Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Jack London, seafarer who wrote with light

Jack London, Photographer./ by Jeanne Campbell, Sara S. Hodson & Philip Adam. Published by the University of Georgia Press, 2010. 272 p., illustrations, portraits, notes, photo credits, index.

Revealing his extra-creative side, this collection of approximately 400 photographs captures the spirit of events through portraits of people and aspects of maritime history from Jack London’s travels to cultures in the Pacific Rim.

The main photographic portfolios in the book are chapters entitled: People of the Abyss (1903); the Russo-Japanese War (1904); the San Francisco Earthquake (1906); the Cruise of the Snark (1907-09); the Voyage of the Dirigo (1912) and the Mexican Revolution (1914). These are bracketed by images of London at work, from 1902 to 1914, from the early days of his dual role as writer and photographer.

London’s images were powerful sketches of “… how some relatively unexplored places and unknown peoples appeared one hundred years ago…” p. ix

Co-author Philip Adams calls London a proto-photojournalist, because he did have an active role in depicting major world events such as the Russo-Japanese War and the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 for newspapers and magazines; his images were featured in the San Francisco Examiner, McClure’s, and Cosmopolitan magazine.

From 1900 to 1914, when images in this book were originally made, photography became more portable and easier to manage in real-life situations, far from studio set-ups. Kodak roll film, film that could be advanced in the camera without cumbersome procedures to keep already exposed images safe, became available. And the camera grew lighter and smaller than for sheet film. Subjects could be more selectively composed and recorded more spontaneously. Although he was a journalist in a broad sense, he was adept at selecting and presenting his particular worldview. His life goals coincided with a time when printing and photographic technologies merged to give the public illustrated news. He was…
“… drawn to any subject that indicated the struggle to survive… as he highly valued the individual.” p. 9

We can see that London’s fervor for adventure and for writing was as strong as his choice of subjects in photographs. He produced books with illustrated essays: the most relevant today is People of the Abyss in which he sought to portray England’s inner-city poor, the forgotten poor whose basic needs were ignored by the higher-class populace. His images of the Russian-Japanese War show Chinese and Korean daily life, immigration by ship, Japanese soldiers, children and the aged. The 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and the images shot while sailing the Pacific were no more personal, no less stunning in effect on the viewer. The picture albums were saved by London’s wife, Charmian, and by his sister, Eliza. London died in 1916, and the work was donated to the Huntington Library, with negatives kept with the California State Parks system. These collections represent a wealth of history not widely recognized.

For closer inspection:
People of the Abyss, published in 1903, also published in 2008 by Akasha Publishing.

An online exhibit of Jack London’s photographs from the California Historical Society’s web page.

Jack London Web Sites featuring Sonoma State University Collection and The Huntington Library’s Jack London Collection.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See the book Jack London, Photographer./ by Jeanne Campbell, Sara S. Hodson & Philip Adam in our online catalog.

More new book titles in the Library can be viewed in the Library at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum or online at
New books and pamphlet this month!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ships from Trees

Photograph of Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, 1987, attributed to James P. Howes.

Beautiful Christmas lights on very tall fir trees reflect a romantic and quaint view of our winter holidays. The tall tree is an icon, symbolic of strength, flexibility and not only on land but also on the sea. The variety of vessels crafted from wood marked the beginning of travel on inland waters and oceans in canoes, triremes, and the first sailing ships.

Ship decking, planking and timbers were made from cut boards or hewn and shaped pieces of softwood, like Redwood, and hardwood, such as Maple and Oak. From ancient times until the twentieth century, people built vessels from wood. They also built houses, especially in the developing West, where a single Redwood tree could supply enough lumber to built twenty “average sized house” (Grapp, Footprints, 1967).

With the six men standing along the tree trunk here in a photograph from the late 1800s, we are seeing only a section of a tree that could have stood about 300 feet tall. Such a very tall tree was recently digitally captured by photographer Michael Nichols. The process of his images is now on view, along with three other adventure-photographers’ works, at the Annenberg Space for Photography in the current exhibit “Extreme Exposures”.

Steam schooners were wooden ships built in the early twentieth century to carry lumber: this vessel is a Pacific Coast steam schooner, photographed by Walter Scott, from A Pacific Legacy... by Wayne Bonnett, on page 67.

From the 1840s, the Pacific West Coast, rich in natural resources from then un-tapped forests, began to realize a huge increase in trade. First lumber-carrying ships were brigantines, schooners and barkentines, already experienced merchant sailing ships; these were superseded in the late 1890s and early 1900s by steam schooners.

This winter, plan a visit to the Museum to see models of these ships and photographs of the time when San Pedro was a destination for the wooden ships, on view at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See the book A Pacific Legacy/ by Wayne Bonnett in our online catalog.

Lumber ships: see scale models on display from our permanent collection at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library give more history of wooden ships. These titles were selected from the collection:

Footprints: An Early history of Fort Bragg, California and the Pomo Indians. / by Bonni Grapp, © 1967.

A Pacific Legacy: A Century of Maritime Photography, 1850-1950. / by Wayne Bonnett. Published by Chronicle Books San Francisco, 1991.

Ships of the Redwood Coast. / by Jack McNairn and Jerry McMullen. Published by Stanford University Press, 1960, c1945.

Tall Ships: The Marine Photographs of Wilhelm Hester. / by Robert Weinstein. Published by Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, Canada, 1978.

Wood, lumber and timber. / by Phillips A. Hayward. Published by Chandler Cyclopedia, 1930.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lions, Dragons, and Ornamental Carvings

Old Ship Figure-heads and Sterns: with which are Associated Galleries, Hancing-pieces, Catheads and Divers other Matters that Concern the “Grace and Countenance” of Old Sailing Ships./ by L.G. Carr-Laughton

In author Laughton’s book, figureheads and sterns extravagantly display the art of decoration and wood carving on British, French, Spanish and Dutch ships from the 14th through the 19th centuries. As he explains, the custom of ship and sail decoration began much, much earlier, with carvings of scaly or winged symbols, draggons and lions, of religious or state importance. The carvings adorned the flagship of a fleet with its painted sails, representing style and culture. He recounts:

“We do know that shipwrights of this period… wished their ships to carry an impression of their “terror and majesty” to their enemies, and to all beholders…” p. 12

Canons being fitted to military ships along the port and starboard sides, were extended around the sterns in galleries, built above and below the quarterdecks, or walkways for masters of the ships.

Originally written in 1925, Laughton’s description of ornamentation is decisive, and supplied with examples and footnotes; he maintains his intent was to produce a popular, as opposed to scholarly, work. He begins the chapter on figureheads by noting that “we remember the analogy between a ship and a living creature”, p. 63, giving illustrations of early Greek, Phoenician, and Roman ships’ animal carvings. A review of the chapter on sterns compares similar time periods. He includes a note on American ships of the 1800s with entire human figures, an example of the evolution of figurehead design.

The book includes 48 pages of plates showing examples from built models, photographs and illustrations held by various maritime museums. Its ten chapters are supported by a subject index, a ship index, and lists of illustrations in color, black and white, and numerous line drawings. For the model builder, the chapters following an introduction are: Fashion in Ornament, the Limitation of Ornament, The Head, Figure-Heads, the Stern, Quarter Galleries and Badges, The Broadside, Inboard Works, and Painting and Gilding. The book in the Library is a republications by Dover Publications, 2001.

