Divers retrieve hundreds of bottles of booze from a World War I shipwreck

In 1917, Swedish steamer ship Kyros was traveling from France to Russia when a German U-boat sunk it in the Baltic Sea. The shipwreck was discovered in 1999 but it wasn't until the last month that a team of divers from Ocean X and iXplorer have hauled up the sunken treasure: 600 bottles of De Haartman & Co. cognac and 300 bottles of Benedictine (now Bacardi) liqueur meant for Tsar Nicholas II. From Smithsonian:

(Expedition leader Peter) Lindberg and his colleagues have sent samples of both the cognac and the Benedictine to a laboratory to gauge whether the alcohol is still fit for consumption. They are optimistic regarding the outcome of these tests, according to Metcalfe, as the Baltic’s freezing waters are actually ideal for storing spirits. Although some of the bottles contain sediment, many remain sealed. Several cognac bottles even have intact tin seals...

As Lindberg tells CNN’s Gianluca Mezzofiore and David Williams, he and the rest of the team detected a slight scent of sweetened herbs coming from the Benedictine bottles...

Earlier this year, two bottles of 17th-century wine discovered by Ocean X went up for auction at Christie’s. And in 2011, a 200-year-old bottle of champagne found in another Baltic shipwreck sold for a record-breaking $43,000.

images: OceanXTeam on Instagram Read the rest

Watch huge waves capsize a boat

On July 24, off the coast of Indonesia, onlookers cheered as a boat rode (and eventually capsized to) some crazy waves. (It's ok to hit 'play,' the boat was unmanned.)

Ryan “Chachi” Craig of Surfer.com reports:

It was absolutely crazy. I was swimming and shooting photos and the currents were heavy so I only saw it from the back and saw it drifting into the lineup. There’s so much water moving today–there are palm trees and tree stumps in the lineup. I swam by numerous pieces of wood with nails sticking out of them. The water is like black out there.

Anyways, the swell is really, really big and that boat is anchored in the same spot every day so I assumed it’s always there, anchored in deep water in the keyhole where everyone jumps in. Not sure whose boat it is, but it was even there during the last swell, which was much smaller than today.

This morning when we woke up, a lot of people were tripping out that they (whoever owns the boat) didn’t move it because the swell is supposed to grow. I’ve actually been using it as a marker for where I was in the lineup. It was that close to the wave. Eventually, around mid-morning, it lost its anchor or whatever and started drifting into the lineup. Everyone started paddling away with some determination to get anywhere they could other than where the impact zone was, because if a bigger set came and everyone got caught inside there would’ve been a really bad situation.

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Expedition will hunt for Ernest Shackleton's lost ship in 2019

During the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, Sir Earnest Shackleton was the man, or at least one of them. Other explorers of his day may have gathered more renown, but Shackleton's relentless drive and reputation for being cool under pressure made him a legend. 

During his career, Shackleton made four trips to the then mysterious continent. The first? Kind of meh. The second time around, he and three fellow explorers came home as a pack of bad asses, having traveled further into the Antarctic's interior than anyone else at the time and, while they were at it, scaling Mount Erebus.

The third trip, which took place in 1915, didn't go so well. His ship, The Endurance, became trapped in pack ice and was slowly crushed, forcing Shackleton and his crew to abandon the ship. Despite his disastrous third sortie to the south pole, in 1921 Shackleton planned what would be his last trip to the frozen continent. But he never made it there: he died of a heart attack en route.

Close to 100 years later, Shackleton's misadventure on the Endurance are still capturing the imaginations of readers, explorers and scientists. So much so that, next year, an international team of scientists will do their damnedest to discover the ship's final resting place.

According to The BBC, in January and February of next year, a team of scientists will be studying the Larsen C ice shelf, near the area where the ship was noted by surviving members of the crew as having sunk. Read the rest

Cracker from the Titanic up for auction

This cracker that survived the sinking of the Titanic will be on the block October 24 as part of an auction of rare Titanic, Hindenburg and related memorabilia. The cracker was recovered by James Fenwick, a passenger of the SS Carpathia that helped hundreds of Titanic survivors who had escaped the sinking ships on lifeboats. It's estimated that this unusual souvenir will sell for as much as US$18,000. From the auction description:

This Spillers and Bakers Pilot biscuit formed part of the survival kit in a Titanic lifeboat and was kept as a souvenir by the Fenwicks. To the best of our knowledge its the only example to have survived. 3½ins. x 4ins.

