Thursday, April 25, 2013

First Responders on the Water

The week of April 15, 2013 was one that will not soon be forgotten. The bombings at the Boston Marathon and the explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas were the two major events of the week that required extraordinary action on the part of American first responders.
Mystic Seaport. Rosenfeld Collection. Accession number 1984.187.27083
This photo showing two New York City Fire Department fireboats reminds us that firefighters and police work on the water as well. The two boats, JOHN D. MCKEAN in the foreground along with FIRE FIGHTER, are pictured with the Statue of Liberty in the background. The two boats were not only the most powerful fireboats in the NYFD fleet pumping 19,000 and 20,000 gallons per minute, but also the most famous. FIRE FIGHTER responded to more than fifty fires, including the fire that destroyed the NORMANDIE in 1942. Among other incidents, the JOHN D. MCKEAN, named after a marine engineer killed aboard the fireboat GEORGE B. MCLELLAN, was quickly on the scene in Manhattan after September 11 and rescued passengers from U.S Airways Flight 1549 in 2009, the crash that became known as the Miracle on the Hudson.
To read more about these extraordinary boats and the exceptional people involved with them, visit the Marine 1 FDNY website.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Imagine That! Whales!

Imagine! That's exactly what Conrad Gesner seems to have done in his depiction of these two whales in his 1560 epic work entitled Nomenclator Aquatilium Animantium. Gesner was a Swiss naturalist with an extremely curious mind. Although he only lived for fifty years (1516-1565), he was exceptionally productive in his studies. For example, he attempted to name every known animal (and some unknown); he wrote extensive treatises on botany; he tried to identify all existing languages; he published a catalog of all the known authors to that time, and much more. If Gesner had not died of the plague in 1565, who knows what else he might have accomplished?
A depiction of whales in Nomenclator aquatilium animantium, published in 1560.
While his book on aquatic animals does contain mythical creatures such as mermaids, he tried to describe as many animals as he could from direct observation, not just from hearsay as was the custom of the time.

In this picture of the two bizarre-looking whales, the strangest part is not the whales themselves, but the man standing at the rail with what looks like a trumpet, obviously blowing it in the direction of the beasts. Is he trying to call them or scare them or communicate with them? If your Latin and German are good enough, you can try to find out when you go to this link at to read the work in its original format. Click on the picture to get a larger version.Mystic Seaport is fortunate enough to have this extremely rare book as part of its research collection in the G.W Blunt White Library.

Blog Archive