Fan of Full Fathom Five? Be sure to check it out at its new home!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Records yield 200 years of fish population data

Dave Mosher's article Old, Ignored Records Yield 200 Years of Fish Population Data was published on Nov. 19, 2010 in Wired Science. Headlines such as "Old, Ignored Records" always make me smile--were they truly ignored? Hadn't they been cataloged and preserved in a library or archive? Of course, the article also uses the phrase "digging up," which also makes me smile--the researchers probably used carefully constructed catalogs and finding aids.

At any rate, the purpose to which they put these records was novel, using them as data sources for fish populations, and Dave Moser's article does provide a wonderful overview of their research, as well as a reminder that we can't always anticipate the future value of the materials preserved in libraries in archives.

Luckily, the product of the research, Coding Early Naturalists' Accounts into Long-Term Fish Community Changes in the Adriatic Sea (1800–2000) by Tomaso Fortibuoni, Simone Libralato, Saša Raicevich, Otello Giovanardi, and Cosimo Solidoro, is available for free online, including their interesting list of books that were analyzed as "Table S1," available as a Word document.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Is SF Bay fished out?

The December 2-7, 2010, edition of the East Bay Express features Alastair Bland's article, Is San Francisco Bay Fished Out? Even if you're not interested in California's fishery issues, the article is worth reading--the issues that Bland explores impact more than SF Bay's fishers, and more than the area that we think of as San Francisco Bay.

Reading the article made me realize that when I gaze out on the Bay's waters, I see only the surface. I don't see, and often don't think about, the ecosystem beneath the water's surface. I also don't keep in mind that the "boundary" between salt and fresh water is, if you'll forgive the pun, a fluid one. For example, the salmon fishery in California is one that can't be thought of in terms of "marine" or "fresh" waters--reading Bland's article reminded me that California's fishery issues can not be limited to discussions of catching the fish in the salty Bay's waters without considering the issues confronting the fishery upstream, in the fresh waters of the state's interior.

In addition, we can't limit our discussions to the fishers on the water--the issues facing the fisherman don't begin or end on the deck, but reach into the markets and restaurants where we consumers create the demand, and into the hearts of those of us devoted to that moment when we feel the tug of our dinner on the pole in our hands.

I recommend this article to anyone interested in any salt water fishery, past or present--Bland's featuring the fishers in SF Bay creates an awareness of the wider world in which the fish, the fishers, and the diners live. And when we keep in mind the fact that some fish are long-lived, long-distance champions, populating the oceans that circle the globe, it lends greater meaning to the resources, and traditions, that went into putting that filet on our plate.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Crochet Coral Reef in D.C. and N.Y.

Once again, The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is on exhibit! If you're in Washington D.C. or New York City, you have a chance to visit the The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (D.C.), or the portion of it that's on display at the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (New York). In addition, crocheters have created the Smithsonian Community Reef, which is on display with Hyperbolic Reef in D.C.

Whether or not you can go in person, the Smithsonian has provided wonderful resources to enjoy the exhibit remotely. This month the Smithsonian Magazine has a great article by Jess Righthand about the exhibit and the community's creations, and the exhibit website is full of links to resources such as the Flickr and Ravelry groups, as well as links for further information on reefs, hyperbolic space, and how to create your own coral reef creations that you can photograph and share online.

My thanks to my friend Kate for sending this information along!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Dave Porter in the South Seas

Illustration from p.179
"Another flash lit up the scene."

Illustration by I.B. Hazelton, from the Project Gutenberg edition of Dave Porter in the South Seas, or, The Strange Cruise of the Stormy Petrel, by Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lighthouse Traveling Libraries

Through the Smithsonian Collections Blog, I've discovered Toniann Scime's very interesting Librarians Between the Covers, and the very interesting post about lighthouse traveling libraries.

I find traveling libraries fascinating, whether small such as these selections in a cabinet, in a traditional bookmobile motoring around, as large as a ship's library, or delivered via camel. The selections tell you something of the lives of the readers.

Sure, we are not of the same mind, when we, today, read the book that a lighthouse keeper read in 1898, but for a short time, the same words kindle our imaginations.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Libraries, Archives, Special Collections Jobs

Rachael Cristine Woody at the Smithsonian's Freer|Sackler Archives posted "How Can I Get a Job? (Libraries, Archives and Special Collections)" on Oct. 20, 2010, at the Smithsonian Collections blog.

She links to great resources for finding job and educational opportunities in museum libraries and archives, and provides sound advice--and links to more resources--for building a resume rich in social media experience as well as solid grounding in professional standards.

Also of interest to those already in the profession, are the statistics she reports:

Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010-2011 edition for Archivists, Curators and Museum Technicians, you'll see the profession is projected to grow a faster than average 20% by 2018. The statistics for Librarians are also expected to grow at least 8% and job competition to be favorable to potential employees as many librarians retire in the coming years.

