Friday, October 27, 2023


 27 October 2023: Cue the ghosts and goblins! Halloween looms! November is closing in and, regardless of "global warming," winter is just around the corner, with all the joys of the season - snow, cold, ice, more snow, and more cold! Dig out your winter coats and keep the snow shovels handy! (At least here in the northeast!) But, first, a note from our friends in warm, sunny Florida about a recent discovery there, in St. Augustine. From Newsweek:


A mysterious shipwreck dating back 150 years, containing several artifacts including shoes, has been discovered near a bridge in Florida.

The near complete shipwreck was discovered near the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine, buried under 8 to 10 feet of sediment, during construction works, the Florida Department of Transportation reported.

The 20-foot-long shipwreck was carefully extracted by archeologists, who discovered multiple artifacts onboard, including a left shoe made of leather. So far, it is believed to have come from the 1800s. But no other details are clear.

"We had no indication that the vessel was present," Ian Pawn, archeologist at the Florida Department of Transportation, told Newsweek. "The vessel was buried under nearly 8-10 ft of sediment and later St. Augustine development, such as the eastward extension of the seawall, fill, and portions of the early 20th century trolley station. A large palm wood piling was even driven through the vessel (likely for tying off ships), indicating that the vessel was not known even later 19th century/early 20th  century." Pawn said that, without identifying markings, it is difficult to know exactly where the ship [ed: does 20 ft constitute a ship?" Asking for a friend!] came from.

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

"A great deal of research still has to be done, and we may never know these exact details," he said.

Archeologists do know however, that it was likely a sailing boat. While the boat's deck and hull was "mostly well preserved" no mast was found.

"The vessel is what is known as vernacular, which means it was likely built locally, with local materials, for domestic use. The artifacts, many located atop the buried vessel, helped confirm the initial dating of the vessel," Pawn said. "Finds included leather shoes (including different shoes for left and right, a 19th century innovation), coins (one dated to 1869), coconut halves that were likely used as cups, and a portion of an oil-fired lantern."

At the moment, archaeologists are working to "stabilize the vessel." Pawn said that when an object is found "this well preserved" archeologists only have a short amount of time to extract it. This is because the drying of the wood will begin the decaying process.

"The boat was disassembled, plank by plank, and removed, with great care to keep each portion wet," Pawn said. "The pieces will be observed in wet storage to stabilize as we determine future preservation effort. We will be working closely with archaeologists and the City of St. Augustine to find a permanent home for this unique find."


We suspect more will become known - and likely published somewhere - as the archeologists work to stabilize and study the remains. We'll try to keep you posted as we learn more. In the meantime, happy Halloween!

Until next time, 

                                                    Fair Winds

                                                                 Old Salt

Sunday, October 15, 2023


 15 October 2023: 

Could this be a bonus post? Possibly, but we wouldn't want you to get accustomed to finding something new here on a weekly basis; we did that for lots of years and now we have kind of devolved into a somewhat lazy every two weeks (maybe). In any case, this one is/was sort of time sensitive and we (mostly me, an old Squid) thought it appropriate to offer this piece from FOX NEWS. United States Naval Academy, Annapolis MD (USA)


The Naval School was founded in Annapolis, Maryland in the wake of a shocking scandal at sea on Oct. 10, 1845. 

The renowned military institute was renamed the U.S. Naval Academy in 1850. 

The school was established following the discovery of a planned mutiny on the Atlantic Ocean aboard U.S. Navy brig Somers. 

Three sailors were executed on the high seas — including the 19-year-old son of Secretary of War John Canfield Spencer, which only elevated the national profile of the sensational incident.

The ship departed New York in September 1842, destined for West Africa, on a training mission with teenage volunteers who were considering a career in the Navy.

"Discipline deteriorated on the Somers and it was determined by a court of inquiry aboard ship that Midshipman Philip Spencer and his two chief confederates, Boatswains Mate Samuel Cromwell and Seaman Elisha Small, were guilty of a ‘determined attempt to commit a mutiny,’" reported the U.S. Naval Academy in its online history.

"The three were hanged at the yardarm and the incident cast doubt over the wisdom of sending midshipmen directly aboard ship to learn by doing. News of the Somers mutiny shocked the country."

The Somers remains the only ship to suffer mutiny in the history of the U.S. Navy. 

Captain Alexander Slidell Mackenzie ordered the executions without trial by court-martial.

The accusations of insubordination and swift hangings made obvious the need for a rigorous program of educating and training America's best and brightest to become professional Naval officers. 

 The U.S. brig-of-war Somers, which experienced a mutiny on her return voyage from the African coast in 1842. The hanging of the three ringleaders, Philip Spencer, Samuel Cromwell and Elijah Small, from the yardarm brought a quick end to the mutiny. It remains the only mutiny in U.S. Navy history. Original artwork printed by Nathaniel Currier.  (MPI/Getty Images)

 Mutineer Midshipman Spencer, whose brazen insubordination led to the creation of the academy, "was conspiring with some twenty members of the crew to seize the [Somers], murder her officers and engage in piracy," the Naval History and Heritage Command noted. 

