The MHN Blog is a companion to the Maritime Heritage Network, a not-for-profit, comprehensive website of maritime heritage organizations, attractions, and activities in the Pacific Northwest. The blog highlights news, activities, and resources useful to the entire maritime heritage community. All views expressed are the author's own. Opposing views are welcome.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Controversial Park Concerts Canceled; Alaska Ferry A Pawn in Oil Drilling

The Seattle Parks Department announced today that the Summer Nights concert series planned for Gas Works Park at Lake Union has been canceled, according to a news release from Mayor Greg Nickels' office. The concerts were one of the targets of last Saturday's protest (See Feb. 25 entry) by various neighborhoods upset with Parks Department handling of various issues. Maritime heritage supporters participated in the protest.

A story in the Feb. 27 Seattle Post-Intelligencer demonstrates that water-borne transportation between Alaska and the lower 48 is still important enough to become a political pawn. State lawmakers in Alaska want to cut the once or twice weekly ferry service between Bellingham, Wash. and Skagway, Alaska. The fight is all about oil drilling on Alaska's North Slope, and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell's efforts to stop it. I found this ferry episode interesting from a maritime heritage perspective, because Alaska, even in the age of 18-wheelers and air freight, is still highly dependent on steamship service begun in the 19th century. And it's important enough that a politician is willing to suggest sacrificing it to make a point.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Heritage Supporters Rally with Seattle Neighborhoods

Maritime heritage supporters rallied in Seattle today with about 200 neighborhood activists protesting the city of Seattle's management of the city's park system. (Photo at left.) Maritime supporters have locked horns with the city Parks and Recreation Department and Superintendent Ken Bounds over plans to redevelop South Lake Union Park. Bounds, who is tasked with creating a maritime heritage center at SLUP, has issued an eviction notice to the owners of the 1897 schooner Wawona, now moored at the SLUP. The vessel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is an official city landmark. Bounds says restoration activities are not allowed at the Park, and the schooner is in no condition to be at a public facility. Wawona supporters say that visitors want to know more about restoring historic ships, and they cite activites at San Francisco's National Maritime Historical Park and Mystic Seaport as examples.

The maritime supporters joined with representatives of several Seattle neighborhoods which dislike what they say is Parks' "top-down" decision-making style. They believe Bounds and his staff have ignored their concerns on several issues, especially a large parking garage planned for the Woodland Park Zoo, a series of large-scale summer concerts planned for Gas Works Park, across Lake Union from SLUP, and a plan to cut down 17 mature trees in historic Pioneer Square. For his part, Bounds says everyone had a chance to present their views, and he accused opponents of "intellectual dishonesty." (Photo copyright 2006 Joe Follansbee)

New Theories on First Americans; Michigan Maritime Heritage Driving Tours

Several news outlets, including the Scripps Howard News Service, have reported on new theories that shed light on how the first Americans might have arrived in North America. While many came via a land bridge between Alaska and Siberia during the last Ice Age, many may have come by boat or canoe, hugging the ice-free shores of northwestern North America. This could be important for understanding the origins of native peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, who were (and are) skilled and accomplished seafarers, creating large ocean-going canoes to hunt whales and other sea creatures until the early 20th century. In Seattle, Carving Cultural Connections practices many of these skills and passes them on to young people. Could these habits of the sea be traced to the earliest Americans?

The Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries has unveiled “The Lights of Northern Lake Huron,” a new maritime heritage driving tour available on the Travel Michigan Web site at

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Honoring the Women Who Wait, the Irish Way

The blog "For the Fainthearted" published an entry I found very moving. It features a photograph of a sculpture in County Sligo, Ireland of a woman reaching out to loved ones lost at sea. Titled "Waiting on Shore," she seems to have just heard of her loss. The blogger, Ian Poulton, reminds the reader of men who also wait for loved ones, but few images are as powerful as the wife (and by implication) the children who may never again see the husband who risks his life on the sea to make a living for his family. Ian suggested a link that led to this photo of the sculpture.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Battle to Preserve Bay Area Shipyard; Queen Mary, Queen Mary II to Meet

Dwayne Clark of the Boating Safety Law and News blog alerted the heritage community to the controversy in the Bay Area regarding a development plan for the Mare Island Naval Shipyard and a nearby historic district. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Preservationists, including state and federal officials, are outraged by the plan, which they say does not adequately consider alternatives to eliminating many of 183 historic resources, some of which everyone agrees will likely have to go." Let's hope Bay Area heritage advocates can successfully push back on the development plans. Kelly at Maritime Compass has more historical details including a period painting of the shipyard.

The Cruise News Blog reports that the cruise liners Queen Mary and Queen Mary II will meet for the first time Feb. 23 in Long Beach Harbor near Los Angeles. One of the area's best known tourist attractions, the original Queen Mary sailed as a Cunard liner from 1937 to 1967. Queen Mary II is nearly twice as large as her predecessor, and she's sailing out of Long Beach harbor for the first time, thus the meeting. Footnote: The blog entry is a great read if you like breathless hyberbolic prose that's about 20 percent real information.