Head over there to follow her links to the relevant Bureau of Labor Statistics sites for more info!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Albert Bigelow Paine's The Ship Dwellers

Drawing of people at the beginning of chapter 2
Originally published by Harper in 1910, The Ship-Dwellers : a story of a happy cruise, by Albert Bigelow Paine with illustrations from drawings by Thomas Fogarty and from photographs, is now available from Project Gutenberg.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Ka'iulani Murphy intervew

Lindsay Patterson's interview with Ka'iulani Murphy, "Ka’iulani Murphy’s star compass helps navigate oceans," is available in text and audio at one of my favorite blogs,

She succinctly describes traditional Hawaiian navigation, which uses the clues in nature to navigate on the ocean, rather than instruments such as a magnetic compass. In the short interview, she addresses how she navigates on cloudy nights when she can't see the stars, and where she plans to travel--around the world.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ship Drawing at Hauntology

I really enjoyed my recent visit to the Hauntology Exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum. Although there's currently no online version of the exhibit, one of the most impressive pieces is reproduced in some of the online reviews, and also on Flickr, "Ship Drawing" by Paul Sietsema. Part of a diptych, it's worth seeing in person if you get a chance, not only because of it's size (50 3/4 x 70 in.) but because of the presence of the other half of the diptych. According to Figure 3 : Paul Sietsema, Museum of Modern Art, the work was created by retouching a photograph, copying, and building up layers--the effect of which is enchanting. The work drew me in to examine it closely, yet because of its size, I continually stepped back to take in the whole. It's also a work that has stayed with me, and I hope to visit it again before the exhibit ends.

"Hauntology," a term coined by Jacques Derrida, "is a philosophy of history that upsets the easy progression of time by proposing that the present is simultaneously haunted by the past and the future," according to the BAM website. An interesting concept for museums, historians, and artists.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pigeon Point Light Station Anniversary

Pigeon Point Light Station
On Saturday, November 13, 2010, Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park will celebrate its 138th anniversary. According to the flyer (Adobe Acrobat .pdf format), the fresnel lens will be lit, the historic fog signal building & displays open, and the Seal House hostel will hold an open house, plus tours, videos, exhibits, displays, puppet show, and refreshments.

Sounds like a fun time, if you're near Pescadero, California!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Introductions to finding aids

Sometimes the visitors to our library are new to research, and it's not unusual for a visitor to arrive who has never used a library before. Some aspect of maritime history has intrigued them, and they want to learn more--usually about a ship or an ancestor.

We introduce them to the concept of our library catalog--that it's a listing of materials they can have paged to use here, but that are not for sale, and that they can not take home, and although there are links in the catalog to online materials, most of the items represented in the catalog are hardcopy books that are not available online. This part of the reference interview goes quickly.

Less easy to convey is the concept of an archival finding aid, that is designed to help the researcher decide if all or part of a potentially vast amount of material would be worth paging. Barbara Aikens, at the Smithsonian, has something that might help--"What Are Finding Aids?" on their Smithsonian Collections Blog. It's one of the best introductions I've seen to what exactly a finding aid is, with links for further exploration.

Keep this post in mind for research newbies, and even for experienced researchers--if you're considering research in the vast Smithsonian Archives, give it a read.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Duham's Journal of voyages

Pirates aiming at sailor with gun, aboard ship
fig. 177, "The Pirates' plan of exercising the nerves of Captives."

Journal of voyages : containing an account of the author's being twice captured by the English and once by Gibbs the pirate; his narrow escape when chased by an English war schooner; as well as his being cast away and residing with Indians, to which is added some account of the soil, products, laws and customs of Chagres, the Musquitto Shore, and St. Blas, at the Isthmus of Darien. With Illustrations, by Captain Jacob Dunham is now available at Project Gutenberg.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Life and Times of Josiah Gardener

The Friends of the San Francisco Maritime Museum Library send along the following announcement:

The Life and Times of Josiah Gardener: Master Mariner
Friday, October 8, 2010, 6:00 p.m. In the Maritime Library. Donation: $7 (general public); $5 (Library Friends and SFMNPA members)

Josiah Gardener, master mariner, has been going to sea since before the Civil War—he has fished the Grand Banks, cruised San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, and faced gales and shipwreck. He is played by Dr. Glenn Gordinier, Mystic Seaport historian and former director of Mystic’s living history program. Dr. Gordinier will bring Josiah Gardener to life with exciting and humorous tales of the world of the Yankee seafarer.

For information or reservations: or 415-561-7040.

TIA: This event is sponsored by the Friends of the library where I work.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lost libraries

The Boston Globe recently published a very interesting article, Lost libraries : the strange afterlife of authors’ book collections by Craig Fehrman. The article discusses the various fates of authors' libraries, most often after their death: rarely are they preserved intact in an institution, but are most often broken up and sold. The resources to keep an author's library intact are most often beyond even the largest institutions, but what is lost is what Fehrman calls, the author's "intellectual biography," embodied by the example of what we've learned from Melville's heavily-annotated copy of Paradise Lost, among other author's notated copies of their books.

The article also mentions what can be lost during an author's lifetime--many do not keep all of their books, or a record of their reading.

Are you an author? A researcher? Have you thought about this?

I've written before about efforts to reconstruct catalogs of broken-up libraries on LibraryThing, but since then I have learned a few things about just what a flexible tool it can be. When I had first heard of LibraryThing, I thought, "Why would anyone catalog their own books, unless they own a huge collection?" But since then, I've learned about many more of its features, that allow a person to track their reading and books--not only the ones they own, but ones they don't own, and ones yet to be read.

What makes all this possible is the Collections feature. When you set up an account on LibraryThing, which you can do for free, you have a choice: you can make your profile public or not. You can keep your profile and collections completely private, if you wish. Once you've set up your account, you can create collections, and one book can be in more than one collection. So, for example, if you are working on researching hulls, you can have a few collections such as:

  • Your Library
  • Read but unowned
  • To read
  • Hulls

And a book can be in more than one collection. So you can track your reading--your citations--by, for example, adding books you've heard about and want to read in your "To read" collection, and after you've read them, you can easily edit the collection(s) a book is in. So one book that you borrowed from a library for your project on hulls could then be put into the "Read but unowned" and "Hulls" collections, and you can note in the book's comments field your own notes about the book. A book you buy on hulls can go into "Your Library" and "Hulls." If you later sell that book, but still want to track the citation, change it to "Read but unowned" and leave it in the "Hulls" collection. Adding books is incredibly easy, with over 600 sources for importing records, easy keying and editing, and if you find you want to download your catalog, you can export it easily in multiple formats.

