Raising the Mast

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14-28-01 raising the mast 02 Apr 2015 (1)

For those who follow our blog, you may remember that last year we had a Kenyan dhow added to our collection.  When the piece came to the museum, it was placed in the back of our International Small Craft Center in a temporary position.  Yesterday we spent a good portion of the morning getting it into a better spot for display and raising the mast.

Our staff deserves some major kudos for this as they figured out how to rig it just by looking at photos we had taken when it was in D.C..  Now our visitors can enjoy seeing the dhow in all its glory!   Read more

Artifact of the Month – Kenyan dhow, Lamu

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2014-07-16 (2)

A couple posts ago I mentioned that we had a new boat coming.  Well, it’s here and I decided to feature it as the object of the month for August.  She is a Kenyan dhow named Lamu.

Lamu was brought to Washington DC for the 2014 Folklife Festival all the way from Lamu Island, Kenya.  The above photo shows her in the National Mall in DC, the National Museum of Natural History behind her.   She was brought by Ali Abdalla Skanda, whose father built her about 10 years ago.  While at the festival, Skanda and an assistant, Aly Baba, worked on fixing her up and finishing the painting and woodcarving.  Skanda recognizes that dhows are not used as they once were (with the development of motorized boats) and so dedicates himself to continuing the art of dhow building (passed from generation to generation in his family) and preserving his culture.   Read more

Piracy and Terrorism

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From Thomas B. Hunter’s “The Growing Threat of Modern Piracy,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 125 no. 1 (July 1999), 72-74. From The Mariners’ Museum Library Collection.

Hello readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. Recent posts have concentrated heavily on pirates from the late 17th and early 18th century, but what about the pirates nowadays? Thankfully, some happy news awaits us in that sector. Throughout the year, pirate attacks off of the failed state of Somalia have decreased sharply as a coalition of nations patrol the waterways and merchant ships arm their crews. In addition to these seaborne measures, Somalia’s southwestern neighbor Kenya has recently invaded the areas close to their mutual border in retaliation for constant border transgressions and the kidnapping of tourists in Kenya. The Kenyan military brought the fight to the pirates, destroying pirate strongholds like the one at Kismayo and driving them out of southwestern Somalia. Unfortunately, many of these pirates are also affiliated with a local terrorist branch of Al-Qaeda called Al Shabaab. These terrorists are now bombing Kenyan civilians as revenge for their setbacks.

Events like those described above bring to mind the very real connection between piracy and terrorism that has existed since time immemorial. Terrorism, broadly defined as the use of terror as a coercive measure, can be seen in the fearsome countenance and actions of our favorite pirates of old, like Blackbeard. Blackbeard is famous for lighting candles or furls of weak gunpowder in his beard to create a hellish visage, and when pirates attacked ships or towns they often raped, murdered and stole everything they could get their hands on. So too today, pirates rape murder and rob the hapless victims they come across on the high seas. Piracy has decreased off the coast of Somalia, but the terror attacks in Kenya show that it is still a very real problem and not likely to go away for a long time to come.   Read more