Monday, August 29, 2022


 27 August 2022: While the following is not exactly a "sea" orientated post, it is navy and in our opinion [ed: and that is the one that matters!] it fits our charter of maritime interest. So, from Smithsonian Magazine:


The 80-Year Mystery of the U.S. Navy’s ‘Ghost Blimp’

The L-8 returned from patrolling the California coast for Japanese subs in August 1942, but its two-man crew was nowhere to be found

It began as a routine surveillance mission in the early months of World War II and ended in a mystery that remains unsolved after eight decades.

At about 6 a.m. on August 16, 1942, the United States Navy blimp L-8 took off from a small airfield on Treasure Island, an artificial island built in San Francisco Bay for a recent world’s fair. On board were two men: Lieutenant Ernest DeWitt Cody and Ensign Charles Ellis Adams.

Five hours later, the L-8 crashed on a suburban street in nearby Daly City, California, scraping rooftops and dislodging power lines along the way. Local fire crews left a blaze in the nearby hills to rush to the site, put out any flames and try to rescue the blimp’s crew. But they quickly discovered there was no one to save. Both pilots had somehow vanished from their ship.

The wreckage of the L-8 had barely been packed up and hauled away before newspapers gave the aircraft the nickname it carries to this day: the Ghost Blimp.

At the time, the U.S. had been at war for a little over eight months. Americans were on edge over possible Japanese attacks on the West Coast, so to watch for Japanese submarines, the Navy assembled a fleet of airships there, just as it did on the East Coast to patrol for German U-boats.

Most of the airships the Navy relied on for these purposes were blimps. Unlike rigid airships with a metal framework inside, such as Germany’s zeppelins, blimps consisted of little more than a gas-filled balloon, called an envelope, with a control car, or gondola, attached underneath. Because of their simplicity, blimps could easily be operated by small crews. They could even stay aloft and float along crewless (as the L-8 demonstrated) unless their envelope was punctured and the gas leaked out.

“Blimps had the perfect operational capabilities for coastal patrols,” says aviation historian Dan Grossman. “They could stay in the air for long periods of time, fly slowly and fly at very low altitudes, hover over targets, and operate in conditions of low visibility and low cloud ceilings, all of which were things that the fixed-wing airplanes of the time could not do.”

The L-8 was a former Goodyear blimp that the tire company had built for promotional purposes. In early 1942, the Navy took it and four other L-series blimps and stationed them at Moffett Field in Santa Clara County, California, which already housed several enormous airship hangars. Other L-series blimps went to Lakehurst, New Jersey, site of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster.

Cody and Adams were both experienced airship pilots. Cody, 27, had graduated from the Naval Academy in 1938. Adams, 34, had been in the Navy for over a decade and was recently commissioned as an officer. He had already survived one famous airship disaster: the crash and sinking of the U.S.S. Macon off the California coast in 1935.

A third man, machinist’s mate James Riley Hill, was briefly on board, but Cody ordered him off just before the L-8 left Treasure Island. Hill believed Cody was concerned about the added weight.

The first hour and a half of the flight seem to have been uneventful. Then, at 7:50 a.m., the men radioed that they had spotted an oil slick in the water—a possible indication of a submarine—and were investigating it. That was the last time the outside world heard from them.

Worried when the L-8 failed to report back, the Navy sent out search planes to look for it. Fears eased when a nearby military base reported that the blimp had landed there and two pilots had gotten out—news that soon proved false.

The L-8 crashed on a suburban street in Daly City, California, around 11 a.m. on August 16, 1942.

Instead, the blimp had touched down on a beach about a mile away. Bystanders said there was no one on board. Several of them tried to restrain it, but it rose again and began drifting toward Daly City.

Police and fire department rescuers in Daly City found the door to the blimp’s control car open but no signs of fire or other damage. The ship’s radio was in working order, and both men’s parachutes were untouched. The blimp was missing one of the anti-submarine depth charges it normally carried, but that soon turned up on a nearby golf course. Besides the two men, the only things missing were their lifejackets, colloquially known as “Mae Wests” after the bosomy actress and comedienne. That in itself was unsurprising, as it was standard practice for pilots to wear their lifejackets in flight.

