In 1506, when Portugal navigator Tristan da Cunha discovered a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean, he gave his name to it and planned to return and go ashore at a later date. He kept a log where he recounted a desire to explore “his” isle and three others: Nightingale, Gough and Inaccessible (named for difficulty in going ashore) islands that later became Tristan Archipelago.
In 1506, a Portuguese navigator sailed his ship around a small island in the South Atlantic Ocean. The waters were rough and he couldn’t go ashore, so he did the next best thing. He named the island after himself. Today, Tristan da Cunha, a small dot on the map between Africa and South America, is recognized as the most remote, inhabited island in the world.
Trivia question: Which island, located in the South Atlantic Ocean, hasn’t had a case of cancer for more than 200 years? Is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most remote inhabited island in the world?” Has 288 residents? Is named after the Portuguese navigator who discovered it? Is rumored to have buried treasure and many shipwrecks?
Lake Champlain is the eighth largest naturally configured body of fresh water in the continental United States. Named after French explorer Samuel de Champlain, it stretches for 120 miles, bordering Vermont, New York and a snippet of Quebec, Canada. The lakes’s many ports of call, some going back to the Revolutionary War, cater to commercial transportation and recreational pursuits.
When the trawl net from the fishing boat “Mistake” struck something on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 1993, Capt. Jerry Murphy was fearful of damage to it. It was indeed ripped in several places when hauled up, but it didn’t matter when Murphy heard his first mate screaming, “Ballast stones and coins, lots of coins!”
It seems fitting that the 390-foot SS Proteus, which sank 20 miles off Ocracoke inlet, North Carolina, August 1918, was named after a god of the sea in Greek mythology. In the myth, Proteus could change appearances at will, something the exquisite luxury liner has experienced in its more than 100 years of entombment in the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
Each year, when December 7 rolls around, George Carter of Chase, Maryland, reflects on what he and two of his buddies discovered in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii on July 25, 1992. That’s when Carter, Gary Larkins and Terry Kirby earned their own little niche in history.
Just as airline tragedies are at times blamed on pilot error, so are shipwrecks occasionally the captain’s fault. Such was the case of the side-wheel steamship General Slocum that caught fire on the East River in 1904. Its captain, William H. Van Schaick, had two choices of possibly saving his ship and its passengers. Unfortunately, he made the wrong decision, resulting in more than 1,000 deaths and the loss of his vessel.
The United State Coast Guard (USCG) has made many courageous rescues since its inception in 1915 and remains a stalwart military force. Although it doesn’t garner the attention or glamour heaped upon our Air Force, Navy or Marines, the USCG continues its “blue collar” workload with little fanfare.
When warships sink, it’s usually during a battle where they’re shelled, torpedoed, bombed or rammed and heroic deeds are recorded in history books. But not so heroic, and surely distressful for the captains, is when they have to scuttle their ships.