GHOST SHIPS: Part 1. Amazing wrecks in the Baltic Sea a maritime graveyard

MARITIME HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY WERE THE FOCUS FOR MANY OF THE WRECKS IN THIS OVERVIEW. SOME OF THE VESSELS ARE IN REMARKABLY WELL-PRESERVED CONDITION.

Curator DR STEPHEN GAPPS

DEAD & GONE: DIVING ON THE 1660 WRECK OF RESANDE MANNEN. Below: TIMBER FRAME OF RESANDE MANNEN LIES LIKE THE RIB CAGE OF A SKELETON ON THE SEA FLOOR. Below: A BOX WITH SQUARE GLASS MEDICINE BOTTLES.

In 2003 underwater sonar was being used to locate a Swedish reconnaissance plane that had been shot down in the Baltic Sea, during the Cold War, in 1952. The searchers came across what archaeologists called an ‘anomaly’, indicating a possible shipwreck.

As it was 130 metres below the surface, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was sent down to investigate. To the surprise of all, they saw a 17th century ship sitting upright of the bottom of the sea floor, quite intact, looking as though it was ready to be crewed and to set sail again.

In fact, it was so complete that spars and rigging lying on the deck could tell them the last sail settings – and hence manoeuvre – before the ship sank.

It was such an eerie sight that archaeologists instantly named it the “ghost ship’.

Many people know of the iconic Swedish shipwreck, Vasa, lifted from the sea floor in 1961. It now sits in its own very popular museum. But there is much more to Swedish maritime archaeology than Vasa; the Baltic Sea is littered with Swedish and other nations’ ships.

In fact, it is one of the best locations in the world for ship archaeology.

BULGING WITH MONEY

Most marine organisms that attack wood, including the infamous shipworm Teredo navalis, are absent from this cold, brackish sea.

The 2003 ROV inspection of the “Ghost Ship” showed it to be a merchant ship from the mid-17th century, revealing typical Dutch shipbuilding characteristics from this period. A multi-beam echo-sounder was used to penetrate the upper deck and the holds, to gather accurate measurements for a 3-D reconstruction of the ship.

The map revealed the contents of the vessel: the rigging, decorative work, sails, a hearth place, sailors’ chests and other artefacts. The ‘Ghost Ship’ has the characteristic pear-shaped stern recognisable from 17-century depictions of Dutch fluyts (fruits), a type of dedicated cargo ship that could operate with a small crew.

The rudder head is decorated with three flowers, a motif traditional for Holland. The stern was flanked by two life-size sculptures depicting Dutch mid-17th century merchants in fashionable clothing, with bulging money-pouches on their belts.

These have fallen off and were found on the sea-floor next to the wreck.

One of these ‘corner men’ (hoekman, in Dutch) was salvaged in May 2010 by an ROV fitted with a mechanical claw.

SYMBOLS FOR NAMES

A brief inspection revealed red paint on the hat and black on the merchant’s coat and the figure has now been sent to Holland for conservation and further paint analysis. The area on the transom between the hoekmen, originally covered with horizontal panelling, was where the ship’s name should have been.

But at this time (when most people were illiterate), ships’ names were often added by using symbols – allegoric sculptures or ornament. Many names would have been influenced by their ability to be easily depicted and widely understood in symbols: Half Moon, Virgin Mary or The Rose or Prophet Abraham.

When the ROV surveyed the area abaft the ship, a sculpted piece of wood lying among other timbers came into view. It has been identified as the body of a swan, carved in deep relief. The original name of the Ghost Ship was probably Swan; or at least had the word ‘swan’ as part of its name.

The eerie beauty of the Ghost Ship is the natural preservation that makes it possible to reconstruct what the crew were doing just before the ship sank.

<< A ghost ship and a travelling man by curator Dr Stephen Gapps; Signals Quarterly, September/October/November, 2016. Published by the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Next week: Final. Kronan, one of King Charles XI of Sweden’s ships, turned too hard, with too much sail, began to founder and exploded.


