maritime history





ETA: First picture is of the type of cutlass that John would have used in hand-to-hand combat during his time on a naval ship in the Napoleonic wars, and very like the cutlass that he sustained a wound from in the Battle of San Domingo. (See: Over Fathoms Deep, chapter 19)

If you look closely at the third picture, you can see a tiny little sailor!John reefing the sails in his little striped sailing shirt :D :D :D

wine-loving-vagabond submitted to medievalpoc:

William Hogarth
Captain Lord George Graham in his Cabin,1745
Oil on canvas.
National Maritime Museum, London

The painting was commissioned by Graham to commemorate one of his naval battles. It features Graham along side the ship’s clerk and chaplain, and two servants, one of which plays the pipe and tabor. The relaxed ambiance of the painting contrasts heavily with the other works on naval subjects. 

Found, violin that was played as Titanic sunk: Instrument belonged to heroic band leader, tests confirm

As the Titanic sank, the band famously played on.

And more than 100 years after the tragedy, the violin owned by the band leader has been confirmed as a survivor.

The instrument used by Wallace Hartley was thought by some to have been lost in the Atlantic in the 1912 disaster.

But in 2006 the son of an amateur musician found it in an attic, complete with a silver plate showing its provenance.

After seven years of testing, costing tens of thousands of pounds, the water-stained violin has now been proven to be the one played by Hartley.

Within minutes of the Titanic striking an iceberg on April 14, 1912, the 24-year-old was instructed to assemble the band and play music in order to maintain calm. The eight musicians gallantly performed on the deck while passengers lined up for the lifeboats.

The band carried on until the bitter end, famously playing the hymn Nearer, My God, To Thee. 

Hartley and the other band members perished along with 1,500 passengers and crew when the vessel sank at 2.20am on April 15.

The rosewood violin is incredibly well-preserved despite its age and it being exposed to the sea. 

There are two long cracks on its body that are said to have been opened up by moisture damage. A corroded engraved silver plate screwed on to the base of the violin also helped provide scientists with key proof of its authenticity.

While scientists spent seven years studying the violin, specialist Titanic auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son and a biographer of Wallace Hartley meticulously researched the story behind it to discover the truth.

Read more.

Aotearoa/New Zealand, 1280.

The maritime plan of most of human civilization during our period went as follows:

  1. Get boats.
  2. Put weapons on boats.
  3. Conquer neighboring countries either by military force or by overwhelming trade dominance.
  4. Instagram shots of you in front of London/Indrapura/Mogadishu.
  5. Go home.

The Polynesians, on the other hand, appeared to have a different plan:

  1. Build canoes.
  2. Sail out into the open ocean for four thousand miles.
  3. ???
  4. Sweet, Hawai’i!

As the world looked on in tolerant, baffled wonder for thousands of years [sidebar on Vikings], Polynesians repeated steps 1-4, especially step 3, which when you peeled off the little sticker with the question marks turned out to be “employ an array of sophisticated navigational techniques which remain in cultural transmission and even active use today. Also, when you reach an island, use an equally sophisticated array of terraforming techniques to make an unfamiliar landscape ecologically viable for human life. Also, eat a balanced diet, because scurvy is for white people.”

The Polynesians did their eastern Pacific exploration around our period, and may have settled Easter Island and Hawai’i around then, too, if not a little earlier. Polynesian colonies were set up on little stubs of volcanic rock, hideously isolated archipelagos, even sub-polar islands. They probably hung out with medieval Peruvians, or at least, they made enough American contact to get ahold of sweet potatoes. [Sidebar on sweet potatoes.] And they found New Zealand, and settled in, and those who stuck around became the Māori.

And then hundreds of years later the islands of the Polynesian triangle were conquered by Europeans and the Europeans did their damndest to put that little ??? sticker back on the four-part plan, because, you know, people without shirts could not possibly be world explorers. But we do not have to listen to them. When I said those navigational techniques are still in use today, I mean literally, today, because in August of this year a group of Maori sailors took off from New Zealand for Rapa Nui, the last leg of the Polynesian triangle that no one’s completed in the modern era, and according to their website they should be landing, in, like, twelve hours, if they haven’t already. 


Isidor and Ida Straus
On the night of the sinking, Isidor and Ida Straus were seen standing near Lifeboat No. 8 in the company of Mrs. Straus’s maid, Ellen Bird. Although the officer in charge of the lifeboat was willing to allow the elderly couple to board the lifeboat with Miss Bird, Isidor Straus refused to go so as long as there were women and children still remaining on the ship. He urged his wife to board, but she refused, saying, “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go.” Her words were witnessed by those already in Lifeboat No. 8 as well as many others who were on the boat deck at the time. Isidor and Ida were last seen standing arm in arm on the deck.


