Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ecology and climatology resources

(by Sara Diamond, Archives Specialist)

I am really excited to be going back to my old stomping grounds across the Bay today to present a poster at the Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century.  This conference is being held at U.C. Berkeley from March 25-27. I am presenting this poster at the Valley Life Science building on the Cal Campus today Thursday March 26. I will be talking it up from 4 to 6 pm:

Look for my new Flat Hat. 

The poster will travel next week to Oakland for the National Park Service’s George Wright Conference.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Behind the scenes in Technical Services: fixing the Romance of Piracy

(by Heather Hernandez, Technical Services Librarian)

As any reader knows, despite our best intentions, books are occasionally damaged.  Here in the Collections Dept., we do a lot of repairs on our collections materials, including repairs and stabilization of items upon receipt--a lot of items are in bad shape when they arrive, and we repair and stabilize them so they can be used for research by our users.

The books shelved in our main stacks are not only used by researchers in the Reading Room of the Research Center, but unlike our rare books, they also circulate to staff, and to researchers at other libraries via interlibrary loan.  (Rare books never leave the Research Center, and the decision process for their preservation is entirely different--they are preserved as acquired and often placed in protective enclosures.)  Sometimes we decide to simply replace a damaged stacks copy by purchasing one in better condition, but when we can't easily replace the copy, or repair is more efficient than replacement, we repair it.

One such item is our copy of the Romance of Piracy--the bottom of its spine was damaged.  This typically happens when a book is dropped.  This is a picture of the spine at the bottom of the book, showing the spine slightly detached from the front board (the front cover).  The book is held spine up in a finishing press, ready for repair:

Using an adhesive that is a mixture of wheat starch and methyl cellulose in water, which is fully reversible in water (should we ever wish to reverse the repair), I used a small piece of hanji paper to repair the spine, placing part of the hanji paper under the rumpled and partially detached spine piece, and overlapping a bit onto the front cover:

Then a piece of wax paper is placed on the repair, with waste paper behind that to absorb moisture, and the book is wrapped in a bandage to apply pressure to the repair, so it dries as flat as possible.  It's left like this overnight (and I'm always impatient in the morning to see how it came out!)

This is the dried repair, with the book back in the finishing press, so I can easily trim the hanji paper's little threads that hang below the bottom of the book:

The final step is coloring the hanji paper so that it blends with the rest of the book binding with some colored pencils--this is purely for aesthetic reasons.  The finished repair:

And, most importantly, the book is now sound, and opens and closes again as it should, and is ready  to be read again!

Want to know more about preservation, conservation, and caring for collections?  CoOL, Conservation Online has lots of information and links, including Conservation/Preservation Information for the General Public.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Digging for Gold at the Research Center: Knives!

(by Gina Bardi, Reference Librarian)

For my birthday (I’m still accepting gifts... feel free to mail them in) my husband got me a beautiful sailor’s knife.  What makes a sailor’s knife a sailor’s knife and not just a regular ol’ knife? For one thing, it has a hole drilled into the end so it can dangle from a lanyard around your neck- For another and this is the more pertinent part, it is blunt on one side of the tip.

The knife opened

The knife closed

There is a very good reason for this. Sea going vessels are dangerous places; not the least so for some of the men aboard. Sailors needed knives, but it was a good idea if they had a knife that was more suited for cutting ropes than for stabbing.  

In The Ashley book of knots, Clifford Ashley makes note of this feature saying:

A sailor’s knife frequently has a blunt point and, in addition to its professional uses, is the sailor’s only eating utensil. On long voyages a cautious shipmaster will lead the whole crew aft to the carpenter’s vise and have the point of each knife snapped off to resemble the rigger’s knife (20).

In the book Shanghaiing Days by Richard Dillion, tells of an 1851 voyage of the Challenge (which would prove to be an extremely memorable voyage… for the crew who made it back alive). Before she sailed and during the captain’s “long-drawn-out harangue” his mates, on his order, “industriously and diligently ransacked the crew’s sea bags and chests in the forecastle”. Once this was done, “Captain Waterman chose the watches and had each man lay his sheath knife on the main hatch where the carpenter neatly broke off the point of each blade.” (85-86). This act rendered the knife useless as a quick weapon. I found another story in the book The Making of a sailor by Frederick Pease Harlow which is almost an exact retelling of the Challenge’s. In an 1875 voyage of the ship Akbar, the mate, Mr. Burris, has each man on his watch hand him his sheath knife. Much to some of their surprises, he breaks the tips off.