FEATURES COMING UP: GAMBLING: What is problem gambling? What are the chances of going from social gambler to a pathological gambler? … Coming of Age: How fit are you? If you want to be in good health when Spring is in the air there’s only one way … Safe bushwalking – it’s fun for everyone! … Men’s Health: Diabetes and prostate problems are where experts say, “Don’t turn your back on them” …  Irish writer, Maeve Binchy -- journalist to award winning novelist … Jenolan Caves -a wonder world’s underground.


IN THE PAST: Nutcote Crisis – Was it the end for a “valued icon and a beloved home”

IN 1991, THE NUTCOTE CRISIS THREATENED TO CLOSE THE HOME OF MAY GIBBS AND THE WONDERFUL BUSH BABIES UNTIL A STRONG AND CONTEMPORARY MUSEUM POLICY WAS PUT TOGETHER. IT WAS MET BY A DELIGHTED COMMUNITY. IN 2018, AUSTRALIANS AND VISITORS HAVE A CHANCE TO SEE BELOVED BUSH BABIES, SNUGGLEPOT AND CUDDLEPIE, IN THE ECLETIC SYDNEY VIVID FESTIVAL. A PROJECTION OF THE ICONS WILL FEATURE MORE THAN 15,000 HAND-DRAWN ANIMATION FRAMES AND NARRATION.

Adapted by FRANK MORRIS

PLACE TO BE: IT’S MAY GIBB’S ICONIC SNUGGLEPOT AND CUDDLEPIE, IN VIVID COLOUR, ON CUSTOMS HOUSE. ENDS ON JUNE 16. Below: S&C UP CLOSE ON THE PRINTED PAGE. Below: MAGIC GARDEN -- THE PATH EDGED WITH DOROTHY PERKINS ROSES, VIOLETS, ALYSSOM AND LOBELIA.

THE “NUTCOTE CRISIS” IN 1991:

The Nutcote Crisis is at hand. In less than a month, North Sydney Council, NSW, will decided Nutcote’s fate. All hinges on whether the purchase price of nearly $3 million can be repaid by donations.

Realistically, words and dreams are no longer enough to save Nutcote. Only strong action by people at all levels in communities all over Australia will bring a reversal of fortune for Nutcote. North Sydney Council’s contribution of $600,000 plus community donations have exceeded $1 million.

Where will the rest come from?

Despite the concerted efforts of numerous groups, corporate and government responses to requests for financial aid have been disheartening. Mr Phillip Smiles, newly elected Member for North Shore, has gained notoriety with his anti-Nutcote stance; but his arguments are circular and without regard for Nutcote’s community goodwill.

NUTCOTE’S VISION

And while the Nutcote debate rages in a small section Sydney press, its ramifications are virtually unknown in other parts of the metropolitan area.

Far-flung interstate action groups in receipt of newspaper clipping are better informed than most Sydney-siders. What’s the reason for this?

Nutcote, in this regard, deserves significant national recognition. Who will lift the debate above petty parochialism? 

Nutcote has vision and it includes all Australians and the promotion of our national literature.

ICONIC MAY GIBBS

Caroline Serventy, President of the Australia Federation of Friends of Galleries and Museums, spoke for Nutcote supporters … in a letter to Mr Smiles expressing concern at the State Government’s lack of insight concerning Nutcote’s investment potential.

Said Serventy: “North Sydney, and NSW, are both extremely lucky to have the home of such an icon of Australian literature as May Gibbs available as a museum; other communities would be delighted to have such a treasure.

“A new museum has opened every two weeks in Great Britain since 1970. Countries like France, Spain and Canada also have an extraordinarily high number of new museums, many of them local, and supported substantially by the work of volunteers.

“Contemporary museum policy included strong community involvement, and the number of visitors to museums is increasing worldwide.  Most popular are museums that present collections in a social context. Nutcote has the potential for enormous success as an attraction to all Australians and visitors.”

<< Reprinted, with minor editing, from Australian Book Collector, September 1991.