You may never get to the point that you've actually cataloged your library--you may simply use these features for tracking the citations of various projects, or books you'd like to read. If you've ever had a great book recommended to you and then forgotten who mentioned it, or stood at a bookstore wondering if you already own a copy of the book in your hand or not, LibraryThing may be just the thing for you.

And if you try it, check out the pirate interface, one of many languages available.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

International Observe the Moon Night

This Saturday, September 18, is the first International Observe the Moon Night. Inspired by a national Observe the Moon Night in the U.S., this global event hopes to inspire interest in lunar science, exploration, and astronomy.

National Geographic has a great blog post about the history of the event, complete with lovely photos, a video, and an outline to current and future lunar missions. Rich with links, including a link to the event's main website, the post is a good place to start learning more about the moon.

If you're inspired to go further, whether or not you have a telescope, Chuck Wood's Lunar 100 presents the moon's most interesting observing targets, with instructions for those who do have binoculars and/or a telescope, and links to images for the armchair observer. From there you can follow links to LPOD (Lunar Photo of the Day), maps, and all kinds of learning resources, including recommended children's books.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

National Geographic's Crittercams

I recently read the interesting article about National Geographic's Jumbo Squid Flash, Flail in First Ever Squid-cam Video, and like most of the web versions of their articles, it was loaded with interesting links, such as the one to their Crittercam site.

From there, you can explore "virtual worlds" that are all, to some extent, marine: Antarctica via a leopard seal's crittercam, the Arctic via a bearded seal, or the deep sea via a cam on a sperm whale. The site is very well organized with sections for kids, educators, & researchers, as well as interactive missions, and, of course, maps--plus much, much more.

And if you're interested in scientific papers, do follow the researchers link to Crittercam-Related Publications, a 5-page .pdf file loaded with citations to marine animal imaging.

Virtual exhibit on Zheng He's Fleet

If you missed "China's Forgotten Fleet: Voyages of Zheng He" at the National Geographic Museum in 2008, you can explore the virtual exhibit at their Flickr site.

The photos are not very large, but are a good size to balance speed of loading with ability to see the details of the exhibit. Navigating through the exhibit via the horizontal thumbnail images of the set (to the right) is very easy. Although the photos weren't taken close enough to allow one to read the panels, the exhibit contained lots of ship models which were photographed from many angles.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The concept of climate-space

The University of Stavanger in Norway has posted about new research, New ways to chart our maritime past. Meteorologist Marianne Nitter, geologist Lotte Selsing, and marine archaeologist Endre Elvestad (who is at Stavanger Maritime Museum), are combining meteorology and archeology to introduce the concept of "climate-space" to help locate maritime heritage sites:

A climate-space is an area with homogenous temperature, precipitation, wind direction and wind force, Nitter explains. Valleys, groves, mountains, lakes, fiords and slopes are all examples of local climate-spaces.

By employing this concept, it is hoped that landing sites no longer in use may be located--even prehistoric ones.

The article by Siri Pedersen is beautifully translated into English by Astri Sivertsen, and goes on to discuss preservation strategies that may be employed in the future--especially in the light of climate change.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Whales, dolphins and porpoises

"Figure 8b.—Swimming, blowing, and diving characteristics of humpback, bowhead, right, and sperm whales," from: Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises of the Western North Atlantic by Stephen Leatherwood, David Caldwell and Howard Winn (NOAA technical report NMFS CIRC-396), now available at Project Gutenberg.

Although a very detailed, scientific publication, it includes many photographic, line, and spotting silhouette illustrations, of interest to anyone learning how to identify these animals.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Approachable astronomy books

The Guardian has published another interesting Top 10 reading list, Stuart Clark's top 10 approachable astronomy books. I'm delighted to see the second and third books on the list, Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel, author of Longitude, and The Book Nobody Read : chasing the revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicusby Owen Gingerich.

I found both books thoroughly engaging through their approaches to their subjects: Galileo's story through his relationship with his daughter, and Copernicus' through Gingerich's study of the history of his famous book. Besides enjoying such well-written history, I was reminded of the methods we use to construct history--how talented authors turn the evidence of letters, books, etc., into these stories of our past.

As much as the study of astronomy helps us discern our position in the universe, these well-written histories help us discern our position in time. I'm looking forward to reading more of the books on this list.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Go for the brewing objects, stay for the canoe

The small but dense exhibit, "99 Bottles of Beer: Global Brewing Traditions 2500 B.C. – Present" brought me to the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley, and it's a wonderful museum to visit. (The objects in the beer exhibit are fascinating--everything from ancient brewing devices to modern cap lifters, from all over the world.) The museum is small, admission is free, and it's packed with exhibits, including "The Conservator’s Art: Preserving Egypt’s Past" which explains in detail differing conservation treatments, how they conserve objects, and just how much such operations cost.

A real treat, though, is a Yurok canoe from 1902 in the California gallery. Surrounded by photographs and explanatory text about the canoe, it's lovely to see in person. Since the museum is so small, there's a limited amount of interpretation, however UC Berkeley's Calisphere offers a lot of history, and the culture section of the official Yurok Tribe website provides more cultural context--worth reading before making a visit.

