Novel Shipwrecks

Treasure Island

I read a trivia blog about shipwreck novels, and left a comment about Great Lakes shipwrecks, including Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and one that was found in the sand of my home town’s beach. When the writer asked for details, I emailed him this double-barreled story.

65 years ago, there were a couple of boards which protruded from the sand, at one spot on our lovely beach. We kids tried to pull them out, but they were obviously attached to something heavy. Eventually, they disappeared – storm damage? Town works crew cut them for tourist safety?

Lighthouse

About twenty years ago, a couple of residents became interested in history and restoration. The abandoned lighthouse-keeper’s house on the offshore island was repaired, and little boat tours began. Someone must have remembered the boards on the beach. A group of archeologists from the University of Toronto arranged a dig. They had to design and build a coffer-dam to keep the waves out as they dug up that section of beach.

Sure that they had something physical, they began searching the written records. Soon they found the story. Once upon a time, my home-town was a bustling Lake Port. Prairie grain for bakeries, iron ore for steel mills and lumber for construction were unloaded and shipped by train below Niagara Falls.

The wreck on our beach turned out to be an 87 foot sailboat freighter. “She” was the ‘Sir Robert McAllister,’ making what might have been the last trip of the fall, before the lake iced up in 1887. Unloaded, they set sail ahead of an autumn storm. Heading back north, they barely got outside the safe harbor when the winds raged. Unloaded, top-heavy, empty and bobbing like a cork, she couldn’t maneuver, and was driven onto the beach.

No hands were lost, but the storm pounded her to flinders. Our Lake is not an ocean, but I remember body-surfing 6 and 8-foot storm waves. Little was left above the keel. She held no cargo, and what was left wasn’t worth salvaging. She was just left to rot, and subsequent storms piled sand over her.

The other local shipwreck that I wanted to tell you about – wasn’t – quite. There used to be a prosperous fishing trade out of our river harbor, until they overfished themselves out of business. Each day, six days a week, 4 forty-foot, enclosed, steel fishing boats would go out a couple of miles.

One spring, the lake ice had broken up and had moved offshore, drifting slowly down the middle of the lake, toward Detroit. Finally, two miles of ice on the river broke up, and thundered out to join it. One fish boat owner, whose craft and crew of three had been unemployed for almost 4 months, got the boat winched back into the water, with plans to go out the next day.

The weather was clear, if cold, and away they went. They set nets, waited for fish migration, and pulled the nets back in. While all this was happening, a spring gale blew up, pushing all that ice back in past them from the west. By the time they headed for home, it had piled up against the shore in a wall 15/20 feet high, a mile out from the river harbor.

As they looked for a solution, more ice piled up behind them, wedging them against the barrier, ice floes 4 – 5 – 6 feet thick, as big as the boat. Soon, the increasing pressure tilted them, to almost 45 degrees. Fearing that the boat would be crushed or capsized, they decided to unship the lifeboat, and push it like a sled across the valleys of the ice-field.

About halfway to shore, the youngest crew-member, a 19-year-old nicknamed Zip, lost his footing – and his hold on the lifeboat rail – and plunged through a small gap into the freezing water. Two days later, when the weather had cleared, and the ice had moved offshore again, the owner used a motorboat to chase his fish boat two miles out, and 8 miles south, with a cargo of frozen fish. It was slightly dinged and scraped, but the rudder and propeller weren’t damaged.

Zip’s body was found a couple of weeks later. The ship didn’t even sink, but still cost a crewman’s life. The town has a small park, where the river meets the lake. They added a memorial to all those lost to the lake, and specifically, Zip.

***

Somehow, I conflated the stories of the lumber freighter that I researched for an earlier post about the decline and fall of my home-town as a Lake Port and the change from a transportation-driven economy to a manufacturing-based one, with a previous War Of 1812 warship-turned freighter, named H.M.S. General Hunter. The light-as-a-cork lumber boat was repaired and refloated. The repurposed warship, still heavy with cannon, got buried. Click above to read her story.

 

WOW #53

Hillbilly Couple

Englishman Umbrella

The smartest British archeologist on the Time Team talks like an American redneck. Lost letters, missing punctuation, and strange pronunciations (even for a Brit) litter his speech patterns, which were already set, in up-country Yorkshire, before he got an amazing education.

If he and his trusty trowel happen upon a particularly interesting/significant find, he is apt to burst out with

STONE THE CROWS!

An exclamation of incredulity or annoyance.

There are some words and phrases which dictionaries just cannot prove the origin of, like “rule of thumb.” That problem interests me, because this one is so new. The British OED claims that it is an American culturalism. Merriam-Webster insists that it is a British phrase. When they can’t fault each other, they blame it on the Australians.

