Saturday, August 11, 2012
|Paddlewheeler steam engine. Image from Twaintimes.|
|A "Parsons"-type steam turbine. |
Image from The Leander Project.
The exact arrangement of pistons, arms, and gears varies after that, but eventually the steam's energy is used to turn the propeller shafts and thus the propellers themselves. Because modern steam turbines work best at speeds between 4000 and 7000 revolutions per minute, reduction gear must be used to reduced the speed of the shaft and propeller to more practical speeds
Steam engines require more planning and attention than diesel engines. The high temperatures involved (approaching 400 degrees Fahrenheit) and constant presence of water can dangerously stress materials of not handled correctly. It can take four hours or more between the time the order is given to get underway and the time the boiler is up to the needed temperature. The engine itself must be warmed up as well. Similar attention to detail must be observed when cooling down an engine.
Saturday, August 4, 2012
One of my favorite podcasts is The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe (SGU). The podcast is produced by members of the New England Skeptical Society and hosted by Society president Steven Novella, a neurologist. Each week the show's panel of "rogues" addresses controversial claims, pseudoscience, and the paranormal, often focusing on the latest scientific discoveries or advances, fraud or just plain nonsense from the world of medicine. The SGU was one of the inspirations for this blog.
This year the SGU took on a couple of nautical issues, with varying success. An excellent report on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic talked about some myths surrounding the lost liner:
- Although the Titanic struck an iceberg on April 14th, 1912, she did not actually sink until the 15th.
- The ship only had enough life boats for the current passengers; it had only a third of the number required for her total capacity
- Most of the deaths were from hypothermia, not drowning
- Much of the video we see of Titanic may actually be of her sister ship Olympic, which was launched the previous year
- The ship's owner, White Star Lines, didn't promote the idea that the vessel was "unsinkable," this was something that came up more after the sinking.
This last item turns out to be a myth about a myth. The SGU, to its credit, published an email from a listener the following week pointing out that, despite the claim that the "unsinkable" claim was untrue (as reported at, among other places, the myth-busting website Snopes.com), White Star had claimed in some promotional material that "as far as it is possible to do, these two wonderful vessels [Titanic and Olympic] are designed to be unsinkable."
On the other hand, another podcast on the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez sinking led with one "rogue" commenting that "one drunk sea captain drives the boat into the shoals..." Another panelist interrupted, pointing out that this was a myth, but then saying "the captain was drunk but not at the helm." Captain Joseph Hazelwood was found not guilty of being under the influence at trial. Also, investigative journalist Greg Pallast, quoted in the very Wikipedia article the SGU uses as its source for its report, says "Forget the drunken skipper fable."
To be fair, such slip-ups are rare on the SGU. It's a worthwhile, entertaining podcast for anyone interested in honing their critical thinking skills.
Misunderstood Mariners: Joseph Hazelwood
The Skeptic's Guide To The Universe, Show #352 Show Notes
The Skeptic's Guide To The Universe, Show #349 Show Notes
Anchorage Daily News, Hazelwood Cleared On Three Counts
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Saturday, July 21, 2012
|Photo of the 1882 transit, which revealed a precise distance for Venus's orbit.|
|Statue of Cook|
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Saturday, June 9, 2012
|William Bligh. 1814 portrait by Alexander Huey.|
Bligh was an officer under Capt. James Cook on that explorer’s third and final voyage, and served aboard vessels engaged in some of the most important naval battles of the Napoleonic Wars. Before taking command of the Bounty, he left the navy for a brief period to work in the merchant service. The Bounty’s log showed him to be, if anything, more sparing of cruel punishment than a lot of his fellow captain’s of the day. He also took from Cook a concern for the health of his crew, including making sure the food onboard exceeded the standards of the day and that the crew got daily exercise.
Bligh was also an early reformer of watch standing systems to combat crew fatigue, splitting his crew into three instead of two watches. It was this third watch that required an extra officer to be in charge of it, which led to Bligh recruiting Fletcher Christian for the 1789 voyage during which the mutiny occurred.