              You probably didn’t have the mate, in your last ship, break the point off
of your knife, “ said Mr. Burris, “But I always keep a ship sweet and clean
by seeing that every knife aboard the ship has no point. This is for your own
protection. If you get into a fight with a shipmate you know you can’t stick
him with your knife or he, you. Knowing this you both will fight like men and
use your fists, the weapons God has given you to fight with (91).

As opposed to the captain of the Challenge, Mr. Burris was only doing his job. In 1866, 15 years after the Challenge and 11 years before the Akbar, a statute was written which banned sailors from carrying sheathed knives, meaning they had to carry pocket knives instead. Sheathed knives were determined to be too dangerous.
The statute reads:

SEO 4608: No seaman in the merchant service shall wear any sheath knife on shipboard. It shall be the duty of the master of any enrolled or licensed under the laws of the United and of the person entering into contract for the employment of a upon any such vessel to inform every person offering to ship himself provisions of this section and to require his compliance under a penalty of fifty dollars for each omission to be sued for recovered in the name of the United States under the direction of Secretary of the Treasury one half for the benefit of the informer the other halt for the benefit of the fund for the relief of sick and seamen.
(46 USCA. Sec. 710. 1866.)

This was a long time coming, apparently for in 1838, there is an article in the Army and Navy Chronicle which states that ship-masters met in Philadelphia to have “measures adopted to prevent the dangerous and unchristian practice prevalent amoung sailors, of wearing sheath knives or daggers, while engaged in their ordinary work” (204).

Unfortunately, I don’t know how well these provisions worked.  A quick search of the California Digital Newspaper Collection using the search terms “Sailor” and “stabbed” and setting the date after 1866 brings up 646 results! Now granted many of those are about sailors being stabbed on shore, but some do take place at sea.  Here’s one from 1884, one from 1887 and one from 1898.

This isn’t just a quaint practice of the past.  I was talking with Charter Kays, a shipwright here at the park and a true Renaissance Man (He sails! He rides horses! He builds things!) and he told me that even up until the 1970’s when he was sailing, the mate cut the tip off of his knife. It happened to him on the brigantine Romance. The captain, Captain Kimberly, was an old school sailor and liked adhering to the “old ways” so, all the knives on board were untipped.
Of course none of this explains why the marlin spike was allowed…

Army and Navy Chronicle. Benjamin Homans, 1838. Print.
Ashley, Clifford W. The Ashley Book of Knots. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1944.  Print. 

Dillon, Richard H. Shanghaiing Days. New York: Coward-McCann, 1961. Print.

Harlow, Frederick Pease. The Making of a Sailor; Or, Sea Life Aboard a Yankee Square-Rigger. Salem, Mass: Marine Research Society, 1928. Print.

Peters, Richard, George Minot, and George P. Sanger. United States Statutes at Large: Containing the Laws and Concurrent Resolutions ... and Reorganization Plan, Amendment to the Constitution, and Proclamations. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1868. Print.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rescue at Sea

(by Diane Cooper, Museum Specialist)

For the crew of the British cargo transport ship Mary Horlock built in 1919, late January 1924 on the Pacific Ocean 700 miles off-shore of Japan was a nightmare.  Not only were they fighting shifting cargo that caused the vessel to list dangerously, but nature also conspired against them in the form of a major storm growing to typhoon proportions.  On the morning of January 26, the captain ordered an SOS issued in hopes that another vessel might be able to assist them.

One hundred miles away, the radio operator on board the old Pacific Mail steamship President Taft picked up that distress call and passed the information on to Captain Girard T. January.  Immediately Captain January changed course and the Taft began battling her way through the storm to the sinking Mary Horlock.  By afternoon the President Taft reached the Horlock to find her barely afloat.  Without her cargo of lumber she would have slipped beneath the waves long before help arrived.

