On the Water exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

On May 20th, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History opened a new permanent exhibition, On the Water. While I haven’t had the chance to visit the museum, I’ve spent some time on the companion website and all I can say is that it really should be called MaritimeHistoripedia!

From the museum’s press release:

“The maritime influence on American history is one of the most compelling chapters in the national story,” said Museum Director Brent D. Glass. “‘On the Water’ will transport visitors to places they have never been, allowing them to experience life at sea through the experiences of real people and objects from one of the Smithsonian’s oldest collections.”

And from the museum’s website:

Marine transportation and waterborne commerce underlie American history like a strong and steady ocean current. Maritime trade established major cities, created connections between people and places and opened the continent. Visitors to this new permanent exhibition will explore life and work on the nation’s waterways, discovering the stories of whaling crews, fishermen, shipbuilders, merchant mariners, passengers, and many others. From 18th-century sailing ships, 19th-century steamboats and fishing craft to today’s mega containerships, the exhibition will reveal America’s maritime connections through objects, documents, audiovisual programs, and interactives. Visitors will discover the continuous and significant role maritime activity has played in American lives.

If you enjoy reading the Sea-Fever blog, you’re going to love exploring On the Water. But make sure you’re wearing you Internet PFD, because you could drown in the depth of information anchored there. Things are organized by period:

As well as by theme:

You can also search the museum’s vast maritime collection filtered by keywords and eras that reflect National Standards for U.S. History, Grades 5-12. Video and audio clips are extensively and effectively used throughout the website and there’s some great age appropriate learning resources available for educators and families too.

One of my favorite things about On the Water is the way they’ve create a mash-up of several popular social media websites to engage and enlist visitors in adding to America’s rich maritime story.  Visitors are invited to upload photos to and post them to the OTW snapshots group which is linked to the below Google Map.

On the Water is a fantastic website for anyone interested in America’s rich maritime heritage. Take the plunge, the water’s great.

YouTube – Smithsonian goes On the Water

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FotoFriday: Working Waterfront Portraits by Phillip Mello

Modesto Caril, Clam House Worker, New Bedford by Phil Mello 2008

The name in the title might look familiar and that’s because the artist is my cousin. Today the New Bedford Whaling Museum is opening a show of Phil’s amazing collection of photographic portraits of New Bedford commercial waterfront workers. From the museum’s website:

Working Waterfront, Photographic Portraits focuses on local shoreside workers and their jobs: from fish cutter to purveyor, from welder to auctioneer, from lumper to inspector, as well as fishermen. Each person, each job, is vital to the daily operation of supplying seafood to market. All photographs were taken by Phillip Mello, mostly using a Mamiya RZ 67 camera with Kodak BW400cn Professional film. They are part of a project he began early in 2008 and which continues today: to photograph the local fishing industry through the people who work in it. Mr. Mello knows these people and this place well, having worked on the waterfront for over thirty-four years, currently as plant manager at Bergie’s Seafood. His photographs benefit from this closeness, and we are fortunate to have had these doors opened.

There’s an opening reception this evening after the Whaling Museum’s Annual Meeting and before/during their very popular After Hours Friday night social event. But in case you can’t make the event or have trouble getting to the gallery anytime soon, you can experience Phil’s work via the Whaling Museum’s Flickr page.

Henrique Chiquito, clean-up man at a New Bedford Fish House by Phil Mello 2008

Phil is also the president of the New Bedford Port Society which owns and operate the Seamen’s Bethel, which first came to fame as the Whalemen’s Chapel in Herman Melville’s classic American novel Moby-Dick, as well as the historic Mariner’s Home.

Reproductions of photographs in the exhibit are available via the Whaling Museum’s photography department by contacting Proceeds from their sale will be split evenly between the Whaling Museum and the New Bedford Port Society.

 Dave and Jim Tomassia, fish lumpers, working in the fish hold by Phil Mello 2008

It’s an amazing body of work that celebrates the spirit of the people who work anonymously on New Bedford’s commercial waterfront everyday. Thanks to Michael Lapides, the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Director of Digital Initiatives / Curator of Photography for giving the community the opportunity to get this inside look and for creating a historical document that captures an important part of New Bedford today. And thanks Phil, the Mello family is proud!

Make sure you check out the Whaling Museum’s blog, join their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter too!

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Really Old School Waterskiing

Kite surfer at the Hatch snags a tall ship (the "Hawaiian Chieftain" visiting Hood River with the "Lady Washington" on their way up the Columbia River). Last seen calmly slaloming it on it by the White Salmon bridge. Footage from May 17, 2009. (smoberlin on YouTube)

YouTube – Kiter hitches a ride on a tall ship

via Facebook friend Kim “Jack Tar” Carver

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Moby Monday – Jon Langford’s Whale’s-Eye View

In a world rife with fiction by people who maybe shouldn’t be writing fiction, Julie Schaper and Steve Horwitz tracked down a few people who weren’t writing fiction but ought to be. The two editors’ new anthology, Amplified, (Melville House, 2009) collects short stories by some of alt-country music’s most influential songwriters, including Laura Viers, Maria McKee of Lone Justice, and Rhett Miller of the Old 97’s.

