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The Ocean Almanac— Being a Copious Compendium on Sea Creatures, Nautical Lore & Legend, Master Mariners, Naval Disasters and Myriad Mysteries of the Deep. By Robert Hendrickson Review by Steve Morrell

The best book I ever saw that had the most nautical miscellanea is The Ocean Almanac. I’ve had a copy for about 30 years. Back in the day when people browsed brick-and-mortar book stores, I found it and read passage after passage while standing up in the book store aisle. I bought the book. First published in 1984, it has 400-plus pages with 15 chapters, all in small print, making it a true collection of so much about the ocean world, that it is amazing anyone took this much time to collect it all. The chapters cover almost everything: Sea Creatures; Superstitions; Charting the Seven Seas, Sea Monsters (Real and Unreal); Great Voyages and Discoveries; Great Ships; War; Pirates; Survival; Shipwrecks—to name a few. Although you can easily buy used copies of it online, the book is no longer in print, so instead of reviewing it in a traditional review I thought I would print some excerpts of some nautical stuff. These are the short ones. Some of the topics, like “The Most Terrible Tsunami,” cover three pages listing over 50 known tsunamis through history starting in Thera in 1470 B.C. Some have detailed descriptions; others are just listed with rough counts of how many perished. The shortest ones, though there are few, are one sentence, many a

paragraph long, or several paragraphs. There are only a few black and white photos in the book and no glossy pages. But there are a few dozen images of ships and sea creatures and other miscellanea—all drawings in black and white. And rightly so. They just seem to fit the subject matter, adding a bit of mystique. You’d think the title and subtitle would give you an idea of the book’s contents, but that leaves out other facts and figures found in this book. One chapter might have 50 topics of varying length. All the topics in the book include facts, history, lore, some myth, some science. Below are some short excerpts, but most of the book’s topics cover a quarter page, full page or several pages. There’s no room for the longer pieces here. Note that under a section title, because of space constraints in my effort to show the variety of subjects, I have not always been able to put all the items that were under that heading in the text below. [All the text below—unless noted otherwise—are direct quotes from The Ocean Almanac.]

A Treasury of Tides and Currents [a few listed here] • The greatest tides occur in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, where there is an extreme range of 57 feet between high and low tides. • The strongest current is in British Columbia’s Nokwakto Rapids, which travels at up to 18.4 mph. • The world’s greatest current is the West Wind Drift Current, also called the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which flows at one point at the rate of 9.5 billion cubic feet per second and ranges from 185 to 1240 miles. • Aristotle is said to have drowned himself because he could not explain the current in a channel of water off the island of Euboea in the Aegean. Scientists are still mystified by the current and can’t explain why it reverses its direction some 14 times a day.

lanterns that ships often mistook for the lights of other ships. They were dubbed mooncussers because they cursed the moon and the light that it brought, which robbed them of their livelihood.

Last of the Oldtime Pirates The last pirate known to be hanged in the United States was Capt. Nathaniel Gordon, captured smuggling slaves into the country during the Civil War. Of the 967 slaves aboard his ship, nearly one third had died in the terrible passage from Africa. Gordon, charged with piracy and convicted, was hanged in the Tombs, New York City, on March 8, 1962.

The Sea Within Us A 155-pound man carries about 16.5 quarts of salt water in his body. Some three quarts of this is plasma, the watery part of the blood, flowing through the veins and arteries. The rest mostly serves as interstitial fluid in the spaces between the cells.

Mooncussers “Mooncussers” was the name given to men, often pirates or stranded mutineers, who lured merchant sailing ships to destruction ashore so that they could collect their cargo as salvage. These jackals, standing on shore would operate on black nights when nothing could be seen, waving 32

July 2017


To Shanghai To shanghai is a shortening of the expression to “ship a man to Shanghai.” American sailors first used the words to describe how press gangs got them drunk, drugged them or blackjacked, and forced them into service aboard a ship in need of crew. At the time, Shanghai, a long way from home, was a leading Chinese shipping port, and many a Shanghaied sailor did wind up there. The term became so common in the 19th century that it was applied to anyone seized and forced to work unwillingly

Of Salt and Sailors Seawater is a deadly drink for shipwrecked sailors— not because it is poison, but because it accelerates the body’s dehydration rate. Three times saltier than urine, it requires the body to produce three cups of urine for every cup of seawater drunk in order to flush the salt from one’s system—dehydration resulting three times as quickly

Southwinds July 2017  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...

Southwinds July 2017  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...