Archive for December, 2015

The “Naval Review”

December 22, 2015

Established in 1912 to act as a platform for serving Navy and Marine personnel, the Naval Review is still publishing one hundred years later. All issues from 1913-2004 are freely available online; an article index as well as The Diary of the War at Sea, 1939-1945 are also accessible. (N.B., when searching for material, please use the “search” button; hitting the “enter” key on your keyboard will return zero hits.)Adding to the utility of this title are numerous book reviews and correspondence. Articles run the gamut from Trafalgar to the qualities of modern British submarines. Enjoy thousands of pages of naval writing from the British perspective.


Royal Navy Sailing Ships’ Histories

December 17, 2015

Ships of the Old Navy provides not only an enumeration of ships between 1750 and 1840, but also recounts their history and in some cases prints contemporary source documents involving the ship in question. Entries can range from a terse description like this one for the cutter Hector to a comprehensive history for the first rate Victory. Another worthwhile resource is Index of 19th Century Naval Vessels and some of their movements that includes 5,000 ships and recounts their exploits, many of them from William James’ six-volume Naval History of Great Britain (1837).

Read the Eyewitness Account That Begat “Moby Dick”

December 11, 2015

 Owen Chase was a crew member aboard the ill-fated ship Essex when it was destroyed by a whale. The twenty survivors scrambled into three boats; only eight  remained at the end of their ordeals. His account is Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex, of Nantucket (1821). The True-Life Horror That Inspired Moby-Dick provides a great overview of this instance. A true near-contemporary account of whaling is found in the 1851 The whale and his captors; or, The whaleman’s adventures, and the whale’s biography; Moby Dick was published in 1851 as well. New Bedford Whaling Museum has several informative features, among them life aboard a whaler. The periodical Historic Nantucket is worth a read. Of particular importance is the Whalesmen’s Shipping Lists and Merchant Transcripts, the major source on American whaling activities with issues from 1843 until 1914.

Journeys to the Galapagos Islands

December 9, 2015

A unique ecosystem, separated and isolated, is the hallmark of the Galapagos Islands; they have been visited over the centuries by various nations and contributed to the theory of evolution as Charles Darwin famously stopped there for a few weeks. This site offers numerous selections of texts that pertain to these islands from a 1535 letter to Darwin’s observations. Links to maps, an extensive bibliography, a listing of ships that have sailed to the islands, and more add to the utility of this site.

The First English Sea Dictionary

December 7, 2015

Henry Mainwaring, privateer, pirate, Royal Navy officer, linguist, and Royalist is credited with the first dictionary of sea terms in English. His dictionary, though not printed until 1644, had been circulated in manuscript in previous years. Here is a 1626 handwritten manuscript entitled  A briefe abstract, exposition, and demonstration of all termes, parts, and things belonging to a shippe and the practick of navigation. An  introduction to this work, as well as a collated version of the dictionary is found in volume 2 of Life and Works of Sir Henry Mainwaring; it is entitled THE SEAMAN’S DICTIONARY OR, AN EXPOSITION AND DEMONSTRATION OF ALL THE PARTS AND THINGS BELONGING TO A SHIP TOGETHER WITH AN EXPLANATION OF ALL THE TERMS AND PHRASES USED IN THE PRACTIQUE OF NAVIGATION. It begins on page 83.

Exploration Primary Sources: The Hakluyt Society

December 4, 2015

Publishing edited volumes of explorations and voyages of discovery since the mid-19th century, the Hakluyt Society offers researchers access to some of the world’s most famous journals; in many cases the documents are presented for the first time through the Society. They span space and time, from a 16th century trip to Russia to a history of the 1402 French conquest of the Canary islands.  An extensive bibliography of all published tomes is available online for easy perusal; the volumes from 1847-1921 are all online as well totaling well over 100 volumes of primary sources. In addition to these scholarly works, the Society’s Journal contains smaller edited works of interest, such as an 1826 journal of a 2700 mile trip across North America.