Explanation of terms used from Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea. Second edition. Edited by I.C.B. Dear and Peter Kemp. Published by Oxford University Press, 2005. 971 p. :
Figurehead: “an ornamental carved and painted figure erected … below the bowsprit (forward of the vessel, at the bow) as a decorative emblem…” p. 302.

Flagship: “in navies, the ship that carries the admiral’s flag… in mercantile shipping lines, the ship of the commodore or senior captain of the line.” p. 314

Gallery: “the walk built out from the admiral’s or captain’s cabin in larger sailing warships…” p. 335.

Quarter deck: “in sailing ships, it is the part of the ship from which it was commanded by the captain, master or officer of the watch… or where the captain used to walk…” p. 679.

Stern: the after end of the vessel, p. 834.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See the book Old Ship Figure-heads and Sterns/ by L.G. Carr-Laughton in our online catalog.

Figure-heads: see genuine figure-heads on display from our permanent collection at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Alchemy and naval power

Gunpowder : alchemy, bombards, and pyrotechnics : the history of the explosive that changed the world. / by Jack Kelly. Basic Books, N.Y., 2004. 261 pages, illustrations, sources, and index.

Before navies had canons, ships relied on boarding and armed combat, or even earlier, used the technique of ramming other ships to damage and sink them. Gunpowder was originally created to imitate and amplify the sudden snap and split of burning bamboo. Author Jack Kelly tells the story of pyrotechnics and artificial fire in thirteen chapters with initial and ending remarks:

Prologue -- Fire drug -- Thundring noyse -- The most pernicious arts -- The devills birds -- Villainous saltpetre -- Conquest's crimson wing -- Nitro-aerial spirit -- No one reasons -- What victory costs -- History out of control -- The meeting of heaven and earth -- Appalling grandeur -- The old article -- Epilogue.

Centuries of fascination with the power of this explosive stretched to cover one thousand years: in this time military inventions intensified its capacity, responsible for historical conquests among the European monarchies. Ships carried gunpowder as early as 1337, p. 92, and Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was noted as the inventor of waging battles principally with canon. The author’s account describes gunpowder’s use from the Medieval Period and the Renaissance, claiming that it supported colonialism and world-wide exploit. A sense of the rudimentary nature of manufacturing and utilizing gunpowder is seen in the illustrations below, pages 37 and 44.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See the book Gunpowder : alchemy, bombards, and pyrotechnics : the history of the explosive that changed the world. / by Jack Kelly, and other accounts of the Medieval, Renaissance, and colonical military history in our online catalog.

Navy ships: see expertly built models at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Gold to Lumber

A Pacific Legacy : A Century of Maritime Photography, 1850-1950 / Wayne Bonnett ; foreword by Robert A. Weinstein. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1991. 154 p., Illustrations, Bibliography and Index.

Lumber carrying steam schooners and barks with floating Edwardian bedrooms, p. 63; a German square-rigger, its violinist and drummers, other musicians and the cook who's about to pour a cordial, p. 60; Port Los Angeles, a wharf built in Santa Monica to serve the railroad industry before San Pedro became the port city, p. 51; a view of Terminal Island, about 1899, p. 48; and the 1944 set for the movie, "Two years Before the Mast" are just a few of the historical photographs in A Pacific Legacy. What is so compelling about these images lies in their clarity and sharpness, uncovering the maritime past in splendid detail.

The Time Line
Although indigenous peoples had travelled waterways close to the coast and ventured across the Pacific, perhaps 1400 years earlier, to populate islands they discovered, their seafaring skills were little understood by the European, Asian, and Russian explorers. And when Yankee Whaling ships appeared about 1795 at the "Sandwich Islands" (215 years ago!) to take part in whaling and trading skins, meat and oil, their role in maritime history would be relatively short-lived, as author Wayne Bonnett indicates:

"... a thousand year history of ocean commerce and sailing ships was nearing its end. The final flourishes of the American age of sailwere the clipper ships, down easters and finally the big five and six-masted schooners at the beginning of the 19th and 20th centuries." p. 25

The seven chapters organized for viewing are selected from a collection of photographs from the Museum Archives of the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park , and each chapter is headed by a discussion about the images, such as “Sail and Steam”, “Pacific Coast Ports”, “The Lumber Empire”, etc. Photographs are supported by captions and dates, photographer’s name if known.

Images in A Pacific Legacy show us something of seaport life from the 1850s well into the twentieth century: merchant ships underway or in home ports, shipwrecked sailing vessels, vessel and material goods towage, and portrayals of crew members, passengers, captains, and tourists dressed to meet a ship, or launch it, proudly wearing their best style of the day. Early photographers found excellent subjects in sailing ships and seafaring life, albeit close to home. In fact, maritime histories written about nineteenth and twentieth century ships are often less interesting without photographic illustrations of vessels. Visual representation was the single source used to identify a ship, especially when facts alone, or radio signal, or satellite equipment was not yet invented.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available in circulation for Museum members. See the book A Pacific Legacy: A Century of Maritime Photography 1850-1950 by Wayne Bonnett, forward by Robert A. Weinstein and other photographic accounts of the age of sail in our online catalog.

Merchant ships: see expertly built models at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

Archives and special collections are available to the public at the National Archives, Pacific Region.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Gold in Rough Times

The Zamorano 80 Revisited: A Collector’s Update of A Classic Work. / Gordon J. Van De Water. Featherwood Press, Diamond Bar, Calif., 2010. 513 p., with 15 Illustrations, Appendices, Bibliography, and Index.

Imagine the richness of our times, being able to read history electronically or in paper, depending on our disposition in the moment, and to have the inside story from a book collector’s point of view! Such is possible following the introduction to our vast legacy in The Zamorano 80 Revisited: A Collector’s Update of A Classic Work. Author Gordon Van De Water explains that although most of the titles are rare and can only be viewed as first editions and read at special libraries, some of the material is also available on the Internet or has been reprinted. Van De Water’s book is written to illuminate the special collection created by the Zamorano Club, published in 1945. The Club’s purpose was to represent the history of published books about California, from just before the Gold Rush (1849-1853) and forward to the early twentieth century.

Rather than simply providing a list of book titles and authors, Van De Water quotes from each of the 80 books selected by the Zamorano Club, encouraging the reader’s curiosity with sample paragraphs. Book number 26 of the Zamorano 80 is Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast, A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea, first published by Harper & Brothers, New York, 1840. Van De Water says of the value of Dana’s journal:

“… the book’s permanent value comes from the descriptions of the life and times of the Californios as witnessed by a young, though well educated, common seaman… “ p. 125.

Dana is quoted describing the town of Monterey, as “… the pleasantest and most civilized-looking place in California… that the inhabitants built around a Presidio for protection.” p. 126. As he illustrates, the society was shaped by arms and religion: “The common [houses] have two or three rooms which open into each other, and are furnished with a bed or two, a few chairs and tables, a looking glass, a crucifix… and small daubs of paintings enclosed in glass, and representing some miracle or martyrdom.” p. 127.

