Brittle Fracture: When Ships Split in Two

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Daniel J. Morrell
Great Lakes steamship Daniel J. Morrell. Photograph by Pesha Art Company, of Marine City, Michigan.

Last month, I began writing about the case of the Daniel J. Morrell, a Great Lakes bulk carrier built in 1906 that went down in a gale in November of 1966. I thought I would tell the story of how the ship split in two, and how all hands perished save 1 man.  I thought, “How very like the story of that film, The Finest Hours, that told the story of Bernie Webber and his crew of Coasties who saved 32 sailors from the wreck of the T2 tanker Pendleton. In both cases, the bow section split off and sank, as the stern section just sailed on.” The Michael Tougias & Casey Sherman book of the same name, by the way, served as the basis for the movie.

Then I thought about other ships that split. The T2 tanker Fort Mercer, that went down in the same storm as Pendleton. The Carl D. Bradley, another Laker. The T2 tanker Schenectady, just sitting at dock when it suddenly hogged and split.  Historians have documented 19 Liberty ships as having split in 2 without warning. There were just too many ships, too many lives lost! What was happening to these vessels?   Read more

Rabbit Hole Leads Me to Moon

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Norfolk Marine Railway Co., Acme Photo Company, Inc., Nov. 1934 (MS0598-PS485).

Recently I came across a scrapbook created for and donated to The Mariners’ Museum in 1935 by George W. Roper titled Shipyards and Ship Repair Yards of the Port of Norfolk and Hampton Roads. Roper wrote “a short account of each yard or plant of which I have been able to obtain any reliable record, beginning with the earliest.”1

The typewritten account is eight pages long, and is followed by 25-27 photographs of area shipyards, including Moon Shipyard and Repair Company. I thought, Moon – what a cool name! Curiosity over the name led me down the rabbit hole that is this blog. That, and the striking clarity and composition of the photographs, taken by Acme Photo of Norfolk (ca. 1930s), compelled me to seek out and share their history.   Read more

A Glimpse of Early 20th-Century Life at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company

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The man himself, January 28, 1905. Charles Bailey was also administrative vice president for the project of building the Mariners’ Museum and creating the Park.

Charles Franklin Bailey (1863-1934), a native of Vermont, came to Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in 1891 as chief draftsman. Appointed chief engineer in 1900, Bailey was later named engineering director and a member of the yard’s board of directors in 1918. From its beginning, Bailey was active in the founding and success of The Apprentice School. After he retired from the shipyard in 1934, the Charles F. Bailey Award was created in his honor, recognizing the graduate with the highest scholastic average.

Bailey enjoyed photography and he created three small albums of photographs that he took between 1903 and 1905. In addition to documenting ships under construction or in for repair, there are views of the shipyard, buildings in Newport News and residences in Norfolk.   Read more