Quotulatiousness

July 2, 2017

The US Navy’s WW2 floating drydocks

Filed under: History, Military, Pacific, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I’d never heard of these massive mobile drydock facilities before:


USS Iowa (BB-61) in a floating drydock at Manus Island, Admirality Islands, 28 December 1944. (via Wikimedia)

The United States Navy, during World War 2, decided to create a temporary forward base utilizing service stations; these stations meant the United States Navy could operate throughout the huge Pacific Ocean for more sustained amounts of time.

Creating these pretty much meant they could have a major naval base within a short distance of any operation carried out in the area. The base was able to repair; resupply and refit, meaning fewer ships had to make the journey to a facility at a major port, which allowed them to remain in the Pacific for up to a year and beyond.

These stations were officially named Advance Base Sectional Docks (ABSDs) and were put together section by section. Each part was welded to the next once in their correct position.

There were two different sizes of floating docks created, the largest ones were created using ten sections and could lift 10,000 tons each – being 80 feet wide and 256 feet long. Once these sections were welded together, it became a fully assembled dock that was a whopping 133 feet wide, 827 feet long and could lift up to 90,000 tons.

This was more than enough lifting power for any ship within the Fleet.

The post also included this film, showing the USS Idaho being moved into an ABSD at Esperitu Santo in August, 1944:

Published on 7 May 2015

On August 15, 1944 the mighty battleship Idaho arrived at Espiritu Santo in the Pacific and slipped into a floating dry dock so that emergency repairs could be made to the ship’s blisters. This special film — likely made by the crew of the battleship’s observation aircraft — documents the activities as the ship is maneuvered into position. The dry dock shown is likely one of the Large Auxiliary Floating Dry Docks (AFDB), probably AFDB/ABSD-1. This was constructed in sections during 1942 and 1943 at Everett Shipbuilding Co., Everett, WA., by the Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., Eureka, CA., the Pollack-Stockton Shipbuilding Co., Stockton, CA., and Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., Morgan City, LA. During World War II ABSD-1 was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater and towed to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides and assembled for service. Later it was disassembled and towed to Manicani Bay, P.I. and reassembled for service by September 1945.

USS Idaho had been damaged during long days of combat that began with the bombardment of Saipan in June. With the landing assault underway on 15 June, the battleship moved to Guam for bombardment assignments. As the American fleet destroyed Japanese carrier air power in the Battle of the Philippine Sea from 19–21 June, Idaho protected the precious transport area and reserve convoys. After returning to Eniwetok from 28 June to 9 July, the ship began preinvasion bombardment of Guam on 12 July, and continued the devastating shelling until the main assault eight days later. As ground troops battled for the island, Idaho stood offshore providing vital support until anchoring at Eniwetok on 2 August.

After repair, Idaho‘​s mighty guns were needed for the next giant amphibious assault on the way to Japan. She sailed from San Diego on 20 January 1945 to join a battleship group at Pearl Harbor. After rehearsals, she steamed from the Marianas on 14 February for the invasion of Iwo Jima. As Marines stormed ashore on 19 February, Idaho was again blasting enemy positions with her big guns, and fired star shells at night to illuminate the battlefield. She remained off Iwo Jima until 7 March, when she underway for Ulithi and the last of the great Pacific assaults – Okinawa.

At the end of the conflict Idaho made her triumphal entry into Tokyo Bay with occupation troops on 27 August, and was anchored there during the signing of the surrender on board the Missouri on 2 September. Four days later she began the long voyage to the East Coast of the United States, steaming via the Panama Canal to arrive at Norfolk on 16 October. She decommissioned on 3 July 1946 and was placed in reserve until sold for scrap on 24 November 1947 to Lipsett, Incorporated, of New York City.

June 25, 2017

Fort Drum – America’s concrete battleship

Filed under: Asia, History, Japan, Military, Pacific, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 15 Sep 2016

After the United States acquired the Philippines from Spain, the U.S. Board of Fortifications recommended that important harbors be fortified. This led to the development of defenses on several islands at the mouth of Manila and Subic Bays. One of these was El Fraile Island which would later become Fort Drum, America’s concrete battleship.

