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

Pirates in Anglo-American Culture

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A Jolly Roger flag flown by the USS Ranger. From The Mariners’ Museum collection.

Hello again, readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. A quick look at modern popular culture will make it clear even to the most casual of observers that the Caribbean Pirates of the 17th and 18th century are icons in family entertainment. Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” series has been immensely successful, and the 20th century is full of films about swashbuckling heroes and adventures at sea. And yet, a sampling of our news headlines paints a very different picture of piracy: container ships are ransacked, crews held for ransoms, and tourists are kidnapped or killed. Indeed, the world recognizes this problem and has deployed dozens of warships to counter the pirate threat to commerce and personal safety. Why is there such a dichotomy on the subject of piracy?

As a historian, it seems to me that the issue of piracy meets its natural response in the modern headlines: piracy has been reviled and combated since time immemorial, as it should be. The catch is that people also like stories of adventure, romance and rooting for the underdog. English (and by extension, American) culture especially has always had a bit of a rebellious streak, with heroes like Robin Hood robbing the superfluously rich and thumbing their noses at a corruption. For the Anglo-American world, pirates served as an excellent source of rebellious fun once they had faded into the past a bit, and books like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island capitalized on this fun in the late 1800s. About two centuries had passed since the buccaneers had last prowled the Caribbean, and it seemed safe to feature pirates as a source of adventure.   Read more

A New Sentinel

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A Filipino Pirate poses with an M-14. Photo by Nitin Vadakul. From The Mariners’ Museum Library collection.

Hello there readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. Some of you may be aware that recent security measures taken by maritime shipping and military forces have contributed to a marked decrease in piracy across the globe, especially off the coast of Somalia. Measures such as arming ships crews, attacking pirate strongholds and increasing naval patrols have all helped reduce this blight on our waterways. However, many people are worried that one measure in particular – arming ships crews – may have a greater negative effect than it does positive gain. In response to arming crews, some pirates are increasing their own firepower and ruthlessness in order to capture their prize.

But hope is not lost! The new security company Marine MTS based in the British city of Aberdeen has developed a new remote vessel tracking system called Sentinel. Sentinel is a software package that monitors the location of a vessel on the water, and can compare this location to local weather and security warnings in order to help the vessel avoid them. In addition, if the vessel departs from its intended course, it can be tracked and followed by operators at Maritime MTS.   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

Lloyd's Casualty Week

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The table of contents for the week of July 1st, 2011. Click for a much bigger view! From The Mariners’ Museum Library collection.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Library blog. Since the early 1700s, Lloyd’s List has been an excellent go-to source for information regarding shipping news. Lloyd’s List – or rather, lists – cover a large swath of information, from updates on worldwide commercial ports to a tabulation of worldwide ship losses. That last particular tabulation is called Lloyd’s Casualty Week, and here at The Mariners’ Museum Library we have a collection of that exact series that stretches from July of 1950 up to the end of 2011. Inside, an amalgamation of all the recent ship casualties is listed on a weekly basis, from natural disasters to fires and even piracy. That last category is especially relevant nowadays, when the global pirating of merchant and personal vessels is more widely recognized in the media.

 

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