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NMHS Charles Point Council January Seminar

The Port of New York in World War II

With Joseph F. Meany Jr., New York State Historian Emeritus

 Saturday, 30 January 2016
 Hendrick Hudson Library – 25 Kings Ferry Road, Montrose, NY 10548
Continental breakfast is at 10:30 AM. Presentation is at 11:00 AM.

RMS_Queen_Mary_NewYork_SMPlease Note: this event was originally scheduled for 23 January, but was postponed to 30 January due to inclement weather.

The Second World War is considered the most significant historical event of the twentieth century. For New Yorkers, the war came closest to home in New York Harbor, from which 1,462 convoys sailed into the uncertain waters of the North Atlantic. Joe Meany will explore the wartime port and suggest a framework for understanding its history. Its 650 miles of waterfront, 1,800 docks, 1,100 warehouses, and concentration of training facilities constituted priceless resources, while posing complex problems in its management. He will tell us about the two installations that dominated the port: the NY Port of Embarkation, which funneled three million troops and their equipment to the New York docks for deployment overseas, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the greatest naval shipyard in the world and the largest industrial plant in New York State. We’ll also learn more about wartime New York City, the world’s most popular liberty port.

We will hear stories about the people of the port, like Capt. Frederick Reinicke, USN, a retired naval officer recalled to active duty upon the declaration of national emergency in May, 1940 (following Dunkirk). Deemed too old for a sea command, he was instead handed the most demanding maritime management job in history, that of Port Director, New York. Reinicke activated the office on 8 October 1940. He was given a chief petty officer, a civilian secretary, and a one-room office. By 8 May 1945, the day hostilities ceased with Germany, his office occupied four floors of the Whitehall Building at 17 Battery Place overlooking the upper bay, and composed over 1,200 naval personnel actively engaged in managing the world’s biggest marine traffic job.

Joseph J. Meany Jr.

Joseph J. Meany Jr.

Reinicke personally chaired the sometimes twice-weekly convoy conferences held the afternoon before a convoy departed. Ship masters met their convoy and escort commanders, and ship’s radio officers received their codes and ciphers. Following the conference, no contact with the outside world was permitted. They were escorted by armed guard across Battery Park to the Fleet Landing Basin (now site of the merchant marine memorial) where motor whaleboats returned them to their ships. For some, it was their last contact with their country.

Capt. Reinicke saw them all off. He completed the war and returned to retirement in 1945.
The public is invited. Please contact the National Maritime Historical Society at 914 737-7878, ext. 0, or email if you plan to attend. A $5 to $10 donation is appreciated. If you would also like to join NMHS and the speaker for lunch following the presentation, it is $25 prepaid, with cash bar. Reservations required.

For more information on the complete lineup of seminars as it is finalized, please check back with the Charles Point Council page for ongoing updates.

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Checking in with Columbia

We reported on the excursion steamer Columbia one year ago in Sea History 149 (Winter 2014–15). Believed to be the oldest intact remaining passenger steamer in the country, the veteran of nearly 90 years of ferrying passengers back and forth to Bob-Lo Island had been towed to the Toledo, Ohio, Ironhead Marine for initial cleanup and repairs before making the journey to Buffalo, NY, where work continues.

Photo: Joe Russello for the SS Columbia ProjectWe’ve received this year-end update from the good folks at the SS Columbia Project:

We have made tremendous progress in the past year. Columbia has undergone a $1.6 million hull restoration. The boat has traveled over 250 nautical miles, glided across three rivers—Detroit, Maumee, and Buffalo—and crossed Lake Erie. She has passed the shorelines of three states—Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—before landing for the first time in New York State.

It was a memorable experience to watch. A flotilla led by the fireboat Edward M. Cotter, the tall ship Spirit of Buffalo, and private vessels, from sailboats to kayaks, greeted our steamboat as she came into Buffalo Harbor.  Columbia is now docked in the Buffalo River at Silo City, where our crew has prepared her for winter.