Read more about America’s concrete battleship, Fort Drum, here: http://www.wearethemighty.com/articles/americas-concrete-battleship-defended-manila-bay-until-the-very-end

June 4, 2017

The Battle of Midway, 4-7 June 1942

Filed under: History, Japan, Military, Pacific, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Last month, Victor Davis Hanson recounted the American side of the Battle of Midway, which many historians see as the turning point of the Pacific War:

Battle of Midway deployment map, according to Seeschlachten der Weltgeschichte by William Koenig (German version of Epic Sea Battles) via Wikimedia

Seventy-five years ago (June 4-7, 1942), the astonishing American victory at the Battle of Midway changed the course of the Pacific War.

Just six months after the catastrophic Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. crushed the Imperial Japanese Navy off Midway Island (about 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu), sinking four of its aircraft carriers.

“Midway” referred to the small atoll roughly halfway between North America and Asia. But to Americans, “Midway” became a barometer of military progress. Just half a year after being surprised at Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy had already destroyed almost half of Japan’s existing carrier strength (after achieving a standoff at the Battle of the Coral Sea a month earlier).

The odds at the June 1942 battle favored the Japanese. The imperial fleet had four carriers to the Americans’ three, backed up by scores of battleships, cruisers and light carriers as part of the largest armada that had ever steamed from Japan.

No military had ever won more territory in six months than had Japan. Its Pacific Empire ranged from the Indian Ocean to the coast of the Aleutian Islands, and from the Russian-Manchurian border to Wake Island in the Pacific.

Yet the Japanese Navy was roundly defeated by an outnumbered and inexperienced American fleet at Midway. Why and how?

May 23, 2017

The Ally From The Far East – Japan in World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Asia, China, History, Japan, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 22 May 2017

Japan’s participation in World War 1 is an often overlooked part of their history – even in Japan itself. Their service as one of the members of the Entente marked the climax of a development that started with the Meiji Restoration, a way out of isolation and into the global alliance system. This brought Japan more power and was also very lucrative. And after fighting in the Pacific Theatre of World War 1, the Siege of Tsingtao and contributing the Japanese Navy to the war effort, Japan had a seat at the table of the Versailles peace negotiations.

February 10, 2017

Gadzooks! It’s CANZUK!

Filed under: Australia, Britain, Cancon, Economics, Pacific — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ted Campbell is touting the benefits of a trade pact among the “other” Anglosphere nations (Canada-Australia-New Zealand-United Kingdom):

First, I am a committed free(er) trader. My reading of history is that free(er) trade always leads to greater peace and prosperity and that, conversely, protectionism usually paves the way for recessions, depressions and wars.

Second, the time seems ripe. Given the global trade situation ~ Brexit, Trump, the demise of the TPP, etc ~ and given that Canada (and Australia and New Zealand, too, I guess) and Britain are interested in a free(er) trade deal it might be an opportune moment to hit the pause button, briefly, and engage in four way negotiation since we are, all four, likely to have very similar aims. Canada has, probably, reached tentative and tentatively acceptable agreements with Australia and New Zealand in the TPP negotiations and we have made equally tentative and acceptable agreements with Britain during the CETA negotiations. It shouldn’t be beyond the wit of men and women of good-will to broaden and deepen those agreement for the mutual benefit of all four partners. (Although Mr O’Toole’s professed support for supply management may be a problem as it is, I think, one of the things we agreed to sacrifice for the TPP and it, ending supply management of the egg and dairy sector, is a long standing Australian/NZ demand.) It might make it easier for all four of us to deal with America, the ASEAN nations, China, the European Union and India, amongst others if we are reasonably united, homogeneous trade block of four friendly nations with a population of (Dr Lilico’s figures) 128 million people, a combined GDP of $(US) 6.5 Trillion, and global trade worth more than US$3.5 Trillion (versus around US$4.8 T for the U.S., US$4.2 T for China, or US$1.7 T for Japan).

