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Maritime Tales – Business Brothers

19 April 2011 by stepheng

Blue Funnel ship model

Image courtesy Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

I have so far never been tempted to go into business but I notice that the most successful entrepreneurs often operate as families.

I suppose this can be down to trust but we have all heard of siblings falling out – usually over money.

I have always admired the Holts for their high business principles. They were good to their workers and gave away huge amounts of money to benefit the public.

Alfred and Philip Holt created the hugely-successful Ocean Steamship Company – known throughout the world as the Blue Funnel Line. Read more…

Maritime Tales – Vital Support

11 April 2011 by stepheng

Model boat

Seaforth Conqueror – image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

 

I had several toy boats as a child ranging from wooden yachts to a plastic submarine that fired red torpedoes.

 

These paled into insignificance with the huge model sailing ship my friend treasured – it was kept in the bath. I can see it now with three masts towering above the soap dish.

 

I think they used to put it on the model yacht lake at Liverpool’s Newsham Park. I haven’t seen anyone use this pond for boats recently but there are plenty of fishermen. Read more…

Maritime Tales – Human Toll

8 April 2011 by stepheng

Map of sea routes

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

 

Until I studied this map (pictured) I was unaware of some of the great distances German U-boats travelled in search of prey.

 

I had heard stories of people taking pot shots at surfaced submarines coming up for air in Caribbean palm-fringed lagoons. This creates amazing pictures in the mind far from a conventional view of subs as oil-soaked tin cans.

 

Towards the end of the war there were U-boats capable of travelling from Germany to South America without refuelling and there are rumours top Nazis escaped this way. Read more…

Maritime Tales – Johnston’s Beef

28 March 2011 by stepheng

Ship model image

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

I used to watch a lot of cowboy films and was amused when a cowpoke would offer refreshments out on the range.

“We got coffee and beans,” was always said with the relish more associated with the announcement of a huge feast.

I suppose it was all they could carry in their saddle bags but what about beef – dried, corned or salted? They were literally up to their withers in it. Read more…

Bill Please

22 March 2011 by stepheng

Two paper bills

Image courtesy Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

I once forgot to pay my bill when covering a big news story in Derbyshire – quite unintentional, of course.

 

It was at Glossop and the pub landlady came running out calling to me and waving the chit. I put it on my expenses later. In this story all those involved were happy to stay alive, never mind any unpaid bills.

 

The wealthy American businessman was savouring his time on the luxury liner, relaxing and sampling the varied menus Read more…

Chinese Artists

14 March 2011 by stepheng

Chinese painting of sailing ship.

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

I like the way Chinese artists have depicted the West over the centuries, particularly on ceramics and canvas.

Their work shows a fine delicacy which is charming as well as inspirational. Chinese marine art perhaps lacks the sense of movement captured by European artists but I am drawn in by the incredible technical detail.

A number of Chinese artists worked in Far East ports specialising in ship portraits for Western captains.

Several fine examples from the period 1850 to 1910 are on display in Merseyside Maritime Museum’s Art & the Sea gallery. Read more…

Convoy HX 219

8 March 2011 by stepheng

Small model ships

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post and Echo

I would not like to be a pirate – apart from being illegal, the chances of meeting a violent end are too great– but I do like the swashbuckling aspects.

The sight of the Jolly Roger (the pirate skull and crossbones) being raised is pretty exciting – it is a part of pirate lore which has been adapted by submariners. 

A British commander first flew the notorious flag in modern times nearly 100 years ago. Read more…

GREEK TRAGEDY

28 February 2011 by stepheng

model ship on choppy sea

Image courtesy Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

This shipwreck happened just as I was starting my working life after leaving school and I still feel the sadness.

 

A ship sailed into new waters and sank due to a combination of terrible weather, bad luck and sheer stupidity.

 

I remember that people were particularly shocked because it involved holidaymakers enjoying the winter sun.

 

The big refrigerated truck loaded with oranges was driven on to the car ferry and parked next to the loading door. Read more…

Sea Rigs

21 February 2011 by stepheng

An oil rig for use at sea

Image Courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

As a young news reporter in the 1970s I flew by helicopter to an exploratory gas rig in Morecambe Bay on a facility trip. We were taken on a fascinating tour but what I remember most was how strange we all looked in flight suits and helmets.

This was especially true of Ron and Les Clare – twin brothers who were at that time the Liverpool correspondents of the Daily Telegraph and Daily Express respectively. Oil and gas rigs may not be the most beautiful structures on the seas but they have become familiar sights off our coasts. A 1:100 exhibition model of the Sovereign Explorer semi-submersible oil rig at Merseyside Maritime Museum bristles with amazing detail and demonstrates the supreme practicality of these craft.

In 1981 shipbuilders Cammell Laird of Birkenhead received an order from Dome Petroleum Ltd of Canada to build this drilling unit for offshore oil exploration. At that time it was the most valuable offshore contract obtained from abroad for a British yard, marking the start of a new era for Laird’s. The massive Sovereign Explorer was handed over in June 1983. Standing at 109 metres, she was specially designed to tap the vast resources of oil located beneath the sea bed in the North Sea’s British section.

Sovereign Explorer was a steel catamaran where two huge hollow barges or pontoons supported a three-deck platform on four columns. She was capable of drilling to a depth of 7,600 m and exploring underwater depths of up to 600 m in severe wind and sea conditions. Another 1: 100 exhibition model depicts the self-lifting offshore accommodation platform AV-1 of 1985, also built at Cammell Laird’s, It was built for British Gas for use in the Morecambe Bay Gas Field. This unit had four 88 m legs with a hydraulic jacking system enabling it to operate in tidal waters to a maximum depth of 47.5 m. It had a helicopter landing deck (helideck), storage areas, workshop, cinema and gymnasium. A huge crane could lift up to 150 tonnes over a radius of 50m.

A gangway provided access to adjacent gas or oil rigs. Until 1975 most of Britain’s oil had to be imported and natural gas came in liquid form on tankers from North Africa. Once natural gas and oil were discovered in the North Sea, a number of fields were developed off North East Scotland and further south. Fields were later developed in Liverpool and Morecambe Bays. Before Britain’s resources began to decline, the industry supported more than 300,000 jobs including 4,000 seafarers on various kinds of offshore and support vessels.

A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo. A paperback – Mersey Maritime Tales (£3.99) – is available from the museum, newsagents and bookshops.

Aces low

14 February 2011 by stepheng

Man in uniform on ship's gangplank

Image courtesy Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

A submarine is the last vessel I would choose to go to sea in – the idea of being unable to escape in an emergency would be terrifying.

Submarine crews have played a vital role in warfare for nearly a century. Their successes in the First World War sounded the death knell for the battleship era.

The submarines of the past were minnows compared to those of today. I have attended a number of naming ceremonies at Barrow-in-Furness and been astonished by the enormous size of modern subs. Read more…