Tornado: struck by a whirlwind

Tornado: struck by a whirlwind

Given the history of superstition surrounding ships and the sea, one wonders why anyone in their right mind would name their ship Tornado. And yet, a magnificent clipper ship was launched in 1852 bearing that name. The fact that the ship was struck by what was described as a “whirlwind,” at two in the morning, far from land and available assistance, makes the story even more mysterious.  Such was the case of the clipper Tornado, master Oliver R. Mumford, out from San Francisco and bound for New York via Cape Horn in August of 1852. Tornado was a clipper ship…
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Clipper ship Sea Witch

Clipper ship Sea Witch

Although it wasn’t the first clipper ship to be designed and built in New York, Sea Witch is one of the ships that marks the advent of the great clipper ship era in America. During a relatively short period of time, from the mid 1840s to perhaps a decade later, the rise of naval design, as evidenced in the design of clipper ships, transformed American shipping, propelling American ship design into world preeminence.  All of this primarily occurred in just two places: Boston and New York. In Boston Donald McCay was making a name for himself with ships like Stag…
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The Great Tea Race

The Great Tea Race

From 1700 to 1834, the British East India Company held a monopoly in the colonization of Asia, competing only with the Dutch East India Company. It was founded in 1600 to trade in the Indian Ocean region, India, Southeast Asia, and China.  The East India Company controlled basic commodities: silk, cotton, India dye, sugar, salt, tea, and opium. The tea monopoly was nullified by the king in 1834, opening up the China tea market. It was obvious that the faster ships could arrive in London from China, the higher the price of tea.  This realization, along with the development of…
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Endurance found

Endurance found

It’s a famous marine survival story. How a courageous band of brothers survived the loss of their ship thousands of miles from all help. How Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew persevered, establishing the template for surviving harsh conditions.  In March of this year their ship, Endurance, was located 10,000 feet deep in the Weddell Sea in a remarkable state of preservation.  Even before Roald Amundsen had reached the South Pole in 1912, Sir Ernest Shackleton had contemplated another Antarctic effort. The Trans-Antarctic expedition; a sled journey across the continent. The plan was to take the ship Endurance into the…
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