1800s Week!

Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault

Le Radeau de la Méduse (The Raft of the Medusa)

France (1819)

The Louvre Museum, Paris.

The Raft of the Medusa—a major work in French 19th-century painting—is generally regarded as an icon of Romanticism. It depicts an event whose human and political aspects greatly interested Géricault: the wreck of a French frigate off the coast of Senegal in 1816, with over 150 soldiers on board. The painter researched the story in detail and made numerous sketches before deciding on his definitive composition, which illustrates the hope of rescue.

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Horatio Nelson is Born

29 September 1758

Horatio Nelson was born on this day in history, 29 September 1758. He was a British flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was noted for his inspirational leadership and superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics, which resulted in a number of decisive naval victories. He was wounded several times in combat, losing one arm in the unsuccessful attempt to conquer Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the sight in one eye in Corsica. Of his several victories, the best known and most notable was the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, during which he was shot and killed.


The Funeral and Burial of Lord Horatio Nelson

9 January 1806

The state funeral of Lord Horatio Nelson took place on this day in history, 9 January 1806. Nelson had gained a huge measure of fame in Britain by leading the navy to victory over the Franco-Spanish navy at Trafalgar. Nelson, however, was killed by a sniper’s bullet at the moment of victory. His body was transported back to England where his coffin was fashioned from the mast of ‘L’Orient,’ the French flagship at Nelson’s victory in the Battle of the Nile. 

His body lay in state in the Painted Hall at Greenwich before it was eventually carried to St. Paul’s Cathedral at the head of an enormous procession. Stands were constructed inside St. Paul’s to accomodate the seating of thousands, and the dome was hung with the flags from captured French and Spanish vessels. After a four-hour service he was interred within a sarcophagus originally carved for Cardinal Wolsey. The sailors charged with folding the flag draping Nelson’s coffin and placing it in the grave instead tore it into fragments, with each taking a piece as a memento of their much beloved leader.

Read more about the funeral and burial of Lord Horatio Nelson here…


December 4th 1872: Mary Celeste found

On this day in 1872, the American ship the Mary Celeste was found unmanned in the Atlantic Ocean by the British brig Dei Gratia. The ship seemed to be abandoned (one lifeboat was missing), despite the fact that the weather was fine and the ship was still seaworthy, with no sign of a struggle. There was over six months worth of food and water on board and the personal belongings of passengers and crew were still there. All of the ship’s papers were missing, except for the captain’s logbook. Many possible explanations have been suggested, but the mystery of the Mary Celeste remains unsolved. The Mary Celeste is thus considered the archetypal ‘ghost ship’.


RMS Carpathia Sinks After Being Struck by U-boat Torpedo

17 July 1918

On this day in British history, 17 July 1918, RMS Carpathia sank off the coast of Ireland after being torpedoed by a German U-boat. Carpathia was a Cunard Line transatlantic passenger steamship built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson. Carpathia made her maiden voyage in 1903 and became famous for rescuing the survivors of RMS Titanic after it struck an iceberg and sank on 15 April 1912. Carpathia was used during WWI to transport American and Canadian troops across the Atlantic. 

On the summer morning of 17 July she was torpedoed in the Celtic Sea by the Imperial German Navy submarine U-55. Of three torpedoes fired at the ship, one impacted the port side while the other penetrated the engine room, killing two firemen and three trimmers. All 57 passengers and 218 surviving crew members boarded the lifeboats as the vessel sank. U-55 surfaced and fired a third torpedo into the ship and was approaching the lifeboats when the Azalea-class sloop HMS Snowdrop arrived on the scene and drove away the submarine with gunfire before picking up the survivors from Carpathia.


The Battle of the Nile

1 August 1798

The Battle of the Nile began on this day in maritime history, 1 August 1798. The battle, also known as the Battle of Aboukir Bay, saw the British Royal Navy under Horatio Nelson prevail over the Navy of the French Republic in battle that concluded on 3 August. The battle was the climax of a naval campaign that had ranged across the Mediterranean during the previous three months, as a large French convoy sailed from Toulon to Alexandria carrying an expeditionary force under then General Napoleon Bonaparte. The British victory at the Battle of the Nile effectively put an end to Napoleon’s invasion of the Middle East and made Nelson a war hero in the British Empire.