Wednesday, February 20

The Seal Serpent

A book review by Tony Gerard

The Seal Serpent 
by Rob Cormes and Gary Cunningham

It has long been a favorite contention of those who believe sea serpent stories describe real, although unknown , types of animals that stories describing a long necked, plesiosaurus looking creature could actually be describing a mammal. Bernard Heuvelmans, one of the founding fathers of cryptology, actually differentiated three different types of long necked, mammalian “sea serpents” in his classic work on the subject “In the Wake of Sea Serpents”.

Cormes and Cunningham, in “The Seal Serpent”, investigate and speculate on the possibility of at least some sea serpents being an unknown type of long necked seal. While there have actually been descriptions by scientists in past centuries of long necked seals, any such creatures remain scientifically unknown today.

This is a very through investigation, and consequently not light reading.  The authors look at the “bunyip“of Australia, more or less concluding that most reports describe out of place or unknown seal types.  They relentlessly examine accounts of out of place seals and sea lions. They examine the folklore of various sea serpents and lake monsters. They examine scores of long necked sea serpent and lake monster reports looking for similar traits, behaviors and appearances. One thing I was struck by was that, although reports of the long-necked type sea serpents are common, the similarities pretty much end with a head on a long neck. Some have large eyes, others have small eyes or no visible eyes, some have a mane running down the neck, others don’t, some have ears or horns, others don’t. Heads are variously described as horse like, camel like, dog like, sheep like, cat like and yes, even seal like.

In the end the authors do something unheard of in the annals of cryptozoology literature. They relate that their thorough search through reports of long necked sea serpents has actually moved them further from a belief in a long-necked seal rather than closer. I’ve got to respect that kind of investigator.

If you have a real interest in sea serpents in particular, unknown animals or cryptozoology, then I recommend this book. If your interest in sea serpents is more general, then there are less specialized books on the subject that would probably suit you better.

Tuesday, February 19

Popham's Signal Flags

Popham as a young Lt.
The Admiral Popham Telegraph Signal book of 1806 is the book used on board Royal Navy ships, including the Acasta. Lord Nelson's final signal at Trafalgar was giv'n using the same system.

In way of explanation as to how to read the Popham Signals:

I. Preparatory flag consisting of a red-and-white diagonal flag which is flown at the start of a signal to show that it was a telegraphic signal.

II. The message finished flag consisted of blue and yellow diagonal.

III. If the message was understood the affirmative signal or a repeat of the signal that was sent.

IV. If the message was not understood then the affirmative signal with a white flag was flown.

V. If the message was to be answered a further flag was flown.

VI. If a number was to be sent then a numeral pennant was flown.

You may find a copy of Popham's Telegraph Signal book HERE. Have a look through it, it is a fairly simple system. You will need this as a reference from time-to-time when the Acasta hoists her signal flags.

Here is the previous signal hoisted, just before the Trafalgar Dinner, for practice:
Click on image to see a larger version.

 This message was hoisted after the capture of the Two Brothers to the Prize Crew from the Acasta

Monday, February 18

Procedures for Taking Prizes

Today's post researched and written by Acasta crewmember N. Weremeichik

When an enemy ship is taken for a prize, here are the procedures that follow such an event in the 1790 Regulations for use at Sea:
When an enemy ship is taken, the ship is to be locked up to protect from embezzlement until it is assessed and sentenced by the Admiralty Court, which is impowered to take Cognizance of Causes [a] of that nature.
The Captain is to have the officers of the prize vessel examined, including three or more of the crew, and bring them to the Admiralty Court. All necessary papers, Charter-Parties and Lading Bills found are to be presented also.
If any Englishmen are to be found among the prisoners, their names are to be written down along with a recount of the circumstances of their capture. Their word can also be used against them.
The aforementioned prisoners (who are found to be Englishmen) are to be examined before the Magistrate with his own witnesses. Copies of the Declaration they make are sent to the Secretary of the Admiralty.
When a Privateer is taken, all the ship’s papers (especially the Commission) is to be secured. If no legal Commission is found, then the Prisoners are to be brought before a Magistrate for examination, and committed as Pirates.