Frank Morris comments: There were Australian-wide commentaries that came to the fore in the Nutcote crisis in 1991. But, after everything was said and done, all was resolved. May Gibbs died in 1969 at 92. Gibbs lived at Nutcote until her death. She left her house to charity, which had to be sold. But the “Nutcote Crisis” saved the day. The May Gibbs Foundation and the house and garden were opened to the public in 1994. * At Customs House until June 16.


FLASHBACK: The Big Fight – “Kid” McCoy, Irish boxer -- his life, was a “very colourful” one

HE WAS DIVORCED AND THEN REMARRIED THE SAME WOMAN.

Adapted by FRANK MORRIS

Below: KID McCOY WAS HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE WITH HIS MISTRESS AND ASKED HER TO MARRY HIM. SHE REFUSED. HE SHOT HER DEAD.

You’ve heard of the Real McCoy. He was behind the familiar names – the person who made the name famous. The real McCoy, who gave his name to the expression, was Norman Selby. Selby, a boxer, was born in Rush County, Indiana, October 13, 1873. His boxing career began in 1891 as well as a name-change to Charles “Kid” McCoy.

In his belief, to be a success as a boxer, it was better to be Irish; and Irish boxers were very popular at that time in the US.

In March 1896, McCoy won the world welterweight championship when he beat Irishman, Tommy Ryan. He continued as a successful boxer. He then competed for the middleweight title, then light-heavyweight then, finally, as a heavyweight.

At the height of his success, a middleweight named Al McCoy appeared on the scene. From then on, Kid McCoy was billed as the Real McCoy to distinguish him from the lesser fighters.

The expression ‘real McCoy’ had been used before Kid McCoy came across it. It originated as Real ‘Mc Kay’, in Scotland, where it was applied to first class whisky. In was launched in America where the name became the Real McCoy.

HE WAS SENTENCED

Kid McCoy’s life was a very colourful one. He travelled widely and introduced boxing into Africa and many parts of Europe. Apart from being a boxer he was also a film star. He had eight wives; one of the eight he divorced and remarried.

Some years before his ninth trot to the altar, he proposed to his mistress. And when she declined his offer, he shot her dead. He was sentenced to seven years in prison for manslaughter, having eluded a murder charge by pleading insanity due to boxing injuries.

He was released in 1932. Soon after being set free he married his final wife. On the April 18, 1940, he committed suicide.

[Adapted from The Real McCoy: People behind the name you thought were fiction; Elieen Hellicar.]

<< From “Kid” McCoy, Irish boxer, his life was a very colourful one; Real McCoy, by Eileen Helicar; 1983.


AUSSIE POEM: Life Cycle – She unknowingly stood on a flower-bed

LYN BROWN

POET’S BOOK: LYN BROWN - “THEY CONTAIN THOUGHTS AND MEMORIES I’D LIKE TO SHARE WHILE I AM STILL ABLE TO.” Below: “UNKNOWINGLY, SHE ALSO STOOD ON A FLOWER BED”.

At five years old in nineteen-twenty-three,

she watched the midwife hurrying to her mother.

Sent outside, she stood unknowingly

on a flower bed, with her little brother,

crushing the scent from violets. Ears to the wall

of their mother’s room, they listened to the cries

of a new-born sister. Two years on, they all,

needing a house of somewhat larger size,

left the small weatherboard. It lasted through 

the century. Three times out of sentiment 

she went to look. Then turning eighty-two 

in the year two thousand, one last time she went.

Sharply aware of pending demolition, 

she found the fulfilment of her premonition.

<< Fire and Water. Poems. Lyn Brown; Best Year Newsletter, 2002.

SOON: I interviewed Lyn Brown in 2002. Lyn had just published Fire and Water. She told me of her great passion for writing and “sitting in my corner ruminating about a particular poem.”


SOON: The Myall Creek Massacre 180 years ago! In 1838, a conflict between Aborigines and settlers hit a crisis point. An estimated 50 Aborigines were killed.

Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 15 June 18

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