Artifact of the Month- Apollo

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OF19

The museum owns one of the largest figurehead collections in the world, with 92 total either on display or in storage. One of the figureheads purchased by the museum in 1933 and currently hanging in our Great Hall of Steam is named Apollo. At first glance this figurehead seems like nothing out of the ordinary since many ships used Greek gods as figureheads. However, this specific figurehead has a much more interesting past than one would guess.

Apollo probably came from an American ship that wrecked off the coast of Norway. There were stories about this figurehead that seemed doubtful, until 2008 when Mr. Hultgren of a small Swedish museum contacted us looking for information about where Apollo was. As confirmed by Mr. Hultgren, after its ship wrecked Apollo was put in a village in Sweden named Mollӧsund. Apollo stood on a rock beside a flagpole there until we bought it in the early 1930’s. It is said that the children of the village had May Day exercises around the figurehead. In the village Apollo was nicknamed “The Old Man of Ferdinand”, and there are stories that parents would tell bad children to “behave or The Old Man will come and get you!”   Read more

October Artifact of the Month – USS Dionysus Engine

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USS Dionysus, Courtesy of The Mariners' Museum.
USS Dionysus, Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum.

Hello faithful readers and welcome back to the artifact of the month! This month, we will be looking at a 271,000 pound engine from a Liberty ship built in World War II, USS Dionysus. Last week, while working on my blog, I got to take a little field trip out to the back of the museum where all of the macro artifacts are stored. While exploring, my supervisor showed myself and another intern the engine which is housed in a shed to protect it from the elements. The shed itself is a little creepy from the outside, but the engine inside is magnificent. It is massive, and just looms over you, with parts and pieces that are about the same size as me.

USS Dionysus was originally built for the Royal Navy as HMS Faithful as part of the lend-lease program, but instead was kept by the US Navy. It was commissioned in 1945 as a repair ship for the Navy, and was sent into the Pacific war zone at the end of World War II. Following the end of the war, Dionysus was put in the United States Naval Reserve Fleet until the outbreak of the Korean War in 1952, when it was added to the Atlantic Fleet. Following the end of the Korean War, Dionysus was again put on reserve until it was scrapped. Dionysus was a Liberty ship, which was a type of ship produced by the United States Maritime Commission in World War II and was constructed from standardized parts that were made across the country. They, liberty ships, were made for under $2,000,000 and held 27 officers and 497 enlisted sailors, in addition to 2,840 Jeeps, 440 tanks or 230 million rounds of rifle ammunition. During the war about 200 of the ships were lost due to a variety of reasons, but two different ships, SS Jeremiah O’Brian and SS John Brown survived, and are both open to the public. The engine was removed in 1978 and donated to The Mariners’ Museum and put on display. The engine itself is approximately 271,000 pounds with all of its components assembled, and is the main triple expansion steam engine of Dionysus. Later that same year, Dionysus’ hull was sunk off the coast of North Carolina to become part of the artificial reefs along the coastline. It was the fourth Liberty ship to be sunk there since 1974, and is located about five miles south of Oregon Inlet.   Read more

Go Figure! (-Galatea)

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Figurehead of Galatea, sea nymph.
Figurehead of Galatea, sea nymph.

This week in “Go Figure!” I have selected a figurehead with a little bit of history and mythology! As far as her background, we have two versions of her history but for the most part we have a good idea about where she came from. In terms of mythology, there is also two versions of the story that she is associated with and I will share both.

Captain Yngve Eiserman told “The Cape Argus,” Cape Town Africa that she came from a clipper ship Galatea. She was originally an American ship but then was bought by Germans. In 1882, she was battered in a storm and was taken to Cape Town for repairs. From here, the damages were too expensive to fix and the ship was condemned. The figurehead we have today was saved by a Mr. Stevens and was then purchased by Charles Bleach. Bleach displayed the sea nymph figurehead at a hotel until it was moved to the South Africa Museum for safe keeping.   Read more