Wednesday, October 31

Royal Navy Signal Flags 1806

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

Tuesday, October 30

Shipwreck of HMS Bounty

The Bounty in its current position at Sea.
I can't help but think about this tragedy in terms of what it might have been like had it occurred in the early 19th Century and the era surrounding the War of 1812. 

No radios or GPS tracking, no Coast Guard scrambled and ready to the rescue. Just a crew that knew their ship was in dire trouble and working as hard as they could to keep her afloat in a terrifyingly difficult sea. They knew it was that, or brave the tiny, open longboats over miles of rough, freezing, stormy water. 

A shipwreck of this magnitude wouldn't be all over the news outlets in a matter of hours as it was yesterday, instead, it would have just been overdue at its next port of call, likely never heard from again. Family and friends would be left to wonder about the true fate of the ship and their loved ones. 

And so, today, while I think on how tragic this entire story is for everyone involved, from ship owners, to Captain, to crew and their family and friends... I'll also be thinking about the haunting image above, and the tragedy that might have been had this happened 200 years ago. 

Monday, October 29

Coast Guard footage of Bounty Crew Rescue

Bounty Captain R. Walbridge
The Coast Guard rescued 14 people from life rafts in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C., Monday, Oct. 29, and two people remain missing. The first MH-60 Jayhawk crew arrived on scene at approximately 6:30 a.m. and hoisted five people into the aircraft, and a second helicopter arrived and rescued nine people and all were taken to Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., with no life-threatening conditions. U.S. Coast Guard video by Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C.

Vice Admiral Robert Parker of the United State Coast Guard confirmed in an interview with ABC News that 14 of the 16 crew members had been rescued, and that the Bounty HAD indeed sunk. 

Bounty Captain Robin Walbridge is said to be one of the missing. 

HMS Bounty Crew Abandons Ship at Sea

An image from the deck of the Bounty trying to get through the storm.
2:55 AM EDT: Coast Guard spokesman David Weydert tells ABC News, “The Coast Guard received notification that the sailing vessel HMS Bounty was in distress. We responded by sending out a C-130 aircraft and we’re currently monitoring the situation.”

And this from the Bounty's Facebook page: 
"The crew is safe and accounted for. They have abandoned ship. They are in their sea survival suits and in a life boat. A Coast Guard cutter is racing to pick them up. The coast guard plane has heat sensing ability and has scanned the Bounty for any people on it...There is no one one on the ship. Again...ALL the crew is safe and in a lifeboat."

Also from their Facebook page:
"We received a distress call for Bounty at 1830 Sunday evening that the Ship lost power and the pumps were unable to keep up with the dewatering. At that time we immediately contacted the USCG for assistance.

A C130 was sent to there position approximately 90 miles SE of Cape Hatteras. At 0430 today the Captain ordered all hands to abandon ship. There are 17 Crew on board and at this moment all crew are accounted for and are in Life rafts.

The first USCG helicopter has reached the ship and is in the process of rescuing them. Bounty is currently still floating upright and intact. We will keep everyone informed as info becomes available"

For the most recent news story from CBC news Nova Scotia, click HERE.

And find the latest update from the Coast Guard HERE.

God Speed to the Bounty and her crew, may they all return home safe and sound!

Thursday, October 25

From the Surgeon's Personal Log 23

Our blockade seems to never end.

While we did have a lovely dinner in honour of Lord Nelson's victory at Trafalgar, our mission of late has generally made even the most jolly among us testy and cross. Lt. Ramsey has been so busy that I have scarcely seen him in the Wardroom and it has been weeks since we were able to visit and work on our various projects as we were once wont to do.
I have read all my books and find I long for something new to read. My last batch of post from home brought only bills and disagreeable correspondence, and I have answered them all. My tidy little pile of mail awaits delivery on the next ship bound for Halifax.
The only advantage I can see to this prolong'd assignment is that I am able to catch up on the cases of venereal disease amongst the men. The less often they are given their liberty ashore, the better in regards to my supply of physick and their own well-being.

It would seem that one of the lookouts has spotted a sail on the horizon. Perhaps I will go up and have a look.

Wednesday, October 24

"We're all Teachers"

See a little behind the scenes footage from the Mississinewa 1812 event in Marion, Indiana. In the above video, new Acasta gun captain Walt Dubbeld sums up nicely the reason we do what we do.

Below, find a link to the newly redesigned website and pictures from said event, and be certain to be on the lookout for Acasta Midshipman Raley... it would appear he got himself into a little trouble whilst on special assignment ashore!

Tuesday, October 23

A Letter to the Admiralty

Copy of a Letter from Captain R. Freymann, commanding HMS Acasta, concerning the outcome of a recent mission to New Boston, addressed to the Admiralty.

H.M. Ship Acasta at Sea,
North American Station.

I have the honor to report to you for the Information of Their Lordships that this day that a Landing Party from His Majesty's Ship Acasta was able to retrieve, and destroy, a Package from the Secretary of State's Office, which had been smuggled into North America by enemies of the Crown. On the third of September, owing to a shortage of potable Water and being reluctant to return to Halifax to replenish our Stock, the Decision was made to send a small Landing Party ashore to procure Water from a suitable Stream located near the Village of New Boston. Local Fishermen, many of whom are opposed to the Conflict and openly trade with us, were able to provide Intelligence regarding the arrival in New Boston, of an Individual claiming to have secreted on Her Person, a Package surreptitiously obtained from His Majesty's Government and passed to Her by an unknown Accomplice. 