Three mutineers, including the 19-year-old son of Secretary of War John Canfield Spencer, were executed by hanging at sea.

It added: "Midshipman Spencer's general reputation was not particularly good and he was known … to have done a number of things harmful to the discipline of the ship."

Captain Mackenzie was a noted author [ed: among other things, he wrote a somewhat fanciful and adoring biography of Stephen Decatur which erroneously quoted Adm. Horatio Nelson's comment on Decatur's burning of the US Frigate Philadelphia in Tripolitan waters - a quote which lives on even today!] and historian who counted among his friends celebrated 19th century author Washington Irving [ed: a novelist].

"Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft established the Naval School at the former Fort Severn … with a class of 50 midshipmen and seven professors," reported the American Battlefield Trust this year. 

The school was created, the Naval Academy noted, without congressional funding.

Added the Battlefield Trust: "The initial curriculum involved two years of study in mathematics, navigation, gunnery, steam engineering, chemistry, English, natural philosophy and French. Five years later, the Naval School became the Naval Academy, with a full four-year course of study augmented by summer training at sea."  

The Naval Academy has since its founding produced an impressive list of high-seas heroes, space explorers and global leaders. 


American sailor and astronaut Alan B. Shepard (1923-1998) as he emerges from the Freedom 7 space capsule onto the flight deck of the recovery carrier USS Lake Champlain (CV-39) after his historic Mercury 3 flight, Atlantic Missile Range, May 5, 1961. Shepard became the first American in space and also became the first human to return to Earth in his spacecraft, as Soviet cosmonauts had parachuted during re-entry.  (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Among its most notable graduates are Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who commanded the U.S. Navy in the Pacific, the largest battle fleet in human history, in World War II; President Jimmy Carter, who enrolled at the academy in 1943 at the height of the war; and NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, the second human and first American to travel into space. 

The school has produced five chairs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, nine Marine Corps Commandants, 54 astronauts and 73 Medal of Honor recipients. 


And so it goes, still producing high quality men and women Naval and Marine Corps officers who are responsible for the continued safety of our nation. Long may they serve!

Until next time, 

                                                     Fair Winds,

                                                          Old Salt


Saturday, October 7, 2023


 7 October 2023: Here we are in October! Leaves are turning from the brilliant greens of summer into first, a wonderful sparkling yellow, red, and orange, then, perhaps in sadness, a dull brown before they fall to the earth. We know they'll be back in their full glory in a few months. But first, November, December, and the cold damps of winter. On that cheery note, let's have a look at the medical practices aboard Edward Teach's (better known as Blackbeard) pirate ship, Queen Anne's Revenge, still being excavated and explored off Beaufort Inlet (NC). Clearly, a pirate needed a healthy crew to pursue his trade and hence, a doctor and well stocked medical suite was essential, as the archeologists exploring the wreck have discovered. From several sources, including CNET and North Carolina History Center.


Archaeologists excavating the Queen Anne's Revenge have found a variety of medical implements indicating health hazards on the high seas.

The life of a pirate in the 17th century was not really kind to one's health -- and hazards numbered greater than scurvy and musket-balls. Even the infamously cruel pirate Edward Teach -- better known as Blackbeard -- needed to make health provisions for his crew.

His frigate, the Queen Anne's Revenge, was -- like pretty much anything owned by a pirate -- stolen. Operating as a French slaver under the name La Concorde de Nantes, she was seized by pirate Captain Benjamin Hornigold on November 28, 1717. Captain Hornigold gave the ship to one of his men to captain -- Blackbeard.

Blackbeard didn't have the ship for long. He ran her aground in May of 1718 at Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina, and left her there until her rediscovery in 1996. (Blackbeard himself was killed nearly a year to the day after the capture of the ship -- November 22, 1718.)

Although Blackbeard made some modifications to the vessel -- adding cannons -- he probably didn't need to restock, for example, her first aid supplies, many of which have been recovered by archaeologists working on the Queen Anne's Revenge project by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. So far, around 60 percent of the ship has been excavated.


syringe for injecting mercury into the penis
 - a cure for syphilis




mortar and pestle

partial device for rectally injecting water








silver surgical needle





"We just have to understand that these people were suffering," she said. "They were seeking relief for any kind of ailment, and certainly if there was warfare on the water, there were wounds among other ailments that needed treatment. It wasn't always a formally trained person in desperate times. That's probably more common than we know."

That said, on board the Queen Anne's Revenge, Blackbeard retained, along with the medical supplies, the ship's three surgeons, pressing them into service. Surgeon Major Jean Dubou and surgeon Marc Bourgneuf are listed on both the La Concorde de Nantes crew muster and court records regarding Blackbeard's crew. The surgeon's aide, Nicholas Gautrain, is listed on the muster, but not the court records.


So - not all bad, right? Three docs and a complete dispensary. What more could a pirate ask!

Until next time,

                                        Fair Winds,

                                              Old Salt