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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

December's new titles in the SF Maritime NHP Library

Here are the Library's lists of new acquisitions for December. For more information on any title, contact us or search our catalogs:

Mirrored from Full Fathom Five, due to its lack of rss feed & functioning commenting.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Digging for Gold at the Library: Jeannette

(by Gina Bardi, Reference Librarian)

As winter settles in San Francisco, my mind turns towards all things cold. Arctic exploration is the coldest thing one can do, save for streaking on Pluto. The brave adventurers who set out to the literal ends of the earth to explore frozen landscapes have always been a great interest of mine. What would make someone decide this was a good idea when so few ended well? It's more than the urge to push physical limitations or to be the first at something. No, there must be so much more than the desire for glory or the push of curiosity. I just hope it never calls to me because frankly, I'm freezing right now and it's only about 50 degrees outside. I believe I am half reptile because laying on a hot rock in the sun is way more my style than scrambling over ice shelves, but still--I love to read about polar exploits while wrapped in a blanket safely ensconced in an armchair by the fire.

While perusing our polar section, I came across this wonderful spine:

Spine of book, Our Lost Explorers

And cover:

Cover of book, Our Lost Explorers

For those who don't know, The Jeannette left San Francisco in 1879 with a crew made up of naval personnel and a few civilians in order to reach the North Pole. Things did not go as planned; when do they in the arctic? Only a handful of her crew were rescued in 1881 after an arduous trek over land and in open sea. Here's a brief account of the expedition.

I've heard of the Jeannette before, but I haven't read anything in depth about her. This book looks to be perfect introduction as it's a combination of personal narratives, documents, and beautiful engravings. Here's one of the ship being abandoned:

<br />Engraving of ship Jeannette being abandoned

It certainly must be the most wretched feeling in the world to see your ship crushed before you. Lieutenant Danenhower, the ship's navigator, had this to say of her sinking:

It was said that the ice first closed upon her, then relaxing allowing the wreck to sink; the yards caught across the ice and broke off, but being held by the lifts and braces were carried down; depth, thirty-eight fathoms, as I remember. The next morning the captain and others visited the spot and found only one cabin chair and a few pieces of wood--all that remained of our old and good friend, the Jeanette, which for many months had endured the embrace of the Arctic monster. (p. 206).

So while winter roars around you, and you retreat to the comforts of woolen socks and knitted scarves, remember those who have endured the embrace of the arctic monster and raise your cocoa mug to them.

Source: Newcomb, Raymond Lee; Bliss, Richard W. Our lost explorers : the narrative of the Jeannette Arctic expedition as related by the survivors, and in the records and last journals of Lieutenant De Long. Hartford : American Publishing Co., 1883, c1882.

Mirrored from Full Fathom Five, due to its lack of rss feed & functioning commenting.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Digging for Gold at the Library: Ways of the Sea

(by Gina Bardi, Reference Librarian)

Usually in my posts, I write about hidden or overlooked items in our collection. With a library as rich in material as ours, it's easy for little gems to be lost in the shelves. But sometimes, it's a good idea to trot out an old favorite and give it its due. If you aren't familiar with The Ways of the Sea by Charles G. Davis, then allow me to introduce you to your newest oldest best friend. This slim volume (179 pages of roomy print) is a mixture of encyclopedia, primer, yarns and good old fashioned advice. Reading it is like sitting down at the kitchen table with your sailor uncle--the one who's been everywhere and seen everything and knows just the way to reel in a curious mind. Here's a description of a poker game that was happened upon by a visiting crew in the middle of a chapter about binnacles (on p. 20). It's crammed with wonderful imagery and meaty tidbits about a sailor's life:

A cloud of smoke and smell came out that would have looked as if the entire forecastle were on fire in the daylight. Even in the dim light of the anchor light hanging on her forestay I could see it pouring out. As I climbed down the vertical forecastle ladder I could hear a crowd of men (smell them for that matter, there was no ventilation) and only when I got below the smoke line could I see that there was a game of poker going on with a highly excited crowd watching.

"Hello, you Wrights," was the greeting our boys got as we all landed below. For sailors were called by the name of the ship they came from in those times. And then the gang turned to watch the hand of poker finished.

The Dana's forecastle was the old style, built away up in the "eyes of her" or up on the bow under the deck. Big husky men half stripped--for it was close and hot down there with over twenty men packed into one small room--lay in their bunks; some sat on the edges of them with their legs hanging over and smoking "tar heel" tobacco. Those playing cards with a seachest for a table sat on upturned deck buckets or long sailmaker's benches.

An old coffee pot slush lamp, smoking like a bonfire of green leaves, gave out an uncertain flickering light like a lighthouse in a fog.

Whether you want to or not, you can smell it.

The short, easy to read chapters cover such divergent things as lights, washing down decks, stowing anchors and painting a ship at sea. This is the kind of book that answers questions you didn't know you had, which are my favorite kind of questions. In fact my only criticism of the book is that he sometimes begins intriguing tidbits that he doesn't follow up on. I'd like the book to be twice as long.

The library has two copies available, so come on down and learn a little bit more about the ways of the sea.

Mirrored from Full Fathom Five, due to its lack of rss feed & functioning commenting.