[a] Cognizance: n. (1) Judicial notice or knowledge; the hearing, trying and determining of a cause or action in court. (2) Jurisdiction, or right to try and determine causes.

“American Dictionary of the English Language.” Websters Dictionary 1828,

“Regulations and Instructions Relating to His Majesty's Service at Sea: Established by His Majesty in Council.” Regulations and Instructions Relating to His Majesty's Service at Sea: Established by His Majesty in Council, 13th ed., Printed in the Year, 1790.

Friday, February 15

Charles Robert Malden

Acasta Volunteer under Capt. Beaver, c. 1809, aged approx 12 years.

Charles Robert Malden was born, 9 Aug. 1797, at Putney, co. Surrey. His father, a medical man and general practitioner of repute, resided at Maiden, in Essex, a place from which his family, who had been seated there for many generations, derives its name.

This officer entered the Navy, 22 June, 1809, as a Supernumerary, on board the Diligence Navy transport, Master-Commander Alex. Black, in order to await an opportunity of joining the Acasta 40, Capt. Philip Beaver, from which latter vessel he eventually, in Oct. of the same year, removed to the Scipion 74, bearing the flag in the Bay of Biscay of Rear-Admiral Hon. Robt. Stopford. Being again, in June, 1810, placed under the orders of Capt. Beaver in the Nisus 38, and awarded the rating of Midshipman, he sailed for the Cape of Good Hope and the East Indies, and assisted, while on those stations, at the reduction of the Mauritius and the island of Java. Soon after the commencement of the war with the United States, he was sent home in a captured American Indiaman.


Wednesday, February 13

Of Charles Winchester

I was passing an alley one night on Bermuda when out from it came multiple cries for Charles Winchester. As I could tell they was all drunk as Lords I paid no mind but went on into the tavern myself.  As it turned out Charles was in that very tavern. I told him of the hullabaloo, and he was curious, so back we went. 

So it had become custom among some of our fellows when given shore leave to make a pact before time that one would agree to stay sober enough to carry or pilot the other back to their berth once they was full to the gills. That work usually required one man to tend one other. Some of them hit upon the idea to rent a horse and then several fellows could be heaved on him at oncet with only one to steer. 

As it happened, they had turned down a blind alley with no way out. 

“The damn thing keeps missing her stays and we’s grounded on this lee shore” explains the almost sober one who was to pilot.

Winchester got the horse turned around for them and set them off again, but after that it become their custom to pay for Winchester’s drinks if he would agree to be the horse pilot.  It seems he had been in the business of trading horses before he run off to sea.  Charles could not just lead a horse , but ride and all, which was a rare skill in a tar.

-James Cullen,
Remembrances of Eight years before the Mast,

Tuesday, February 12

January 1813 Capture

His Majesty's Ship Poictiers, at Sea, 
January 9, 1813. 


I BEG leave to acquaint you, that His Majesty's ship under my command, in company with the Acasta, captured this day the American schooner privateer Highflyer, mounting five guns, and having on board a complement of seventy-two men : she was on her return from the West Indies, where she had made several captures, is a particularly fine vessel, coppered and copper fastened, and sails remarkably fast.

I have the honour to be, &c.
(Signed) J.P. BERESFORD, Captain
Admiral Sir J. B. Warren, Bart and K.B.
&c. &c. &c.

Taken from: "Bulletins of the campaign [compiled from the London gazette]." page 129 

U.S. Privateer- High Flyer
Class- Schooner
Commanded by- Capt. Jeremiah Grant
Out of- Baltimore
Ships- 2
Brigs- 4
Schrs- 1
Sloops &c.- 1
Cargo, and estimated value- Nails, R, S, &c.

During the War with Great Britain, from 1812 to 1815.
3 armed, and one a packet, See Table of Actions. Was captured by the Poictiers, 74, February, 1813.

George Foster Emmons, The navy of the United States, from the commencement, 1775 to 1853; with a brief history of each vessel’s service and fate ... Comp. by Lieut. George F. Emmons ... under the authority of the Navy Dept. To which is added a list of private armed vessels, fitted out under the American flag ... also a list of the revenue and coast survey vessels, and principal ocean steamers, belonging to citizens of the United States in 1850. ( Washington: Gideon & Co., 1853.) pages 180, 181