There have been a few attempts to explain the origin of this odd phrase. A croze is the groove at the end of a wooden barrel that holds the end plate in place. It has been suggested that the expression was previously stow (or stove) the croze, that is, break open the barrel. I can find no supporting evidence for that idea though and have to consign it to the realms of folk-etymology. The more prosaic suggestion – that it alludes to the practice of throwing stones at crows – is much more likely.

I’ve found mid-20th century references from England that describe it as an Americanism and American newspaper articles that call it ‘an old English phrase’. The dates of those are more or less right but not the locations – the phrase appears to have originated in Australia. Most of the early citations in print come from down under. It has a sort of Australian twang to it and is in common with several other similar phrases, all with the same meaning: starve the bardies [bardies are grubs], stiffen the crows, spare the crow.

Crows were unwelcome guests at sheep farms as, given the chance, they will kill and eat newborn lambs, so the association with annoyance isn’t hard to see. The link in meaning to surprise isn’t obvious, but then there’s no particular reason to expect to find one. Stoning crows was a commonplace enough activity and calling it up into a phrase could have been done for no reason other than that the person who coined it just liked the sound of it. There are other expressions of surprise or annoyance like I’ll go to the foot of our stairs, strike me pink, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle or if that don’t take the rag off the bush. None Most of these don’t have any sensible literal meaning and stone the crows is another to add to that list.

Take the rag off the bush” actually dates to before households had laundry dryers, or even outdoor lines to hang it on. Large items like bed sheets or blankets were often draped over shrubs or bushes to dry in the sun and breeze. If a strong-enough gust of wind came along, it could blow the ‘rag’ off the bush, and down the street, into the dust or mud, and it would have to be washed (by hand) all over again.

Bad Math

Two plus two

Something Doesn’t Add Up

Trying to argue or debate with Christian Apologists is like trying to spar with fog. They’re never quite ‘there.’ They move the goalposts, or change the definitions. When they argue their positions, they add just enough reality to make it seem real. 2 + 2 doesn’t quite equal 4. They will claim 3.97 or 4.04, hoping that skeptics will concede the tiny difference.

They hold up portions of the Bible which are historically correct, and then claim that it ALL is. See, the Bible mentions Jerusalem, and Jerusalem exists, so the Bible must be true. It’s when you ask them to prove the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah, that the tap-dancing begins.

A very small percentage of archeology remains after three to four thousand years.
A very small percentage of surviving archeology has been discovered.
Of what archeology has been discovered, a very small percentage of it has actually been dug.
Of the archeological digs, only a small percentage of the total area is actually exposed.
Only a tiny fraction of what has been examined and published, has anything to do with the Bible.
Of the unidentified digs, one of them might have been Sodom, or Gomorrah.

Yeah??! And it MIGHT have been Jephthah’s bait shop and sailboard rental. We’re getting down to dancing on the head of that argumental pin.

A YouTuber complained that Atheists are so closed-minded, that even if they observed a miracle, they wouldn’t change their minds. As Proof, he quoted the story of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead. The Jewish leaders plotted to have both Jesus and Lazarus murdered, because all Christ’s miracles were bad for their business. But that was because they believed that the miracles were real. They accepted Christ’s divinity. The circular reasoning is hardly the best example to refute Atheists with.

One Apologist admitted that Christianity had got many things wrong, but defended its existence as a possible font of additional hunches/intuitions/guesses about the universe and reality, which science could then investigate, and either prove or disprove. Contrary to usual dogma, he insisted that Christianity and the Bible should be viewed as allegory, and not taken literally. What did I think about that?

That idea sounds weak and desperate. So far, EVERY one of religions’ wild-ass guesses/intuitions/hunches has proved wrong. I don’t think that any one of them need make any more. If organized logic and science can’t intuit something new, ‘Conspiracy Theory’ is the new growth industry.

Besides, Religion is the bully on the block. No Flat Earther has ever threatened me with eternal torment in Hell, or even worse, stretched me on a rack, burned me at the stake, or protested at my funeral because I had the audacity to serve in the military to defend my country, just because I thought the Earth was round.

No Area 51 fanatic has ever put det-cord around my neck and blown my head off, tossed me off a 10-storey building, or put me in a cage and drowned me, because I didn’t believe that the government performed an autopsy on an alien there in 1947.

I don’t feel that we should give any sanction or acceptance to most religions. It only validates and encourages the worst among them. They, and their desperate, insecure, ego-driven adherents, can be quite retrogressive and dangerous.

