It seems like I can’t get through my Sunday paper these days without coming across at least one shipwreck story. This is hardly unique: shipwrecks have been a constant presence in American newspapers for as long as there has been American newspapers. Still, after spending years reading about shipwrecks in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century newspapers, I can only laugh when I open up my Sunday paper and find a twenty first-century shipwreck narrative. To be academic about it — shipwrecks are one of those few enduring cultural references you can follow through the broad sweep of history. That’s why I study them.
This week’s shipwreck tale: a beachcomber discovered an 80-foot “fragment of history” buried in the sands of Cumberland Island, Georgia. Archaeologists have tentatively dated the fragment of wooden hull to the mid-1800s, fueling speculation that it could be a remnant of everything from a mundane trading vessel to a Confederate blockade runner. The exact location of the wreck has been kept secret. The discovery has been buried in sand to: “Leaving the wreckage exposed on the beach would only lead to further destruction from wind and rain, not to mention possible damage and pilfering by island visitors.”
Hard to believe that its been a year since the Costa Concordia ran aground off Giglio, Italy, initiating the twenty-first century’s first shipwreck spectacle. Yesterday, media outlets around the world noted the one-year anniversary of the wreck. Seems fitting that we should follow suite at Ships on the Shore.
According to this article, salvagers expect to remove the ship by the end of summer, which would put the effort just a few months behind schedule (not bad considering this is arguably the most complicated salvage job ever attempted). A crew of 430 have been working around the clock for months preparing the wreck and surrounding area for refloating the Concordia. Their cranes, barges, and salvage platforms, “creating an incongruous industrial landscape amid the pristine waters of a marine sanctuary.” (Personal aside: it’s an increasingly rare pleasure to find good newspaper writers these days. Thank you New York Times.) Locals have become irritated by these machines in their garden and others are concerned about the environmental and financial consequences of delay.
For frequent updates on the salvage go here.
Apparently, 1,000 Chinese ships are frozen in on Laizhou Bay in China’s Shandong province. Apparently, it’s been cold, very cold. The coldest it’s been in 28 years with temperatures plunging to -40F. Sounds like it has the potential to be quite the maritime disaster. For more see this great post.
Many thanks to Brian for passing this along. As he emailed me: “Not exactly shipwrecks, but…”
Amazing Coast Guard footage of the grounded oil rig Kulluk in seventy-knot winds and forty-foot seas. A salvage team from Smit Salvage (the same outfit salvaging the Costa Concordia) is on the rig assessing damage. For more, check out great coverage on gcaptain.
On Shell’s response click here. For the Coast Guard perspective click here.
Here is a pretty good article from Popular Mechanics. For a fantastic photo spread click here.
I moseyed over to the Times this morning to find out what happened on Capitol Hill last night. To my surprise (well, not really) I saw this article about the last shipwreck of 2012. (2012 has certainly been the ‘year of the wreck.’) It appears that a Shell oil rig, the Kulluck, ran aground in the Gulf of Alaska after “extremely rough seas and high winds” set the rig loose from its tow. The Coast Guard safely evacuated the eighteen crew members on the Kulluck. No word yet on any salvage effort, but there are concerns over the 139,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 12,000 gallons of lubricating oil and hydraulic fluid that remain on the rig. This is a story we’ll be following.
Happy New Year’s