Militarily, the four might find some grounds for further and even deeper cooperation ~ ideally, in the long term, on shared defence requirements definition … deciding, in advance, to harmonize operational requirements for “big ticket” items like ships, aircraft, tanks and electronics … and then, whenever politically possible, to enter into combined, multinational procurement exercises to leverage the advantages of the greater size of the combined requirement for lower prices. This is a possibility that is fraught with political difficulty but which could deliver real, measurable financial benefits to all four countries.

Equally, the four nations, acting in concert, perhaps with Singapore added, too, might be able to exert more and better influence on e.g. United Nations peacekeeping operations.

December 11, 2016

Polynesia

Filed under: History, Pacific — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In reviewing the recent Disney movie Moana, Steve Sailor provides a thumbnail sketch of the amazing story of pre-contact Polynesia:

Perhaps the best analogue so far in human history to settling the galaxy has been the Polynesians’ audacious colonization of the far-flung islands of the Pacific. They repeatedly escaped the Malthusian trap by expanding their territories. Unusually for humans, sometimes they didn’t even have to steal their acquisitions from anybody else.

When Mediterranean sea captains began to venture into the Atlantic at the beginning of the Renaissance, they found that most of the small number of islands were uninhabited. The Vikings had settled Iceland, and Stone Age Berbers were living on the Canary Islands, but desirable islands such as the Azores and Madeira were still empty.

Yet when 16th-century Europeans reached the much wider Pacific, it was difficult to find an island that wasn’t already densely populated. Even remote Pitcairn Island, where the mutineers on the Bounty found refuge, appears to have been previously settled by Polynesian mariners.

Over the past half century, Western researchers, such as U. of Hawaii anthropologist and space scientist Ben Finney, have sponsored a revival of traditional islander talents at wayfinding from one known point to another.

But that still leaves the question of how the Polynesians discovered unknown islands. Presumably they followed birds and studied hints in the clouds and ocean swells?

In Moana, the prehistoric Polynesians have pioneered deep into the Pacific to islands such as Tonga and Samoa, only to have then settled down and turned their backs on the sea. Musker explains, “For thousands of years, they were great voyagers; and then there’s a thousand-year pause where they didn’t voyage.”

Suddenly, the Polynesians regained their dynamism and settled a vast triangle of the Pacific almost 5,000 miles per side, from New Zealand to Easter Island to Hawaii, with Tahiti in the middle as the jewel in the crown.

December 26, 2015

The Story Of The SMS Emden I THE GREAT WAR – Special

Filed under: History, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 25 Dec 2015

The SMS Emden was a light cruiser serving in Asia when World War 1 broke out. Instead of fleeing with the rest of the German East Asia Squadron under Maximilian von Spee, captain Karl von Müller stayed behind and waged a devastating cruiser war against the Entente effectively crippling the supply lines. But the luck of the Emden could not hold out forever. Find out more about the incredible story of the SMS Emden.

December 12, 2015

The cargo cult of modern art

Filed under: History, Humour, Pacific, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Richard Bledsoe on the similarities between the cargo cults of Pacific Islanders during and after the Second World War and the modern art scene:

Much of establishment contemporary art has become an inverted cargo cult.

The phenomenon of the cargo cult originally was observed when the primitive tribal societies of the South Pacific encountered the advanced cultures of the West. It reached a pitch of religious fervor after World War II.

The industrial manufactured items of the newcomers amazed the remote villagers of islands like New Guinea and Tanna. The strangers from over the sea brought with them riches in the form of machines and goods — airplanes, tools, medicines, canned food, radios and the like — made from materials incomprehensible to what were practically Stone Age people. The tribes decided surely such wonderful items must be made by the gods.

As battles raged in the Pacific, the indigenous populations observed the soldiers at work: marching around in uniforms, clearing runways, talking on radios. In response the planes arrived, seemingly from heaven, bringing to the islands the massive quantities of materials needed for the war effort. To the natives who got to share some of the magical items, this treasure — the technological output of developed nations — came to be referred to collectively by the pidgin word cargo.

But when the war ended, the soldiers left. The flow of magic cargo ceased. The tribesmen had lost access to the gifts from the gods.

