One Man's Trash….

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Lego octopus
Lego octopus from Devon, England. Courtesy of the BBC

Well, you know the old saying. But here’s a story from Cornwall (England) to get Lego enthusiasts making vacation plans for the southern UK beaches. Read the full story from the BBC here

Seems that a rogue wave hit the container ship Tokio Express back in 1997 and washed off several containers about 20 miles west of Land’s End. One of the containers was chock-a-block with Legos, about 5 million of them. 17 years later, they’re still washing up.   Read more

Concordia Flies the Blue Peter!

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Papa (formerly known as Blue Peter), courtesy of

For the first time in over 2 years, the raised hulk of the Costa Concordia hoisted the Blue Peter, the flag now simply known as Papa that indicates a ship is ready to sail. And so, tugs rotated her and headed nor’nor’east and away from the coast of the Isola del Giglio. Exceptional photographic coverage of the moment can be found here.

It is strange coincidence that led to our cataloguing a book just yesterday on the Concordia that was published in 2006. Entitled simply Costa Concordia, this lovely book by Tiziana Lorenzelli gives the reader a great sense of the splendor of the liner just after it was launched. It was clearly the pride of Costa Crociere, the cruise ship company that had the liner built. This book is rather haunting to me in the same way our Titanic materials are. People died aboard this ship, and it is hard to square the beauty of it with its terrible fate and the tragedy of 32 lives confirmed lost.   Read more


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SS George Law
SS George Law, later known as Central America, in The Mariners’ Museum collections
While not everything that glitters is gold in a shipwreck, one particular wreck that has been widening eyes and dropping jaws since 1988 is back in the news. That is the wreck of the SS Central America, a Pacific Mail steamer sunk in a hurricane off Hatteras in 1857. This past week, the side wheeler was back in the news with word from US District Court in Norfolk that the salvage company’s operational reports and an inventory of the the magnificent treasure of gold pieces could be made public. See a detailed report at

The reason the salvors were in court in the first place is a tale of treachery. The marine engineer who found the hulk in 1988, a man named Tommy Thompson, worked to salvage a hoard of gold bars and gold coins. The Central America, it seems, carried a cargo of $2 million in gold, now worth orders of magnitude more. It appears that the gentleman took some of the salvaged gold worth about $50 million, sold it, spent some or all of it on legal wranglings, and walked away without paying his investors a red cent. There is a warrant out for his arrest, and he is considered a federal fugitive (see the story here).   Read more

Puget Sound in the News

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Puget Sound ferry Kalakala
Puget Sound ferry Kalakala, from the Harold Huey Collection

Those of us living around the Chesapeake Bay, the largest marine estuary in the United States, are generally not used to thinking about the existence of the second largest marine estuary in the country, Puget Sound.  The Sound is massive and has incredible bio-diversity, and is a fitting Number 2 to our Number 1. While organizations like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and their allies in and out of Congress have been staunch defenders of the Bay for many years, less national attention has been given to Puget Sound.  Today, however, members of Congress from the Washington State delegation are announcing their support for a new initiative to create a National Heritage Area in 13 counties along the south side of the Sound.  See the article in the Washington state newspaper “Olympian” here for details.

The designation of a National Heritage Area was new to me, so I had to look it up. According to the National Park Service’s FAQ on them, “National Heritage Areas (NHAs) are designated by Congress as places where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape.” They differ from many such areas in that they are not publicly owned. They are managed generally by public-private partnerships or organizations whose mission is the stewardship of the area in question. Evidently we have one National Heritage Area in Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District. It is managed by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.
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The UN Security Council Addresses Piracy

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This service medal, issued during the Korean War, shows the insignia of the United Nations. From The Mariners’ Museum Library collection.

Hello readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. In response to the continual threat of piracy, the United Nations Security Council recently held its first ever debate on the subject. Lead by Indian ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the council debated the need for better information sharing techniques, whether or not to continue using armed guards on merchant vessels, and the need for more powerful international laws and punishments for pirates. The full article is available HERE.

The fact that this is the first time piracy has ever been directly discussed and debated in the United Nations Security Council is an indication that, sadly, piracy is not on the decline. Rather, the debate reinforces the notion that piracy still is, and will continue to be, a powerful hostile force that the nations of the world need to unite against. Although many recent steps taken off the Somali coast have given us hope that piracy can eventually be defeated, it will likely be a long, hard journey to reach that conclusion. Perhaps the nations of the world can unite and crush this scourge in the near future. However, until that happens our maritime workers must live under an ever-present threat of harm and death from piracy, and consumers around the world will have to pay a little extra for many of the products we take for granted.   Read more