The Zamorano Club’s list of books, The Zamorano 80, captured of the essence of California in non-fiction and has been the celebrated bibliography of significant events of the past 150 years. Mark Twain, for example, wrote of his travels in Nevada, California and the Sandwich Islands in Roughing It, first published in 1872. This literature, indicative of life mostly for newcomers in the early 1800s, describes the momentous fusion of pan-European, Asian and American cultures as forming the character of the new state on the West Coast. Initially California was a Spanish territory, governed by Mexico and inspired by the French, Russian, American Indian and other traders who came by sea and overland routes to the West Coast. To make a comprehensive study of the region’s character and influences, consult The Zamorano 80. Many of the works have been reprinted recently and are available at public libraries and online. Since there were 80 original book titles in the selection, writers have proposed 20 titles to make an even 100; recently, some writers proposed important works in the late twentieth century that are relevant to the state’s evolution and current history.

Explantion of terms used:
Gold Rush: American Memory Project at the Library of Congress page with details: Early California History: An Overview including early people of the region, Spanish and Mexican California, the Gold Rush period and other topics about the region as a state.

Roughing It: an expression that means to be without comfort and conveniences, used by Mark Twain as a title to his book describing his travels in a then under-populated West coast and voyage to Hawaii.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available in circulation for Museum members. See the book Gold, Silk, Pioneers & Mail : from the California Gold Fields to the China Trade, the Story of Pacific Mail Steamship Company by Robert J. Chandler and Stephen J. Potash, and other accounts of early California in our online catalog.

Merchant ships: see expertly built models at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

Learn more about California history at the California State Archives, including the state constitutions, Family Histories, Oral Histories, Spanish and Mexican Land Grants, and Photographic Collections.

Archives and special collections are available to the public at the National Archives, Pacific Region, the National Park Service, California, and the Autry National Center of the American West.

Note other books on the subject of California history at: University of California Press and University of Nevada Press .

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The American Space Program, prior to 1848.

Western Places, American Myths How We Think About the West / edited by Gary L. Hausladen. Published by the University of Nevada Press, 2003. 343 p. ISBN 978-0-87417-662-9. Illustrations, Maps, Tables, and Index.

There are as many iconic images of the American West as people like us who dream about them: the features a cowboy’s sun-drenched face and hat against the “Western sky”, a pioneering woman wearing an apron, with hands clasped around the handle of a broom, or perhaps a gun, hard eyes searching the horizon beyond, an indigenous man in black vest and striped shirt from his life in the city but whose demeanor angles away from the lens keeping the secrets of his ancestry safe. Do we actually know these people or do our dreams constantly recreate them? Could we confidently point to the real border between the American East and West? And if our history is solidly rooted in fact, does it cover the effect that open space has had on the American culture?

Hauslauden’s selection of essays is divided into three parts: Continuity and Change; Enduring Regional Voices; and the West as Visionary Place. The book is illustrated with images about the land and the peoples' imprints on it, and its contributors have envisaged the past and certain influences that have given the West its character, which is evolving even today. Since this is a collection of essays about claims to the lands known as the Western United States by different groups of people, there is very little importance attached to the usual nodes of interaction -- the cities. Instead these historians have the unusual task of exploring connections people have made because of sustenance, spiritual quest, curiosity, personal, or political and environmental desires, to become Westernized.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for Museum members. See the book Gold, Silk, Pioneers & Mail : from the California Gold Fields to the China Trade, the Story of Pacific Mail Steamship Company by Robert J. Chandler and Stephen J. Potash in our online catalog.

Passenger ships to the West: see expertly built models at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

Learn more about California history at the
California State Archives
, including the state constitutions, Family Histories, Oral Histories, Spanish and Mexican Land Grants, and Photographic Collections.

Archives and special collections are available to the public at the National Archives, Pacific Region, the National Park Service, California, and the Autry National Center of the American West.
Note other books on the subject of the American West at the University of Nevada Press.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The fury of waves in fog

Pigeon Point Lighthouse on the California Coast: Image from the website of the U.S. Coast Guard

Shipwrecks, scalawags, and scavengers : the storied waters of Pigeon Point./ JoAnn Semones. Palo Alto, Calif. : The Glencannon Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-889901-42-8. 138 p. Illustrations, Appendix, Bibliography, Index.

Tales of shipwrecks occurring off Pigeon Point between 1853 and 1953 are recounted by JoAnn Semones in Shipwrecks, scalawags, and scavengers : the storied waters of Pigeon Point. Beginning with the Carrier Pigeon, a clipper ship built in Kennebec, Maine, for whom Pigeon Point was eventually named, each chapter describes the circumstances of a wreck, gives historical details and photographic evidence of life at that time. Of the Carrier Pigeon in chapter one, floundering in the foggy and rocky coastline south of San Francisco, Semones relates:

“She boasted a hand-carved gilded figurehead of a pigeon in flight fixed just beneath her bowsprit. Symbolizing the legendary and hallowed history of the message-bearing carrier pigeon, the golden winged bird was meant to inspire the crew. The carrier pigeon was an omen of good luck --- fast, dependable, ever returning.”

“With its rocky outcroppings, heavy surf, strong currents, and thick fog banks, California’s coast was one of the most notoriously treacherous in the world. Even knowing this the crew of the Carrier Pigeon could not have foreseen her fate… Fifteen minutes after the vessel struck, seven feet of water were in the hold.”

Author JoAnn Semones' book features accounts of ships of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company which carried cargo and passengers from Panama to San Francisco. Lumber-hauling steam schooners, rum runners, fishing boats, and an amphibious barge attest to the fact that no particular hull design was immune to the fury of coastal waves in fog that obscures safe navigation. These sad tales are attended by an Appendix listing the names of those lost on each of the ships and a Bibliography of General Sources, with articles on specific shipwrecks.

Pigeon Point: look for more history and lighthouses along the West coast on the web pages of the U.S. Coast Guard
Clipper ships: see expertly built models at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.
Fishing boats: on display at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum in the permanent exhibit “Caught Canned and Eaten”
Pacific Mail Steamship Company: one of the West coast shipping lines of the twentieth century. See the book Gold, Silk, Pioneers & Mail : from the California Gold Fields to the China Trade, the Story of Pacific Mail Steamship Company by Robert J. Chandler and Stephen J. Potash in our online catalog.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ships wrecked, silk, tea, lumber, and fish

Hard Luck Coast: the Perilous Reefs of Point Montara. / JoAnn Semones
Published by The Glencannon Press, 2009. 188 p., illustrations, appendix, bibliography, index.

Author by JoAnn Semones' Hard Luck Coast: the Perilous Reefs of Point Montara presents the stories of ships wrecked along the California coast south of San Francisco between 1851 and 1946. Her thirteen chapters are illustrated with portraits lending personal significance to the events as they affected captains and crew of merchant ships and their cargoes from the Far East. Events during the Civil War, the evolution of the Revenue Cutter Service, the steam schooner as a lumber-carrying vessel, iron hulled ships and their demise in vessel design, fill some of the tales of hard luck. Semones recounts the story of the Leelanaw as one of the reasons for the U.S. entering World War I, and an episode near the end of World War II of a Navy Patrol vessel carrying radioactive fish that shipwrecked near Half Moon Bay. Semones' interpretation of history reveals the historical impact these ships brought to trade, hull design, voyages, and the transport of dangerous cargo. The stories of people who built the ships, mastered and crewed on them, or whose ideas and work preceded the failure of a ship in the treacherous fog along the coast at the Point Montara Light explain U.S. and world history that was impacted by light stations on the West Coast. See her general bibliography and listing of articles from journals and newspapers for primary sources available to the public.