It was therefore resolved that the Acastas would attempt to recover the purloined Documents whilst ashore in so much as it would not lead to an untenable Situation in which we could not easily extricate ourselves. We were greatly aided in both of our Efforts through the Assistance of Irishman who, despite having lived amongst the Americans for some period, retained his Allegiance to His Majesty not only guided our Landing Party to the Water Source but also provided invaluable Service by closely observing the Movements of the suspected Individual. The task of supervising the filling of our Water Cask fell to Midshipman Raley, who acquitted his responsibilities with Efficiency and Alacrity. Lts. Hamilton and Ramsay, Dr. Roberts, my Clerk Mr. Cushing, and I were guided to the Village of New Boston by our Irish Compatriot. We were much surprised to find the Inhabitants, for the most part, totally unconcerned over our Presence, notably due to the unpopularity of "Mr. Madison's War" as they referred to the current state of Conflict and the willingness of local Merchants to accept His Majesty's Currency in Payment for Items purchased. 

Despite several false Leads, the Documents were found secreted upon the Person of a female, neatly hidden in her Turban, who despite Protestations to not "having the slightest inkling" of how the Items came to be in her Headdress, surrendered a Package containing a blank Passport and sum of Money in both His Majesty's Currency and that of the United States. I took it upon myself to personally destroy the blank Passport, should it be retaken. The Funds, for which no clear Ownership could be established, have been sent to Your Office, where it is hoped, Sir, that the Funds will be treated as Prize Money and distributed accordingly. 

Your Obt. Servant, 

Robert Freymann, Captain 
His Majesty's Ship Acasta

Monday, October 22

Trafalgar Day Dinner at Rock Castle

Our table setting in the dining room of the 1784 home, Rock Castle.

Lt. Hamilton's place setting.

(l to r) Miss E. Waterman, Miss H. Carter and Mr. A. Kaufman.
Mr. Raley and Lt. Ramsey look as though perhaps Lt. Hamilton has said something questionable.
Mrs. Gaines sets an uncommonly fine table.

"To the Immortal Memory"

The Acastas gathered under the signal flags, can you decode them?
The entire party assembled outside the house.

The Trafalgar dinner was a great success and Mrs. Gaines and all those that helped with the meal are GREATLY appreciated! The Acastas would also like to extend their thanks to Historic Rock Castle for allowing us to hold our gathering there.

We dined on a delicious bisque followed by lamb and pillaf, pickled eggs, beets and onions, asparagus, a salad of parsley, onion, lemon and black olives and spiced meat pies.  We even had biscuits marked with an anchor, an 'A' for Acasta or an 'N' for Nelson. This was all followed by pies and spotted dog with an excellent sauce.

There were songs sung and many a fine toast made over the course of the afternoon.

We also played a game at dinner wherein the diners had to decode a series of signal flags that hung outside... then, to signal that they understood the message contained within the flags, they were to 'fly' the 'affirmative' flag in response. 

According to Admiral Popham's 1806 book, the red flag with the white cross (seen flying on the dining room table) is the 'affirmative' flag. For the purposes of our gathering, our tiny versions of this flag in particular were raised by placing them into blocks of cheese. Each dinner was giv'n an affirmative flag to fly, and nearly all present were able to decode the flags. 

Can you decode the flags? If so, please feel free to write the secret message in the comments section below.

Friday, October 19

1812 Commemoratives


During my recent shore leave at Niagara-on-the-Lake, I had the good fortune to procure several commemorative items released in conjunction with the bicentennial of the War of 1812. I share them here, as I believe they will be of interest to many of my shipmates.

The Royal Canadian Mint mint had a pavilion set up at Fort George and their representatives were kind enough to trade a few of my poor American dollars (currently trading at a slight disadvantage to the Canadian) for uncirculated copies of the first two coins they have issued to commemorate the war. The first is an HMS Shannon toonie*, which was released in June of this year:

HMS Shannon toonie head
HMS Shannon toonie tail
* For those unfamiliar with modern Canadian money, the Canadian dollar coin, which features a loon, is colloquially known as the "looney," which has led to the two-dollar coin's nickname, the "toonie."

The second 1812 coin, released during my visit on October 12, the eve of the anniversary of the Battle of Queenston Heights, is a quarter featuring Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, who died leading a charge against American forces in a battle that paved the way for Canadian confederation.

Brock Quarter head
Brock Quarter tail
Additional coins in the series will include Tecumseh in November 2012, followed by Charles-Michel de Salaberry and Laura Secord (both scheduled for release in 2013).

Additional information on this series and better-quality images than mine may be found here. The same page also shows additional 1812 coins that will not be circulated as common currency, including a fine silver HMS Shannon $10 coin which, through some convolution of maths which escapes my understanding, sells for $64.95 CAD.

Finally, I had the honor to be issued a commemorative medallion. I do not know precise details about the maker of this item or whether it will be available at other War of 1812 commemorations during the next three years. At this particular event it was made available only to re-enactors.

War of 1812 bicentennial medal, depicting the Niagara River Valley with the British Lion and Canadian Beaver on the left; the American Eagle on the right.

Your servant,

Lt. Tumbusch