Shipwreck Survivors

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SS Norman Prince

It is no surprise that many ships were torpedoed during WWII and that many soldiers passed away as the ships went down. Today, however, I came across a few photographs of groups of men who managed to survive. Thankfully, the notes on the back of the prints are detailed and told their stories:

These dapper seaman were on the English ship SS Norman Prince which was torpedoed on May 28, 1942 off St. Lucia. They were rescued by the French ship SS Angouleme, but kept as prisoners in Martinique for over four months. They were finally released in an exchange of prisoners and came aboard this ship, the SS Goethals. Uboats.net adds that all but one survivor drifted on the lifeboat for 26 hours, 40 miles before they were able to get the attention of the SS Angouleme.   Read more

A Lost Bounty

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The HMS Bounty, circa 1967. From The Mariners’ Museum Library collection.

Hello readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. Close to two weeks ago, Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern seaboard of the United States, impacting our lives from the Carolinas to Boston. While each person lost during this disaster is keenly felt, perhaps no single story is more relevant to maritime history than the tragic loss of the HMS Bounty and two of her crew. For the families of Claudene Christian and Robin Walbridge, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

What makes the HMS Bounty so special is that she was created out of period-correct materials, with the same tools they would have had back then and with the original building plans from the first HMS Bounty. The modern ship was not just a replica: it was an authentic rebuilding of the same ship, right down to the hand-bend nails in her keel. Constructed for the 1962 movie “Mutiny on the Bounty,” the tall ship HMS Bounty has since served in many motion pictures and as a unique piece of living history for the coastal cities of Britain, Europe and the United States.    Read more

The Difference Between Pirates, Privateers and Buccaneers Pt. 2

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Sir Henry Morgan, viewed as a Pirate by the Spanish and a Privateer by the English. Either way, he also qualifies as a Buccaneer. From The Mariners’ Museum Library collection.

Welcome back, and let’s finish our exploration of pirate terminology with the term “Buccaneer.” Buccaneer is used synonymously with the idea of the 17th-18th century Caribbean pirates, but it actually means something quite specific. When Spain started colonizing the Caribbean in the 16th century, it was initially the only nation to do so. Around the beginning of the 17th century, people from other nations like France, England and the Netherlands started trying to settle in the Caribbean too. The problem was they weren’t welcome in Spanish ports because the Spanish didn’t recognize their right to settle. As a result, the only people willing to trade with these settlers and adventurers were social outcasts like mulattos, Native Americans and shipwreck survivors who largely lived in the wild.

These people sold supplies like water and meat to the non-Spaniards, who started calling them “Boucaniers.” Boucaniers is a French term of some ambiguity, but according to Cotgrave’s 1611 French/English Dictionary, the closely related word Boucane’ translates as a wooden gridiron that these outcasts used to cook meat. In addition, the French already had a verb called “boucaner” which meant “to hang around with lowlives” or “to imitate a foul tempered billy goat.” These words got meshed together, and the French ended up calling the local outcasts boucaniers. From 1620 on, these “boucaniers” started developing reputations as navigators and sharpshooters, so anyone who wanted to move against the Spanish would want some Boucaniers, or Buccaneers, with them for their combat prowess. By 1680, the term Buccaneer was being used to describe not just the locals but any Pirate of Privateer in general. As a result, the Buccaneer was a Pirate or Privateer operating in the Caribbean during the late 17th century and early 18th century. I hope these two posts have been informative, and encourage anyone who wants to know more to come on down to The Mariners’ Museum Library and explore our dozens and dozens of books on the matter. Until next time, have a good day!   Read more

A New Exhibit Washes Ashore!

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This life vest is representative of the first ever commercial version, and is now on display in the exhibit. From The Mariners' Museum Collection.

Hello again readers, and welcome back to the library blog! I have some exciting news for you today – there’s a brand new exhibit in The Mariners’ Museum Library, and it’s FREE to come look at!

The new exhibit is called “Illustrating the News: Shipwrecks in the Popular Press.” It follows the history of shipwreck imagery in newspapers and periodicals from the 1830s through 1912, a time before the widespread use of photography. Before this period, most publications didn’t have much imagery to accompany their stories. This exhibit covers the era when publications began using illustrated images to showcase the shipwrecks of the time, and didn’t always stay true to the reality of the situation. One can see dramatic illustrations of shipwrecks, rescue attempts and survivors, and the display includes panel text describing the artistic techniques the artists used to convey their message. There’s even a display with old lifejackets from the time period, one of which is made of cork!   Read more