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Harry Monahan carving scroll on the C.A. ThayerThe University of California's Calisphere describes itself as, "A world of primary sources and more." If you're looking for specific, primary resources, the search box (on the upper right of the site) returns easily navigated results under a button bar that lets you choose images, texts, or websites, with an additional "search within results" box for easy limiting. And although the site is sponsored by the University of California, it includes resources from many repositories, large and small, and the resources are not limited to those relating to California history--for example, the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, UCLA Hammer Museum, has contributed images from Hiroshige's Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji.

A great strength of the site, though, are the collections for educators which lead to sites external to Calisphere, such as UC San Diego's California Explores the Oceans--Expeditions site, as well as Calisphere sites on topics like Richmond Shipyards.

As for maritime resources, the site contains thousands of items related to boats, ships, shipbuilding, etc. And although the site is rich, it's not comprehensive--it doesn't contain all of the resources from the contributing repositories--it's a curated collection, and a great place to start one's research.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thinking about time and space

A librarian's assistant telling a story to a group of Russian children in their native languageThe Wall Street Journal recently published a fascinating article, Lost in Translation, by Lera Boroditsky. A professor of psychology at Stanford University and editor in chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology, her article discusses recent research in how language influences our concepts of space of time.

Some research examines language's influence on its speakers' ability to perform "navigational feats scientists once thought were beyond human capabilities," and links between concepts of space and time.

Also of interest is how learning another language actually changes one's thinking: "If people learn another language, they inadvertently also learn a new way of looking at the world."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

U.S. copyright registry of vessel hull designs

I recently stumbled across the U.S. Copyright Office's Registration of Vessel Hull Designs, and it could be a valuable resource for certain researchers. The Vessel Hull Design Registrations list seems to extend back only about a year, and has a lot of entries that indicate changes to existing designs, so the number of designs in the registry seems very small at this point, but shows a variety of vessel types--inflatable boats, many fishing boats, a racing kayak, sail training craft, even a "pleasure mega yacht." The certificate of registration as well as any accompanying drawings or photographs are available as Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) files, which are often quite large, but very interesting once downloaded and opened. In this respect, the database resembles Google patents, since the accompanying visual materials are available.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Library of the HMS Beagle

H.M.S Beagle in Straits of Magellan from LibraryThing

A while ago I posted about the library catalog of the ship's and crew's libraries, reconstructed on LibraryThing. Another Legacy Library of note is cataloged there as well, that of the HMS Beagle. From the "About my Library" section of the Library Profile Page:

This library is based on the Darwin Project's Books on the Beagle reconstruction of the library aboard the HMS Beagle complied "from the Beagle correspondence, CD’s diary, field notebooks, and the extensive zoological and geological notes."

The "Books on the Beagle" article includes the regulations for the library in eight short points, the second of which instructs the user to create a temporary cover for the book being used. I learned about making these in elementary school for my school textbooks, and still make them occasionally--it's surprising how much protection just a sheet of paper can give. I'm not sure how they make them in Darwin's day, but this is the technique that I learned.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Voyage accounts

Portrait of Eleonora Hunt from Project Gutenberg

The Smithsonian's SIRIS Blog featured excerpts from a newly donated voyage account this past Sunday. The post features Benjamin S. Buckley's diary entries concerning the 4th of July celebrations aboard the Capitol during the voyage from Boston to San Francisco via Cape Horn in 1849. Four pages of the diary are reproduced on the blog, and readers can click through to enlarged versions that will zoom one step further for easy reading.

Last Sunday also saw the release of another voyage account, the complete text of Eleonora Hunt's My Trip Around the World on Project Gutenberg, reproduced from the privately printed edition of 1902. Rather than a diary, this book was prepared later, telling the story of her trip from August 1895 to May 1896, from her home in Chicago, traveling aboard the steamer Empress of Japan, P&O steamers, as well as via other modes through Japan, China, India, Egypt and Europe.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

London Lives from Straddling the World of the Written Word

Joan Druett has featured yet another wonderful resource on her blog, Straddling the World of the Written Word, in her post, Handwritten Records of 18th century London Online. The site, London Lives, contains some maritime treasure.

The search box on the home page seeks name or reference ID, but if you select More Search Options (below the black Search button), you can then select Keyword search on the next screen (to the right of the green Search button). Here is the Keyword Search screen where you can search by occupations, such as sailor, seaman, captain or such words as frigate.

To browse tags, be sure to select the Lives link (on the left navigation pane), and you will see the fascinating tag cloud on the lower right of the screen, as well as a list of people, whose biographies have been written.

Genealogists may wish to consult the FAQ (located in the navigation pane on the left under "About This Project"), and historians may want to consult the Copyright and Citation Guide.

The site also reveals a wealth of information under About This Project, including their technical methods, which is fascinating for those considering or involved with similar digitization projects.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Crosscurrents on sea level rise, part 2

If you enjoyed KALW's Crosscurrents story on how Treasure Island's community's are planning on facing sea level rise, you may want to listen to their continuing coverage, Building by the Bay: Sea level rise shapes the Bay Area’s future. In this follow-up story, they explore Cargill’s Redwood City Saltworks site on San Francisco Bay, and the issues facing its future.