Explanation of terms:

Far East: a term used in the 19th century for coastal edges of China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia.
Half-Moon Bay: a city on the coast of California, south of San Francisco.

Point Montara Light
: visit the U.S. Coast Guard’s web site: Historic Light Station Information and Photography for California for more information.
Revenue Cutter Service: an organization of ships performing customs regulation from about 1789 to 1849. See the Library books: The U.S. Revenue Cutters in the Civil War. / By Florence Kern.
The United States Coast Guard, 1790-1915; a definitive history (with a postscript: 1915-1949).
/ By Stephen H. Evans.

Become a Museum Volunteer:

At the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, volunteers answer questions at the front desk, give museum tours, operate the tug ANGELS GATE, use the Morse code, build ship models, and staff The Sea Chest, the museum’s gift shop. Visit the web page for more information.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Otter Skins

Otter Skins, Boston ships, and China Goods; the Maritime Fur Trade of the Northwest Coast, 1785-1841 by James R. Gibson. Published by McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, Canada, 1992. Maps, tables, illustrations, portraits, notes, bibliography, and index.

Did you know the trade value of a single otter skin in the 1790s was a length of cloth two fathoms (about 12 feet) long? Who were the Indians of the Northwest coast? How did the purchase of pelts and skins in the Northwest and their resale on the South coast of China affect the cultures involved? And what were other trade interests of Russia, Spain, Great Britain and America between 1790 and 1840?

In ten chapters, author Gibson presents more than 50 years of trade among the Northwest Indians and the Euroamericans. He begins in Russian Headstart and Spanish Sideline discussing how the Russian expedition across the Bering Sea in 1741 began the story of trade in sea-otter pelts, and that the Spanish, already inhabiting the south coast, “… wished to keep the coast unexplored and undeveloped as a wilderness buffer against foreign penetration of the Californias and Mexico, where their primary concerns lay.” p. 18. Following are The British Disclosure, a chapter in which the author points to Captain Cook’s voyages of geographic discovery for the Europeans, and subsequent British adventurers; and the American Takeover, introducing the attraction that Yankee merchant shipping had for goods from Asia, especially as a product of commerce they, rather than Great Britain controlled.

Gibson’s work is gleaned from journals, diaries, ships’ logs, histories and other archival sources. The Notes section verifies each citation and is extensive, especially coupled with his Bibliography. Details, rather than commentary, of intertribal wars, Tlingit tobacco, Russian encounters with Spanish explorers, Yankee merchants’ experiences desire for ginseng, and that in Canton, China, traders would pay between $80-90 per fur pelt, support the overall concept of each chapter. At this period of time period in history, it was the Euroamericans who sought to exploit and control geographic traffic, commerce and areas beyond their sphere of influence.

The Natives had already intensely and frequently traded among themselves prior to the arrival of Europeans. In the Introduction, p. 8, “Trade was well suited to Northwest Coast Indian society…” and “Both scarce and specialized commodities were traded up and down the coast… mountain-goat hair “blankets” (ceremonial robes), ermine skins, copper plates, and spruce root baskets from the Tlingits; dugout cedar canoes from the Haida… and candlefish oil to be burned as candles, shark’s teeth and dentalia shells for ornament, a standard of value for the Chinooks.” Elk hide was made into “leather war costumes”, dressed and folded double or triple; they could stop arrows and lances and even musket and pistol balls at a distance.”

Gibson’s rich association of cultural and political interests is supported by his rich understanding of the players and events of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His chapters, the British Comeback, China Market, Modes of Trade, Changes in Trade and the New Northwest Trade indicate the details of intense rivalry between nations and the implications of international trade for the well-being of all involved. Finally, culminating his discussion of social impact and history of Pacific territories and countries, his tenth chapter is The Impact of the Trade where specific relevance to the Northwest Coast, South China and New England is balanced with a review of the Hawaiian Islands, their history in trade with foreign merchant shipping.

Explanation of terms:
Fathoms explained as a measurement of length
Californias : refers to Alta California and Baja California
Tlingit: one of the tribes of the Northwest Coast
Ginseng: a medicinal root of a plant native to China.
Haida: one of the tribes of the Northwest Coast,
Chinook: one of the tribes of the Northwest Coast
Elk: a large horned mammal of the Northern hemisphere
Pacific: one of the world’s oceans bordered by Antarctica in the south, South America and North America on its eastern edges, and Russia, China, the Philippine Islands, and Australia on its western edges.
Hawaiian Islands: This site is a portal to sites about the ecology and natural environment. Choose from Environmental Data Organizations and General Interest tabs that take you to links about weather and climate, ecology, water quality, plant and animal life, sanctuaries, landmarks and maps, and much more.

Museum Volunteer: At the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, volunteers answer questions at the front desk, give museum tours, operate the tug ANGELS GATE, use the Morse code, build ship models, and staff The Sea Chest, the museum’s gift shop.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gold before statehood!

Forty-Niners ‘Round the Horn by Charles R. Schultz. Columbia, south Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1999. Illustrations, Bibliographes, Indexes.

Charles Schultz’s Forty-Niners ‘Round the Horn describes the social history of gold seekers who had chosen to sail to reach California mine regions from the east coast of North America. Rather than take overland routes, which, although better known, were reputed to have disastrous consequences for some of the seekers, the gold seekers easily sought passage on one of the vessels bound for the west coast, sailing there by way of Cape Horn.

Schultz prepared this volume from researching diaries and letters written on many voyages. His chapters are organized by theme, as “Preparations”, “Underway at Last”, “Food and Drink”, “Weather Problems”, “People Problems”, etc., provide the setting for his portrayal. His notes section, as well as the bibliography, is extensive. Both support quotations he uses for details of the 6-month-long passages to the port of San Francisco. Illustrations from Harper’s Weekly, Century Magazine, books on California history, posters, and journal illustrations provide views of daily lives and amusements.

The author depicts “… how passengers lived on board the sailing vessels in which they traveled… the observance of Sundays, holidays and special days such as birthdays and anniversaries” on such vessels as the ELVIRA, the DANIEL WEBSTER, the LENORE, the JANE PARKER, and the HENRY WARE, and many more ships sailing from Boston or New York and other Atlantic Coast ports. As thousands of discreet details are represented here, the vessel index in Forty-niners and general index give ships’ names, personal and corporate names and offers many ways to locate information within the text.

Online sources of more information about the gold seekers:

The Open Directory Project
is a web portal of sites relevant to this period.
Huntington Library’s website offers many illustrations from the period of 1848-1858 showing lifestyle and the business of gold seeking in Land of Golden Dreams, California in the Gold Rush Decade, 1848-1858.
Read more personal histories of gold seekers.

Los Angeles Maritime Museum Volunteers:

At the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, volunteers answer questions at the front desk, give museum tours, operate the tug ANGELS GATE, use the Morse code, build ship models, and staff The Sea Chest, the museum’s gift shop.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Skin clothes, Arctic style

Image of a "Replica of the shaman Qingailisaq's parka. Made by Rachel Uyarasuk, Igloolik, c.1989" appears on the back cover of Arctic Clothing of North America—Alaska, Canada, Greenland.

Although we usually think of maritime history as pertaining mainly to vessels, naval, merchant, or recreational, the interaction with distance cultures is the result of ocean travels, campaigns and endeavors of all kinds. So the discovery of materials and methods for producing clothing, preparing food, as well as extoic natural resources, was a gold mine of opportunity and provided explorers with treasures of all kinds to bring home.