Pirates Arrr Them

OK, so this is a bit of a stretch, but I came across a funky Puget Sound band called Pirate R Us, which I immediately fell in love with because they perform a song about pirate radio station KYAR, as in K-Y-AY- arrrh!!! Sounds like a cross between a chinese opera and someone stomping on a cat's tail. Truly arrrrful, but hilarious. The song's on their first EP, "Songs of Modern Piracy." Reminded me of me own time as a pirate radio DJ back, oh you don't really want to know. Anyone who has children younger than 10 knows that pirates are as popular as ever, and they're a great way to get kids interested in maritime history. So when a band like this comes along, it's cause for hope. The only thing missing is the parrot.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Working Conditions for Seamen Under Discussion

Here's a press release from the International Labor Organization, which is deeply involved in improving working conditions and pay for merchant seamen the world over:

The first Maritime Session of the International Labour Conference of the 21st century scheduled here between 7-23 February 2006 will consider a major new international labour instrument, the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. The proposed Convention sets out rights to decent conditions of work for the world's 1.2 million seafarers and covers a wide range of subjects, including health, safety, minimum age, recruitment, hours of work and other vital issues affecting a seafarer's life. If adopted, the Convention will consolidate and update more than 65 international maritime labour instruments adopted over the last 80 years.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Long Beach Cultural Tourism Event; Astoria Lures Visitors

I believe cultural and heritage tourism is a major source of untapped revenue for heritage organizations constantly strapped for cash. So it's great to see the Washington Arts Commission participating in events promoting cultural tourism, such as this one on Tuesday, Feb. 21 sponsored by the Peninsula Arts Association in Long Beach, Wash.

In nearby Astoria, Ore., local history is already a major tourist draw, as the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports in this story, reprinted from the Seattle Times.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pickin' at S/V Mistral; Traditional Newfoundland Songs

The blog From the Dock features a photo of S/V Mistral volunteers enjoying some homemade music at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle. The blog is focused on the 1939 racer designed by Ben Seaborn.

And those of you who enjoy traditional sea music might be interested in a compilation of Newfoundland folk music collected between 1951 and 1961. The CD-ROM is called Songs of the Newfoundland Outports.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Jobs at Battleship New Jersey and Memories of Mighty Mo'

Kelly at Maritime Compass reports that the Battleship New Jersey is looking for two people to fill the Director of Education and the Assistant Curator's positions. The New Jersey is important to Puget Sound residents, because she was mothballed at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton for nearly 30 years. The story reminds me of the Battleship Missouri, which was moved from Bremerton to Hawaii, causing a bit of pain to the local community and to me. I remember as a small child climbing aboard the ship in Bremerton and seeing the plaque marking the place where the Japanese surrender in World War II took place. I'm sure that was one of the sparks that got me interested in history. You couldn't see much of the ship, except a passageway under the bridge. And you could walk up to the bow.

Thinking about the Missouri also brings back memories of building those cheesy plastic ship models, including one of the Mighty Mo', the ship's nickname. The model came with a 45 rpm record that had a three-minute audio story about the Missouri in battle, including a terrible attack by a kamikaze fighter. The story had great narration and sound, with radio broadcasts and gunfire, probably inspired by the old "Victory at Sea" TV series of the early 1950s. The recording was similar to the best sound pieces you hear on National Public Radio. I played it over and over. I can almost hear it in my memory as I write this.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valencia Shipwreck Presentation; Heritage Tourism Position Paper

The Vancouver Maritime Museum will present a free lecture on the 100th anniversary of the wreck of the passenger liner Valencia. The lecture, by naturalist and storyteller Silva Johansson, is scheduled for Wednesday, February 22, 2006, at 7:30 p.m. at the museum, 1905 Ogden Street, Vancouver, BC. The lecture is part of the UASBC's 2006 Underwater Explorations Speaker Series. Sponsors include PADI Canada and the Vancouver Maritime Museum. A donation is requested and seating is limited. For more information, call 604-980-0354. Thanks to "do fundo do mar...Sea bottom" blog for the info.

I found a position paper on the future of cultural and heritage tourism put together in October 2005 by a "US Cultural and Heritage Tourism Summit" in Washington. It's very detailed and discusses economic opportunities and "authenticity," among other things. Heritage tourism is an important way for maritime heritage groups to find revenue to support their preservation and education work.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Seattle Shakes with Shanty Sing-Alongs; Naval History Site Recommended

I went to the free Friday monthly Northwest Seaport sea shanty sing-alongs and saw one of the largest winter turnouts in a long time. About 40 people gathered in the wood shop at South Lake Union Park to belt out traditional work songs of the sea, some music hall ballads, and a few modern tunes. We passed around the hat for donations and chowed down on cookies and soda. Pictured at left is Mariide Widmann, who led a few of the songs. The photo was taken last summer during the annual Wooden Boat Festival at SLUP. The shanty sings happen every second Friday of the month. For more information, visit the Maritime Heritage Network Calendar page. (Photo copyright 2005 Joseph G. Follansbee)

Mac Gregory, an Australian vet who blogs at Ahoy, recommends Naval-History.Net as an excellent source of World War II history books, links and other material related to European Allied and Axis naval history. You'll also find World War I and Falklands War material. Very cool.

