Sea History 090 - Autumn 1999

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AMERICAN MERCHANT MARINE MUSEUM N EWS May 10, 1999 marked rhe 66rh an nive rsary of rhe maiden departure of rhe U n ired Scares Lines' SS Washington fro m New Yo rk. As was usual wirh maiden departures, rh e imm aculare lin er was dressed in flags, rhere were speeches, well wishers jammed rhe pier, and passe ngers on deck said rheir good-byes . However, rhe Washingto n's departure fro m New Yo rk was rruly unique. In an attempr ro maximize publicity fo r rhe 705-foor-long shi p's enrry in ro passenger service, US Lines devised an elaborare laun ch of carrier pigeons from rhe rennis co urr on rhe liner's sun deck jusr befo re she was ro leave her pier ar noo n. There were a roral of 48 pigeons, one per scare, each given rhe nickname of rhe scare rh ey rep resented. N ew Yo rk's bird was n amed Empire. T he pigeons we re loaned fro m rhe Army Signal Corps pigeon lofo in Fon Monmourh, New Jersey. Each pigeon carried a message ro rhe governo r of rhe scare fo r which ir was named, ass uring him char rhe "scare flag flies pro udly over rhe SS Washington, largesr liner ever builr in America, sailing from New Yo rk roday on her maiden voyage, fo r Europe." The birds were rrained ro fly fro m rhe deck of rhe Washington back ro rheir home ar Fort M onm ourh, New Jersey. O nce rhe pigeons we re recove red , rheir messages would be rransmitted ro rhe governor of each scare. In addirion, rhe ro p pigeon-racing houses in rhe country loaned eighr special racing pigeo ns ro fly ro Washingron D C and rhe W hire H ouse wirh a message for President Roosevelr from rhe Washington's cap rain , Gerald Fried . In charge of releasing rhe pigeo ns fro m rhe deck were 48 fe male srudents of Barnard College in New Yo rk C iry representing each of rhe 48 sca res. No rhing was overlooked in rhe prepararion of chis event. In co rrespo ndence after correspondence from U ni red States Lines ro officials at the Fort Monmouth pigeon loft base, every fac ror was considered . This included how long it would take fo r rhe 48 pigeons ro reach h ome from the ship , how long the eight racing birds wo uld take ro reach the nation's capirol and the location on the ship from which the pigeons should be launched. T h e Line even paid close attention ro the shoe boxes within which the pigeo ns wo uld be contained on board ship just before the launch-should they be ladies' shoes or men 's shoes! Som e 5000 people crammed the pier ro see the SS Washington off char morning. Alfred E. Smirh, former governor of New Yo rk, gave the signal on the sun deck, and by just before noon the birds were off. T he 48 pigeons reach ed rheir home base by 1:4 5 that afternoo n, and all the messages were successfully transmitted . By the fo llowing morning, the President had received his message fro m Capt. Fried as well. T he Am erican Merchant M arine Museum houses an extensive collection of anifac ts from the SS Washington. The pride of the exhibit is a 19-foot-long builder's model of the ship, as well as one of the ship 's wheels fr om the bridge. Additionally, the museum holds archival reco rds from U nited Stares Lines covering all face rs of rhe SS Washington's career, including rhe pigeon launch on May 10, 1933. D AN TRAC HTE BERG

AMMM, United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point NY 11024; 5161773-5515 pens ar 2 12° Fahrenheit. " H e is wo rking ro build a new steamboat on rhe Ohio River. To be named the Ohio Valley, rhe vessel will be 120 feer long and 28 feer in beam , powered by a sec of 1920 sreamboa r long stroke river engines char he has locared . (Ser. O hio Valley, Roure9, Box59, Marima OH45740;740 896-2344) .. . CINEMAR: rhe International Festival of Sea Images in Barcelona, Spain, in May of2000, will include films foc using on man 's rela rio nship w ith rhe sea. T he di recro r is looking for documentaries in four caregories of comperirion: 1) sailboars, grear sailors and wo rldwide races; 2) diving, fis hing and


marine life; 3) sea adve nru res and grear expedi rions; and 4) radical warer spores . An addirional non-com peririve carego ry will fearure hisrorical audiovisual presenrari ons where rhe sea has been a "leirmoriv." (Yves Charner, C inemar, D iago nal 465 , Pral 2a A, 0 80 36 Barcelo n a, Spa in ; e- mail : cinemar@logiccontrol. es) . . . T he National Maritime Museum in Lo ndon, has produced irs firsr Picture Library CDROM which feamres 7 50 of irs mosr popular and evocari ve images, incl uding a selecrion of original fil m cl ips. (NMM , Greenwich, London SE lO 9NF, England; 44 (1 8 1) 3 12 663 1) ,t

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