Watercolor of the President Taft (SAFR 14110)
When the Taft hove in sight, it quickly became obvious that the raging seas made it impossible to close in on the sinking vessel or to ship a gangway as an access point for the rescued men to board the Taft.  At the same time, the crew on board the Horlock determined that lifeboats could not be launched filled with passengers.  In desperation they dropped a boat over the side and, when it remained afloat, half of the crew managed to jump into it as it rose and fell on the turbulent seas and then struggled against the elements and, "...miraculously reached the side of the Taft."  (S. Miller Holland, transcription of newspaper article in Park's accession folder for P05-005.)  According to Chief Engineer Dugan, 2,575 barrels of oil were pumped overboard to calm the turbulent sea next to their ship so that when the lifeboat came alongside, the crew of the President Taft was able to deploy their cargo nets to haul the twenty exhausted members of the Horlock crew from their lifeboat.

S. Miller Holland, a special correspondent for the Universal Service and a passenger on board the Taft, reported that the storm was, " of the most terrific storms that ever lashed the Pacific [with] plunging waters of a convulsed sea [and that it] had grown so violent that it meant almost certain death for anybody to attempt to reach the Mary Horlock in so frail a craft as a lifeboat." (Typescript of newspaper article by S. Miller Holland, in accession file P05-005, hereafter "(Holland).")  Captain January called for volunteers willing to brave the dangerous seas as part of a livesaving party.  To a man his crew responded to his request.  Chief Officer Frank J. Sommer, placed in charge of the rescue party, quickly chose six Filipino able-bodied seamen to man the lifeboat and make the journey with him, "...because the American seamen we got in those days were taxi drivers and everything else.  They couldn't handle it.  And those Filipinos were very loyal.  They would do what I wanted them to do.  Strictly obey orders...They were wonderful boatmen."  (Frank J. Sommer oral history interview on April 15, 1965)  

Frank J. Sommer with 6 Filipino crew members, January 10, 1924, SFMNHP, P05-005.1p (SAFR 20643). Frank Sommer donated this photograph at the time of his oral history interview on April 15, 1965.

Sommer and his Filipino crew quickly fought their way across the open sea between the ships and positioned their boat alongside.  One by one the remaining crewmembers jumped into the lifeboat.  With the last of the Horlock's crew accounted for, the lifeboat headed, "...across a fierce, foaming, bursting tide, with every mad wave almost drowning the sky, [as] Mr. Sommer's heroic band fought their way to the side of their own staunch ship the President Taft.  The ocean rolled fiercely and unmercifully, hell opening up every time the lifeboat plunged down from the crest of a billow to the watery valley below."  (Holland)

More than an hour after setting out from the Taft, the last member of the Horlock's crew was safely on board, and Sommer and his crew of Filipino sailors once again stepped onto the Taft's deck, to "...a universal round of applause and cheering from the passengers and others of the crew of the President Taft.  The intensity of the cheering for a moment almost echoed louder than the loud ocean."  (Holland)

The Mary Horlock slipped beneath the Pacific's waves shortly after the completion of this rescue operation, leaving no identifiable flotsam in her wake.

Captain January referred all congratulations to Chief Officer Sommer and his crew.  Sommer, however, stated that Captain January "...was greatly responsible for the success of this rescue oepration.  I am afraid that it would have been a failure, had it not been for his perfect cooperation and handling of the President Taft.  He was very successful in creating a perfect lee for the returning lifeboat."  (Holland)  In addition, Sommer expressed gratitude and praise for "...the six loyal Filipino sailors, who volunteered and almost insisted to man the lifeboat with me.  I will always remember the names of Laxinto, Sim, Demerin, Valencia, De la Cruz and Fernandez."  (Frank J. Sommer oral history interview on April 15, 1965)  

The British Government, under King George V, recognized the efforts of the crew of the President Taft, especially those of Frank J. Sommer, Laxinto, Sim, Demerin, Valencia, De la Cruz and Fernandez, all of whom received a medal for "Humanity and Gallantry."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Digging for Gold at the Research Center: Valentine's Day the Yachting Way

(by Gina Bardi, Reference Librarian)

It’s Valentine’s season! Can’t you smell the chocolate in the air? You probably think we librarians and archivists are a cold calculating bunch, only thinking about classification systems and preservation methods but we feel love too! Why just the other day I came across a few items in a scrapbook that made my heart go all a-flutter. I’ve written about scrapbooks of the San Francisco Yacht Club  before, but while going through them recently to fulfill a reference request from one of our staff, I came across the drawings below and the poem which were just too sweet not to share with you, my beloved readers, on Valentine’ s Day..

