Sailing The High Seas With Marinetraffic.com

sailing
It’s a beautiful weekend here in Santander, Spain, and my son and I can see the Hanoi and the Barbet Arrow, two giant container ships, moored in the harbor. The Finland-registered Misana, which I saw sail in from my office window, is moored out of sight in the dock beyond. The Cape Cee, a 118-meter-long Spanish vessel, left Santander a few days ago and is sailing towards the Strait of Gibraltar at 10.1 knots.

We know all this because of my kid’s latest online obsession. Marinetraffic.com combines Google Maps with an online database of ships from around the world, updating their position in real time. Zooming in on spots like the Strait of Gibraltar or the Bay of Biscay, you realize just how many ships are out there, linking far-flung economies. There are profiles of the ships with details of their registry and dimensions, and ports have their own profiles too.

Marinetraffic.com relies on voluntary registration, so some spots like the Red Sea are almost blank. With pirates hiding out in Puntland ready to swoop down on container ships, you can understand why captains on that route would be hesitant to join the website.

While incomplete, it’s a fun site that show kids an aspect of our world that we mostly take for granted. You can also use Google Maps as an educational tool. Used correctly, they can siphon some of your child’s obsession with your computer into something educational. Just don’t expect them to replace that persistent question, “Can I play video games?”

[Photo by Sean McLachlan]

Photo Of The Day: Sailing Ship Rigging

Today’s photo comes to us from Flickr user Angie622, who captured this eye-catching image of the rigging of a traditional sailing ship shrouded in silhouette. The Instagram-like colors and dark shadows transform the ship’s vast web of ropes and timber into an intriguing abstract pattern in the shadows of the sun.

Taken any great shots of your own during your travels? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Flicker user Angie622]

The Viking Ship Museum In Denmark

Viking, Viking ship, Denmark
The Vikings were the greatest sailors of their age. They built sturdy vessels that took them as far as Greenland and even North America. A few of these amazing craft have survived to the modern day.

The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, has five such ships on display. Fifty years ago they were discovered at the bottom of Roskilde Fjord, where they had been deliberately sunk to create a defensive barrier in the 11th century A.D. Silt and cold temperatures kept them remarkably well preserved and archaeologists were able to restore and display them.

Walking through the main hall of the Viking Ship Museum, it’s easy to imagine you’re in a busy Viking port. The ships are of various types, such as the knarr, a broad ocean-going trading ship. These were the ships that the Vikings took on their long voyages of commerce and exploration. The famous longship was for battle only and didn’t do well on the high seas.

There’s a longship here too, a 98-foot-long beauty that was probably the warship of a chieftain. Tree-ring analysis of the timber shows it was built in or around Dublin about the year 1042. The Vikings settled in Ireland in 800 A.D. and founded several towns, Dublin being the most important.

%Gallery-174000%There’s also a smaller type of warship called a snekke. Shorter than the longship at only 57 feet, it was still a formidable vessel and remnants of the shield rack and carved decoration can be seen on the side.

The best-preserved boat is a byrding, coastal trading vessel built of Danish oak. There’s also a small boat that may have been used for fishing or whaling.

After examining the displays – very well done and with signs in English as well as Danish – walk outside to the museum harbor. Here you’ll find reconstructions of some of the ships you saw inside as well as historic vessels from later eras of Denmark’s seagoing history. At the boatyard, you can watch shipbuilders using traditional techniques. The star attraction is The Sea Stallion from Glendalough, a reconstruction of the museum’s longship. It’s seaworthy, and tests have shown it reaches an average speed of 2.5 knots and a top speed of 12 knots when under sail. There are even a few surprises, like kayaks from Greenland and Borneo.

Some ships are actually used and visitors can go on boat trips around the fjord.

If you’re heading north after your trip to Denmark, check out the excellent Viking ship museum in Oslo, Norway.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Russian Ship Carrying 700 Tons Of Gold Ore Goes Missing

A Russian cargo ship like the one that went missingA Russian cargo ship carrying more than 700 tons of gold ore has gone missing off the country’s Pacific Coast after sending a distress call a few days back. The ship, which is named “Amurskaya,” had a crew of nine aboard at the time and was headed for the island of Feklistov in the Sea of Okhotsk.

The cargo vessel was contracted by a mining company called Polymetal to ship its cargo to a processing plant where it could be refined into gold. It had departed the port of Kiran and was making a routine run to Feklistov Island when apparently it encountered stormy weather. Emergency response teams picked up the distress signal from an automated beacon, but lost contact with the crew when the ship lost power. Since then, search and rescue teams have been combing the area, but continued poor weather has complicated those efforts.

As for the value of all of that gold ore, gold actually only makes up a small fraction of the material in the ore, with rock and other minerals being much more abundant. In order to extract the precious metal, the ore must first go through a refining process. As a result, 700 tons of gold ore sounds like it would be worth a lot more than it actually is. Bloomberg Business estimates that this shipment was worth about $800,000 and that its loss won’t have a substantial impact on Polymetal’s bottom line.

Polymetal hasn’t released their own estimate of the value of the ore, although they have said the responsibility for the cargo lies with the shipping company. In short, that means the owners of the missing freighter will likely have to reimburse them for the loss.

I’m not sure if insurance will cover something like this, as the storm probably activates their “Act of God” clauses.

[Photo credit: Heb via WikiMedia]

USS Edson To Become Part Of Future Ship Museum

USS EdsonEarlier this week, the destroyer USS Edson sailed into the harbor of Bay City, Michigan, to the cheers of an expectant crowd. As Art Daily reports, it will become part of the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum.

This museum’s primary purpose will be to showcase the USS Edson, which saw duty from 1958 to 1988. She saw action in the Vietnam War and was shelled by Vietcong land forces.

The USS Edson has been a museum before. From 1989 to 2004, she was part of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City. Although she’s been fitted out as a museum and is seaworthy, there’s still much to be done to make her ready for a new set of visitors. The museum is raising funds to get this work done and open this historic ship to the public. There’s no set opening date at this time. Stay tuned.

[Photo courtesy John McCullough]