Arctic Clothing of North America—Alaska, Canada, Greenland. / Edited by J.C.H. King, Birgit Pauksztat, and Robert Storrie. Published by McGill-Queens University, 2005. 160 p., color illustrations, maps, bibliography and index.

This book about clothing grew from exhibitions on Eskimo boots in Great Britain in the 1980s. Since then anthropologists and biologists have studied methods of making skin clothing, with emphasis on technique and cultural and environmental influences. It has five parts, beginning with Personal Narratives, progressing to Materials, Styles and Techniques, Change and Responses to Outside Influences, and finally Clothing and Art.

You can learn how the clothing was made with techniques for preparing the pelts and creating garments for humans from pieces of marine animal skins. Waterproof boots, parkas and even stockings were crafted with great skill by cutting and stitching methods devised to prevent the loss of heat or create conditions of dampness. In the sub-freezing temperatures of the Arctic regions, small tears or openings could expose the wearer to risk of frostbite or even death, leaving their families without a food-procuring hunter. The Eskimo people of Alaska, the Inuit people of Canada, and the Greenlanders all produced skin clothing that protected them from their environment.

Museum volunteer: At the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, volunteers answer questions at the front desk, give museum tours, operate the tug ANGELS GATE, use the Morse code, build ship models, and staff The Sea Chest, the museum’s gift shop. Visit the web page at for more information.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Entradas de Baja California

A Maritime History of Baja California: A Photographic Essay on the Harbors, Anchorages, and Special Ships of the Baja California Peninsula. / by Ed Vernon. Published by the Maritime Museum of San Diego and University of New Mexico Press, 2009. 285 p. Timeline, Glossary and index.

Complete with maps, illustrations and unusual photographic images of ships in harbors, The Maritime History of Baja California by Edward W. Vernon delivers a fascinating explanation of the peninsula’s history. In the Preface, Rodney J. Taylor composes this impression of the work:

“This is Ed Vernon’s second in a series of photographic journals that are really love poems to this place…. His collection is not orthodox. Rather than predictably concentrating on magnificent 16th-century galleons, such as … Cabrillo’s San Salvador, he also focuses on working ships, expedition packet ships, and sea-otter fur traders… His chief contribution… is that he captures a sense of the beauty and history to be found in the landscape, the sheltered bays, and the ships that carried so many adventures… ” p. vii-viii.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Global exchange, 1700s style

Sailors and traders : a maritime history of the Pacific peoples / by Alastair Couper. Published by the University of Hawai'i Press, 2009. 262 p., illustrations, maps.

Selected from the new book shelf are Sailors and traders : a maritime history of the Pacific peoples / by Alastair Couper and A Maritime history of Baja California by Edward W. Vernon. Both books offer amazing insight into changes that occurred because of maritime influence on the indigenous societies and ways of life at the time of their discovery by people from as far away as Spain and the Netherlands.

Sailors and Traders is a summary history: its intent is to include the most important events of ocean and island cultural exploration, enriched by details about the interaction between explorers and native people of New Zealand, the Maoris. From pages 67-68, the author characterizes the attitudes prevalent among the explorers:

“… members of the first exploration ships were the scientists and artists, whose perceptions were politically influential… The European scientists were so ethnocentric that they were unable to learn much from the skills and knowledge of Pacific people… The proud and intelligent Tupaia of Tahiti must have carried enormous indigenous knowledge, most of which remained unrecorded… Only in the twentieth century did this knowledge become more clearly recognized by Europeans as the essential basis of marine science.”

The book has eleven chapters : besides an encapsulation of the first explorers of the Pacific, he discusses the maritime and trade events leading to foreign settlement and commerce; he also considers shipping companies, maritime law, and the “spheres of influence of maritime trade”, along with photographs . An epilogue, “Some contemporary resonances”, completes his essay.

In a summary on pages 97 and 98, he states, “The period of 1800 to the 1860s brought most of the main islands of Polynesia and several elsewhere to the edge of the capitalist system. This was carried to them by commercial ships… and new commodities were incorporated into indigenous channels of trade… and the accumulation of personal wealth for the… deeply entrenched kingships of Tahiti and Hawai’i. One of the most lasting effects was the creation of a working class at sea and ashore. To them the ship was among the most remarkable of the material changes which Euopeans had introduced into the life of the Pacific. ”

Explanation of terms used:
new book shelf: as the library acquires or receives donations, they are noted on the web site and cataloged on Look for a posting on The Maritime History of Baja California, next week.

Image from Wikipedia, engraved after Sydney Parkinson's sketch of a Maori chief.

Maoris: explained on page 187 of South Pacific A to Z. / Robert S. Kane. Published by Doubleday, 1966. “New Zealand’s earliest known inhabitants were a people believed to be Polynesian… They came in giant canoes… all the way from French Polynesia. The earliest of these Pacific Vikings probably arrived in New Zealand in the 12th century.” Moreover, on page 440, Geography of the Pacific. / Otis W. Freeman, editor. N.Y.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1951, “Prior to their migrations to New Zealand were already skilled navigators, fearless warriors, and expert agriculturalists.” Read about the Maori culture, origins, migrations and more in the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Tupaia: the Tahitian priest who first met Europeans Captain James Cook and his botanist Joseph Banks in 1768, and became a translator and interpreter of the Maori language in New Zealand for the explorers.

epilogue: "a concluding part adding to a literary work..." p. 480, Random House Dictionary, 1966.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vitamins and health aboard ship

Blackcurrant fruits.

Did you know? We take it for granted that citrus fruits like oranges and limes from our local supermarkets and groceries provide us with a daily morning drink and vitamin C. But before it was discovered that lemons, limes, and blackcurrants contain a potent substance called anti-scorbutic acid good for promoting healthy skin and gums in cases of poor nutrition, sailors and crew on ships long at sea were in danger of loosing their lives to the disease called scurvy.

Several books have been written about this powerfully devastating disease, and may be popular in Great Britain's history, as it directly affected exploratory voyages and naval excursions. The back cover of our featured book states, "During the Age of Sail, scurvy was responsible for more deaths at sea than war, piracy, storms and shipwreck combined".

The Age of Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner and a Gentleman helped Britain win the Battle of Trafalgar. by Stephen Bown. Summersdale Press, 2005. ISBN 1 84024 402 X

If as a sailor or long-term traveller, you had contracted scurvy from a poor diet, your symptoms would have been pouchy gums, teeth that fell out, skin discoloration, lethargy and weakness, and finally, death. The British were probably first to discover, during long voyages of the 17th and 18th centuries, that drinking the juice of citrus fruits could delay the horrors of scurvy and maintain relative health aboard. These fruits were found on expeditions to the South Pacific where citrus fruits are native.

Explanation of terms used:
Scurvy, a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C, was very prevalent at sea between the 16th and 19th centuries owing to the difficulty of preserving fresh fruits and vegetables. It usually became apparent after about six weeks on salt provisions. It became a common ailment when long voyages began in the 16th century and continued until passages were shortened in the age of steam, and canned vegetables became available.” --- p. 763 Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, edited by Peter Kemp. Oxford University Press, 1976.

Blackcurrant: name of a kind of berry native to Great Britain and other Northern European countries.