2006 Sea Music Concert Series Announced

Northwest Seaport and Maritime Heritage Center has announced the first half of its 2006 Maritime Music Concert Series. The Seattle-based maritime history organization sponsors monthly concerts by leading Pacific Northwest maritime musicians. The concerts take place in the Center for Wooden Boats at South Lake Union Park, home to many of the region's most popular maritime history attractions. Seattle is a leading center for maritime music in the United States and the world, drawing musicians from Canada and Europe.

The 2006 concerts announced include:
  • March 25: The Cutters & Watch the Sky
  • April 22: Curtis & Loretta with Hank Cramer
  • May 20: Tom Lewis
  • June 17: Bold Horizon with Teresa Morgan
  • July 29: William Pint & Felicia Dale

Tickets are $10 general, $8 seniors, youth and members of maritime history organizations. All concerts start at 8 p.m. Proceeds support Northwest Seaport and Northwest musicians who celebrate maritime heritage in song. More information is available on the Maritime Heritage Network Calendar page.

Northwest Seaport is also nurturing the ancient tradition of shanty singing with monthly shanty sing-alongs at South Lake Union Park. The sing-alongs occur every second Friday of the month. More information is available in the Calendar section of Maritime Heritage Network.

Friday, February 10, 2006

WA Coast Shipwreck Revealed; Bonhomme Richard Grant Approved

A shipwreck that I remember well as a small child was uncovered by the February 4 windstorm. The wreck of the small cruise ship Catala at the mouth of Grays Harbor on the coast of Washington State near Ocean Shores was rediscovered and photographed from the air by a local television station. I remember scrambling around the wreck in the mid-1960s at the ship's resting place at Dash Point State Park.

And speaking of wrecks, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has approved a grant to search for the remains of John Paul Jones' Bonhomme Richard off the coast of England. Read the news on the "Do fundo do mar...Sea bottom" blog.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Container Shipping Anniversary; Pitfalls of Heritage Tourism

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle marks the 50th anniversary of container shipping. A half-century ago this year, entrepreneur Malcolm Maclean loaded the first ship with containers in North Carolina. Two years later, Matson Navigation, a major Pacific Coast shipping line, loaded containers for Hawaii.

A scholarly article in Political Geography (citation) discusses the downside of heritage tourism in Ireland.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Unusual Photo of Schooner Wawona

Photographer Dan Forbes created a unusual and wonderful photo of the schooner Wawona during a recent trip to the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle. The image is titled "waterline." The Wawona is moored next to the Center at South Lake Union Park. View the photo here.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

21 Leave Mystic Seaport; Historic Clipper Ship Lost

The Maritime Compass blog reports that 21 Mystic Seaport employees have left the living history museum under an early retirement and contract buyout plan offered by museum officials. Read Kelly's post. According to a Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Wire report published on January 12, 2006, the move will save the museum approximately $500,000 a year. The report says the museum has been struggling with a $1 million annual deficit for several years. A museum spokesman says Mystic Seaport will break even in 2008. The museum hoped 24 of the 70 employees offered the package would accept it. The museum has a total paid workforce of 206. The museum has also decided to contract out its gift shop, which employs 30. It's not clear how many of those employees will be retained by the new operator. The museum contracted out its snack bar services in 2004.

Scottish media have reported a decision to break up the historic clipper ship Carrick. Scottish Maritime Museum officials say restoration of the 1864 vessel is impractical. Read about the decision here.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Seattle Central Waterfront Plan Unveiled

The City of Seattle's Department of Planning and Development held an open house on Wednesday to unveil its draft "Waterfront Concept Plan," which is its vision of what the city's Central Waterfront should look like after replacement or reconstruction of the Alaska Way Viaduct. (The viaduct is an elevated freeway along the waterfront that was rendered unstable during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. It will likely be replaced.) The city has invited a number of stakeholders, including a representative of the historic preservation community, to help write the plan. I've been attending the monthly meetings as a board member for the Association of King County Historical Organizations. The planning process is long and tortuous. This document will now go to the city council for approval. The next step will be working out details of the plan.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Maritime Compass Blog; UK Life At Sea Exhibit

I found a new blog today, Maritime Compass, which is a review of current happenings in Maritime Studies. Maritime Compass includes information on library and museum events, scholarly conferences or meetings, book reviews, news items, or "just plain old interesting maritime facts."

The National Maritime Museum in London is celebrated its "Life at Sea" exhibit, which tells the story of Great Britain as a nation of seafarers. The exhibit runs until April 23, 2006.