Saturday Snippet: The Old Navy

Rear Admiral Daniel P. Mannix III served in the US Navy from the 1890’s until the 1920’s.  He recorded an amusing, absorbing account of his service in his private journals, letters, etc.  Later, his son, well-known author Daniel P. Mannix IV, took those documents and used them to write “The Old Navy”, a record of his father’s life and naval career. The paper edition is long out of print, although used copies are available.  Fortunately, there’s also an inexpensive Kindle edition, which makes the e-book version available to a new generation of readers. Here’s a selection of excerpts from Admiral Mannix’s early years

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French Navy fighters and their pilots at play

The YouTube channel Chasse Embarquée hosts numerous videos of French Navy Rafale fighters aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.  Here’s the latest in their series, released just a few days ago.  It contains some of the best air-to-air photography I’ve seen for a long time. Looks like French fighter pilots enjoy themselves just as much as any other nation’s. Peter

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Shortages or not, be thankful for your toilet paper!

If you’re running low on TP, be thankful you still have some, and don’t have to use an old sailor’s method.  The always interesting Old Salt Blog reports: Sailors in the Age of Sail used tow-rags. What is a tow-rag? As can be seen in the video below, close to the ship’s head — the toilets in the bow or “head” of the ship — there was a long rope ending in a short rag that hung over the side into the water. After using the head, the sailor could then clean his backside with the wet rag then drop the

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US naval expenditure: is reality finally beginning to bite?

I’ve long been annoyed and frustrated at the US Navy’s visible incompetence and waste of taxpayers’ time and money in designing, building and commissioning new generations of warships.  The “Little Crappy Ship” imbroglio, the Zumwalt train wreck and the USS Gerald R. Ford’s litany of failures are only the first three programs to come to mind – there are many more.  Therefore, I wasn’t surprised to see the Defense Secretary’s decision about funding a new generation of nuclear missile submarines. After years of warnings from U.S. Navy leaders that replacing the aging Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine will eat the service’s shipbuilding account alive, the year the first Columbia-class submarine is

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Saturday Snippet: The sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in 1941

Americans tend to forget that Japan didn’t only attack Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.  She simultaneously attacked across a wide swath of the Pacific Ocean, including the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies and Malaya.  Britain had just sent to Singapore one of its most modern battleships, HMS Prince of Wales (which had recently played a part in the destruction of the German battleship Bismarck), accompanied by a World War I battle-cruiser, HMS Repulse.  Operating together as Force Z, they attempted to attack a Japanese landing fleet near Singapore a few days later, with disastrous results. This description of what happened was written by then-Sub-Lieutenant (equivalent to

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The Panama Canal, faster than usual

Courtesy of Old Salt Blog, here’s a time-lapse video of a passage through the Panama Canal.  The trip lasts 11 hours, but the video takes less than 7 minutes – much more palatable in our high-speed world!  Note the “locomotives” on either side of the ship, hauling it through the locks.  They’re partly visible from time to time, as in the video ‘cover image’ below, on the right of the ship’s bow. The digging of the Panama Canal remains one of the great adventure stories of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It advanced not only navigation, but also medicine,

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A chemical reaction leads to a very big bang

Back in September, the chemical tanker Stolt Groenland experienced a massive explosion in Ulsan, South Korea.  This clip was taken by the dashcam video of a vehicle parked rather too close to the big bang. An initial investigation has revealed it was caused by a chemical reaction. According to the MAIB’s interim report, released today, the explosion occurred due to the sudden build-up of pressure in the Stolt Groenland’s number 9 cargo tank containing styrene monomer, a highly flammable chemical used in the making of plastics, paints and synthetic rubber. The resulting explosions and fireball could be seen and heard for miles, and passed very close to

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Fish plastic and canal clearing

Two unrelated sources this morning turn into a single blog article.  Ah, the wonders of imagination . . . First, Old Salt Blog brings us the news that an engineering graduate in England has won the James Dyson Award for inventing a biodegradable plastic made from fish waste.  You can read more about it at the link. This is some very useful research.  I don’t know how many of my readers have walked past a fish processing plant, and been assailed by the stench of rotting fish waste products.  It’s . . . impressive . . . not to mention probably reportable as a

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But what if the power goes out?

Having had some little (very little) experience with ships, boats and such things, I couldn’t help doing a double-take at the news that paper navigation charts appear to be on the way out. [The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] is initiating a five-year process to end all traditional paper nautical chart production… . . . For nearly 200 years, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has produced traditional paper nautical chart products. Originally, this took the singular form of hard copy paper charts, today, there are several raster digital chart formats available to download or print through a NOAA certified agent. Similar

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Tugboat meat in a dockyard sandwich

A tip o’ the hat to GCaptain for finding this video clip of a harbor tug in San Francisco being ground between Pier 27 and the cruise liner Star Princess. They’ll have to inspect the pier for damage, as well as the tug.  Did you see how far its stern went underneath the pier?  I reckon that will have taken out more than a few uprights and the bracing between them.  The building on top of that section might be a bit rickety for a while . . . Peter

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