Web sites of interest:
The author Stephen Bown’s site is available here.
Wikipedia's article on Blackcurrants.
The Black Currant Foundation.
History of Scurvy by Jonathan Lamb.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bread-fruit bounty

Drawing by Sydney Parkinson, an artist, sailing on board the Endeavor with Captain Cook, who made meticulous botanical drawings of new discoveries.

Bread growing on trees that can be baked, or sliced and eaten with fish, and spiced to your liking---this was a discovery made for the Europeans by Captain James Cook when encountering the breadfruit tree in Tahiti during his first excursion to the South Pacific. His sailing-master on a later voyage was William Bligh. Bligh later became captain of his own ship, bound again for Tahiti, with the promise of obtaining and then transporting the wondrous fruit to islands in the Caribbean where there were plantations of sugar and pineapple and other exotic crops grown for European taste. Breadfruit became a staple food of the slave laborers. Bligh, having survived mutiny on his ship the BOUNTY, commandeered a lifeboat and with 18 crew members rowed to safety in Timor, a 3600 mile journey, that, “… is still regarded as perhaps the most outstanding feat of seamanship and navigation ever conducted in a small boat.” Caroline Alexander, Smithsonian magazine, September 2009, p. 58. In the article, Alexander describes Bligh’s 2nd voyage on the PROVIDENCE, to the island of Tahiti to acquire botanical specimens and whole plants which were to be shipped east to the West Indies. The breadfruit was at the time considered, by Captain Cook and botanist Joseph Banks, a practical food for slave laborers on the Caribbean Islands since it was easier to prepare and eat than grains, etc. These islands had been absorbing new vegetation, fruit and coffee since Columbus, in 1494, and the Spanish, as early as 1513.

Explanation of terms:
Captain James Cook (1728 - 1779) sailed on three voyages for Britain's Royal Society. He died in Hawaii before completing his third voyage.
William Bligh (1754-1815) sailed for Britain’s Admiralty and died in England after a life at sea.
BOUNTY: Bligh’s first ship to the Pacific Ocean.
PROVIDENCE: Bligh’s second ship bound for Tahiti and the West Indies
Timor: located in the Indonesian archipelago.

Books in the Maritime Research Library on William Bligh:

The Bligh notebook : rough account, Lieutenant Wm. Bligh's voyage in the Bounty's launch from the ship to Tofua & from thence to Timor, 28 April to 14 June 1789 : with a draft list of the Bounty mutineers. / transcription and facsimile edited by John Bach.

Captain Bligh & Mr. Christian; the men and the mutiny. / by Richard Hough.

Web sites of interest:
Wikipedia's articles on breadfruit and the botanical description of breadfruit.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Artists On Board

Captain Cook in the Pacific. / Nigel Rigby and Pieter van der Merwe. Greenwich, England: National Maritime Museum, 2002. 144 p., color illustrations.

When James Cook returned to Plymouth, England in 1771 from his first voyage to Tahiti, Australia and beyond, he surrendered his journal as master of the ship. The journals were proof of the enterprise and provided information about the excursion to the financial supporters of the voyages. Travelers on these ships were pledged to present their journals and logs to the Admiralty, although some kept their own versions privately for publication and fame later on. Of immense value to the members of the Royal Society awaiting news of Cook’s voyages were the drawings, engravings and paintings by ships’ artists that served to inform them about the wonders of distant lands in the Pacific Ocean, the people and their resources.

A few botanists, astronomers, topographers, and painters, etc., accompanied the crew and Captain Cook on the ships Endeavor, Resolution, Adventure and Discovery as they sailed into unknown waters on three separate voyages between 1768 and 1779. The scientists’ tasks were to painstakingly examine the soil, plants, animals, and local resources, to describe and illustrate them in journals and to actively preserve samples and seeds of trees, fruits and grains, and if any minerals and valuable stones were available, to bring them back to Britain for examination. Of the artists who accompanied these voyages, William Hodges became famous for his dreamy and romantic visions of the Pacific coves where Cook’s ships anchored. Paintings by him were shipped back to England for immediate viewing. (Rigby and van der Merwe, p.42)

Nu-tka: Captain Cook and The Spanish Explorers on the Coast. / Barbara S. Efrat and W.J. Langlois, editors. Victoria, British Columbia: Sound Heritage, Volume VII, Number 1, 1978. 101 p., illustrations.

The coasts and islands of the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand provided work for the ships’ topographers who were busy on these voyages creating maps of as yet unknown territories beyond Southeast Asia and the Philippines. During Cook’s third voyage to the Pacific, he searched the West Coast of North America for the Northwest Passage. Instead he found the inhabitants of islands and inlets along what is now western Canada and southern Alaska. Some of these people are known as the Nootka Indians who traded fur pelts with the British voyagers. The topographer John Webber is better known to us as a portrait engraver, who created likenesses of the Nookta, the landscape and of James Cook himself.

Explanation of terms used:
James Cook (1728-1779): captain of the British ships Endeavor, Resolution, Adventurer and Discovery entrusted with scientific inquiry in the late 18th century
Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce: since 1754 improved trade and industry through science. (Rigby and van der Merwe, p.79)
Admiralty: British organization for maritime issues
botanists, astronomers, topographers: scientists selected for the purpose of advancing British claims to knowledge in plant science, geology and map making, respectively.
third voyage to the Pacific: Cook’s expedition, 1776-1780, to locate the Northwest Passage, a mythical route from the Atlantic to the Pacific over the North Pole.
Nootka: tribe of people who inhabited a part of Vancouver Island now known as Nootka Island

Book titles from the Library: Be sure to look at the Maritime Museum Research Library pages on the web. You can find many of the books cataloged at Los Angeles Maritime Museum members can borrow books for a three-week period.

Web sites of Interest:

William Hodges at the web site of the national Maritime Museum of Greenwich, England.

John Webber:
See ArtEncyclopedia's collection of sites about the artist.
Nootka culture from Canadian Culture Online.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The First Pacific Ocean Explorers were Natives

Illustration from The Pacific Navigators. / Oliver E. Allen. Alexandria, Virginia: Time Life Books, 1980.

European explorers of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries encountered Pacific Islanders who matched their ability to navigate unknown waters. The illustration here depicts a band of travelers who migrated, or island-hopped, in search of home, resources and food. Since ancient times, not having adopted nation-statehood, they nonetheless defended themselves. When they lost wars, or ran out of food, the living environment became unsustainable, and they moved on. Polynesians were aggressive voyagers, their survival depended on it. Their story begins as an intimate conversation with nature, not with iron and steel; sailing by celestial navigation, they surpassed European knowledge of the Pacific.

They crossed 15 million square miles of unknown ocean, and by the eighth century had colonized virtually every habitable spec in a vast triangle bound by Hawaii on the north, New Zealand in the southwest and Easter Island to the east.” – Allen, p. 98.

Explanation of terms used:
argonaut: explained from ancient Greek and common useage.
European explorers of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries: Magellan was the first circumnavigator; the Dutch claimed the Spice Islands, and finally the British led enterprises of exploration across the Pacific Ocean.

More books about Pacific Islanders from historical points of view:

Argonauts of the Western Pacific. / Bronislaw Malinowski. New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1961. 527 p., illustrations, maps, index.

