Squid pro quo…the effect of lassoing squishy fish

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We accessioned a small book illustration last week that has an interesting, although slightly embarrassing story associated with it—at least for the inept pile of sailors that were involved in the incident!

The print came from the 1887 book “Sea and Land: An Illustrated History of The Wonderful and Curious Things of Nature Existing before and since the Deluge…” by James W. Buel.  It’s titled “The Great Cuttle-Fish as Seen from the Ship Alecto.”  For those of you who don’t know what a cuttlefish is, it’s a cephalopod which is the family of marine animals that includes squids and octopi.   Read more

55th Anniversary of the sinking of USS Thresher

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Today is the 55th anniversary of the sinking of the US Navy submarine USS Thresher (SSN-593).

The first of its class, Thresher was supposed to be an innovative leap forward in submarine design and technology but several test runs uncovered technical problems and Thresher returned to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine for repairs. By April 9, 1963 the repairs had been completed so the vessel departed for sea trials with 112 crew members and 17 shipyard employees who rode along to monitor the repairs in case additional work was needed.   Read more

Death Rides the Storm: The story of one amazing rescue!

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Shadow box presented to First Officer Robert B. Miller by the Temple of the Brave

While working on an inquiry for Howard this morning I stumbled across an odd object that turned out to have a really cool story attached to it. The piece was a small shadow box that was a presentation piece to First Officer Robert B. Miller, of the United States Line ship President Roosevelt in 1926.  It was presented to Miller by the Temple of the Brave, Hedge End, Hants, England, following his rescue the crew of the sinking cargo ship Antinoe—and it is quite a story!

On January 20th, 1926, the President Roosevelt, captained by George Fried, left New York for Bremerhaven, Germany.  The ship carried several thousand bags of mail bound for the UK and Europe and 200 passengers. Unknowingly, the ship, which left New York in poor weather, was heading directly into a fierce wintertime hurricane.  As the voyage progressed, the weather grew so bad that passengers were forbidden from going outside and the crew rigged lifelines throughout the ship to help people move around.   Read more

How many reporters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

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Advertisement for the Royal Mail Ship “Boomerang”

Twenty. One to do the actual screwing and nineteen to write articles providing conflicting details on exactly how the installation of the light bulb was accomplished.  In the instance of the story I’m going to tell, the question is “how many newspaper articles did it take to get the story right?” The answer is about 125 articles in ten newspapers from nine different cities in four different countries.

Researching the story was prompted by a painting in the collection that contained the inscription “Ship H.R. COOPER, Capt. I. Lapham, rescuing the crew from the wrecked ship, BOOMERANG, Capt. G. B. Crow. March 27th 1856. Lat. 40.35n Long. 49.40w.” Two additional details were provided by an object acquired with the painting—a gold medal awarded by the British government to the Helen R. Cooper’s captain: his first name, “Isaac,” and the full name of the vessel: Helen R. Cooper.  Beyond this I didn’t know anything about the incident and there wasn’t any historical information in the object file.   Read more

For want of a pilot…

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On this day in 1803 the 6th rate frigate armed en flute HMS Determinée struck broadside on a sunken rock near Noirmont Point on the western side of St. Aubin Bay in the Jersey Channel Islands and was immediately bilged (read: “big giant hole in bottom”). In less than three minutes the height of water inside the ship was level with the surface of the sea and within fifteen minutes the ship was nearly under water.

With the ship sinking so quickly and a strong tide running Determinée’s captain, Alexander Becher, ordered the anchors dropped so the vessel wouldn’t drift into deeper water. He also ordered the sailors out the rigging (they were trying to furl the sails) thinking their added weight might upset the position of the ship and ordered them to start launching the ship’s boats.   Read more