Parthian and the Pirates

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“H.M. Sloop Parthian Capturing a Spanish Pirate.” Watercolor by Nicolas Cammillieri of Malta, circa 1825-1830. (Accession# 1951.763.01/QW750)

This week, while trying to identify prints in our collection that showed dghasa, a beautiful little craft native to Malta, I stumbled across a really interesting watercolor painted by Nicolas Cammillieri. The artwork is titled “H.M. Sloop Parthian Capturing a Spanish Pirate.” The computer record didn’t contain any information about the event depicted but I figured there must be an interesting story behind the artwork–and I was right!

It all started when Lloyd’s List reported that on May 15, 1824 two British merchant vessels, the brig Pilgrim of Greenock, captained by J. Wilson1 with twelve crew, and the barque Shannon, captained by 31-year-old Isaac Peart with sixteen crew, had sailed together from Campeche, Mexico for Bristol and Cork but neither had arrived at their destination.  They were believed to have foundered in the Atlantic Ocean with the loss of all hands.    Read more

Frames of Destruction

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Iron spear from a chevaux-de-frise for river use (Accession#1944.04.01/A37)

During my time at Mariners’ I have frequently been intrigued by an odd looking object in one of our storage areas but time wasn’t always available to learn more about it.  That recently changed for one object when I spent several months researching the history behind a piece that has always intrigued me—a large, bent, barbed, piece of iron–the spear of a chevaux-de-frise.

For those of you thinking “chev-o-de-what?”, chevaux-de-frise are those long lines of angled sharpened posts you sometimes see on historic battlefields.  They were used as obstructions to prevent cavalry from overrunning a defensive line.  For those of you who already know what they are and are asking yourself “how can one of those defend a river?”, that’s where the interesting story lies!    Read more

With a Zoologist’s Eye

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Mayor published his first zoological article, “Habits of the Box Tortoise” in 1890. At the time he was studying advanced physics at the University of Kansas making it obvious where his real interest lay. [Yes, I know this isn’t a box turtle, but it sure shows Mayor’s skill at rendering animals doesn’t it???] Alligator Terrapin. Chelydra Serpentina by Alfred Goldsborough Mayor. Courtesy of the Mayor Family.

Top image: Alfred Goldsborough Mayor. Courtesy of the Mayor Family.

What happens when a zoologist/biologist applies his powers of observation for studying animals to the study of boats? For Alfred Goldsborough Mayor it meant producing a body of work that has given researchers and museums some of the best historic documentation available on the construction of a variety of Pacific island sailing canoes.   Read more

An Unnecessary Disaster

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A View of the Royal George Sinking at Spithead, August the 29th, 1782. Wash drawing by John Fletcher, 1792 (Accession#1998.14.01)

August 29 marked the 239th anniversary of one of the Royal Navy’s worst and most unnecessary disasters–the capsizing of the 108-gun first rate ship HMS Royal George. When the disaster occurred there were innumerable family members, merchants and other people on board visiting the crew.  As a consequence, there were wide discrepancies in the number of reported fatalities. Most believe somewhere between 500 and 1400 men, women and children died in the capsize–including one of England’s most respected admirals, Richard Kempenfelt.

HMS Royal George was built between 1747 and 1756 at Woolwich Dockyard. She was a ship of new design and at the time of her launch was the largest warship in the world. Although she spent many years “in ordinary” (which means laid up waiting for action) between the Seven Years’ War and American Revolutionary War, Royal George frequently served as an admiral’s flagship.   Read more

Getting the Collection “Ship-Shape”: The Small Craft Survey

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Objects Conservator Paige Schmidt and Myself examine “Minnow”, an Optimist Class Dinghy, in the International Small Craft Center. Image Credit: The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

If you visit the International Small Craft Center on Thursdays, you may spot Objects Conservator Paige Schmidt and me (Summer Conservation Intern) crawling around on the floor between the boats. We have not lost our glasses like a blinded Velma Dinkley. Actually, we’re conducting a conservation survey of the Museum’s collection of 142 small craft.

The small craft collection contains a diverse variety of vessels ranging in size, shape, function, and source culture. Because the Museum’s small craft originate from such a variety of contexts, each boat comes to the Museum with its own quirks and challenges resulting from its history of use. To get a better understanding of the collection, its condition issues, and its needs, it is necessary to evaluate each small craft, one-by-one.   Read more