On November 12, 1720 Peter Tordenskjold died in a sword duel. It will not sound familiar to most people, but he was one of the great national heroes of Denmark and Norway—countries that were once united, a daring sailor who would be the equivalent of what Nelson is to the British, Ruyter to the Dutch, Jones to the Americans or Bazán to the Spanish. Remembered in several popular songs and honored with several statues, streets, books, films and even a festival, a corvette of the Danish navy and a ship of the Norwegian navy are named after him. He is also cited in the Danish royal anthem.
When in 1959 Michael Walsh was offered a deck boy’s job on the MV Britannic it never entered his head that he had been chosen by fate to be the final link in an ocean-going epic.
MICHAEL WALSH ex-seafarer, nomad and author of seafaring books is more aware than most of the awesome size and depths of the earth’s great seas. After all, the once British seaman on reaching his 26th birthday had travelled to over 60 countries, visited hundreds of ports many several times over.
At 4,000 miles it is quite a distance between Los Angeles and the entrance of the Panama Canal. The tranquillity of the tropical western seaboard of the United States was likely the last place on earth where one might expect high drama but on the high or restful seas always be prepared for the unexpected.
On December 14, 1907, a large sailing ship wrecked off the coast of Annet, in the Isles of Scilly, killing all but two of her eighteen crew and causing the world’s first large marine oil spill. The ship involved in the accident, Thomas W. Lawson, was an incredible ship.
The shortest sea route between Europe and Asia passes through the Arctic Due to thick ice it is not traversable for most of the year. Russia has now decided to invest about $10 billion in the near future in order for the region to become an international transport corridor 365 days a year. Developing the route will require a huge investment, but the potential profit will be even greater.
On Sunday, the Microsoft and Soros-sponsored Ocean Viking ferry with 549 migrants on board arrived in the port of Pozzallo in South-eastern Sicily. The ship’s crew had to wait several days before the threatened by Brussels intimidation Italian authorities decided where it could anchor. Citing a spokesman for SOS Méditerranée, the DPA agency reported on the ship’s arrival.
British seamen cynically but in friendly fashion describe themselves not as the crew members or shipmates but as Board of Trade Compulsory Companions. That said, the bad eggs thrown together by circumstance were few and far between. From sailing day, a ship’s crew who were complete strangers to each other a day earlier became firm friends.
The sinking of the French ocean liner SS La Bourgogne on the morning of 4 July 1898 was one of the most disgraceful of disasters in maritime history due to the cowardly and criminal behavior of the crew. Instead of the heroic sacrifice that has often been the shining moment in such a terrible tragedy, the crew of the steamer “fought like demons for the few lifeboats and rafts”, drawing out their knives and threatening passengers with it. Out went for a toss “Women and children first!”, famously established by the soldiers of the sinking Birkenhead, half a century earlier, and by the crew of the Titanic fourteen years later. Only one woman passenger from La Bourgogne was saved, and all children perished.
She was Italy’s one and only Blue Ribband champion. The renowned Blue Riband was coveted by the great shipping companies of history being awarded for passenger-carrying liners making the fastest crossings of the Atlantic Ocean.