Category Archives: Along the Coast

Hurricane Sandy and the Great White Hurricane of 1888

Hurricane Sandy–the ‘Frankenstorm’–is hurtling towards the northeast coast as I write this. I’ve been listening to reports from Rockaway Beach, Asbury Park and downtown Manhattan on the radio. The storm is enormous–500 miles wide–and dangerous–threatening tens of millions of people and untold billions in property. Harbors have closed and vessels are steaming as quickly as possible to the relative safety of open water. (Well, all except this cargo vessel.) There has already been an unconfirmed report of a ship foundering at sea–the 180-foot, three-masted ship H.M.S. Bounty. According to this gCaptain report, the crew of 16 abandoned the vessel. The Coast Guard arrived on the scene this morning, saving 14. Two remain missing.

Sandy bears a close resemblance to another massive “superstorm”–the Great White Hurricane of 1888. Like Sandy, the Great White Hurricane was a massive storm, the result of two major weather systems coming together. It also targeted the densely populated northeast corridor. The blizzard shut down every city and town between Washington D.C., and the Canadian border, causing at least $20 million in damage (a substantial sum in 1888). Hundreds of vessels wrecked (for more see this earlier post).

The Great White Hurricane served as a wake-up call for major cities–transportation came to a halt, communication went down, thousands went without food or heat for days. They were modern cities without modern infrastructure. In the wake of the storm electric and telegraph wires went underground. Boston and New York broke ground on the nation’s first subway systems. The United States Weather Bureau (the forerunner to the National Weather Service that’s been giving us our Sandy updates) was formed in 1891 to improve national weather forecasting.

Sandy will cause extensive damage and hardship. Hopefully it will not be in vain. Our country needs to have a serious conversation about preparing for sea-level rise and global climate change. It took the Great White Hurricane to bring the northeast into the 20th century. Will Sandy bring it into the 21st?

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Filed under Along the Coast, Wrecks in the News

Panhandle Shipwreck Trail opens

Now this is pretty sweet — The Florida Department of State’s Underwater Archaeology Team in partnership with Panhandle waterfront communities recently announced the opening of the “Shipwreck Trail.” It consists of twelve wrecks located off Pensacola, Destin, Panama City and Port St. Joe. As a group they offer divers quite the range of historical and ecological diversity. Wrecks include the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany, the largest artificial reef in the world, a Navy dive tender, oilfield supply vessels, a freighter,coal barges, tugboats, a World War II minesweeper and the steamer Vamar, which was made famous as a support ship for Admiral Richard Byrd’s 1928 Antarctic expedition and sank under mysterious circumstances in 1942.

Designed “to stimulate tourism and educate people about Florida’s history,” the trail has definitely inspired me to take my first underwater foray into the Gulf.

To learn more about the wrecks and how to dive them check out their fantastic website.

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Filed under Along the Coast, Announcement

Lobsters innundate shipwreck

Here’s a shipwreck story you don’t see everyday. The Bude branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) will be releasing 600-900 little lobsters near a 17th-century shipwreck off the coast of Plymouth, England. The release, part of a “major environmental conservation programme” according to the Plymouth Herald, is being undertaken for the South West lobster hatchery, “which has donated the crustaceans and masterminded the environmental conservation programme.” The wreck of the the British gun ship Coronation off Penlee Point, Plymouth, should serve as a perfect lobster hatchery because it is a “no take zone.” Best of luck!

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Filed under Along the Coast

200-year-old shipwreck found in Gulf of Mexico

NOAA image

Imagine my surprise when I flipped to the “Money” section of my local paper this morning and read this headline: “Shipwreck is found in Gulf” [it has a different headline online]. Seems like an odd placement–but given all the Odyssey Marine news these days, the paper’s editors might be forgiven for confusing our cultural heritage with economic exploitation.

In any case, the 20o-year-old wreck found in almost 4,000 feet of water during a Shell Oil Company sonar survey in 2011 was recently visited by a NOAA expedition, which explored four other wrecks as well as numerous natural phenomena. This wreck, located almost 200 miles off the Gulf Coast, is in a surprisingly good state of preservation.   Archaeologists most familiar with the site suggest the wreck dates from 1800-1830 based on the visible ceramic plates and glass bottles. Rare artifacts on the site include piles of muskets, cannons and ships stove, one of only a handful that survive worldwide. I’m sure we’ll be hearing about this wreck for years to come.

NOAA image

For more on the Okeanos Explorer and the 2012 Gulf of Mexico Expedition click here.


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Filed under Along the Coast, Announcement, Forgotten Wrecks, Notes from the Field, Wrecks in the News

Moby Dick versus Das Boot

The title says it all. I won’t bog you down with my analysis, but suffice to say that this is a work of YouTube genius. I applaud its creator, Benjamin Hoffmann–who are you? Many thanks to my good friend from UD for passing this along.

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Filed under Along the Coast, Shipwreck culture