Sea History 177 - Winter 2021-2022

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LETTERS photo c/o raymond a. biswanger jr. phd

USS Hartford after it was refloated, 1957. From Todd Jones: The fate of the Hartford’s remains, like the rest of the story, is sad and unfortunate. The sunken hull remained in place for nearly nine months. Following the sinking on 20 November 1956, some people still held out hope that the ship could be salvaged. A thirteen-year-old Norfolk boy even offered to start a restoration fund with his friends. The Navy had divers inspect the hull but ultimately decided the ship could not be saved. They sought out bids from private companies to dispose of her. The Navy preferred to see the hull sealed, raised, and towed somewhere else

in the area to be dismantled. They also considered sending her out to sea to be sunk, if needed. Dismantling in-place was seen as a last resort. The Navy made an inventory of what was left in the ship and saved whatever it could to be sent out to museums across the country. In July 1957, a private salvage company started to seal and pump out the hull to be raised. On 15 August 1957, during a rainstorm, the raised hull was towed a short distance to a private pier. In a final humiliation, one of the salvage workers flew a Confederate flag from Hartford’s stern. For the next two and a half months the salvagers removed any remaining metal from the ship. On 5 November 1957, they set the wooden hull ablaze rather than dismantle it piece-by-piece. It took nearly a month to burn. Feline Crewmembers As the person who wrote the endorsement, “A Purrfectly Good Tail,” for the cover of Philippa Sandall’s Seafurrers, I commend Sea History for publishing her short overview of the role felines have played at sea over the centuries. Like Midshipman Matthew Flinders, who was devastated to lose his cat, Trim, during the wrecking of HMS Porpoise off Australia in 1803, Petty Officer Matthew “Slim” Ellinger lamented the disappearance of “Minnie the Moocher” of the carrier USS Langley while the ship

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underwent overhaul at Mare Island, California, in March 1934. But Ellinger had a hunch about the cat’s whereabouts. While at Mare Island, the hospital ship Relief was nested outboard of Langley, forcing her crew to have to cross the carrier’s welldeck to get ashore. Ellinger suspected one of Relief ’s nurses swiped the beloved mascot just prior to Relief ’s departure. Later that Summer, Langley arrived at the Norfolk Navy Yard for some additional maintenance work. Berthed across from Langley was the Relief, which had beaten the carrier to the East Coast. Ellinger, following up on his suspicion that Relief was responsible for Minnie having gone AWOL, proceeded to cross the pier, only to find the missing feline coming across the brow. Minnie the Moocher then immediately returned to her former quarters in the carrier’s galley. Sadly, the fate of Trim will never be known. David Winkler, PhD Alexandria, VA

barque picton castle

Fate of USS Hartford’s Hull Great article by Todd Jones about this ship in the last issue of Sea History (#176), but I was wondering what happened to the sunken hulk. I am sure it was not left at the pier. Any data on this? James Young Tavares, Florida

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Chibley, of the barque Picton Castle The tradition of taking on feline crewmembers continues! Chibley was the cherished ship’s cat aboard the barque Picton Castle, a sail training tall ship best known for blue water voyages to exotic tropical destinations. She had been rescued from an animal shelter and circumnavigated the world five times, as well as sailing on many voyages on the east coast of North America, to the Caribbean and the Great Lakes. Adding up all her voyages, Chibley sailed more than 180,000 nautical miles at sea. Picton Castle’s role as a training ship resulted in Chibley being introduced to numerous visitors and becoming a celebrity in her own right. I remember watching a TV news camera crew follow her down Navy Pier in Chicago, filming as she explored ashore when her ship was docked SEA HISTORY 177, WINTER 2021–22

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