Columbia was built in 1902 by the Detroit Dry Dock Company in Wyandotte, Michigan. Her designer was the well-known naval architect Frank Kirby, working with artist and architect Louis O. Keil. She carried passengers from Detroit to the amusement park on Boblo Island. The 80-minute cruise was an attraction in its own right; Columbia had a full-sized ballroom and bands played popular music to entertain the crowds. Columbia and her “little sister,” Ste. Claire, the “Boblo boats,” served the island until 1991, just two years before the amusement park closed altogether.

The Boblo boats were declared national Historic Landmark Vessels in 1992; unfortunately, campaigns to restore them and find new homes for them weren’t able to secure the funding necessary for the undertaking. New York preservationist Richard Anderson formulated a plan to bring Columbia to the Hudson River, which had its own heyday of steam ferries, to serve as a cultural flagship reconnecting New York City to the waterfront cities and towns along the scenic Hudson Valley. Mr. Anderson passed away in 2013, but SS Columbia Project is continuing his work to make Columbia‘s new mission a reality.


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Remembering the “Ship of Miracles”

Staff Officer Robert Lunney (photo courtesy RADM Lunney)

Staff Officer Robert Lunney (photo courtesy RADM Lunney)

In February of 2013, Rear Admiral Robert Lunney presented a talk for the NMHS Charles Point Council seminar series, The Hungnam Evacuation and the Ship of Miracles in the Korean War. RADM Lunney, a longtime friend of NMHS and former president of the NY chapter of the US Navy League, told us about his experience aboard SS Meredith Victory with the extraordinary rescue of 14,000 Korean men, women, and children in December 1950.

RADM Lunney has shared with us this article in last week’s Korea Herald commemorating the anniversary of that momentous event. To learn even more about that amazing rescue, check out the book Ship of Miracles: 14,000 Lives and One Miraculous Voyage, or the documentary video Ship of Miracles.

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Opportunity to Sail a Viking Ship Across the Atlantic

Draken-1200_628_01-10-1024x539Do you think you’ve got the Viking spirit? Expedition America 2016 is looking for a few good men and women to crew aboard Draken Harald Hårfagre (Dragon Harald Fairhair), the largest viking ship built in modern times. The ship will leave her home port in Haugesund, Norway, in May 2016 to voyage across the North Atlantic Ocean. The journey will recreate the first transatlantic crossing, and the Viking discovery of the New World, more than a thousand years ago. The project will, like Leif Eriksson, create cross-border meetings and inspire people to go beyond the horizon in a modern Viking saga. Along the route, the ship will touch on Iceland and Greenland, and then to the US and Canada, passing Viking settlements and new archaeological findings.

While Draken Harald Hårfagre is not a replica, she was constructed based on knowledge of traditional Viking boatbuilding, descriptions in Old Norse literature and foreign contemporary sources , visual representations of Viking ships, old sailing records, and the example of the construction of the Gokstad ship. Construction began in 2010. Launched in 2012, the ship sailed in the waters along the Norwegian coast, making her first ocean voyage from Haugesund, Norway, to Liverpool,  UK, and back.

Draken-1200_628_02.-01pg-1024x539Expedition 2016 is looking for volunteers to crew the ship for at least a two-month leg of the journey. It’s not an undertaking for the faint of heart or delicate of hairstyle; the ship’s design is open-deck, with just a tent for shelter. But the stories to take home will last a lifetime for a lucky few.

Photos courtesy Expedition America 2016; photographer Peder Jacobsson




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Colombian Government Reports Identification of San Jose Shipwreck

GalleonThe government of Colombia has announced that it has located the remains of the Spanish galleon San Jose, lost in a battle against the British ship Expedition, in the War of Spanish Succession, 307 years ago. The wreck, located not far from Cartagena, is believed to be carrying a cargo including gold, silver and emeralds, with a value estimated to be in the billions.

The wreck is reported to be in a location different from that of a site previously believed to be the San Jose, a site which inspired lawsuits between the Colombian government and the American salvage company Sea Search Armada over the ownership and disposition of items to be recovered.