It's a short segment, and as usual, in addition to the audio, a full transcript is available on their website, heavy with links to related information.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Crosscurrents on Sea Level Rise & Treasure Island

Our wonderful local news show, Crosscurrents (from KALW News), recently aired a very interesting show, Sea level rise is a future challenge for Treasure Island. Treasure Island, which was built in San Francisco Bay as a WPA project, is now home to around 1400 people, and doesn't rise very high above the Bay--according the news story, one corner of the island is regularly flooded by winter waves.

The issue is not a new one for communities in and around San Francisco Bay; a SPUR report, Sea level rise and the future of the Bay Area : How will we adapt to rising tides? from Nov/Dec 2009 is but one publication on the issue. But the Crosscurrents site offers a detailed look at how one, small community is confronting the issue, with very helpful links, and a choice--you can listen to the audio, or read the entire transcript.

I found the story engaging and thought-provoking, and well worth a listen.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Anne-Emmanuelle Marpeau at Penobscot

Bob Holtzman has kindly written to alert us to a new exhibit at Penobscot Marine Museum, Inside the Box -- The Marine Art of Anne-Emmanuelle Marpeau, on exhibit through Sept. 10. Unfortunately, there's not much on their site about the exhibit, but The Gleason Fine Art website has a short article about Marpeau, mentioning the inspiration she finds in a line by Thoreau, "And I converse with many a shipwrecked crew."

This is from a poem called "The Fisher's Boy," which is available on the Thoreau Reader site:

The Fisher's Boy
by Henry David Thoreau

My life is like a stroll upon the beach,
As near the ocean's edge as I can go;
My tardy steps its waves sometimes o'erreach,
Sometimes I stay to let them overflow.

My sole employment is, and scrupulous care,
To place my gains beyond the reach of tides, —
Each smoother pebble, and each shell more rare,
Which Ocean kindly to my hand confides.

I have but few companions on the shore:
They scorn the strand who sail upon the sea;
Yet oft I think the ocean they've sailed o'er
Is deeper known upon the strand to me.

The middle sea contains no crimson dulse,
Its deeper waves cast up no pearls to view;
Along the shore my hand is on its pulse,
And I converse with many a shipwrecked crew.

Lovely thoughts to take along to a maritime museum--to keep in mind when engaging with the items on exhibit.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Astrodene's HNF Blog

There's a new blog in our list, Astrodene's HNF Blog, part of the large Astrodene's Historic Naval Fiction site. Although a commercial site, there is a lot of good information organized creatively. For example, with the books timeline you can browse titles by time period, going back to 1571. When you select a title, the site's commercial aspects are obvious with prominent Amazon buttons, but don't forget--your local maritime museum book store or independent book seller may offer these titles for sale as well, and titles may also be available used via sites such as ABEBooks or TomFolio.

The HNF Blog also points to another resource of interest, the free magazine, Chronicles, the eMagazine of History, which now contains a new column by Astrodene's David Hayes beginning with the June issue, and the issue before that starts out with two naval history articles. Chronicles has one of the best online flip-book features I've seen, loading quickly with a pleasant on-screen reading experience, yet also provides a free .pdf download for portability. And, authors, do check out their information for writers because they're actively seeking nonfiction submissions, and they pay.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Hard Luck Coast

The second book in JoAnn Semones' trilogy about shipwrecks along the California coast has been published, Hard Luck Coast: The Perilous Reefs of Point Montara." JoAnn tells us:

California writer John Steinbeck referred to the treacherous strip of shore between
Montara and Half Moon Bay as “the hard luck coast.” Along this foggy, final approach to San Francisco, vessels were forced to hug the shoreline, putting them in danger of its rocky outcroppings and unruly seas. Each shipwreck represents a separate, yet integrated piece of history, linking us to the past.

She also mentions that the lighthouse pictured on the book cover is only thirty feet tall, and is America's only "sentinel to have witnessed shipwrecks on two shores," apparently after a sojourn on Yerba Buena Island. A California State Park Property, the lighthouse houses a hostel where you can stay and contemplate this hard luck coast.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Bleached Reef at the Cooper-Hewitt

""The Bleached Reef" at the Chicago Cultural Center. Oct 2007," photo copyright The IFF by Margaret Wertheim, source:

The Institute for Figuring's Bleached Reef is now on exhibit in New York at the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in the Why Design Now? National Design Triennial.

Similar to the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, the Bleached Reef is a delicate creation designed to raise awareness of effects of climate change and ocean acidification upon coral reefs--the beauty of the handcrafted reef vividly embodies the impact of humanity upon a marine ecosystem that we can't normally visit.

And if you can't visit the exhibit in New York, stay tuned to Margaret Wertheim's photostream on Flickr where she often posts photos from reef exhibits.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lost at sea : daring fiber artists delve into the deep

If you can't make it to New York to visit gallery hanahou to see Lost at sea, you can check out and even purchase items from the exhibit via their online shop. There's a wonderful variety of techniques and forms--embroidered ships, three-dimensional creatures (real and imaginary)--even plankton and mixed-media assemblages.

I heard of the exhibit from the blog of one of the participating artists, Jenny Hart, Embroidery as Art, which doesn't have a lot of maritime content, but is worth checking out if you're interested in, or intrigued by, embroidery as an art form.

And if you want to explore more works by the participating artists, at the exhibition website, you can scroll down (inside the frame) for links to artists' sites.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Wailing Octopus

The Wailing Octopus by John Blaine, "A Rick Brant Science-Adventure Story," has recently been released by Project Gutenberg.

Some of the chapter titles are irresistible: "The Fancy Frogmen," "Wreck of the 'Maiden Hand,'" "How Sings the Gay Sardine?"