Among these bright lights is Jon Langford of punk rock’s The Mekons and the proto-cowpunk outfit the Waco Brothers. And this is where Moby Monday comes in. Langford’s 1998 solo album, Skull Orchard, contains two whale-themed songs, and lyrics from both appear within Langford’s tragicomic story “Inside the Whale,” whose narrator is a beached Moby Dick.

“Apparently, I discovered, I am the very rarest stuff of legend,” says the whale, recalling the time he’d met a female dolphin—big fan—who had read Moby-Dick cover to cover. “She said you’d been looking for me forever,” he tells a human on the beach. “How was I supposed to know?”

In an elliptical tale that touches upon such curiosities as the original Captain Morgan of rum fame, forgotten boxing great Sam Langford, and an aching homesickness the Welsh call hiraeth, the author strikes a melancholy chord. But throughout, he also invites a happier sensation with which the Melville fan is well acquainted: the pleasure of looking stuff up.

Margaret Guroff is the editor and publisher of Power Moby-Dick.

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Weekly Leader podcast episode 5 (USCG Commandant Admiral Thad Allen)

uscg-commandant-admiral-thad-allenIn 2006 United States Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen was joined by investor Warren Buffett, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Proctor & Gamble Chief Executive Officer Arthur Lafley, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and 12 other impressive individuals in being named by US News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders. Today Admiral Allen leads nearly 100,000 enlisted, reservist, civilian and auxiliary men and woman who fulfill the Coast Guard’s mission “to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic and security interests in any maritime region in which those interests may be at risk, including international waters and America’s coasts, ports, and inland waterways.”

Pam’s Pointers – How to Innovate through Fear

Rita Gunther Mcgrath (blog) Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity

Invisible Hand podcast – April 11, 2009

Leaders should avoid:

  1. Confirmation bias
  2. Reward for appearing certain
  3. Rate of failure concern

Weekly Leader– Admiral Thad Allen, 23rd Commandant of the United States Coast Guard

Commandant’s Official Bio

Admiral Allen’s blog iCommandant

Admiral Allen on Facebook and Twitter

US News and World Reports – Best Leaders of 2006

MIT Sloan Fellow Program

Reading: Two Tankers Down: The Greatest Small-Boat Rescue in U.S. Coast Guard History by Robert Frump

Leader Lunch: Alexander Hamilton

Contact Info (feel free to attach a MP3 file 5 mb or less)

Weekly Leader Team:

Pam Fox Rollin (twitter @PamFR); Mary Michaela Weber (@marymichaela); Mario Vittone; Colin Ude-Lewis (@colinudelewis); Peter A. Mello (@petermello)


Podcast intro – Trance Sends by Trance Blackman

Semper Paratus (Always Ready) – US Coast Guard Anthem

Own True Way by Great Big Sea from the Podsafe Music Network

Subscribe via iTunes

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Brigantine Romance’s Sea Stories

Brigantine Romance

My friend and former colleague Mike Jehle, who’s now the executive director of the Fairfield Museum and Historical Center, sent me a link to the below trailer for a documentary about the Brigantine Romance. Like many before him, Mike’s life was forever changed by his experiences sailing aboard this amazing ship under the command of American Sail Training Association Lifetime Achievement Award winner Captain Arthur Kimberly and his wife Mrs. Kimberly. It’s great to see the crew coming back together to capture the rich history of the Romance.

YouTube – Brigantine Romance Trailer

The website is a great resource on the ship. I particularly enjoyed reading through the logs and imagining what those round the world trip must have been like. But if you’re an armchair adventurer like me, touring this website can still be pretty exciting.

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Are you sinking, missing or rocking the boat?

I’m a sucka for a good maritime metaphor so check out my Weekly Leader post about Bill Taylor’s post on his Practically Radical blog over at the HarvardBusiness blogs. Taylor was a founder of Fast Company magazine and author of business bestseller Mavericks at Work and always thoughtful writer and entertaining speaker on leadership. Instead of repeating it here, please check it out over at Weekly Leader.

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Moby-Monday – “Absolutely Hilarious”: The Twittering of Moby-Dick

“How many tweets would it take to tweet all of Moby-Dick?” cartoonist Adam Koford mused on Twitter last July.

The answer, it turned out, was 12,849, or about 45 Twitter posts per day for nine-and-a-half months—as programmer Dan Coulter, a Twitter follower and prior collaborator of Koford’s, discovered after he took the cartoonist’s question as a challenge.

