Biographies of Early Sailors to Australia

March 18, 2019

This inelegantly-titled blog entry points you, gentle reader, to the ongoing biographical project known as the Australian Dictionary of Biography. The biographies, ranging up to 6,000 words for pre-eminent Australian figures, are mostly authored by academics, supplemented with trustworthy sources, and checked for veracity by a board of editors. More than 12,000 individuals are presented in this continuing undertaking.

By utilizing the available search options, one can call up a list of Dutch, French, and British sailors and explorers who first made landfall on this continent. Trying to find, accurate, current, English-language life stories can prove to be difficult, especially for the Dutch mariners. (Point of transparency – I am an academic librarian of forty years standing who does not consider Wikipedia the ultimate go-to source.) Where possible, a picture accompanies the entry along with suggestions for further reading, links to other related biographies, and active occupations links that further enhance your research. The above list was generated by utilizing the term “sailor”; however, other biographies can be found by the terms such as “shipmaster”, “seaman”, “mariner”, or “harbor master”.

For those sailors who have made an impact in more than one area of the world, it is an interesting exercise to read competing biographies to find where the natural emphases are. For example, here is the treatment for James Cook for this work, the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, and the Dictionary of National Biography.


What Do the South China Sea and the Hunt for the Bismarck Have in Common?

March 14, 2019

They are both separate subjects of extended, well- researched articles in the latest issue of Naval War College Review (72, #1 Winter 2019).

The first article – China’s Global Naval Strategy and Expanding Force Structure – highlights China’s continuing development of its navy and its projection of this force into the Pacific arena. A previous post points to a valuable document outlining the problems that currently face this county as China continues to build both military and economic strengths (think Belt and Road). Figures, exhibits, and copious notes lend credibility and veracity to this article.

The second article – Operation Rhine Exercise, May 18-27, 1941 – concentrates on one of the largest fleet to fleet operations in the ETO. Using printed and archival sources, the author deftly weaves an analysis of this operation, showing that the risk of detailing so many ships to pursue the Bismarck was ultimately worth the gamble. I have included here the War Diary of the Commander U-Boats concerning the sinking of this fast battleship.

Maritime Watercolors

March 13, 2019

Embedded within this glorious site containing over 80,000 watercolors from private and public collections, some of which have never been seen before, is a section entitled Seas & Oceans that numbers over 1600 items; another is Ships with over 4000 illustrations. And as this site promises to grow, this maritime section should also increase in size. But you needn’t limit yourself to the above sections; there is a search option that allows you to utilize keywords and filters to tease out additional maritime-related watercolors not included in the above sections. Each watercolor lists the artist and a description of the work in question. A great resource of pre-20th century art that deserves your attention.

Maritime History Videos

March 8, 2019

Well researched and deftly presented, this series of videos covers a wide variety of topics from the Dutch invading the Medway to Martin Frobisher. As someone who appreciates accurate historical research, these presentations are definitely worth a view.

Hundreds of Volumes on British Naval History

March 6, 2019

You can come here for a great number of works dealing with Great Britain and her navy.

Volumes on United States Naval History

February 27, 2019

Dozens and dozens of monographs are freely available online; this list is certainly worth a perusal.

Dudley Knox Library of the Naval Postgraduate School

February 22, 2019

More than 18,000 volumes from this special library have been made available online; they cover the technical aspects of the modern navy from management to aeronautics.

Patrick O’Brian’s “The Fortune of War” On the Radio

November 28, 2018

An episodic treatment of this novel has just begun on BBC Radio 4. It is worth a listen.

A Very Insightful Article on Jamaican Slavery

November 8, 2018

This short piece shows how a small slave-holding elite could exert such powerful control over a much larger enslaved population. I would follow this up with this piece from the British Museum – An introduction to the Caribbean, empire and slavery.

Late 19th Century American Naval Fiction

October 23, 2018

The Wright American Fiction collection contains 2,887 novels published between 1851 – 1875. Keyword and title searching, as well as author searching, turn up a surprising number of works that have the sea as their background. For example, using the keyword “navy”, one has hundreds of novels with that term in it. One can relish the thrilling exploits in Five years before the mast, or, Life in the forecastle aboard of a whaler and man-of-war (1854) or Nautilus, or, Cruising under canvas (1871). The results are arranged so that those novels with the greatest number of “hits” top the list.

You can use whatever nautical term you are interested in; typing in “sea” pulls up Moby-Dick, or, The Whale (1851) among others.