At the end of the eBook is a brief description of the hero:

Rick Brant is the boy who with his pal Scotty lives on an island called Spindrift and takes part in so many thrilling adventures and baffling mysteries involving science and electronics.

Science and electronics are definitely two important ingredients for maritime adventure!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tom Crean—Sailor On Ice

Our friends group, Friends of the
San Francisco Maritime Museum Library,
sends along this announcement:

Tom Crean—Sailor On Ice
Saturday, May 8, 2010, 6:00 p.m. In the Maritime Library. Donation: $5 (general public); $4 (Library Friends and SFMNPA members)

David Hirzel, author of the forthcoming book, Tom Crean—Sailor On Ice, will tell the story of the Antarctic adventures of Irish sailor and explorer Tom Crean. There are more famous names than Crean’s from the “heroic age” of Antarctic exploration, but there are few stories as compelling as his. Time and again he was one of three, at times the only one, whose courage in the face of insurmountable odds saved the lives of his companions. The three parts to the story of Crean’s adventures with Scott and Shackleton are told in the names the ships—Discovery, Terra Nova, Endurance.

Dave originally came to SF Maritime to do research for this book and became a volunteer. He now runs the Park's Living History program.

If you can't make it to San Francisco for the event, you can check out the audio drama & visual companion, or David Hirzel's other writings.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sea Rose fits in your pocket

Tomorrow is the Academy of American Poets' Poem in Your Pocket Day. To celebrate, select a poem, pocket it, carry it, and share it throughout the day.

I'll be carrying one of my favorites, H.D.'s "Sea Rose," from the collection Sea Garden:

Sea Rose

Rose, harsh rose,
marred and with stint of petals,
meagre flower, thin,
sparse of leaf,

more precious
than a wet rose
single on a stem—
you are caught in the drift.

Stunted, with small leaf,
you are flung on the sand,
you are lifted
in the crisp sand
that drives in the wind.

Can the spice-rose
drip such acrid fragrance
hardened in a leaf?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The geometry of rope

NPS Image of children hauling on a line on Balclutha

Ever wonder about the physical rules behind a good rope? Intrigued by the phrase, "zero-twist point?" Then you would enjoy Alexandra Witze's article in ScienceNews, Physicists untangle the geometry of rope.

Her article gives a basic, brief overview of the mathematics behind the process of turning strands into rope, as revealed in Jakob Bohr & Kasper Olsen's article, The ancient art of laying rope.

How did the researchers come to work on rope winding? From their work on DNA, of course!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On a few of Carsten Jensen's top 10 seafaring tales

Today the Guardian posted Carsten Jensen's top 10 seafaring tales. It's a wonderful list--I've read many of the titles, and am looking forward to reading many more.

He doesn't mention specific editions, so here are some of my favorite editions of a few of his top seafaring titles:

  • The Odyssey of Homer. Translated, with an introduction, by Richmond Lattimore. Lattimore's translations are are just beautiful, and have become the standard texts for students and pleasure readers alike. The Internet Archive has archived a biographical sketch by Deborah E. Kamen which includes a complete bibliography of his works, including his translations and poetry, if you want to read more.

  • Moby-Dick, or, The Whale, published by the University of California Press. This is a reduced, trade version of the Arion Press Moby-Dick, which was published in 1979 in a limited edition of 250 copies. If a library near you has the Arion Press edition, go see it--it's gorgeous. The paper is the most delicate watery blue, and the Barry Moser engravings seem alive. The typeface, in both editions is easy on the eyes, and the UC Press edition is large enough for comfortable reading, yet small enough to carry around in a satchel.

  • "The Little Mermaid," in: The annotated Hans Christian Andersen translated by Maria Tatar. I haven't yet read this edition, so I'm going out on a limb by recommending it, but I do so without hesitation having enjoyed Tatar's other translations immensely. Her list of publications includes academic titles as well as her beautiful editions of folk and fairy tales.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Seized by Max Hardberger

Michael Bono has written in about a new book by Max Hardberger, Seized! A Sea Captain's Adventures Battling Scoundrels and Pirates While Recovering Stolen Ships in the World's Most Troubled Waters. Available in hardback in the U.S. on April 6, 2010 and in the U.K. in paperback on June 13, 2010, the author:

... recounts his adventures repossessing ships and sneaking them out of lawless, third-world countries, often under threat of death or imprisonment. His journeys lead him from corrupt ports in the Caribbean to the ice-bound docks of Vladivostok. His adventures in rescuing ships pit him against a rogue’s gallery of antagonists, including Haitian rebels, modern-day Caribbean pirates, and Russian mobsters.

--from the author's website.

Want to learn even more? Check out the author's newsletter!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Stack fever

The following will be featured in the upcoming newsletter of the Friends of the San Francisco Maritime Museum Library, Relative Bearings. The discovery of this text was a happy coincidence, as librarians everywhere have been gearing up to celebrate National Poetry Month. It was decided to share it here, also, along with an editorial comment, in the hope of reaching a wide audience:

Stack Fever
by A. Poppet-Turning

I must go down to the Stacks again,
To the lonely shelves and bays,
And must take along some sustenance,
'Cause I could be lost for days.

I must go down to the Stacks again,
To page requested books,
That have been shelved hither and yon,
In overfull shelves and nooks.

Oh, I must go down to the Stacks again,
Where the light bulbs go to die,
And all I ask is an empty cart,
And a torch to steer her by.


