In the evening we had a minstrel entertainment in the deck-house, somewhat improved over last year… The success of the evening, however, was Sharvell as a young lady, in an after-piece… A feature of the evening was presenting each guest, on entering, with a little button-hole bouquet of colored paper leaves… The jokes were of the usual order, some broad ones being inevitable… The most acceptable occurrence was the issue of a double ration of whiskey, with which, hot water, and sugar, we tried to be cheerful, and make Christmas Eve rather less dreary than many of our days now seem.
By December 1880 Jeannette had been stuck fast in the pack ice for well over a year, but Christmas Day was made as acceptable as possible by a good dinner.
And I think we may refer to our bills of fare with pardonable pride. Our mince pies were a work of art; though they were made from pemmican and flavored by a bottle of brandy, they were as delicate to the taste as if compounded from fresh beef from market. CHRISTMAS DINNER, 1880: the usual Saturday Soup, Roast Seal – Apple Jelly, Tongue, Macaroni, Tomatoes, Mince Pies, Plum Pudding, Figs, Raisins, Dates, Nuts, Candy, Chocolate and Coffee.
Reading these snippets from De Long’s journal from the Jeannette would strike a chord with any sailor. Christmas at sea seems much the same today – people still celebrate as best as they can even though they are far from home and hearth. The banquet remains the highlight of the holiday. But the work must go on, as the ship’s log shows: along with the note about the entertainment there are all the usual weather observations recorded. Considering the perilous journey the Jeannette logbooks endured from the Arctic ice to us, it is a miracle that these data still exist and can be used for science again, in new and powerful ways that De Long and his crew could not have imagined when they sledged these heavy volumes across the sea ice after the wreck of their ship, and then carried them on their backs to the cold Siberian shore.
Old Weather citizen-scientists are making the recovery and analysis of these hard-won data possible, while also getting to read the unedited stories from the Jeannette and many other ships in the new (and growing) Old Weather – Arctic fleet.
We have transcribed the log books of over 300 Royal Navy warships of the World War 1-era; looking at over 1,000,000 pages. As well as the weather data, what happened to all the naval information that was carefully recorded? The answer is a growing number of ship histories – some fully edited, some being edited, and even more formatted ready for editing. The result is a wealth of historical naval information that has probably never been available in such profusion. That is a contribution which will earn the thanks of thousands of naval historians and family genealogists world-wide.
Nearly 120 sets of logs are now online – listed by name and by type below. Ships in bold have been edited, ships in bold italics are being edited, and the remainder have only been formatted. The remaining 180 plus are going online over the next few months. If the ship you have worked on is not here, it soon should be. If you would like to edit your favourite ship just email me: Gordon Smith of Naval-History.Net
Acacia, Achilles, Albemarle,, Albion,, Alcantara, Alert, Almanzora, Alsatian, Ambrose, Amethyst, (Parts 1/2 edited), Amphitrite, Arlanza, Artois, Attack, Avenger, Avoca, (Parts 1/2 edited), Bacchante, Bayano, Bee, Birmingham, Cadmus, Calcutta, Calliope, Carlisle, Carmania, Caronia, Carrigan Head, Celtic, Challenger, Cicala, City of London, Cochrane, Columbella, Comus, Coronado, Crescent, Dartmouth, Dauntless, Defence, Digby, Dragon, Dublin, Duke of Edinburgh, Eclipse, Empress of Britain, Endymion, Eskimo, Espiegle, Falmouth, Fame, Fearless, Fox, Foxglove, Gibraltar, Gloucester, Gnat, Goliath, Hampshire, Highflyer, Hollyhock, Humber, Inflexible, Invincible, Kennet, Kildonan Castle, Kinfauns Castle, King Alfred, Knight Templar,, Laconia, Laurentic, Lepanto, Lowestoft, M.23, M.24,, M.25, M.29, M.31, M.33, Magnolia, Malaya, Mantua, Merlin (1), Merlin (2), Minotaur, Moldavia, Moorhen, Morea, Moth, Mutine, Nairana, Naneric, New Zealand, Newcastle, Odin, (Parts 1/2 edited), Otter, Otway, Parramatta, Pegasus, Pelorus, Petersfield, Phaeton, Rapidol, Sandpiper, Saxon, Sealark, Shearwater, Snipe, Southampton, Sutlej, Sydney (RAN), Teal, Torch (1), Torch (2), Una, (RAN), Warrego (RAN), Widgeon, Wonganella, Yarmouth
Light and Scout Cruisers – Birmingham, Calliope, Calcutta, Carlisle, Comus, Dartmouth, Dauntless, Dragon, Dublin, Falmouth, Fearless, Gloucester, Lowestoft, Newcastle, Phaeton, Southampton, Sydney (RAN), Yarmouth
Survey Vessel – Sealark
Minesweeper – Petersfield
Armed Merchant Cruisers – Alcantara, Almanzora, Alsatian, Ambrose, Arlanza, Artois, Avenger, Avoca, Carmania, Caronia, Celtic, City of London, Columbella, Digby, Empress of Britain, Eskimo, Kildonan Castle, Kinfauns Castle, Laconia, Laurentic, Mantua, Moldavia, Otway
Submarine decoy or Q-ship – Wonganella
Oiler – Rapidol
I was on a research ship in the Arctic Ocean for two weeks this Summer and I’m working hard to get reoriented with current activity on Old Weather.
Among the most interesting things we brought back from this cruise are recordings of “the devil’s symphony” of unearthly sounds created by the movement of the Arctic ice pack. You will undoubtedly read about these sounds in some of the logbooks. Here is a typical description from In the Lena Delta by George Melville, chief engineer of the USS Jeannette:
It was in one of these oppressive intervals succeeding a gale, when the roar and crash of distant masses could be distinctly heard, that the floe in which the Jeannette was imbedded began splitting in all directions. The placid and almost level surface of the ice suddenly heaved and swelled into great hills, buzzing and wheezing dolefully. Giant blocks pitched and rolled as though controlled by invisible hands, and vast compressing bodies shrieked a shrill and horrible song that curdled the blood. On came the frozen waves, nearer and nearer. Seams ran and rattled across them with a thundering boom, while silent and awestruck we watched their terrible progress.
The recordings in this video “Winter Sounds of Arctic Sea Ice” video were captured last winter by hydrophones deployed in the Bering Strait by Dr. Kate Stafford of the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. The undersea instrument moorings were located just north of the Diomede Islands (marked on the satellite image of the Bering Strait region below).
Looking at this example it is easy to imagine how these sounds might be produced. Just days before this image was retrieved on April 2nd, 2012, the ice pack north of Bering Strait was apparently one solid mass. In the course of a single day this long channel of moving ice formed and began marching to the southward into the Bering Sea, crashing into the Diomede Islands along the way. (You can also see how the northerly winds are opening the ice along the southern coasts, and some cool cloud streets forming over the relatively warm water of Norton Sound).
I look forward to getting back up to speed. Already our team at the U.S. National Archives is readying a new shipment of logbook images. These will be coming here to the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory for pre-processing (cropping, color balancing and other adjustments) before we transfer them to Zooniverse to get tee’d up for Old Weather.