It’s a Disaster! The Rollers of 1846

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View of James Town and the Harbour, Saint Helena. Taken from the Harbour Master’s Office during the Rollers of the 17th February 1846. The image was created from an eyewitness view by Frederick Rice Stack, a lieutenant with the St. Helena Regiment. (Accession# LP1200/1937.1569.01)

It’s time for me to admit something—I have a sick fascination with historical disasters—especially those related to natural phenomena. I don’t know why. I just do. Some of the prints and engravings we have in the collection are really unique so I thought I would share one of my favorites: The February 1846 “rollers” at St. Helena.  This image has fascinated me for years! The first time I saw it my immediate question was—what the hell are “rollers.” Now obviously they are waves but why did these particular waves deserve a different designation? (And no, they are not related to an earthquake or tsunami.)

The islands of Ascension and St. Helena (the island where Napoleon was exiled) in the South Atlantic are periodically plagued by waves that seem to occur for no readily apparent reason–one moment the seas are calm, little waves start rolling ashore and before long waves big enough to surf are hitting the north facing side of the island.  One source described the waves as “the rollers for which St. Helena has ever been celebrated.” Really? I find it hard to believe anybody was celebrating after looking at this image because in this instance the consequences of the “rollers” were so catastrophic the event was recorded for posterity.   Read more

Hampton Roads Invaded: The Anglo-Dutch Naval Wars

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Tobacco Farming in Virginia, ca. 1650. Sidney E. King, artist, public domain. Courtesy of National Park Service.

During the colonial era European conflicts often spilled over into colonies along the Atlantic seaboard. Caribbean islands produced sugar; Southern Atlantic colonies produced cotton, tobacco, and ship stores; and the Northern Atlantic colonies were famous for furs and lumber. As the Europeans fought, they likewise sought to control all of their enemies’ commerce and resources.

The Anglo-Dutch Wars were a series of three 17th-century conflicts fought for control of worldwide trade; and were mostly conducted by naval warfare. Both the Netherlands and England were rapidly expanding commercial nations, and each wished to control these vast profits. To do so meant that either England or the Netherlands had to destroy their enemies’  fleet, conquer or raid their colonies, and capture or disrupt  their merchant marine. The Second  and Third Anglo-Dutch naval wars involved both the Dutch and English and this fierce economic rivalry brought these wars to the shores of Hampton Roads.   Read more

Jamestown 1907 Exhibition

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Edward Hungerford Collection, 02506 and 02514

The year 1907 marked the 300th anniversary of the founding of the settlement at Jamestown and a grand exhibition was hosted in Norfolk to mark the occasion. Globe-trotting journalist Edward Hungerford was one of those in attendance and The Mariners’ Museum Library has recently digitized some of his works in our possession about the event.

The Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition ran from April 26 – November 30, 1907. This impressive model city was built at Norfolk’s Pine Beach with the idea to capitalize on the craze in American popular culture at the time for pageantry and have something like a World’s Fair for Hampton Roads. Today Pine Beach is part of Norfolk Naval Base and some of the grounds have since given way to a golf course and other functions for the base. However some original buildings still remain having been re-purposed into the officers’ club and admiral’s quarters.   Read more

Loaning Objects to Jamestown

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1986-38-3OysterTongs-detail

We are frequently dealing with loans, whether objects are being sent to other places or coming in for an exhibition we are planning.  This summer has been especially busy as we have had several large loans, which are very time-consuming.  This week we brought several large objects to Jamestown that will be used in an upcoming exhibition about the Chesapeake Bay.  This includes two boats, oyster tongs, a culling board and a frame saw.  The end of the tongs and saw can be seen in the pictures below.

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