The abandoned natives developed a plan to get back into divine favor. Having no frame of reference for the ways of the modern world, they interpreted the activities of construction and communications the visitors performed as forms of ritual. The tribesmen would reenact the rites they had seen the foreigners perform, recreate their ceremonial objects. This would please the gods, who would start delivering the cargo again — but this time, to the natives.

The islanders designed outfits based on military uniforms. They drilled in cadence, carrying rifles of bamboo. They built wooden aerials, constructed mock radios, clearing landing strips in the jungle, placed decoy planes of straw on them. And waited.

[…]

To our rational minds this is preposterous. We understand the uselessness of evoking the facade of a machine without the necessary functionalities being incorporated into it. What matters is the inner workings, not the appearance.

And yet, a form of this magical thinking has infected contemporary art. The subservience of art to political issues derails the purpose of the artist. The prevalent dogma interferes with the discovery of a personal artistic vision. So contemporary artists attempt to imitate their way into a valid artistic experience.

In a stunning reversal, in our advanced technological society, artists uncomprehendingly recreate inferior approximations, parodying the objects and gestures of the past and the primitive, trying in vain to summon the sense of awe and wholeness present in the art of bygone ages. By mimicking and mocking the outer forms of the originators, the artists hope the gods will arrive bearing their eternal gifts — that these snotty knock offs will also rise to the level of art.

December 8, 2015

Born On The Shores Of Gallipoli – ANZAC in WW1I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Australia, History, Middle East, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 7 Dec 2015

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps or ANZAC fought in Gallipoli, on the Western Front and in the Middle East during World War 1. Even though the Gallipoli campaign was an ultimate failure, it was the birth hour of the New Zealand and Australian national consciousness. Find out how the Great War shaped Australia and New Zealand in our special episode.

May 17, 2015

The Yasukuni Shrine is part of the reason Japan can’t apologize for their historical aggressions

Filed under: Asia, History, Japan, Pacific — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At The Diplomat, J. Kevin Baird looks at Japan’s continued resistance to examining their own military and diplomatic history after the First World War:

Japan faces the expectations of its friends and neighbors to express itself on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will formulate and express those words. In doing so, he faces a dilemma. The focus of that dilemma is Yasukuni Shrine and what it speaks to regarding Japan’s view of the Pacific War. Will Japan demonstrate contrition in seeking atonement, or does it aim for exoneration by rehabilitating its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere motivations for the Pacific War? Histories yet to be may hinge on that choice.

[…]

In 2014, Shinzo Abe rejected the idea of Japan emulating Germany’s actions, citing differing political contexts for postwar Europe versus Asia. He implied the quest for European unification somehow mandated the German approach. A divided and adversarial East Asia, it seems, made Japanese attempts at atonement futile or counterproductive. That argument may be made, but it skirts the core issue of Japan’s stance, more deeply dividing the region and entrenching adversarial national relationships. Abe and his advisors surely understand this. Japan’s ability to shape regional and world affairs, as it is fully capable of doing and aspires to do, hinges upon how it is perceived by the community of nations, especially those of East Asia. Abandoning the ideal of reconciliation over its wartime actions cannot be an option on the Japan table. What strategy for realizing their ambition is at work? It may not be contrition and atonement.

German artist Hans Haacke wrote, “Museums are managers of consciousness. They give us an interpretation of history, of how we view the world and locate ourselves in it. They are, if you want to put it in positive terms, great educational institutions. If you want to put it in negative terms, they are propaganda machines.” A museum and shrine in Tokyo may bring Abe’s strategic posture on reconciliation into sharper focus. Yushukan Museum stands on the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine. Therein is locomotive C5631, identified as the first to trundle down the Thai-Burma rail line, where more than 100,000 forced laborers and prisoners of war died in its construction.

A memorial to Indian jurist Radhabinod Pal also stands on the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine – a member of the International War Tribunal for the Far East panel of judges, he wrote of the Class A war criminals, “I would hold that every one of the accused must be found not guilty of every one of the charges in the indictment and should be acquitted on all those charges.” Pal considered the Pacific War provoked by the Americans and the war tribunals a sham. He stood utterly alone in this dissent among his 11 peer judges, but Japanese nationalists hold his views as authoritative and see Pal as a heroic figure. In 1968, Japan secretly enshrined 1,068 executed war criminals at Yasukuni as divine martyrs. Like those who did not survive the war, the executed soldiers had nobly sacrificed their lives in defense of the Japanese motherland against European Imperialism. The museum explains this defensive nature of the Pacific War. Abe and many other prominent Japanese statesmen regularly pay homage to those men.