Bligh gets little credit for his forward thinking, although even popular accounts of the mutiny acknowledge Bligh’s skill in bringing a small boatload of loyalists 3600 nautical miles to safety with only one casualty. It’s probably inevitable that today Bligh is considered the bad guy in the mutiny, what with Christian being portrayed on film by heroic leading men Erroll Flynn, Clark Gable, and Marlon Brando. The fact is, the 1984 film The Bounty, with Mel Gibson as Christian and Anthony Hopkins as Bligh, is probably the most accurate, with many scenes lifted right from the Bounty’s log.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
The Liberty ship Jeremiah O'Brien is the only surviving merchant ship from the D-Day armada.Photo by Mike Hofmann
Every man in this Allied command is quick to express his admiration for the loyalty, courage and fortitude of the officers and men of the Merchant Marine. When final victory is ours, there is no organization that will share its credit more deservedly than the Merchant Marine.-- Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
USCG National Maritime Center: World War II Requests, Veterans Qualification Process
Saturday, May 26, 2012
|Courtesy German Federal Archive|
The sinking of the Hood was a blow not only to the fighting power, but the pride of the British Navy, and an all-out search and pursuit of the German battleship began by more than three dozen British warships. Lindemann made for occupied France and the protection of german aircraft and U-boats while engaging in a running artillery duel with his pursuers. The British eventually lost track of Bismarck, but on May 26, 1941 she was spotted by a (supposedly still neutral) American pilot, and intercepted by a nearby British force. Damaged heavily in attacks by torpedo bombers that day, the Bismarck sank the next day. The British claimed the coup de grace was delivered by an attack by the heavy cruiser Dorsetshire, while many of the 114 survivors of the Bismarck’s crew claim the ship was scuttled to avoid capture.
Revenge of the Battleships
MilitaryFactory.com: KMS Bismarck
KBismarck.org: Bismarck Myths
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
|US Coast Guard photo.|
- A vessel that is haunted or is itself ghostly. The most famous example of this is the legendary Flying Dutchman.
- A vessel drifting but with no crew. The most famous example of this is the Mary Celeste, an American brigantine found under sail off Portugal in December 1872 with all her crew and passengers and one life boat missing, but otherwise completely intact. More recently, the Tai Ching 21, a Taiwanese fishing vessel with a crew of 29, was found floating off Kiribati in November 2008. There had been a fire, and several lifeboats and rafts were missing, but there was no sign of the crew.
- A vessel decommissioned but not yet scrapped. The most notorious example of this may be the French aircraft carrier Georges Clemenceau, decommissioned in 1997 but not dismantled until 2010 due to environmental concerns.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
|Protect me, my Lord, my boat is so small; your sea is so big.|
-- Breton Fisherman's Prayer
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.-- Psalms, 107:23-30, The Bible
It is He who enables you to travel on land and sea until, when you are in ships and they sail with them by a good wind and they rejoice therein, there comes a storm wind and the waves come upon them from everywhere and they assume that they are surrounded, supplicating Allah , sincere to Him in religion, "If You should save us from this, we will surely be among the thankful."-- Verse (10:22) of chapter (10) sūrat yūnus (Jonah), The Koran
"Gods, who delight in preserving bold ships and turning from them the perils of windy seas, make smooth and placid these waters, and attend with good council my vows, let not my words be drowned out by roaring waves as I pray:
"O Neptune, grand and rare is the pledge we make to You, and in what we commend into the depths of the sea. Young Maecius it is whose body we commit to the sea, far from the sight of land, that he, the better part of our souls, traverses the sea’s length and depth (to the Western Lands).
"Bring forth the benign stars, the Spartan brothers, Castor and Pollux, to sit upon the horns of the yard arm. Let your light illuminate sea and sky. Drive off your sister Helen’s stormy star, I pray, and expel it from all the heavens.
"And you azure Nereids of the seas, whose good fortune it was to attain mastery of the oceans – may it be allowed to name you stars of the seas – rise up from your glassy caverns near the foaming waves that encircle Doris, and tranquilly swim circles around the shores of Baiae where the hot springs abound. Seek after the lofty ship on which a noble descendant of Ausonians, Celer, mighty at arms, is glad to embark. Not long will you need to look, for she lately came across the sea, leading a convoy laden with Egyptian wheat and bound for Dicarcheis. First was she to salute Capreae and from her starboard side offer a libation of Mareotic wine to Tyrrhenian Minerva. Near to her, on either side, circle gracefully around her. Divide your labors, some to tighten fast the rigging from masts to deck, while others high above spread forth canvass sails to the westerly Zephyrs. Still others replace some benches, others send into the water the rudder by whose curved blade steers the ship. Another plumbs the depths with leaden weights while others to fasten the skiff that follows astern, and to dive down and drag the hooked anchor from the depths, and one to control the tides and make the sea flow eastward. Let none of the sea green sisterhood be without her task.
"Then let Proteus of manifold shape and triformed Triton swim before, and Glaucus whose loins vanished by sudden enchantment, and who, so oft as he glides up to his native shores, wistfully beats his fish tail on Anthedon’s strand.