Malinowski's work considered the lives and customs of the Melanesians of New Guinea. His participation in an expedition there between 1914-1918 culminated in this book, originally published in 1922, became a classic in anthropology in the 20th century.

Ancient Voyagers in Polynesia. / Andrew Sharp. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1964. 136 p. plus sources and index.

Sharp's explanation of the history of Polynesian voyages of discovery was a lively scholarly debate when it was published in 1963.

Vikings of the Pacific. / Peter H. Buck. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, 1972, c1959. 339 p., illustrations, index.

Written by a native of New Zealand and anthropologist at the Bishop Museum in Hawaii, this account contains the view and the images, both modern and several hundreds of years old, from the collections of the Museum.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Captain Cook and Kamehameha the Great

The Rise and Fall of the Hawaiian Kingdom: A Pictorial History; A Concise Picture History of Hawaii and Its Rulers from the Birth of Kamehameha the Great to the Establishment of the Territory of Hawaii in 1900. / by Robert Wiesniewski.Honolulu : Published and Distributed by Pacific Basin Enterprises, c1987.

The Rise and Fall of the Hawaiian Kingdom… is a fascinating account, albeit from the European point of view, of the history of our 50th state. Two key points about its history: no one in Europe knew Hawaii existed until James Cook and his expedition landed there, and, it may be the only island tribal culture in history to maintain a monarchy while meeting the Europeans on their own terms. Unknown to Europeans until Captain Cook “discovered” it for them in 1778, the Hawaiian Islands lie at a distinct geographic advantage, since they are located centrally between landfall in Asia, Australia, Chile, Panama, and the West coast of North America. The archipelago became a roadstead for voyagers trading in fur, sandalwood and other goods: its wealth and independence between 1812 and 1900 transformed an ancient culture to modern ways. This unique position was carefully guarded by the warrior-king, Kamehameha the Great, between 1805 and 1819, and continued through Kamehameha V’s reign into the 1870s. The Kingdom of Hawaii achieved status in Pacific trade, but finally was defeated as a sovereign power at the hands of the Americans who wished to claim all of Hawaii for their own interests.

Kamehameha, the grandson of an earlier ruler of the island of Hawaii, was groomed from birth to be a warrior. The vision of their first monarch, King Kamehameha (1758-1819), was to unite the islands of Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai under his rule.
“Kamehameha learned spear throwing and the rudimentary tactics of warfare… Without a written language, he learned navigation, astronomy, religious ceremonies, prayers and kapus (taboos), and other vital information necessary to become an Alii-aimoku (a District Chief).” (Wisniewski, p. 13)

The booklet is a 1979 version of Hawaiian history and features explanatory text and many illustrations and photographs depicting the Hawaiian monarchy, the influence of European, Chinese and American traders, and a glimpse of the cultural values that led to complete transformation of the Kingdom into a Territory (of the U.S.) and finally to statehood in 1959. More recent scholarship reveals the Hawaiian culture and the nature of the conflict between cultures.

Resources on Hawaii history on the Web:
The Hawaiian Historical Society was founded in 1892. Publishers of the Hawaiian Journal of History, Books and papers about the early Hawaiian government, cultural influences of Spanish America and Russia, trade and canoe voyages of Hawaiians, they also offer transcribed radio broadcasts of “Hawai’i History Moments”, Hawaiian culture from A to Z. a community learning center is a lively site containing expert-reviewed pages of articles, photographs and contributions by readers on the history of Hawai’i.

The Bishop Museum
began to collect artifacts of the history of Hawai’I and Pacific Islands in 1889.

Other books by Richard Wisniewski:
Hawaiian monarchs and their palaces : a pictorial history / compiled, written, and edited by Richard A. Wisniewski. Honolulu : Published and Distributed by Pacific Basin Enterprises, c1987.

Hawaii, the territorial years, 1900-1959 : a pictorial history / compiled, written, and edited by Richard A. Wisniewski. Honolulu, Hawaii (P.O. Box 8924, Honolulu 96815) : Pacific Basin Enterprises, c1984.

Hawaiian history and culture:
Voyage: The Discovery of Hawaii. / Herb Kawainui Kane. Honolulu: Island Heritage Limited, 1976.

Explanation of words:
Archipelago: explained from a geological and geographical point of view.
Hawaiian Archipelago: This site is a portal to sites about the ecology and natural environment. Choose from Environmental Data Organizations and General Interest tabs that take you to links about weather and climate, ecology, water quality, plant and animal life, sanctuaries, landmarks and maps, and much more.
Roadstead:a sheltered offshore anchorage for ships, as explained by the Free Dictionary online.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

240-year-old science

The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific: As Told by Selections of His Own Journals 1768-1779 / edited by A. Grenfell Price. Published by Dover Publications, New York, 1971. ISBN 79145750, 292p.

240 years ago Captain James Cook sailed to Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Batavia, and then around South Africa and home to England in the Endeavor on the first of his three voyages to the Pacific Ocean between 1768-1779.
“The greatest of sailor explorers the world has known…” Percy Adams, Introduction.
“… no man did more to alter and correct the map of the earth, abandoning the great southern Terra Incognita and the equally mythical Northwest Passage. After him map makers were able to correctly represent Australia’s east coast and the Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, and northwest coast of North America, and dozens of islands in Polynesia, New Zealand as two islands.”

Accomplishing these discoveries, he fulfilled the orders bestowed on him in the spring of 1768 by the British Admiralty and Royal Society to monitor the transit of Venus. European countries were engaged in a race for scientific discoveries, and Great Britain wished to take the lead in astronomy and map making.

His journals are compelling accounts of his expeditions, the manner in which he kept his crew healthy and free of scurvy, the description of life in societies of the Pacific Islanders, and of the supernumeraries aboard with their own scientific agenda.

Selected titles about Captain Cook:
Farther than Any Man: the Rise and Fall of Captain James Cook. / Martin Dugard. New York: Pocket Books, 2001.

Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook. / Nicholas Thomas. New York: Walker & Company, 2003. Read by Museum Volunteer Ron Ellis.

Captain Cook in the Pacific. / Nigel Rigby and Pieter van der Merwe. Greenwich, England : National Maritime Museum, 2002.

Captain Cook’s Second Voyage. / John Elliot and Richard Pickersgill. London, England: Caliban Books, 1984.

Nu-Tka: Captain Cook and the Spanish Explorers on the Coast. / Barbara S. Efrat and W.J. Langlois, editors. Victoria, Canada: Sound Heritage, Vol. 7, Number 1, 1978.

Explanation of Words and Phrases:
Percy Adams: a travel writer who focused on books written by early explorers.
Tahiti: named King George’s Island when first sited by Samuel Wallis in 1767.
Batavia: name of Indonesia by Dutch settlers
Transit of Venus
Hawaiian visit of James Cook Waimea, Hawaii
Scurvy: disease contracted by sailors who ate no vitamin C, due to lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet.
Supernumeraries: a traveler, not a sailor, “an extra person”, from (Random House Dictionary, ©1966.)
Museum volunteer: At the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, volunteers answer questions at the front desk, give museum tours, operate the tug ANGELS GATE, use the Morse code, build ship models, and staff The Sea Chest, the museum’s gift shop. Visit the web page for more information.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Propelled by teams of 170 oarsmen...

The Age of the Galley: Mediterranean Oared Vessels since Pre-classical Times. / Edited by Robert Gardiner. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1995. ISBN 155750024-X. 256 p., illustrations.