Read More About It:

Wreck Of Legendary Spanish Galleon Is Finally Found, Colombia Says

Colombia treasure-laden San Jose galleon ‘is found’

Colombia to build museum for Spanish galleon discovery, president says

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Free Weekday Admission to Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in February

CBMM_FreeinFebruaryThanks to generous sponsor support, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum will be offering free admission Monday through Friday during the month of February. Free admission covers access to the entire museum, including the working boatyard and 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, as well as numerous permanent and changing exhibitions along CBMM’s waterfront campus in historic St. Michaels, MD.

The Free in February program includes President’s Day, and is made possible through the generous sponsor support of the Talbot Bank and Awful Arthur’s of St. Michaels, MD. Guests will also receive a voucher for a 15% discount off of a meal at Awful Arthur’s on the day of the museum visit.

CBMM_FreeinFebruary_Boatshop“Winter offers a great time to explore our 12 exhibition buildings and beautiful campus, especially while enjoying the town’s great restaurants, shops, hotels and inns,” said CBMM’s President Kristen Greenaway. “We have a great number of inside exhibitions for all ages to enjoy, the waterfowl are abundant along a quieter harbor and the Miles River, and you can see great things happening in our boatyard as education programs and the restoration of our historic fleet of Chesapeake vessels ramp up in the colder months.”

CBMM_FreeinFebruary_BroadReachGuests can also take in the exhibition  A Broad Reach: 50 Years of Collecting, which features 50 significant objects that have been accessioned into the museum’s collection over the past 50 years, presented on both floors of the Steamboat Building. The exhibition will be closing to the public in 2016.

Admission will be free weekdays in February for all museum guests. General admission is otherwise good for two consecutive days and is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students with ID, $6 for children 6-17, and free for museum members and children five and under. The museum is open 10 AM to 4 PM seven days a week, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.



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Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum Receives Grant for Education Programs

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has been given a $60,000 grant from the Wallace Genetic Foundation of Washington, DC, to expand the reach of its educational programming. The funds will support a new boatshop educational program for local sixth graders, and a new bus scholarship program that helps more students from throughout the Delmarva region participate in CBMM’s curriculum-based programs and field trips. The museum is seeking additional support for full funding and anticipates launching both programs in 2016.

CBMM_6thGradeBoatyardProgram_Oct2015-239x300The boatshop program is a pilot initiative in collaboration with the YMCA of the Chesapeake and the Academy Art Museum of Easton. The museum plans to offer two six-week afterschool boatbuilding sessions to Talbot County sixth-grade students. During the pilot program, students will learn woodworking and boatbuilding during fall and winter sessions, and in the warmer months will be invited to participate in on-the-water activities on CBMM small craft and other vessels, where they will be introduced to basic navigational and maritime skills through safe, supportive, and fun experiences. Students enrolled in the program will have the option of continuing on as an after-school participant, joining CBMM’s Apprentice for a Day (AFAD) program, or exploring the other athletic or artistic activities offered by the YMCA of the Chesapeake and the Academy Art Museum respectively.

The museum’s new bus scholarship program is designed to boost student visitation from states throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, prioritizing Title 1 schools, providing disadvantaged students the opportunity to explore the Chesapeake first-hand. Museum president Kristen Greenaway  points out: “Bus transportation can regularly cost upwards of $500 for a half-day field trip. By creating a bus scholarship program that will reimburse schools for up to $300 per bus, we will be able to expand our reach to area schoolchildren that have not previously been able to visit the museum.”

The museum is also developing a program for Talbot County’s sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to participate in week-long camp sessions, offered in collaboration with the YMCA of the Chesapeake. When full funding is met, CBMM plans to condense its six-week after-school session into a week-long, full-day summer camp. The existing boatbuilding and maritime activities will be enriched by off-site trips to outdoor destinations that complement the Chesapeake maritime theme, while underscoring self-discovery, personal achievement, exploration, and fun for each participant.