The mystery only deepened as investigators probed further. The waters off San Francisco that day were busy with fishing boats as well as Navy and Coast Guard ships, so the blimp’s movements were observed by numerous people. According to accounts the investigators pieced together, the blimp had dropped two smoke flares over the oil slick to mark its location, then rose to a higher altitude. A passing Pan Am Clipper seaplane observed it in flight. A search plane spotted it at 2,000 feet, twice as high as it normally flew, before it dropped back under the clouds.

Meanwhile, on the ground, hundreds of bystanders followed the deflating and increasingly misshapen craft as it drifted through the skies. One later described it as looking like a “big broken wiener.” Some observers took photos, which the police did their best to confiscate.

As is often the case, witnesses gave contradictory accounts. Some claimed they saw no one on board the blimp. A woman who was horseback riding in the area said she’d used binoculars to spot not two but three men aboard. Others reported seeing men parachuting.

The Navy continued to search the waters off San Francisco for days. One optimistic theory was that Cody and Adams had been picked up by a ship that hadn’t been able to report their rescue yet because it was maintaining radio silence. But no trace of either man, or their lifejackets, was ever found.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster and for decades to follow, numerous theories emerged. The men had been captured by the Japanese. They had defected. They had been murdered by a stowaway. They had killed each other in a fight over a woman. They had been abducted by aliens.

Many experts today subscribe to the more mundane theory that they simply fell out, possibly when one went to repair something outside the craft and lost his footing, followed by the other man attempting to rescue him and falling as well. The Navy favored that explanation, too, but admitted it was only “a matter of conjecture.”

Others have suggested that one man fell from the blimp and the other jumped into the sea to assist him. Grossman, for one, rejects that idea. “It is certainly possible that both officers accidentally fell into the ocean,” he says. “But if one officer had accidentally fallen, the other would have remained in the blimp to radio for assistance (the radio was functional) and ... mark his comrade’s location. There is a well-ingrained instinct in any Navy man not to abandon his ship unless absolutely necessary.”

“Indeed,” he adds, “‘Don’t Give Up the Ship’ is the U.S. Navy’s motto.”


The L-8 was eventually repaired and returned to service. When it was retired by Goodyear (1982) the control car went to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, where it remains on display. (That museum is currently not open to the public [ed: on account of covid 19?])

So, something a bit different, but certainly maritime and with the benefit of being a mystery! 

Until next time,

                                           Fair Winds,

                                                  Old Salt

Sunday, August 21, 2022


 21 August 2022: Well folks, here we are. Starting our 9th year at Maritime Maunder. Today's post is number 496! When we began, we offered a new post daily; that lasted about 1 year and the realization hit that once a week was a good routine to start and here we are, still putting up something new and, hopefully, interesting once a week on average. And yes, there have been times when that didn't quite work out, but overall, we've been pretty regular and faithful to you, our readers. And you have responded by reading our posts and offering mostly kind remarks and comments. Thank you all for your interest. 

Something a bit different today to begin our 9th year; orcas attacking boats. If anyone has seen an orca or killer whale as it is also known, it is not something you soon forget. They are impressive creatures which inhabit, besides marine parks, the colder waters - Alaska, North Sea and other bodies where hypothermia is a real risk for us humans; but the orcas love it! And it appears of late they don't like sharing their oceans with us humans and our boats.

 From the INSIDER:



Orcas sank a sailboat and ram another on the same morning. Scientists are looking for answers, reports say.

A pod of orcas attacked a sailboat off the coast of Portugal on July 31 and, just hours later, targeted another vessel in the same area, according to reports.

The first incident, which local media described as "very much worse than usual," saw orcas ram a small sailboat carrying five people approximately seven miles off the coast of Sines, Portugal.

Orca attacks have sometimes immobilized sailboats, but local media said that, in this instance, it caused so much damage that the vessel started to sink.

The five crew members, who were on vacation, per The Sun, made it onto life rafts and radioed for help. A nearby fishing vessel was able to rescue them, according to a statement by the Portuguese Navy.

Unusually, another orca attack took place nearby just a few hours later.

Newsweek reported that the second orca attack involved a small sailboat with two passengers aboard.

The passengers, who were sleeping at the time of the attack, were traveling from Lisbon to the Algarve, per the local media outlet Portugal Resident.

