A Maritime issue on the ballot!

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Key West Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships
Advertising in favor of Key West ballot initiatives

Actually, the maritime issue isn’t on our Newport News ballot… it is on the ballot of Key West, Florida. However, the future of cruise ships in the world of Covid-19 may be on the minds of many citizens of port cities that welcome them.

Cruise Ships Face the Voters

This week I was on vacation in the Florida Keys — our first outing since the pandemic struck! I was very excited and pleased to get away from work (which I LOVE!) and the non-stop election coverage (which I love rather less). So when we arrived in Key West, I was taken aback to see the intersection of both the elections and my maritime life on signs all over town! Here is one of them:   Read more

Happy Birthday to The Mariners’ Museum and Park!

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Did you know that our most beloved Museum and Park were incorporated, born, let’s say born, on June 2, 1930? We’re old. 90 years old, next week, to be exact! Our body – buildings and grounds – may be a little worn, but they’ve been well taken care of over the years by our loving Museum team. Our inners – our object and living collections – are strong … and maybe growing a bit (our trees are definitely taller!). Our brain – the staff and volunteers – is sharp, and our heart – our fantastic communities, members, donors, and YOU! – could not be stronger, healthier, or more supportive. 

Upon incorporation, our charter stated that we were to be:

…a museum and library pertaining to nautical subjects, things of interest, and otherwise, to advance learning, the arts and science relating to or bearing in water craft, the marine and marine navigation, thus to promote the public welfare and provide means of encouraging and carrying out the above mentioned purposes,within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

And, incident to the whole, to develop and maintain a lake and park within the bounds of which the foregoing purposes may be accomplished.

 That’s, ya know, a lot of words and fairly abstract, so we’ve focused it on connecting people to, and through, the water.* We LOVE connecting with you through stories told by the worlds’s waters. 

The Museum and Park have seen so many incredible things throughout the years. Change, growth, war, love, adaption, peace, heartache, and everything in between. The best part of it is, we are still here, having gone through all of these things together. We are here for YOU. Created for YOU. And, there is nothing that brings us, our whole Museum team, more joy.

So, to commemorate this most auspicious anniversary we’re going to spend the next few months sharing stories about the Museum and Park’s beginnings through the blog, showing off throwback photos from our institutional collection (is it a good birthday without some childhood photos?), and lots more. 

We can’t wait to celebrate with you in person when we reopen! Until then, celebrate with us virtually through weekly blogs and social media posts.

*Do you know our mission statement? No? The Mariners’ Museum and Park connects people to the water, because through the water – through our shared maritime heritage – we are connected to one another. Now you know it!

She Floats!

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Well, actually, she doesn’t. The Costa Concordia, that is.

We have been covering the shipwreck and massive salvage operation of Concordia since almost the very beginning of our Port of Call blog. Bill Edwards-Bodmer brought it to our attention in a short post on January 16, 2012 (see it here). At that point, no one knew that 2 1/2 years later, that ship would still be off of the island of Giglio.

It has been a very long road, but this morning crews pumped enough air into the sponsons welded onto the sides of Concordia to float the hulk about 6 ft. off the underwater platform where it had been sitting on its bottom since last September. The sponsons are floating, and they are carrying the ship up with them. The BBC has an excellent time-lapse video at their site now up that shows the entire operation, from refloating to moving the wreck about 30 meters further away from shore, where they have moored her with heavy chains to the sea floor.

With no evidence so far of any quantity of the toxic soup sloshing around inside the hulk leaking out, engineers and the entire island are breathing a sigh of relief.

Now the end is in sight. The National Post reports that towing to Genoa, where Costa Concordia was built and where she will be broken up, will begin next week. Stay tuned!

Charles W. Morgan sails again!

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Charles W. Morgan
An engraving of the Charles W. Morgan by Charles Wilson, in the collections of The Mariners’ Museum

While we are on the subject of important Number 2’s (see our July 2 post here), I’ve been watching with fascination the re-launch of the Charles W. Morgan, the second oldest ship in America, and her 38th voyage around ports in the Northeast. Built in 1841, the whaler Morgan is the last of her kind and is only junior to the USS Constitution in terms of age. She is the oldest commercial ship afloat in the US. See her itinerary here.

Many of our readers have probably been to Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut and been aboard Morgan for a tour. You may remember her in the days before 1974 when she was partially buried at her dock to preserve the hull. If you have been to Mystic in the past few years, you will be very aware that the Morgan has been undergoing careful restoration work since November of 2008. This has been a massive undertaking for the museum and would have never been possible without the support of a number of committed program partners and individuals. To all those organizations and individuals, we at Mariners’ thank you for supporting our country’s maritime heritage.

Now, here are a few photos from our collection of the Charles W. Morgan during what was thought to be her last voyage afloat, on her way from Dartmouth, MA to Mystic in 1941. Photographs by Joseph Gordon. Enjoy!

A Pressing Issue

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The Leviathan. From The Mariners’ Museum collection.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Library blog. The Daily Press just printed an article by Michael Welles Shapiro reviewing the new book by Steven Ujifusa, “A Man and his Ship: America’s Greatest Naval Architect and his Quest to Build the SS United States.”  The book explores the tenacity displayed by SS United States chief designer William Francis Gibbs in his efforts to get the ships he designed built over the years, with great emphasis given to the SS United States. In order to highlight Gibbs’ determination Ujifusa covers an incident early in his career, when a great deal of friction erupted between Gibbs and the shipyard president Homer Ferguson over the redesign of a ship called the Leviathan after World War I.

 

Ferguson made a below-cost bid on the shipbuilding rights to the ship and wanted to make up his deficit by charging money for a boatload of design changes to the ship specifications. Gibbs would have none of that – he designed the Leviathan with a specific set of specifications and refused to allow any alterations to her blueprints that would increase her cost. Ferguson ended up getting in trouble for losing money on the Leviathan, but his resignation was not accepted. As for Gibbs, his determination in getting his ships built paid off for him when he designed the SS United States.

 

The article is well written and interesting, but it sadly omits mention of The Mariners’ Museums influence on the subject matter. Shapiro frequently mentions researcher Steven Ujifusa’s new biography on Gibbs in his article, but what he leaves unmentioned is that Ujifusa did most of his research for the biography right here at The Mariners’ Museum. In fact, one of Ujifusa’s most frequently consulted sources was explored in a previous blog post that you can revisit HERE. In addition to Ujifusa’s research, however, there exists a second unmentioned tie to The Mariners’ Museum: Homer Ferguson.

 

Apart from being a determined shipyard president who clashed with SS United States designer Gibbs, Ferguson was also one of the co-founders of The Mariners’ Museum. This makes his involvement with the SS United States rather complicated. In life he tried as hard as he could to turn a profit for the shipyard by changing the designs of ships like the SS United States, which could have prevented the noble ship from sailing into the history books as the world’s fastest transatlantic liner had he been around when Gibbs designed her. On the other hand, his contribution to the foundation and continuation of The Mariners’ Museum has helped preserve the memory of the SS United States and many other ocean liners as well. I wonder what his thoughts would be if he could see us now… would he begrudge our praise of his nemesis’ brainchild, or would he be proud of our continuing dedication to maritime history?