"And may the father whose Aeolian prison constrains the winds, whom the various blasts obey, and every air that stirs on the world’s seas, and storms and cloudy tempests, keep the North wind and South and East in closer custody behind his wall of mountain, but may Zephyr alone have the freedom of the sky, alone drive vessels onward and skim unceasingly over the crests of billows, until he brings without a storm your glad sails safe to the Paraetonian haven."-- Roman poet Publius Papinius Statius (1st Century AD), Silvae 3.2.1-49
O, MIGHTY NEPTUNE! Hear an honest British Tar -- thou knowest I trouble not thy Godship every day, I therefore pray thee to grant my prayer, for I love not long palavering and that there, d'ye see.
-- Sailor's Prayer
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
|Punishment on board ship, from the Journal of a Cruise on the USSCyane, 1842-43, by William H. Myers, Gunner|
Yet a sailor’s life is at best, but a mixture of a little good with much evil, and a little pleasure with much pain. The beautiful is linked with the revolting, the sublime with the commonplace, and the solemn with the ludicrous.-- Richard Henry Dana, Two Years Before The Mast
No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.-- James Boswell, Life of Johnson
The steerage in which I lived was filled with coils of rigging, spare sails, old junk and ship stores, which had not been stowed away. Moreover, there had been no berths built for us to sleep in, and we were not allowed to drive nails to hang our clothes upon. The sea, too, had risen, the vessel was rolling heavily, and everything was pitched about in grand confusion. There was a complete “hurrah’s nest,” as the sailors say, “everything on top and nothing at hand.” A large hawser had been coiled away upon my chest; my hats, boots, mattress and blankets had all fetched away and gone over to leeward, and were jammed and broken under the boxes and coils of rigging. To crown all, we were allowed no light to find anything with, and I was just beginning to feel strong symptoms of sea-sickness, and that listlessness and inactivity which accompany it.
Saturday, March 31, 2012
|The crew are wearing Type V PFDs, also called "work vests." The coxswain|
(driver) is wearing a Type III "float coat."
|Type I PFDs, also called "offshore life|
The most dramatic action, of course, usually makes it on the show. The “Deadliest Catch” often portrays the fishermen as “working in unsafe conditions, working unsafely and on the edge of capsizing at any given moment,” says Colburn. That’s simply not accurate, he maintains.
“The mariners who work in the Bering Sea are prudent and professional and constantly working to minimize risk and maximize safety,” says Colburn, who has participated in the show for four years.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
With the death of Millvina Dean on May 31, 2009 the last survivor of the Titanic disaster has passed on. A whole industry has grown up around the story of the Titanic and its captain, Edward J. Smith, an industry fueled by speculation, conspiracy theory, and outright falsehood.
Smith was born in England in 1850, and left school at age 13 to go to sea. He joined the the White Star Line, the line that would one day build the Titanic, in 1880 as Fourth Officer and seven years later was given his first command. He commanded larger and more prestigious ships as the years went on, along the way earning decorations, a rank of Commander in the Royal Navy reserve, and a reputation as the best and safest passenger liner captain in the world. The only major blemish on Smith’s career prior to Titanic was a September 1911 collision between the White Star Liner Olympic, which he commanded, and the British cruiser HMS Hawke.
Smith took command of the Titanic in 1912 and no sooner had the ship sailed on April 10 when quick action on his part helped avert a collision with the SS City of New York, which broke free of its mooring lines due to the surge caused by the Titanic’s passing. He was not so fortunate four days later: he was one of the roughly 1500 people who died when Titanic sank after striking an iceberg.
The popular image today is that of Smith going down with his ship, standing stoically on the bridge as the waters rose over his head, an image portrayed in the 1997 James Cameron film. One legend has him diving into the water with an infant in his arms, which he places on a lifeboat before swimming off to either die or look for more survivors. The last person know to have seen Smith alive was junior radio officer who says he saw the captain dive into the water from the bridge wing a few minutes before Titanic’s final plunge.
In terms of loss of life, Titanic was not the worst passenger ship disaster in history. More than 7,700 refugees, crew, and military personnel were killed on the German liner Wilhelm Gustloff when she was torpedoed by a Russian submarine in January 1945. Eighteen other liner disasters have higher casualty figures than Titanic’s. But the attention given this sinking was unequalled, and led to major reforms in maritime safety and eventually to the International Convention for the Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) that we operate under today.
Britannic & Olympic
thisisannouncments.co.uk: Smith, Edward John Obituary
The Daily Telegraph: Titanic's Captain Edward Smith In Bed When Drunk When Shop Struck Iceberg.
Economic Times (India): Titanic Has No Survivors Left.