If you can’t take religion at face value, why take it at all? Playing ‘Pretend’ is for children.

2017 Books Read

That title is a calendar reference, not mathematical. I did not read two thousand and seventeen books – I’ve probably read twice that many in my lifetime – just not all last year.

With the daughter’s power wheel chair missing, the wife’s two knee replacement surgeries, more visits to more doctors, and the discovery of yet another crossword puzzle site, my book reading fell off significantly. From 51 books in last year’s post, I was down to about 25 in 2017.

I also reread a few old sci-fi books that I didn’t count, and a few on the list are 700/800 page – one even 1200 page – super-books, the equivalent of 2 or 3 books each. Here’s what occupied some of my time

Charles E. Gannon -Commander Cantrell In The West Indies

1636 Commander Cantrell in the West Indies

Another in the ‘1632’ series about a modern Tennessee town transported back in time, and how the inhabitants struggle to survive, both politically and literally.  Sadly, it’s all alternate history, and no real action, just a reason to sell another 800-page blah book.

Mark Greany – The Grey Man – On TargetOn Target

The Gray Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the ghost writers for the now-deceased Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Jr. series, this author has one of his own action series about an ex-CIA assassin, forced to go independent.

Tom Clancy’s – Full Force And Effect – On Target

Full Force And EffectUnder Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Clancy’s name is the one that still attracts readers, but Mark Greaney and Grant Blackwood are two of 3 or 4 contract writers who pump them out.

Lee Child – Night School

Night School

After four years, I’m caught up.  It has been a most enjoyable series.  There will be one more Jack Reacher book this year, one more Dan Brown novel, and one more Ilona Andrews ‘Magic’ book in 2018.

Ilona Andrews – Magic Binds

Magic Binds

I got out of ‘Magic’ Sci-Fi about 30 years ago, but this series has lots of diverse character and plot development, thought and planning, and action.

Steve Perry – Patriot Threat

The Patriot Threat

A Dan Brown type of author, with a wide range of plot ideas, very enjoyable, but with just not quite the same OOMPH.

James Rollins – Blood Line – The Eye Of God

Blood Line

The Eye Of God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Steve Perry, above, a good, solid action/adventure author.

Clive Cussler – Plague Ship

Plague Ship

While not dead, like Clancy, Cussler is old enough that he is co-writing with his son Dirk, and a couple of other commercial writers, as well as establishing the story arc and parameters, and letting them loose.

Will Adams – The Lost Labyrinth

The Lost Labyrinth

A fresh young writer who isn’t likely to die before I do.  His books (so far) are about action and intrigue around Middle Eastern archeological sites.

E.E. (Doc) Smith – Subspace Encounter

Subspace Encounter

A re-read that I downloaded a cover for.  I also re-read his ‘Skylark’ series, The Skylark of Space, Skylark Three, Skylark of Valeron, and Skylark Duquesne.  This year I hope to re-read all 12 of his ‘Family D’Alembert’ series.  While not as prolific as Isaac Asimov, Doc still pumped out almost 50 novels in four different series.

E.C. Tubb – Earth Is Heaven – Melome – Angado – Symbol Of Terra

Earth Is HeavenMelome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AngadoSymbol of Terra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I lost this series about 20 years ago, after reading the first 26 episodes.  I recently thought of it again, and found that there were seven more available on Kindle.  The original author wrote to number 31 before he died.  He left notes for novel number 32, which his estate hired another commercial writer to assemble.  The story arc almost got the hero home to Earth, so he wrote a happily-ever-after finale to this epic tale.  I read four of them in 2017, and plan to finish the other three this year.

James S. A. Corey – Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes

Recommended by BrainRants, this is the first of five books, being made into a television series on SYFY, which I can’t get here in Canada.  The hero ‘acquires’ a slightly outdated destroyer spaceship, and renames it Rocinante, after Don Quixote’s horse, establishing the whole ’tilting at windmills’ flavor of the story.

Robert Asprin/Linda Evans – Tales Of The Time Scouts II

Tales of the Time Scouts II

Another adventure into the paradoxes of time travel.  This is actually 800 pages of two related stories in one (large) book.

Thomas Cathcart/Daniel Klein – Plato And A Platypus Walk Into A Bar

Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar

Another recommended book, although, with apologies, I can’t remember the nice gentleman’s name.  (Stand up Sign in and take a bow.)  This one explores the philosophy and psychology of jokes and humor.  I can’t find its companion, ‘Aristotle And An Aardvark Go To Washington’ in Canada.  I’ll wait till the next time we order something from Amazon, and add it to the order to get free shipping.

Well, that’s (more than) enough about me.  Besides my output, what did you read last year??