Coulter’s robotic Moby-Dick Twitter feed started on July 28 and ended last Wednesday, May 13. While it was running, the robot (a script Coulter wrote in the PHP computer language) spit out one paragraph of Melville’s beloved and dreaded tome every hour during the business day, with the text sliced into Twitter’s signature 140-character-max dispatches. The account—with Twitter handle “publicdomain”—has attracted 418 followers, and today it begins blurting its next out-of-copyright text, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Why start with Moby-Dick? Koford says he was inspired by Twitter’s “fail whale,” the blissed-out white cetacean that appears onscreen whenever the micro-blogging network is overloaded. Though he had never read the full book on paper, Koford says, he’d read an “amazing” graphic adaptation by Bill Sienkiewicz. He had also endured an audiobook version narrated by actor Burt Reynolds. “He basically screams the whole book,” Koford recalls in an email. “Looking back, I’m not sure how I made it through that.” Still, Koford says, he loved the book.

Programmer Coulter was less enthusiastic. “I’m not a Melville fan,” he confesses. “I tried reading Billy Budd once, and I got about five pages into that. The language and the pacing has never been able to grab my interest.”

Reading 140 characters at a time, however, Coulter made it through Moby-Dick. And with the text in that format, he was able to appreciate Melville’s artistry with language. “It surprised me how poetic he could be at times,” Coulter says. “Stuff would come through that was really amazing.” Even more than the poetry, though, Coulter appreciated the humor inherent in the medium. “Twitter turned the book into this weird series of non-sequiturs—things that, taken out of context, were absolutely hilarious,” he says. “I don’t know that I would ever want to read Moby-Dick as a book, but as a Twitter feed, I really enjoyed it.”

A list of Coulter’s favorite funny Moby-Dick tweets appears in a wrap-up he posted to his blog last week. Fans of the book may recognize a few lines that are as amusing in context as out. This July 31 tweet, for example, follows narrator Ishmael’s first encounter with Queequeg, the Polynesian harpooner: “But I don’t fancy having a man smoking in bed with me. It’s dangerous. Besides, I ain’t insured.”

Margaret Guroff is the editor and publisher of Power Moby-Dick.

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Amazing Kinetic Sea Creature Sculptures (Strandbeest) by Theo Jansen

Theo Jansen is a Dutch artist who builds big walking kinetic sculptures he calls “Strandbeests” that roam the coastline of Holland feeding on wind and fleeing from water. You may have seen his work in this BMW commercial:

If you enjoy TED Talks, make sure you watch this one Jansen delivered in February 2007.

Alexander Schlichter is producing a documentary on Jansen’s Strandbeests and here’s the trailer and some other interesting footage.

Make sure you visit Jansen’s website, there’s lots of interesting stuff there.

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Sad News from the Tall Ships Semester for Girls Today

 Tall Ship Education Academy

From the Tall Ship Education Academy blog:

The Tall Ship Education Academy, like many wonderful non profits, has been losing significant funding over the past year of economic turmoil. Because of this, our Board of Directors recently made the tough decision to suspend operations of the Tall Ship Education Academy for the next year or two.

During this suspension, we will not run our programs: Tall Ship Semester for Girls, Girls Summer at Sea or Women’s Challenge. We will become a fully volunteer organization and close our office at SF State.

This year, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the very first Tall Ship Semester for Girls. As many of you know, the Tall Ship Education Academy began with a pilot project in 1998 run by Caitlin Schwarzman as part of her Masters Thesis at SF State University. Due to its success, Mercy High School supported Caitlin in expanding the one week pilot to a full semester program. In the spring of 1999, twelve girls explored the California and Mexico coast aboard the Californian. The next year, Nettie Kelly joined the 2nd Tall Ship Semester for Girls, as an instructor and the following year became the director of the program.

We are very proud of the work that we have done in providing a life-changing experience for over 125 girls. Our continued contact with these girls shows that they are confidently pursuing education, participating in their community and exploring the world. We will look to this core group of people to be a part of our research efforts in the near future, and as integral members of the next phase of this organization.

In ten years, the Tall Ship Semester for Girls has evolved into a Western Association of Schools and Colleges accredited non profit educational organization. We are recognized for providing powerful developmental experiences for Bay Area young women. We are truly a community based organization, depending on the support of individuals, organizations, foundations and institutions for our existence. The suspension of our programs is in some ways a symptom of the health of our community.

We want to thank you for your interest in and support of the Tall Ship Education Academy. We have done our work because you have been a part of our vision for girls’ education. We hope you will continue to play that vital role in our community.

Hopefully their suspension will be short-lived because this is exactly the type of program which we should be encouraging, promoting, supporting and celebrating. It’s where sail training can do it’s best work.

This is what will be missed.

YouTube – Tall Ship Semester for Girls

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