This Day In Maritime History: A Stove Boat Begets A Whale of a Tale

Gregory Peck as Ahab in Moby-Dick

Wired.com reminds us that November 20, 1820 marks the real life event that inspired one of the classics of American literature, Moby-Dick.

The story of the Essex was the inspiration for a young Herman Melville who himself served time at sea on similar whaleships. More recently the Essex story was chronicled in nonfiction fashion by Nathaniel Phlibrick in his award winning book, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex .

From Wired.com:

The Essex had taken its share of whales and on Nov. 20 appeared ready to take a few more when a pod was sighted off the starboard beam.

The ship’s three remaining whaleboats — one had been destroyed by a whale’s flukes during an earlier hunt — were dispatched for the kill. As the harpooning began, First Mate Owen Chase, commanding one of the whaleboats, looked back and saw a large sperm whale, which he estimated at 85 feet, approaching the Essex.

As he watched helplessly, the whale propelled itself into the ship with great force. Some crewmen on board were knocked off their feet by the collision, and Chase watched in disbelief as the whale drew back and rammed the ship again. This time the Essex was holed below the waterline, and doomed.

The crew organized what provisions they could and two days later abandoned ship aboard the three whaleboats. Twenty men left the Essex. Eight would ultimately survive the harrowing ordeal that played out over the next three months.

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Live Piracy Map via BLDGBLOG

imageThe always interesting BLDGBLOG has a post today about the Live Piracy Map generated by IMB Piracy Reporting Centre which is basically plots piracy incident reports on Google Maps.  I posted about this back in April but BLDGBLOG presents a different spin. Sadly the map has quite a few more markers today.

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This sums up the current sad state of affairs in the Gulf of Aden.

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Pirates Invade Wall Street Journal!

Chad Crowe for the Wall St. Journal

Today’s (Nov. 19, 2008) Wall Street Journal has three first section articles/editorials about modern day pirates which might indicate that mainstream media is finally beginning to understand the serious nature of this international waterborne form of terrorism. Hijack a supertanker full of oil valued at over $100 million and you’re bound to attract attention. 

On page 12, JOHN W. MILLER wrote Piracy Spurs Threats to Shipping Costs (free content) Accompanying this article you’ll  find a slideshow, video and interactive graphics that shed more light on the problem.

On page 20, OpinionReview & Outlook you’ll find an editorial titled Pirates Delight – Other thugs will come if we don’t punish the Somali pirates

On page 21 OpinionDAVID B. RIVKIN JR. and LEE A. CASEY, two Washington, D.C. lawyers who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush wrote an editorial titled Pirates Exploit Confusion About International Law.

Additionally, JOSEPH SCHUMAN’S The Morning Brief (a look at the day’s biggest news which is emailed to subscribers by 7 a.m. every business day) dealt with the subject. Failed State: Pirate’s Life For Somalia, Shippers

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Back in April 2008, I wrote a post titled Modern Day Pirates: No Kidding Matter. Unfortunately, the problem has gotten a lot worse since and there’s no immediate solution in sight.

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Pursue It! The SEA Experience

Following up on my last post about Sea Education Association, here’s an awesome video that captures the spirit of adventure and learning integral to the SEA experience. Enjoy it and pass it on!

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnPxKYHAHr4]
YouTube – SEA Semester – Pursue it

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The Coolest “OverSeas” College Study Program on the Planet!

SEA logo If you are a college student, or know one, who wants to make the most out of your college experience, you (they) have to check out SEA, which stands for Sea Education Association. At SEA, not only will you study “overseas” you’ll study in them too!

Located in Woods Hole, MA, USA, SEA offers semester long college accredited programs on 2 tall ships in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that challenge you intellectually and physically by combining a sailing adventure of a lifetime with the study of the deep ocean. I could go on and on about the benefits of this experience but SEA president John Bullard already made a most persuasive case here.

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If for some crazy reason John hasn’t convinced you, maybe these short videos shot by program graduates will.

Take your academic career to new heights, literally! Better than looking at a blackboard all day in the middle of January!

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLrmKWz39Xo]
YouTube – Sailing the Pacific- 3

Imagine challenging yourself to do something outside your comfort zone and making some amazing friendships in the process.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MfjUoyvis8]
YouTube – Aloft

How about learning from touching something alive that you actually caught?

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDH0CeCsy64]
YouTube – Squid Jigging on SEA Semester

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lytxMnvyD8]
YouTube – SEA Semester class S213’s Jumbo Squid

And who said school can’t be fun? I guarantee that in the future you will think of the SEA experience more fondly than that Political Science lecture every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0xzwZg6-7s]
YouTube – S-199

Now, if you need a reason for why this might be important to you and the rest of the planet, you have to watch this video of Dr. Bob Ballard’s presentation at the February 2008 TED Conference. There is a whole new world for you to explore and there’s no better opportunity to do so than aboard an SEA tall ship.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHU8G6icwsY]
YouTube – Robert Ballard: Exploring the ocean’s hidden worlds

Finally, some sound advice from Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Launch your SEA adventure here!

photo credit: Meriah Berman via waynepbj on Flickr.com

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Casting Call: Salty Sea Star Sought

Captain Ahab You’ve probably always thought that your name would look good in lights and you’re might be tired of working those dogwatchs. It’s time for a change. Get a haircut (or not) and navigate yourself to the Pacific Marine Expo or Workboat Show and stop by the Tiger Aspect Production’s booth because they might just be looking for you.

Tiger Aspect Productions is developing a series on maritime ships and vessels for a major US cable network, and we’re in search of diehard seamen who might host our new series. Think you’re right for the job?

The ideal candidate would be a credible “insider”, think Discovery’s “Future Weapons“, or History Channel’s “Tougher in Alaska“. It’s not necessarily a veteran historian we’re looking for, but rather a true passionate fanatic of ships and the maritime world that can help communicate this passion to our audience. We’re looking for someone the viewer can connect with as the “real-deal”, someone with real-world maritime experience – i.e. a former captain from a naval fleet, or freight cargo ship, or a tugboat operator. The ideal candidate is a male, aged early 30’s to 40’s, though we’re open to people who don’t necessarily fit this mold.

The show is in development, but the concept is to travel around the country/ world and get up close and personal with the past, present, and future of ships. From ice breakers in the Arctic to the biggest cruise liners sailing the Caribbean, from oil tankers cruising the Persian Gulf, to fishing vessels pulling pots out of the ocean.

Pack your duffle, hop aboard a new career and break a leg!

Captains Kangaroo, Stubing and Feathersword need not apply.

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29 Bells for the Edmund Fitzgerald

Thirty three years ago today the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was lost with 29 souls. Here’s a very moving video about this tragic event.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgI8bta-7aw]

Edmund Fitzgerald Song of the Bell At the recommendation of the Just One More Book podcast, last year I purchased the children’s book The Edmund Fitzgerald: The Song of the Bell for my then 4 year old son Luke who not surprisingly loves ships. (Listen to the podcast here) The book is beautifully illustrated and the authors do a great job telling the story of this magnificent ship and her loss. Death can be a challenging subject for young children but the authors handle it superbly. I highly recommend it.

Additional info:

The fateful voyage of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Jenny Nolan / The Detroit News (Nov. 11, 1975)

US National Transportation Safety Board Report (PDF)

 

 


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