… galleys of Ancient Greeks were first pictured on pottery, coins and stone carvings. Oar-powered galleys were built as warships, merchantmen, or transports and plied the waters of the Mediterranean and other small seas from 3000 BC to the Middle Ages. Galleys are known by different names: pentecontors, biremes and triremes, indicating two and three levels of rowing oarsmen. In triremes, up to 170 oarsmen pushed and pulled their ship at a speed of 8 to 10 knots in short bursts called flights of half-days or more. These ships were long and narrow, would capsize in ocean waters and so in wars were best for maritime attack along coastlines. Conditions for oarsmen were severe: they were permitted about two quarts of water per day but were given no bathrooms aboard and very little space for air. Modern authors give us details of the battles collected from the ancient scripts of Homer and others. These were confirmed by the reconstruction and sailing of triremes like the OLYMPIAS, a joint project of the Hellenic Navy and the Trireme Trust of Britain in 1987.
See The Age of the Galley for the archaeology of galley ships, their design and architecture, and the human power that propelled the fleet of ancient navies.

More books from the Maritime Museum Library* on galleys and triremes:
The Athenian Trireme: the History and Reconstruction of an Ancient Greek Warship. / J.S. Morrison and J.F. Coates. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987. ISBN 0521311004. 266 p., illustrations, photographs and maps.

The Earliest Ships: The Evolution of Boats into Ships. / Edited by Robert Gardiner. Edison, N.J. : Chartwell Books, 2001, c1996 by Conway Maritime Press. 143 p., illustrations.

Oared Fighting Ships: From Classical Times to the Coming of Steam. R. C. Anderson. London, England: Percival Marshall, 1962. 102 p., illustrations and plates.

The Ancient Mariners. / Colin Thubron. New York, N.Y.: Time-Life Books, Inc., 1981. ISBN 0809427389. 176 p., illustrations, some in color.

* also available in public libraries.

Explanation of terms from the pages of The Age of the Galley:

Ancient Greeks = Minoans from the island of Crete who were explorers.
The Mediterranean = The Mediterranean Sea opening to the Atlantic Ocean on the western side and the Red Sea at the eastern extreme.
3000 BC to the Middle Ages = the period in history from about 5000 years ago to about 600 years ago.
pentecontors, biremes and triremes = long, narrow ships propelled by oars.
Homer and others = Greek Classical writers Herodotus and Thucydides.
reconstruction = a replica or exact copy of a historical ship.
OLYMPIAS = the reconstruction of a Greek trireme.
ancient navies = Egyptian, Cretan or Minoan, Phoenician.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Young, Modern and with Rowing Power.

On target for Women’s History month, at least two women have met astounding challenges on the high seas, Katie Spotz and Abby Sunderland. Rowing her 19 foot row-boat single-handedly across the Atlantic Ocean, in the months of January, February and March, 2010, Katie Spotz made the 2817 mile trip from Dakar, Senegal to Georgetown, Guyana in 70 days and 6 hours. Her AIS, GPS systems and devices guided her as she braved waves and wind, and followed a pre-determined course over deep water and the Continental Shelf. She did it for the challenge, and for the sake of clean drinking water in developing countries. She rowed 10 hours a day, cooked her meals, wrote her blog, and slept, when she wasn’t caring for the equipment aboard her craft. Her triumph was reported all over the press and electronic media as she was the youngest person to complete this journey continent to continent on human power alone!

See more about fantastic circumnavigators and their voyages on these sites:

  • List of circumnavigators by the Joshua Slocum Society showing many details including the navigator’s name and country of origin, sailboat type and rigging, and length of the trip.

  • Lots of facts: women soloists, young soloists, fastest circumnavigations, etc. at Deep Radio Show.

  • Really nice photographs and lots of informative text on rowing the oceans, at Around n’ Over.

  • West coast navigators.

  • Single-handed circumnavigators and the first two chapters of Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World at Seven Oceans.

  • See rowers Colin Angus and Julie Wafaei at their website.

  • Plying wind and waves, proving confidence in the technology, these younger mariners are braving the wildest of journeys. Now it’s her turn, Abby Sunderland.

  • Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Women of Maritime History

    Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers. / Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford. Williamsburg, Virginia: Cypress Communications, 1993. ISBN 0963641204. 183 p. incl. Bibliography and Index.

    This collection of stories is a powerful testament to women in maritime history. Portraits and graphic portrayals of these women lighthouse keepers speak of determination, personal strength, and commitment in lonely, isolated posts. They served coast and inland lighthouses and the navigators sailing in dangerous waters from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries. In other words, many of these stories took place before the American Civil War (1860-1865), into the 1920s, and in California just prior to World War I (1917-1921). Five of the book’s 20 accounts tell of women lighthouse keepers on the California Coast: Point Pinos and Angel Island Lights, Mare Island Light, Santa Cruz Light, Santa Barbara Light, and Point Fermin Light, tracking the long coast from San Francisco Bay to San Pedro. Acts of bravery and heroism were highlighted by hourly attention to the light, its lamp, lens, fuel mechanism for lighting the lamp, and the grounds and house attached. If sailors were rescued from storms the house served as a way-station until the injured could be moved, the lighthouse keepers were life-savers as well as lamp-lighters.

    Consider the lives of lighthouse keepers who managed to warn mariners in fog despite failures of the lamp apparatus, who experienced damage from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, performed first aid, home-schooled their children, hired and trained workers, and repaired and kept equipment working! These women’s lives are heroic, starting with their imagination and sheer bravado in the face of adverse situations, when supplies were low, equipment failing, and no one around to help! Their dedication to serve was a very prominent characteristic, keeping navigators alerted to danger and from disaster along their shores.

    A second edition was published in 2001; the book is available at public libraries. The 1993 edition is available for circulation to Museum Members at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library.

    Explanation of terms and online links:
    Circulation to Museum Members: with your Museum Membership you may borrow books for a 3-week time period. Please call the Library for more information.

    See an account of “Women in Transportation”, a document from the publications page of the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. It was written in honor of women pioneers and engineers in maritime as well as other areas of transportation.

    The following definitions are from Encyclopedia of Nautical Knowledge. /W.A. McEwen and A.H. Lewis. Cambridge, Maryland: Cornell Maritime Press. 1953.

    Lamp: “the familiar instrument for providing light…” and “a fixed light, as shown by a lighthouse, a continuous light of constant brilliancy.” ---from p. 275, 293.
    Lens, Fresnel: “…a lens originally designed for lighthouses by Augustin Jean Fresnel, French optician and geometer (1788-1827). --- p. 287
    Lighthouse keepers: from “light-keeper, person charged with care and operation of lighting apparatus of a lighthouse or lightship.” --- p. 293.
    Maritime: “…pertaining to or connected with the sea in respect to commerce, navigation, or shipping…” --- from p. 327.

    Point Fermin Lighthouse: built in 1874 and equipped with a Fresnel lens, located in San Pedro, on a bluff above San Pedro Bay. Visit the Point Fermin Lighthouse web site here.
    Post: an appointment to service; a structure on land; “…the first lighthouse built in the U.S. was in Plymouth Harbor, Massachusetts in 1776; the first lighthouse on the California Coast was in San Francisco Bay just after the Gold Rush in 1854…” ---Women Who Kept the Lights, Introduction.