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20th Annual Moby-Dick Marathon

The New Bedford Whaling Museum will mark its 20th marathon reading of Moby-Dick the weekend of 7–10 January. The reading will begin at noon on Saturday, 9 January and include more than 150 participants reading short passages from the novel; it will last 25 hours. Tie-in events include the opening of the exhibit Oásis by Nuno Sá, Portugal’s most awarded wildlife photographer, the dedication of the museum’s Herman Melville Room, a Moby-Dick-inspired dinner (a ticketed event), and a lecture. The exhibition Mapping Ahab’s “Storied Waves”: Whaling and the Geography of Moby-Dick will make its debut as well.

image: New Bedford Whaling Museum

image: New Bedford Whaling Museum

Prior to the reading, the museum will test the Moby-Dick trivia mastery of Melville Society Cultural Project members with Stump the Scholars. Once the reading marathon begins, readings held around the museum will be interspersed with performances and music; and select passages will be read in languages other than English. The museum will also host an abridged reading for children, as well as an abridged one conducted in Portuguese.

For more information, visit the event website.



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Peking will Return to Hamburg

The South Street Seaport Museum has announced that the 1911 barque Peking will return to Hamburg, Germany, to serve as the centerpiece of that city’s new waterfront museum.

Photo: Bob-AthinsonLaunched at Hamburg’s Blohm & Voss shipyard, Peking was one of the famed Flying P line sailing for the Reederei F. Laeisz in the nitrate and wheat trade around Cape Horn. One of only four surviving ships of the Flying P fleet—the others are Kruzhenstern (ex-Padua), Pommern, and PassatPeking was made famous by sailing legend Irving Johnson. In 1929 Johnson and his friend Charles Brodhead signed on as paying passengers aboard the barque, with the intention of soaking up the experience of sailing a tall ship, working with the crew as much as they could get away with it. The experience was captured both in Johnson’s book The Peking Battles Cape Horn,  which can be found in the NMHS bookstore) and the film Around Cape Horn, available through Mystic Seaport.

Peking came to the South Street Seaport Museum in 1975, joining the Liverpool-built Wavertree of 1885, Ambrose, Pioneer and Lettie G. Howard. In recent years, however, South Street determined that financial realities would not support two such large ships, given the cost of maintaining them in good condition.  Capt. Jonathan Boulware, executive director of the Seaport Museum, summed it up:

“South Street Seaport Museum has long worked to maintain a fleet of well-maintained, relevant historic ships at her East River piers. The idea of recreating the “Street of Ships” is an important one, but what is clear is that two huge sailing ships are a crushing burden of maintenance. Our 1885 ship Wavertree, currently the subject of a $13 million city-funded restoration project, is the right ship for the Seaport Museum and for New York. Wavertree called at New York. She is the type of ship that built New York. Peking has a similar relationship to Hamburg. With the return of Wavertree in the middle of 2016, there will again be a huge square-rigged sailing ship at South Street  in outstanding condition. Peking will return to Hamburg, the city of her birth, and there be cared for in much the same way. This is good for the Seaport Museum and it’s good for Peking.”

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Group Searching for Episodes of the British Seafarer

A group of sailing, folk music and old-time radio enthusiasts in the UK has put out the call for recordings of the BBC radio series The British Seafarer: A history in 26 parts in the words of those who have made the history. The documentary series was broadcast in 1980, 1981, and 1982, but has never been aired again.

towerThe British Seafarer was composed and directed by Michael Mason, in collaboration with the National Maritime Museum. Mason debuted his popular approachable documentary style with a program about the Bayeux Tapestry and went on to produce such popular series as The Long March of Everyman and Plain Tales from the Raj.

The preservation group, “a loose collective of sailing and folk enthusiasts,” has noted that radio productions from our not-so-distant past are disappearing, and strives to search out recordings in private hands to make digitized copies that can be made available to libraries and interested enthusiasts. This is done on an amateur basis, using their own funds and computing equipment.

By User Iain from en:Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons

By User Iain from en:Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons

If you own a recording of an episode of The British Seafarers, please contact Mr. Chris Brady, who has been spreading the word of this latest project. If you know of someone who recorded BBC radio programs in the 1980s or collected recordings of them, please let them know of this appeal.







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