With the Olympic laid up for major repairs Violet was transferred to the Titanic and set sail on her maiden voyage 6 months later. On the fateful night Violet recalls being ushered onto a life boat pretty early so had a rather easy time of the most famous disaster, but not so of the next one. During WWI Violet volunteered for the Red Cross and was crazily posted on the third sister ship, Brittanic, which was serving as a hospital ship. In 1916 in the Aegean the Brittanic struck a mine and went down in 30mins, unlike the Titanic’s 2 hours. Violet made it to a lifeboat again but this time the lifeboat didn’t make it clear of the Britannic’s huge propellers and was sucked in, violet was forced to leap from the life boat amongst the dismembered limbes of the propeller’s victims expecting to be killed to but instead was sucked underwater by the disappearing hull. As she was sucked under the water as the ship went down she banged her head against the keel fracturing her skull.
You would think this third disaster would be enough and she wouldn’t want to go near the water let alone another Olympic class ship. But after the war Violet returned to work on the now repaired Olympic for another five years and continued sailing until 1950 when she retired at the age of 63.
Built by the irrepressible Isambard Kingdom Brunel the Great Eastern is perhaps the greatest ship ever built and was to be the crowning achievement of his life. Twice the length and five times the weight of any previous ship and a bigger ship wouldn’t be built until 60 years later, the Lusitania in 1906.
So well built was the ship with its innovative double hull that it would have survived the Titanic iceberg. Also the first iron military ship, HMS Warrior(1860), wasn’t built for another four years. So it was civilian technology way ahead of the military technology of the most advanced navy in the world.
Able to hold 4000 passengers, dwarfing the Titanic’s capacity, the Great Eastern was designed for the East Indies run but unable to fit down the new Suez Canal, it was instead used as a transatlantic ship. However after just five years the company running it went into liquidation, failing to find enough passengers. The ship was used again in 1865 when it laid the transatlantic cable and later became floating fairground before being broken up for scrap iron in 1889.
Or Argh! Argh! We’re all gonna Die!
One aspect of World War Two history not taught at schools and the government doesn’t seem to want to talk about much even though it’s alive and kicking today is the largest bomb in history sitting at the bottom of the Thames and primed to explode.
The SS Richard Montgomery was a World War II Liberty Ship jam packed with 6,127 tons of explosive and bound for France. She was ordered to berth off Sheerness to await orders and ran aground on one of the Estuaries notorious sand banks. Three days later a Stevedore company began to unload the munitions from the stricken ship, but after three days the hull began to break apart and soon the operation had to be abandoned.
The wreck of the ship lies beside the Isle of Sheppey and about 2.5 km from Sheerness. Only about half the munitions were removed and it’s estimated 3,173 tons of explosives are still aboard the wreck.
Whether it will blow with time is a contentious issue some experts feel that deteriorating detonators could eventually explode. Most experts agree if the ship blows it will be the largest non-nuclear explosion ever. The BBC states,
“In 1970, government tests on the site showed a blast would hurl a 1,000ft wide column of water, mud, metal and munitions almost 10,000ft into the air. The explosion would also generate a 16ft high wave that could sink a small craft. “
On the other hand some experts think attempting to remove the explosives could potentially be more dangerous than leaving it.
It has been a shipping hazard since the war there have been 20 near misses involving the ship and one collision. And even worse the hull is now apparently breaking up with only a few years left.
However since the war each successive government has had the policy of ignoring the problem and this doesn’t seem like it’s going to change soon.
Pytheas was an ancient explorer from Marseilles in southern France who in 330bce wrote the oldest known record of life in northern Europe.
There was nothing unique about sailing this far north, there had been a regular tin trade route between Cornwall and Europe as far back as 1500bce and African Carthaginian ships were sailing the Baltic as Pytheas set out. Pytheas’s journey is remarkable not just for fact he recorded it but because he was a true explorer chronicling the people he met and places he visited, giving an inciteful account of pre-historic northern Europe and its people.
For over a century before Pytheas set out on his adventure the Carthaginians had closed the pillars of Hercules off to the Greeks to guard their monopoly on trading with northern Europe. Pytheus’s motive for travelling was undoubtedly on a search for the Carthaginians elusive source of tin.
It is unsure how Pytheas managed to get past this blockade. One theory is he used the Viking trick of dragging/carrying a boat overland between rivers to get past Gibraltar. Also there’s a story he travelled over land to Mauretania and either transported a boat with him or built one there. Another theory on how he travelled is he didn’t have a boat at all. Being from Marseille he could probably speak at least some Gallic and simply followed the established Tin Road. He would have sailed up river with Marseille wine traders exporting wine to the Aquitanii and made his way to the Dordoyne. From there to the west coast and then picked up a trade vessel to Brittany. From Brittany he would have travelled on one of the numerous boats making the trip to Cornwall………. So he may have been the world’s first backpacker.
When he arrived at the English Channel he reported slowly hugging the coast of France, stopping frequently for water and visiting the natives until after 5 days he reached the Kasiterides Islands (Britain). There he encountered an amazing site, a giant fish that squirted water from it’s back. He noted the climate change, and how people worked indoors not out unlike back home, lived in log clay houses. He journeyed to Scotland where he met a tribe called the Pretani (probably origin of the name Britain). The Pretani told him of wondrous sites and lands to the north where the sun never sets.
Travelling further north he encountered dense fogs and began to see ice floating in the water and before discovering a new uninhabited land, Thule (Iceland). Pytheas then set out from Iceland until within site of the mountains of Greenland, a powerful current barred his way and drove him back to the shores of Britain (possibly the Gulf Stream). Greenland being part of the North American continent technically means he beat Leif Ericson and reduces Columbus to a Bronze medal.
Pytheas returned to Greece to chronicle his discovery, but was miffed to discover no-one believed him. Greek science of the day held that the waters were frozen a lot further south than in reality, so there were no northern oceans to sail. Pytheas’s book was lost and his journey exists only in mentions by other writers who used and quoted it when writing their histories.
Pytheas’s journey to discover the legendary Tin Isles and Europe’s only major source of tin was successful and Diodorus in his history quotes Pytheas on British Tin mining.
“Those who dwell near Belerium, one of the headlands of Britain, are especially fond of strangers, and on account of their trade with the merchants they have a more civilized manner of living. They collect the tin after the earth has been skillfully forced to yield it. Although the land is stony, it has certain veins of earth from which they melt and purify the metal which has been extracted. After making this into bars they carry it to a certain island near Britain called Ictis. For although the place between is for the most part covered with water, yet in the middle there is dry ground, and over this they carry a great amount of tin in wagons. . . . Thence the merchants carry into Gaul the tin which they have bought from the inhabitants. And after a journey of thirty days on foot through Gaul, they convey their packs carried by horses to the mouths of the Rhone River.”