1. Somalia update: There are numerous signs that piracy in Somalia has been, if not eradicated, at least brought under a reasonable amount of control. Signs of its demise began earlier this year. A September 25th article for the Huffington Post described how Hobyo, historically one of the key pirate dens, is now back on hard times. You know the boom is over when "most of the prostitutes are gone and luxury cars (are) repossessed." At that time, 5 vessels had been seized in 2012, compared to 25 in 2011 and 47 in 2010. December 17th news was even better: NO ships have been seized by the Somalis in the last 6 months! Many factors have been credited for the increased success in averting successful pirate attacks--on-board defenses, better and more constant communication between merchant vessels and naval patrols, and air reconnaissance over the shoreline. Nevertheless, Somali piracy is far from over. 5 ships and 136 hostages are still being held. In an article for Reuters, Dutch Commodore Ben Bekkering, now commander of NATO's Operation Ocean Shield, told the press, "I am convinced, if navy ships would disappear, the piracy model would still be intact." He insisted that a minimum of 16 to 18 ships need to be on patrol at any one time just to cover the broad area of the pirates' hunting ground. Out-of-work pirates, meanwhile, are not treated warmly in the towns where they live, many citizens blaming piracy for what Hobyo mayor Ali Duale Kahiye calls "inflation, indecency, and insecurity." Even the investors that used to fund pirate expeditions are backing off, seeing decreasing returns. It is important to keep in mind that poverty and instability will still make the pirates' life appealing. Yet it seems that...just maybe...we're winning.
2. Kalakala update: Our dear old ferry has entered a new phase of limbo. As reported at the Tacoma News Tribune, in November the Kalakala passed from Steve Rodrigues to Karl Anderson, who owns the moorage where the ferry resides and who invited Rodrigues and his boat back in 2004. The transfer was a "quietly arranged lien foreclosure sale," as Rodrigues owned $4,000 in past due rent. Kalakala remains in its conundrum: The Coast Guard still considers it "a hazard to navigation," but, at the same time the Coast Guard has declared it too fragile to move, environmental regulators have forbidden repairs on the water. Call me a perpetual optimist, but, honestly, I am hopeful about the new ownership. Rodrigues' heart was in the right place, but he was a dreamer not a planner, and certainly no businessman. Anderson has made clear that he'd rather restore than scrap, and, besides, the only graving dock up to the task of dismantling the big ferry--a dock that also happens to be owned by Anderson--is tied up with making pontoons for the 520 floating bridge for two years. Anderson may not be the one to bring back the Kalakala to its former glory, but, at the very least he seems to care about her. The waiting game continues, same as it ever was.
4. It may be a wee bit wet and cold for sailing, but what does that matter to underwater archaeologists? Between diverticulitis, work, and the coming of fall weather, I have not been to the Center for Wooden Boats in months, but then the CWB livery does tend to hibernate, too. Nevertheless, the CWB's blog "Bearings" tells of restoration work, a new exhibit on boathouses and fishing resorts of Puget Sound, and the ongoing survey of shipwrecks on the bottom of Lake Union. I have embedded a nicely made 9-minute video about the project above, and you can learn more at the Lake Union Virtual Museum. I have written about this before. It is not just of local interest: It is a remarkable work of archaeology because of the extreme conditions it takes place in and the treasure trove of vessels found.
|not a wash, a wish|
5. A month ago, I posted on how I was going to 'pretend' to take Mystic Seaport's summer seminar at the Munson Institute. Well, all of the books have arrived from Amazon as well as two thick readers from Dr. Glenn Gordinier. Dr. Gordinier told me that the seminar did not have any assignments; this was not a graduate seminar but an educators' seminar, and not only was the reading list too intense for weekly papers, but, really, teachers probably don't need the practice when they're too busy writing articles for actual publication. So, by comparing the reading list to the draft syllabus posted online, I have created my OWN assignments. In the upcoming weeks (or, rather, months), I will be posting here what I am already calling, perhaps presumptuously, "The Munson Papers." Some of these will be topic only until the reading is done. These subjects include the definition of maritime studies, the relationship between maritime labor and slavery, and the end of the age of sail. Others, drawing partly from the actual seminar and partly from my own library and interests, already have initial titles: "Blackbeard in Colonial Context," "Late Piracy and the Early U.S. Navy: The Case of Charles Gibbs" (thanks again Juanita...you had no idea), and "Scholars and Scavengers: Archaeology vs. 'Treasure Hunting'." As you can tell, my brain is all buzzing. The bad news is that it might be a while 'til you see a post here on the blog, as I lose myself in hundreds of pages of literature; Hell, I might even take a break from O'Brian (*gasp*)! The good news is that there are over a dozen 'papers' you can look forward to reading...and, for me, perhaps the seeds of a new academic career. Plus, you know, I'm a pirate, and thus likely to be distracted by something shiny that I think is worth writing about.
Stay roguish, my friends...