It is sold in a photographic envelope with original notation from Mr Fenwick, "Pilot biscuit from Titanic lifeboat April 1912."

Estimate: 10000-12000

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Treasure hunters find $1 million in 1715 shipwreck

Treasure hunters on a boat called the Aarrr Booty (seriously) found more than $1 million in gold coins from a 1715 shipwreck off the Florida coast. Apparently 20 percent of the booty goes to the state of Florida with the rest split between the historic shipwreck salvage company, 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels LLC, and the subcontractors who recovered it. Half of the value is in just one coin, the so-called "Tricentennial Royal," meant to be delivered by the sunken fleet to Spanish King Phillip V.

"We're very respectful of the people who lost their lives in these shipwrecks. Unfortunately, they didn't make it," said Eric Schmitt who was on the team that found the gold. "We're able to continue their story on by continuing to bring these artifacts up."

"Sanford treasure hunters find $1M in gold off Florida's coast" (Orlando Sentinel)

1715 Treasure Fleet

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Columbus's Santa Maria discovered?

A sunken ship off Haiti may be Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria. The evidence so far is "very compelling," an Indiana University archaeologist told CNN. Read the rest

Return to Antikythera

The Antikythera shipwreck — source of the famous ancient clockwork Antikythera Mechanism — has remained shockingly unexplored in the 100 years or so that we've known about it. In fact, other than a visit by Jacques Cousteau in 1970s, there hadn't been any official, scientific excavations until last year. Turns out, there's a lot of stuff left to find at the site, from a ship's anchor and storage jars to a collection of bronze fragments — which could either turn out to be something mundane, like nails from the boat, or more clues to the Mechanism. According to The Guardian's Jo Marchant, "little bronze fragments" describes what the gears of the Antikythera Mechanism looked like before they were detached from rock and cleaned of rust. Read the rest

What happened to the HMS Bounty? After Hurricane Sandy sinks tall ship, many questions remain

The HMS Bounty, a 180-foot sailboat, is shown submerged in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Sandy approximately 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C., Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tim Kuklewski.

This Washington Post article by Ian Shapira is the most comprehensive account I've seen of what happened to HMS Bounty, a replica of the 18th century tall ship which starred in the 1962 Marlon Brando "Mutiny on the Bounty" film, and various Pirates of the Caribbean movies. No definitive word on exactly what caused the accident, but many theories.

Of the 16-person crew, the Coast Guard rescued 14. They recovered the body of Claudene Christian, 42, and are still searching for Robin Walbridge, 63, the ship's captain.

In the LA Times today, a remembrance of Ms. Christian.

Even other sea captains are mystified.

Above, a Coast Guard photo of the foundering HMS Bounty.

(thanks, Andrew Thaler)


Rescue video: Sandy sinks tall ship HMS Bounty replica off NC Read the rest

Titanic Tales: The Costa Concordia

Photo: An oil removal ship is seen next to the Costa Concordia cruise ship as it ran aground off the west coast of Italy at Giglio island, January 16, 2012. Over-reliance on electronic navigation systems and a failure of judgement by the captain are seen as possible reasons for one of the worst cruise liner disasters of all time, maritime specialists say. (REUTERS/ Max Rossi)

When I read hastily the headlines on Jan 14—a shipwreck in Italy, seventy missing, three known dead—I immediately thought: it must be the Africans again. The refugees, the clandestine, the invisible, the nameless, the unwanted… Those "less-than-human" people coming from all over the world to the Italian coast, looking for a safe haven from dictatorships, from hunger.

My Somali Italian friend Suad, who works with her community In Italy now, urges her people in Somalia NOT to take that dangerous ride: even if you survive the trip, what waits for you in Italy can be fatal. Italy is in deep economic crisis today, on the verge of bankruptcy and social disorder. The new government struggling to remain a G8 power while the euro and United Europe are at stake. Italy also struggles to overcome a big moral value crisis after twenty years of Berlusconi's reign of sexism, racism, indolence and corruption.

But I was wrong about the Africans. It was a fancy cruise ship full of wealthy foreigners that wrecked unexpectedly near the island of Giglio. Read the rest