A typescript copy of the above poem was found tucked into the Library's copy of English maritime books printed before 1801, apparently used as a bookmark. Examination of the Library's records failed to reveal either a staff member or volunteer bearing the name A. Poppet Turning, and further research yielded no fruitful results, although it is wondered, perhaps, if the author is related to the South Kensington Poppet-Turnings. (The use of the word "torch" for "flashlight" seems to indicate the author's mother tongue may have been British English.) It is hoped that further research may be illuminating. --Ed.

This is, of course, a parody of John Masefield's "Sea Fever," but that's about as much as is known. If any readers have any information on either A. Poppet-Turning, or his (or her) works, do get in touch--our researchers would be grateful for any leads.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Your Old Books

The Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of ALA's Association of College and Research Libraries has a wonderful resource called, Your Old Books. Organized as a FAQ, the questions they answer include:

1. What makes a book rare?
2. What makes a book important?
3. Does scarcity imply rarity?
4. Are all old books rare?
5. Where are rare books found?
6. What is the difference between a rare book and a second-hand book?
7. What is meant by a book's condition and how does it affect its value?
8. What kinds of books are usually not rare?
9. What is the difference between a first and limited edition?
10. Is a book signed or marked up by a previous owner, or autographed by the author, more valuable?
11. Are old letters, scrapbooks, and documents valuable?
12. Might someone want my single volume to complete a set?
13. How can I keep my books in good condition?
14. Should I have my books rebound before selling them?
15. Do I need to insure my books?
16. How do I describe my books?
17. Do I need to have my books appraised?
18. Where can I find an appraiser?
19. How can I sell my books?
20. How can I be sure that I will get a fair price?
21. Can I sell or give my old books to a library?
22. Who else might accept my old books as a donation?
23. Where can I go for more information on old and rare books, book collecting and evaluating books?

Originally published as a pamphlet in 1989, and revised and updated in 2005, the topics are addressed so beautifully that the novice as well as the expert will find some useful information. Embedded in the text are links to authoritative, and some of my favorite, resources--and I even found a few that were new to me. Maritime researchers and historians, and anyone who has wondered about an old book (or books) on their own shelves, should definitely take the time to read through it.

The rest of the RBMS website is mostly of interest to specialists such as rare books librarians, but Your Old Books is so well done, that I hope they provide more information of general interest in the future.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Library of the U.S.S. California

Ever wonder what books were in the library of an early 20th century warship? Now you need wonder no longer: the March "Legacy Mob" cataloging project was the library of the U.S.S. California.

As reported on LibraryThing's Thing-ology Blog, they've made mob cataloging of a legacy library a monthly project, and for March they concentrated on scanned books mentioned in the Catalogue of ship's and crew's libraries of the U.S.S. California (1905).

And now you can go the LibraryThing U.S.S. California member page, and select Ship's Library, Crew's Library, or the entire collection to virtually browse the books that went to sea.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Boatswains and bacteremia

Astute visitors will notice a new blog in our list, Boatswains and bacteremia. Its author, Jared Wasser, is a medical student and budding maritime historian. Having known a few medical students, I wonder when he gets the time to write, let alone write so well--but I'm glad he does. His blog makes a great read, and as it's just started, it's worth beginning with the first post, My introduction to the Wooden World. And don't miss the comments--"Tigone" offers great reading recommendations.

I'm glad Jared has decided to dive in to the world of maritime blogging, because his thoughtful meditations on maritime history and medicine (together, and separately) remind me that these vessels contained humanity that had to be kept healthy--and alive--often during the most extreme of circumstances.

As they still do.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Scrap Vessel, a film by Jason Byrne

Scrap Vessel, made at CalArts in 2009, documents the last voyage of the Hari Funafuti (ex Bulk Promotor, ex Hupohai), from China to its breaking in Bangladesh. The filmmakers boarded in Singapore and joined the crew in exploring the ship and the mementos of its past that former crewmembers left behind, before filming its dismantling on the beach. The journey didn't end there--they followed the pieces to the Ali Rolling Mill, where the scraps were melted down, bringing the story of the Hari Funafuti's life as a vessel to an end.

The film has begun to tour, and will be shown at the 2010 Asian American Film Festival on Monday, Mar. 15 and Wednesday, Mar. 17. Upcoming screenings will be announced in the screenings section of their website.

And if you're at a venue that would like to screen the film, contact the crew--the director would like to bring the film, vessel plans, and various artifacts, and take the time for a Q&A with your audience.

And if you can't make it to a screening, stay tuned--a DVD version is expected to be ready later this year or early next, and its availability will be announced on their site.

Image property of Scrap Vessel

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

National Geo's Ultimate Travel Library

National Geographic's Traveler site has a great bibliography, The Ultimate Travel Library. The list is compiled from recommendations by "travelers"--writers, photographers, explorers, etc.--and that says to me that these books are recommended by people to whom not only the destination is important, but perhaps also the journey. Follow the geographic links on the left to the books lists--Australia and the Pacific lists some great maritime titles. Don't miss the "Continue" link at the bottom of the page--the lists go on and on by geographic area--some are long and some short--and it's a pleasure to meander through the titles. But if you're in a hurry, pay attention to the geographic navigation on the left--narrower selections appear under the larger headings.

Deep in the introduction, and mentioned in a small link on the left, is a link to a great article, Around the World in 80+ Books by George W. Stone, that includes titles which touch on places that can't be considered separate from their maritime connections, such as Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire, photographs and text by Tui De Roy (1998), and London: The Biography, by Peter Ackroyd (2000).

The best part of this collection, though, is the fact that they'd like your input and suggestions to keep the content fresh:

Did we omit your favorite travel book or praise a title you detest? Send your thoughts to We'll add books to our library on a regular basis, so keep checking back.