April 8, 2015

The sinking of HMCS Annapolis

Filed under: Cancon, Environment, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

HMCS Annapolis Sink Day April 4th 2015 from Geoff Grognet on Vimeo.

Sinking of HMCS Annapolis as an artificial reef. HMCS Annapolis is being sunk in Halkett Bay on Gambier Island by the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia. It will serve as a recreational dive site, and provide a habitat for fish and other marine life.

March 30, 2015

About that giant island of plastic out in the ocean…

Filed under: Environment, Pacific — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

it’s a myth.

Have you heard of the giant plastic island in the Pacific Ocean? Several times in casual conversation, I’ve been told that mankind is ruining the oceans to such an extent that there are now entire islands of plastic waste. Daily Kos tells us that this “island” is twice the size of Texas!

This struck me as incredible, in the most literal sense of the word, so I decided to look into the claim.

First, we can do a quick feasibility calculation. The mass of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the plastic from which most water bottles are made, required to create a two-Texas-sized island just one foot thick is 9 trillion pounds. That’s 15 times more [PDF] than the world’s annual production of plastic. Even if a year’s worth of the world’s spent plastic bottles could be airlifted out over the ocean and directly dropped in one spot, this island could not be made.

[…]

So, here are the facts. Much of the ocean contains little to no plastic at all. In the smaller ocean gyres, there is roughly one bottle cap of plastic per 50 Olympic swimming pools’ worth of water. In the worst spot on earth, there is about two plastic caps’ worth of plastic per swimming pool of ocean. The majority of the plastic is ground into tiny grains or small thin films, interspersed with occasional fishing debris such as monofilament line or netting. Nothing remotely like a large island exists.

Clearly, the scale and magnitude of this problem is vastly exaggerated by environmental groups and media reports. Some researchers in the field agree, explicitly pointing out that these scare-stories “undermine the credibility of scientists.”

February 18, 2015

Maximilian von Spee I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?

Filed under: Americas, History, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 16 Feb 2015

Vice Admiral Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee is one of the most famous admirals of World War One. When the war broke out, he and his East Asian Squadron are stationed in the Pacific. But instead of surrendering to his superior enemies, he manages to reach South America during an audacious cruiser war. At the Battle of Coronel, he ends the legend of the invincible Royal Navy.

November 1, 2014

November 1, 1914 – The Battle of Coronel

Filed under: Americas, Britain, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:20

A hundred years ago today, the Royal Navy lost the Battle of Coronel to Vice Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee’s squadron of armoured and light cruisers off the coast of Chile. Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock was killed along with 1,570 men when HMS Monmouth and HMS Good Hope were sunk. Public reaction was furious: blame was cast on the Admiralty and especially on the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. The British public fiercely believed that any British ship was more than a match for any foreign vessel, and losing two ships while inflicting no serious damage on the enemy was scandalous.

In the Plymouth Herald, Tristan Nichols explains why Plymouth in particular took the news so badly:

TODAY the figure is hard to comprehend. On November 1, 1914, just months after the start of World War One, the Royal Navy lost two warships and nearly 1,600 lives in the South Atlantic.

The outcome of ‘The Battle of Coronel’, as it would become known, sent shockwaves across Britain, not least Plymouth.

HMS Monmouth was one of the two British cruisers involved in the battle 40 nautical miles off the coast of Chile.

She was Devonport-based and Plymouth-manned.

And every one of the 735 men on board the cruiser died on the cold and stormy seas.

Hundreds more were lost on the other Royal Navy vessel, the Portsmouth-based HMS Good Hope.

The German squadron saw just three men injured during the battle.

The build-up, battle, and ultimate demise of the 4th Cruiser Squadron during that fateful day reads like a film script.

