Monday, March 29, 2010

Shooting for TUGS

In my near 3 years of working at MYSTIC SEAPORT I have been granted many a great opportunity. Some of the most exciting include meeting world class sailor Gary Jobson, installing equipment for the amazing Object theater in last year's FROZEN IN exhibit, and of course access to our countless tapes of priceless maritime footage within our secure vault. However, I can honestly say, shooting for the new TUGS exhibit coming in May has given me some of the coolest experiences in my life.

Fall of Last year brought myself and my co-worker Dan Harvison to the harbors of New York City to shoot the annual Tug Games that take place there. He on a historic tug boat, myself on a chase boat, we were both well equipped with some spiffy High Definition cameras!! My were they ever a joy to work with. These cameras not only were lighter and easier to maneuver than anything we've ever worked with previously, but the picture is absolutely indescribable!

Sitting on chase boat I watched and filmed in awe as a river full of Tug boats of all sizes and models raced and frolicked around me. The collective wake of the opening race was massive, nearly toppling me over on the deck. Once the race was over, the fun continued all at once. Some boats move into the dock for a line tossing contest, attempting to lasso the dock brace with a rope the thickness of my arm...some even bigger! Meanwhile, out further into the water, some boats had nose-to-nose contests. Each tug pushing against each other in a sort of "Tug" of war, only in reverse. Surprisingly, even the smaller tugs seemed to hold their own against the massive barge tugs in these contests of brute force.

A few months later, we again found ourselves filming for TUGS with our friends the High Definition cameras. This time, we were aboard a brand spanking new ATB Tug boat. This tug was absolutely massive, it's cockpit rising nearly 80 feet off the water. We were the guests of honor as the captain and crew gave us a full tour and cruised out into open water for a brief, but extremely memorable sea trial. I can't seem to put into words how it feels to be on a ship this massive that can spin nearly in place!

Touring the engine room was like visiting the tug straight off the assembly line. Everything was spotless and shone from the lights above. In some areas, crewmen and engineers worked with various tools making final adjustments before the Tug could be handed off to it's owner.

By far the most amazing thing out of all of these was walking on top of a steel barge while still under construction. We had to be at least the same height as the tug cockpit, the unfinished behemoth being held up only by a few supports allowing work to continue underneath. All around us welders were applying their trade, blinding sparks fixing new plates into place. At one point we were told to be careful where we pointed the camera, for right next door to the manufacturing facility was non other than GENERAL DYNAMICS.

Sadly, TUGS is in post production, and all adventures have long been had and passed. Fortunately a new adventure still awaits us...watching the finished programs in sparkling High Definition!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Charles G. Davis Model: The LEXINGTON

In issue two of NAUTICAL QUARTERLY back in 1978, Weston Farmer said of Charles G. Davis' models that were found in "important maritime" museums, "These were the masterpieces of a God-given talent that was literally stunning." Davis was, in turn, a sailor, a naval architect, an engineer, an artist, a writer and more. No wonder Farmer described him as a "Leonardo of the boat-design game." In addition to editing MOTOR BOAT magazine for a number of years, Davis also wrote numerous books on yacht design, sailing and more. One of his books, "The Built-Up Ship Model", written in 1933, was a classic book for modelers, teaching them how to build a model as if building an actual ship. Just recently, through a generous gift, the museum became the proud owner of the brig LEXINGTON, the model used as basis for the book. The LEXINGTON was one of the first private vessels taken into the fledgling U.S. Navy and had her name changed to honor the town where the first battle of the Revolution took place.

The picture shows some of the extraordinary detail of the model, including the workmanship on the ship's boat. The model will spend a couple months in our CO2 chamber to guarantee that no living thing is harming the model in any way before it makes its way back into its case for potential display in the near future.

Mystic Seaport is proud to add the LEXINGTON to its wealth of C.G. Davis material, including other models in the collection, but also a sizable gathering of his plans and manuscript material, including many of the drawings that accompanied his writings.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fishing in the Footsteps of Dr. Charles K. Stillman: A Look into One of Our Founder's Favorite Hobbies

Mystic Seaport will examine the rarely seen Charles K. Stillman Collection in “Fishing in the Footsteps of Dr. Charles K. Stillman: A Look into One of Our Founder's Favorite Hobbies,” the second installment of the “Maritime Surprises from the ...Museum’s Collections” series held Friday, March 12, from 5:30 - 7 p.m.

