: v. 1. grumble, mutter, growl. 2.Move or act in a dreamy, idle, or inconsequential manner, dawdle. Fritter away (one’s time, life. etc.) 3. Say something in a dreamy and rambling manner.

OK? got the idea? Now you should have some inkling of where this blog is going. Mostly inconsequential but, hopefully, often of interest to those of us who have an fondness for the sea, things nautical, old stuff, and historical happenings. I might also recommend books to read and enjoy. That’s for now. I reserve the right to add, delete, multiply, divide, bend, staple, fold, spindle, or otherwise mutilate anything contained herein!
I hope you will check in from time to time and see what pithy (no, I don’t have a lisp!) remarks I might add – always with a focus on things maritime.

                                         Fair Winds!              
                                           Old Salt
Probably not as interesting as some of the more recent issues, but this is where we began with no idea of how long this would carry on nor how many readers would actually log into the site and follow us.One might say this laid out the plan and yes, we have deviated some, but from the feedback we have received, most of our 112,000 readers like it. Today's post, by the way, is the 396th issue of Maritime Maunder! 

This week is also the 208th anniversary of USS Constitution's epic battle and victory over HMS Guerrière during the early days of the War of 1812 in which she earned the nickname Old Ironsides when the British cannon balls bounced off her sides. The ship, of course, floats in Boston Harbor at the historic Charlestown Navy Yard and has recently re-opened to visitors following closure for the Covid 19 pandemic. (The USS Constitution Museum is also open again - and well worth a visit.)

So, as we begin our 7th year, we wish all our readers good health, safe travels (if indeed any are traveling!) and the hope each can find their own happiness during these unusual times! 

Until next time, 
                                    Fair winds,
                                           Old Salt

Saturday, August 8, 2020


8 August 2020: With the explosion in Beirut of an ammonium nitrate warehouse and ship which devastated large areas of the waterfront, the mind turns to other areas of the world where there either has been or could be similar type disasters. We wrote about the Halifax NS WWI disaster a couple of issues back and now we have come across a potential problem off the coast of the United Kingdom. From Forbes Magazine a lightly edited piece on this not so new issue.

Port officials in Beirut are reportedly under house arrest, as their failure to safely handle a vast stockpile of ammonium nitrate is blamed for the blast which devastated the city. Beirut is not the only capital city with a kiloton-quantity of explosive material gradually deteriorating over many years. A shipload of WWII munitions by the mouth of the River Thames in England is now becoming increasingly hazardous – but a new attempt to make it (slightly) safer could trigger disaster.
In August 1944, the Liberty Ship SS Richard Montgomery was carrying 7,000 tons of bombs from the U.S. en route to Cherbourg. While awaiting a convoy, the transport was instructed to moor off the town of Sheerness. This was a terrible misjudgment, as the water was far too shallow. The ship was caught on a sandbank, and, as the tide went out, it settled and broke in two.

An emergency operation removed as much of the cargo as possible, but the Richard Montgomery sank to the bottom with an estimated 1,400 tons of munitions still on board, a mixture of high explosive and fragmentation bombs. It now sits in shallow water, the masts still visible, just off Sheerness, a town with a population of 12,000. In 1967, attempts to remove another sunken munitions transport, SS Kielce, caused a massive explosion; fortunately this was much further offshore, but it discouraged anything similar with the Richard Montgomery.
The munition transport with its load of bombs has remained in place for over 75 years, with successive bureaucracies deciding to leave well alone. The wreck is marked and surrounded by warning buoys – a collision could be catastrophic – but its cargo remains live and dangerous. 

If the munitions go off, the main effect will be a mini tsunami, variously estimated at between 4 to 16 feet high, resulting in considerable flooding. The blast would also shatter windows for miles, causing glass fragment injuries over a wide area. The wreck is adjacent to a busy shipping lane, and the impact on passing ships could be significant.
Regular surveys are carried out to assess the state of the Richard Montgomery as it corrodes. The latest, using multibeam sonar and laser surveying, gives a detailed picture, and it is not encouraging:  “Subsidence of up to 60cm was seen in the collapsed deck plating around Hold 2, the bridge deck area has continued to show evidence of collapse with some debris falling onto the seabed below…”

The concern is that corroding detonators can become unstable. Any shock, such as part of the wreck collapsing, could set off a chain reaction and ignite the entire load.
According to the latest assessment by the U.K.’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency the masts sticking out of the water “may be placing undue strain on the rest of the vessel structure,” leading to the risk of a collapse. The agency plans to reduce this risk by shortening the masts, with bids for the work closing this week. The danger is that this work may itself accidentally set off an explosion.
When the issue was raised in Parliament last year, the government view expressed by Baroness Barran was that it was difficult to assess the possible effects of an explosion and  “the cargo is likely to be stable if left undisturbed.” She also said that “we believe that the TNT is likely to be inert because the fuses have degraded over time” which suggests a lack of understanding – even if the fuses no longer operate, the TNT itself is far from inert and will explode if detonated.
Transport Minister Kelly Tolhurst has stated that “any work of this nature carries risk,”  but says that the mast removal will be carried out with the help of military experts.
According to one early report, the fire that triggered the Beirut explosion may have been caused by someone welding a hole in the warehouse to make it more secure. Hopefully, the lesson has been learned and the U.K. will not see any explosive mishap.                 

Let's hope this remedy goes smoothly. Personally, we might think leaving the masts in place, lit, and with the associated warning buoys might be a better/safer plan. But no one at Maritime Maunder is a munitions expert.

Until next time,
                                      Fair winds, 
                                            Old Salt