The orcas, which can grow up to 26 feet long, struck the boat and bit the rudder, immobilizing it, the Portugal Resident said. It was towed to the dry dock.

According to the Portugal Resident, more than 200 attacks by orcas against vessels have been recorded along Portugal and Spain's Iberian Peninsula since 2020.

Scientists are looking into the growing number of orca attacks, the media outlet said, to determine if the killer whales are acting out of curiosity, mischief, or revenge.

Insider previously reported in 2020 about a series of aggressive actions by orcas along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts. At the time, experts told The Observer that the whales might have been mounting deliberate attacks, perhaps indicating high levels of stress.


Further to this story, I seem to recall a recent piece in a  Florida outlet about an Orca in a marine park (Sea World?) which attacked its trainer - to the detriment of the trainer  (as you might expect!). So, if you are at sea in a small boat in colder waters, be watchful - not that there is much you can do if you see a pod of killer whales heading for you, but be sure your life saving gear and abandon ship bag are handy! 

Until next time, 

                                  Fair winds,

                                         Old Salt


Sunday, August 14, 2022


 14 August 2022: We all have been complaining (whining?) about the unprecedented heat the past few weeks, the drought, and extremes in the weather across the world. But sometimes, you discover unexpected treasures (?) in adversity - especially when the waters recede. From Bloomberg:


 Extreme Heat Uncovers Lost Villages, Ancient Ruins and Shipwrecks

In an eerie twist, volatile weather and heat-induced drought are unearthing glimpses of lost archaeological treasures and forgotten history.

Extreme heat this year has triggered wildfires, drought and melting glaciers. Less expectedly, it’s also revealed some weird and dark things about our past—shipwrecks, corpses, ghost villages, ornamental gardens and ancient cities. Here’s a look at some of those discoveries.

Roman Remains

Italy’s drought has revealed artifacts from World War II and a glimpse of life under Nero.

    Italy's River Po
Months without rain and an earlier-than-usual halt in flows from melting snow in the Alps depleted the River Po—Italy’s longest river—to its lowest level in 70 years. The dried-up riverbed revealed previously hidden World War II-era wreckage such as a German tank and cargo ships.




Roman bridge ruins - Tiber River

In Rome, meanwhile, drought sapped the River Tiber and unveiled a bridge that’s thought to have been built during Emperor Nero’s rule. This summer’s extremely hot and dry conditions in Italy forced the government to declare a state of emergency in July.


Aceredo, a village near Spain’s border with Portugal, was flooded in 1992 to make room for the Alto Lindoso reservoir. In February—about 30 years later—drought re-exposed the small town. Soon, tourists began flocking to see a place frozen in time.


Scientists expect Galicia to continue suffering from extreme dry spells. “Rainfall and drought patterns are always more complex, more difficult to predict scientifically,” said Jofre Carnicer, Barcelona-based climate researcher and an author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment. “The risk of drought in the next decades in this area will increase.”

Grim Discoveries

Some US reservoirs that should’ve brimmed with snowmelt in the spring instead had bathtub rings of dry dirt, including Lake Mead. The lake fell this year to a record low.

Lake Mead—the massive reservoir at the iconic Hoover Dam—has shrunk to a fraction of its former self to become a site of ghoulish curiosity.

Lake Meade discoveries

Visitors have come across everything from sunken boats to dead bodies. “We could find everything from a missing jet ski to more bodies,” said Michael Green, an associate professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “As the water recedes, we will find more.”

The human remains discovered at the site include a body in a barrel, according to the US National Park Service. The cause of death is under investigation.

Officials with the Clark County Office of the Coroner/Medical Examiner and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department declined to comment further.


Creepy, if you ask me! Imagine strolling along the recently uncovered bottom of the lake, maybe looking for treasures - or that watch you accidentally lost overboard 5 years ago(!) -  and ... "oh my! A body!" 

And for those who have an interest in numbers: Maritime Maunder, approaching our 8th anniversary [who'd have thought!] - it's next Sunday, by the way - has now surpassed 138,000 readers, world-wide! We are stunned, humbled, and grateful! 

Until next time,

                                  Fair winds,

                                      Old Salt