Rear Admiral Sir Christopher (Kit) Cradock led the Royal Navy squadron to hunt down and destroy the feared German East Asia Squadron.

Both sides had reportedly only been expecting to meet a solitary cruiser – but fate would play its hand.

Rear Admiral Cradock, leading two British armoured cruisers, was up against two German armoured cruisers, and a further three light cruisers.

He was reportedly given orders to engage with the enemy, despite outlining his concerns at being outnumbered and outgunned.

According to the history books the two British armoured cruisers were inferior in every respect.

Follow orders he did, and it led to a devastating outcome for the proud British squadron.

It’s not quite as clear that Cradock followed all of his orders, as Churchill had specifically instructed him to keep the old battleship HMS Canopus with his squadron at all times until a modern armoured cruiser, HMS Defence, was able to join him (Defence, however, had been recalled part-way to the Falklands). Instead, Cradock had detached Canopus to defend the coaling station in the Falkland Islands before crossing into the Pacific, headed toward Valparaiso. Without Canopus, Cradock was totally out-gunned by von Spee’s ships.

Wikipedia reports a Canadian connection with the battle:

The Coronel Memorial Library at Royal Roads Military College, now Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada was named in honour of the four Canadian midshipmen who perished in HMS Good Hope at the Battle of Coronel.

Update: The Royal Canadian Navy is marking the anniversary.

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) will mark the Battle of Coronel on November 1st. This battle saw the first Canadian military casualties of the First World War, and the first ever casualties in the history of the RCN. RCN personnel serving today salute the following shipmates from the past:

  • Midshipman Malcolm Cann, 19, of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia;
  • Midshipman John V. W. Hatheway, 19, of Fredericton, New Brunswick;
  • Midshipman William Archibald Palmer, 20, of Halifax, Nova Scotia; and
  • Midshipman Arthur Wiltshire Silver, 20, of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

All four RCN midshipmen died in the Battle of Coronel, which took place on November 1, 1914 off the coast of central Chile near the city of Coronel.

October 26, 2014

A bit of perspective on the damage to China’s aircraft carrier

Filed under: China, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:40

At The Diplomat, James R. Holmes talks about the recent accident on board the Chinese carrier Liaoning:

Reports of Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning’s death — or debilitating wounds — are greatly exaggerated. The flattop suffered some sort of steam leak that prompted her crew to stop at sea and conduct repairs before resuming operations. The news comes from Robert Beckhusen of War Is Boring, who relays a Sina.com story that Liaoning suffered a “steam explosion” following “a leak in ‘the machine oven compartment to the water pipes.’”

Beckhusen denies that PLA Navy leaders will decommission the flattop because of mechanical problems. (By raising the possibility, though, he seems to imply they might.) He does speculate that the accident will force the navy to relegate her to training duty.

Would an engineering casualty represent a setback unseen in the annals of naval history? Hardly. All sea services have been there, done that, and will likely find themselves there again. It’s doubtful such travails will induce PLA Navy officials to overreact, demoting Liaoning from whatever plans they have in mind for her. China’s first aircraft carrier is probably destined to serve as a training platform in any event — a ship used to groom China’s first generation of naval aviators, flight-deck crewmen, and air-group commanders. She will remain such despite minor hardware problems belowdecks.

Indeed, if suffering zero engineering casualties were the standard for maritime competence, the briny main would be empty of shipping. Think about what going to sea involves. A warship is a metal box largely encased in an environment hostile to metal — namely seawater and salt air. And it’s a box packed with machinery, flammables and explosives of various sorts, and human bodies. In such surroundings, rare is the seaman without a hair-raising tale to tell about fires or floods, equipment failures, and sundry mishaps.

I could spin a few such yarns myself. One involves a pipe springing a pinhole leak. And spraying fuel. On a steaming boiler. While crewmen are loading ammunition. At anchor. In rough weather. And that was a good-luck ship for the most part. Murphy’s Law — a.k.a. s*#t happens — is an iron law of marine engineering, and of seafaring writ large. When it does happen, you fix the damage, learn whatever lessons there are to learn, and move on.

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