So send in your suggestions!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Forum on Plastiki and the America's Cup

Once again, KQED's Forum has aired programs of interest to the maritime community: from 10:00 to 10:30 today, they discussed the Plastiki expedition with David de Rothschild, creator of Plastiki & founder of Adventure Ecology, Jo Royle, skipper of the Plastiki, and Matthew Grey, project director for Adventure Ecology.

Then the next half hour was a program on the America's Cup, with James Spithill, skipper for BMW Oracle Racing, Jim Doyle, freelancer and former staff writer for The San Francisco Chronicle, and Rob Grant, racing editor of Latitude 38. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of why the Bay may not be suitable as the next race course!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Forum on the Farallons

KQED's Forum aired an excellent program on the Farallon Islands today. Michael Krasny asked questions of the guests that elicited wonderful stories as well as clearly explained science. The guests, Gerry McChesney (Farallon National Wildlife Refuge), Maria Brown (Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary), and Russ Bradley (PRBO Conservation Science), also responded to questions and comments from the audience--a very interested audience that also shared their memories of the islands.

During the show they aired sounds of rare birds and animals from one of the richest areas of marine life in the world, while addressing the human history of the islands, too. And they didn't forget to mention the ghosts.

Audio of the show is available as an .mp3 file (about an hour long), and it makes for great listening.

Image of the lighthouse on the Farallon Islands from San Francisco Maritime's Park Fun for kids

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Tales of the Seven Seas

Dennis Powers writes to tell us about his new book, being published by Taylor Trade in March, Tales of the Seven Seas. This book will be about Captain "Dynamite" Johnny O'Brien, called the prototype for Jack London's "Sea Wolf," and should make for some exciting reading! More information should be appearing on Powers' website,, soon.

Image, "Buster Keaton with Captain 'Dynamite Johnny' O'Brien aboard the SS Buford, 1924," Courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, see their Digital Collections site for more information.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 is an amazing resource. It began life as the Index to Ships in Books, which was amazing in itself, but its new incarnation is so much more.

It's a gateway to information about vessels. According to Peter McCracken, who was kind enough to write to alert me to the new, it tells you what books, journals, databases, CD-Roms, websites, and more, mention particular vessels. There are two levels of access: free to anyone, without cost or registration, are over 140,000 entries, but for under $10.00 per month, one can access the premium database which contains over 1.24 million citations.

When you search for a vessel, the free, full citations are mixed with the brief mention of citations available in the premium database. I like this a lot. I can "see" what I'm "not seeing." And the citations are nicely displayed--when searching: sea foam the citation list was organized by type of vessel and then chronologically--I could scan through the barks, brigs and schooners down to the steam schooner of interest. Links are included into resources such as Worldcat (to find information in libraries) or to ABEbooks to purchase items.

I also like the search interface. Searching sea foam retrieved exactly vessels named Sea Foam. No quotes needed, no retrieved items such as Seaborn Foam. The exactness of the results need to be kept in mind--this is not a library catalog with cross references. If you look for Balclutha, "Balclutha (Museum ship)" is the same vessel as one or more of the "Baclutha (Ship)" entries--and you haven't retrieved anything under "Pacific Queen."

Some periodicals are included--I can't wait for them to get more. And institutional subscriptions are in the works, and will be available in the future--contact Peter if you're interested. The folks behind are two of the same folks who founded Serials Solutions, so they are familiar with what libraries and museums are seeking in institutional access--so stay tuned!

I've listed in our blog roll, here--their blog is worth reading, especially if you're interested in metadata. (From the blog, you can use the search box on the left to search the database.) The index is also on Twitter and Facebook, which is mentioned on the "Contact Us" page.

I heard on the radio this morning that today was National Have Fun at Work Day, and I wasn't sure how I could make that did it. This database is fun.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Popeye cartoons and radio shows

Love him or hate him, one of the most known fictional sailors is Popeye. Starting as a character in the Thimble Theater comic strip in 1929, he later appeared in cartoons, films, books--and on the radio.

The Internet Archive has made many Popeye cartoons available--there is a media type limit available via a pull-down list to the right of the search box on their home page--you'll find "Animation and cartoons" under the "Moving Images" type.

Likewise, you can limit your search to "Audio" to find audio recordings, including six episodes of Popeye the Sailor from their Old Time Radio collection.

And if you want everything they have related to Popeye, leave the limit set to "All Media Types," then use the links on the right of the page to group your results conveniently by Media Type or Collection.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Polar ice, polar bears

Two new programs are available relating to polar regions. The Library of Congress has posted On Thin Ice: Changing Ice Cover on Polar Oceans, a 65 minute lecture by Thorsten Markus, head of the Cryospheric Sciences Branch at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He not only addresses recent findings in the context of global climate, but addresses why the southern and northern regions react differently to climate change.

Focusing on the northern regions, Rose Aguilar converses with Richard Ellis, author of Thin Ice: The Changing World of the Polar Bear on KALW's locally produced Your Call Radio (a one-hour show, broadcast on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010). The show is fascinating, not the least due to Ellis' multifaceted career as a marine conservationist, painter, and author.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

History of Nautical Science Symposium

Freshwater, the XVth Symposium and Reunion for the International Committee for the History of Nautical Science will be held in Veszprém, Hungary, September 24 - 26, 2010. The website has the call for papers (deadline March 1, 2010) as well as the preliminary program.

(My thanks to Dr. Zsolt G. Török for sending along the conference information.)