The four-part series, hosted at the Museum’s Collections Research Center, allows attendees to view significant items that relate to our nation’s maritime heritage. As one of the founders of both Mystic Seaport and the Atlantic Tuna Club, Stillman was an avid freshwater and saltwater fisherman who kept detailed records of his extensive New England fishing experiences. Museum Registrar Krystal Kornegay will discuss almost 30 years of fishing journals that Stillman kept from 1900 to 1931. Stillman’s original fishing gear and watercolor illustrations from his journals will be shown.Kornegay will further discuss her personal experiences in using Stillman’s journal entries and maps to find some of the locales in which he fished, sharing the distinct changes she has recorded along the way.

Sodas and light snacks will be available.
The series continues March 12 and April 9. For more information on “Maritime Surprises,” visit

Tickets are $12 per program (members: $10) and can be purchased online at or by calling 860.572.5322. Tickets must be purchased in advance as seating is limited. Free parking is available adjacent to the Collections Research Center in the Museum’s north parking lot.

Founded in 1929, Mystic Seaport is the nation’s leading maritime museum and features tall ships, a re-created 19th-century village, exhibits and a planetarium. The Museum is located one mile south of exit 90 off I-95 in Mystic, CT, and is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit or call 888.973.2767.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Awards for Professor Hattendorf

The year 2009 was a busy one, award-wise, for the former head of the Munson Institute at Mystic Seaport, Professor John Hattendorf. The Naval War College, home for Dr. Hattendorf, stated that the Samuel Eliot Morrison award (named after the eminent Harvard Professor) was given for John's public service in scholarship, patriotism and interest in maritime topics. The equally prestigious Alfred Thayer Mahan Award was given for literary achievements that advance the understanding of naval warfare, strategy and policy. In addition to his teaching duties, Dr. Hattendorf has written, edited or contributed to more than forty books. His recent Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History is a major editing achievement in the field. And if all that weren't enough, John also received the Department of the Navy Superior Civilian Service Award in 2009. The good professor deserves an extra ration of grog for his outstanding capabilities.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Life of a Podcast: The Final Touches

Once we have all the custom footage we need it's time to compile all the clips we need, and if needed pull stock footage from one of our countless tapes in our climate controlled film/video vault.

It may surprise you to learn that we don't work in DVDs but rather Beta tapes. In fact, only recently has the industry started to change their accepted archival medium from Beta to that of the digital file and hard drive storage. These tapes are of high quality, and durable to boot, making them perfect for archival.

Booting up the Media 100 software on our computer, we must now digitize all of our desired footage. This process is the most time consuming portion of the editing process, the digitization process working in real-time as opposed to the instant drag and drop process of a digital file. To cut back on time, we usually only digitze the full tape for our custom shots, and digitizing pre-selected clips from stock tapes.

The Media 100 software now allows us to use the clips we have digitized and manipulate them in any way we wish. We can create further clips from them, drop them into the timeline as-is, or remove the audio, or even video from the selected clip to suit the needs of the video. A second program, Adobe After Effects is often used for various motion effects for still shots and moving fonts.

Once the program is complete we can export the file as an .MOV format to our "Podcasts" folder. Now it's time for the second most time-comsuming process, encoding for the internet. Since the Media 100 and our Cleaner XL encoding software work on the same codec, Media 100 must be close, but we're done editing anyways so it's ok. While .MOV files are fine on their own, we find that MP4 files are much better suited for YouTube posting. For our actual Podcast Feed, the file must be further encoded to an .m4v file before being uploaded to our ftp server online.

The finished product is now able to be uploaded and promoted across the internet for all our visitors to see. But our work is never done, no time to rest, time to work on our next podcast!

Monday, March 1, 2010

American Library Association Selects Connecticut History Online as the National Digital Library of the Week

Connecticut History Online is a digital collection of over 15,000 digital primary sources, together with associated interpretive and educational material. The four current CHO partners (the Connecticut Historical Society, Connecticut State Library, Mystic Seaport, and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center) represent three major communities that preserve and make accessible historical collections within the state of Connecticut. Their combined assets include book and periodical volumes, manuscript materials, photographs and graphics, oral histories, maps, artifacts, and broadsides.

Now in its 10th year, CHO is embarking on a collaboration with the Encyclopedia of Connecticut History Online to serve the needs of scholars,teachers and students, genealogists, and the general public. This new initiative builds upon a very successful collaboration of libraries and museums carried out in two IMLS National Leadership grant-funded phases (19992007) that focused on digital capture of historical artifacts, including photographs, maps, broadsides, oral histories, manuscripts, and oral histories. These document events, people, and places that are part of the fabric of Connecticut and American social, business, political, educational, cultural, and civic life.

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