 I’ve posted this photo before, but I’m bringing it back for a special Valentine’s Day rerun. I love the way the two courters  are staring into each other’s eyes. What plans are they making? Perhaps a walk along the boardwalk  later? Or first and last dance at the spring ball? It’s impossible to ignore the direct gaze of the other woman, as  she  beckons  you to sit next to her and have a cup of tea. Maybe you’ll be strolling down the boardwalk arm in arm with her later as well.

Sweet and simple. There is nothing half so much worth doing as messing about in boats with someone you love… and a cherub.

Not quite sure what all is going on here, but hey, a heart made out of rope! I guess there’s a man with a terrible haircut being hoisted aboard and some people singing and a pair of women’s legs. The couple in the middle seem to like each other though.

After looking at these images of happy couples perhaps you to now would like to woo someone.  Here’s a maritime themed love poem to help you out.

 San Francisco Yacht Club. Scrapbooks. 1883-1885. Print.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Digging for Gold at the Research Center: Movie night!

(by Gina Bardi, Reference Librarian)

As winter has descended upon us (or so I am told- it’s still around 60 degrees in San Francisco) people start looking for more indoorsey activities. As the months of forced home imprisonment grow longer, your entertainment options run out.  Can you really watch that same action film one more time without screaming? Will your spouse make good on that threat to walk out the door if you rewatch that beloved tv show from the 90’s from the beginning for the third time? Have you really watched everything in your queue even the things that you just put there to impress other people, never actually intending to watch? Well, then we here at the Maritime Research Center have a real treat for you.  A search of our catalog turns up 27 movies available for streaming for free. That’s right 27 movies you can watch right now for free and I can almost bet anyone that you haven’t seen most of them. Ever wonder what Fisherman’s Wharf looked like in 1897? I bet you do because you are reading a maritime themed blog!  So check out this Edison film of a felucca taking in her sail. Need something a bit more substantial? How about a film that shows World War II tankers built here in the Bay Area at Marinship?  Something lighter? Why there’s always Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World’s Fair at San Francisco, Cal? A Mack Sennet production staring Mabel Normand and Fatty Arbuckle made in 1915, this film features many maritime topics such as the battleship Oregon, a Crowley ferry (#17), the former prison hulk, the Success and the Ferry Building.

Almost all of these films are on the Library of Congress website or the Internet Archive. If you are a fan of motion pictures, I highly recommend checking out the sites and just browsing. What else are you going to do? Pretend you haven’t seen every single British detective show on TV already?

So go make that popcorn! Or, if you really want to be authentic, make some hardtack to gnaw on and sit back and enjoy some good maritime entertainment. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Digging for Gold at the Research Center: National Maritime Day

(by Gina Bardi, Reference Librarian)

Did you know I take suggestions for posts? Especially ones that come from my boss, Keri! While digging through one of our “pam files” (you oldsters might remember them as vertical files from back in the day) on National Maritime Day (Friday May 22nd) she came across an article about the Queen of the Day contest at the National Maritime Day Program at Aquatic Park.  Now, as an American, I don’t know much about royalty, but I’m pretty sure Queens aren’t forced to swab decks or other any laborious tasks (although the image of Queen Victoria climbing the rigging of the Cutty Sark is an interesting one).

Crowning a queen wasn’t the only activity that day. Other articles mention events such as a life boat races, a Coast Guard rescue performance and something called “water clowns”…

Did you or your family attend any of these events back in the 60’s? Were you a Maritime Queen or a even a Water Clown (it’s ok, you can admit it)?  Let us know!  Any ideas for how we should celebrate National Maritime Day in 2015? We’re all ears. Just drop us a line. I’ll check back when I’m done doing my practice swabs on the deck.