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The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay
September 13, 2007 9:12 PM   Subscribe

The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay. What happens when you have more obsolete steamships than you can burn? You end up with one of the largest shipwreck fleets in the Western Hemisphere.

Historian Donald G. Shomette speaks about the shipwrecks, both their history and future, on a recent radio interview.

Wonderful pictures and trip reports from kayakers.
posted by peeedro (28 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Inspired by this great thread.
posted by peeedro at 9:13 PM on September 13, 2007


[this is excellent]
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:29 PM on September 13, 2007


Filed under 'awesome.' Nice post.
posted by Tacodog at 9:38 PM on September 13, 2007


Very cool! Nice post.
posted by maxwelton at 9:51 PM on September 13, 2007


This is not that far from where I live! ADVENTURE TIME!
posted by borkingchikapa at 9:53 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow! I am teaching a workshop on using Google Earth to teach history and I am so stealing this.
posted by LarryC at 10:18 PM on September 13, 2007


That Google Maps picture is just... eerie.

Nice post.
posted by poweredbybeard at 10:32 PM on September 13, 2007


"dozens of independent salvors daily picked over the carcasses of the great fleet. At least five floating brothels and no fewer than 26 illegal stills were reportedly erected nearby."
How enterprising. Nice post peeedro.
posted by tellurian at 11:28 PM on September 13, 2007


Without knowing where Mallows Bay is, I assumed when I saw this post that it was referring to the dozens (hundreds?) of ships buried along the San Francisco harbourfront, especially with the mention of brothels and stills. Wrong! But great stuff ...
posted by woodblock100 at 12:24 AM on September 14, 2007


Wow the google image reminds me of a school of iron fish..
posted by ItsaMario at 2:06 AM on September 14, 2007


Excellent post.
posted by eriko at 5:13 AM on September 14, 2007


Superb post. I knew nothing about this. The pictures are nice, but the story is... well, I'm not sure whether to say "appalling" or "business as usual." Some sleazebag talks the government into paying for a thousand wooden ships ("The Hun can't sink 'em all!"):
Yet, by October 1918 only 134 wooden steamships had been completed; another 263 were less than half finished. When Germany surrendered on November 11, none had crossed the Atlantic.

Congressional charges of ineptitude within the program soon followed. A Senate probe revealed that of the 731 wooden steamships contracted for, only 98 had been delivered. Of these, only 76 had carried cargo in trade. Charges flared that the vessels were badly designed, weakly constructed, poorly caulked, leaked excessively and were too small and expensive for long-distance cargo hauling.

Still, the ships continued to slide down the ways...
The damn things wound up "cost[ing] American taxpayers between $700,000 and $1 million per vessel," and that was back when a million bucks was real money. Nothing ever changes.
posted by languagehat at 5:34 AM on September 14, 2007


Without knowing where Mallows Bay is, I assumed when I saw this post that it was referring to the dozens (hundreds?) of ships buried along the San Francisco harbourfront...

That's a great link woodblock100. There's also hints that the same might be true about New York Harbor but I've only run into dead ends looking for good articles on the web.
posted by peeedro at 5:34 AM on September 14, 2007


Awesome.
posted by killdevil at 5:39 AM on September 14, 2007


Tremendous, thanks peeedro.
posted by saladin at 5:43 AM on September 14, 2007


I grew up not too far from here, and knew about the Navy's enormous James River Reserve Fleet, but I've never heard of this before.
posted by killdevil at 5:43 AM on September 14, 2007


Very cool post.
posted by mediareport at 5:49 AM on September 14, 2007


Awesome. I recently started taking flying lessons and have flown over these wrecks a couple of times - it's great to know the story behind them.
posted by exogenous at 6:10 AM on September 14, 2007


Fascinating, thanks a lot for posting this.
posted by COBRA! at 6:46 AM on September 14, 2007


I've anchored my sailboat in Mallows Bay several times, but I didn't know anything of the history...very interesting.

I can tell you, though, in late fall, after a 70+ mile trip up the Potomac without seeing another vessel, spending a night alone in that bay is one of the creepiest things imaginable. Beautiful, but damn creepy.
posted by zap rowsdower at 6:52 AM on September 14, 2007


Outstanding post. I had no idea these were so close by (I too thought they must have been on the West coast.)
posted by idiotking at 7:10 AM on September 14, 2007


This reminds me, during the early days of the Civil War, a fleet of whale ships was sunk by the Union in the channel of Charleston SC harbor to block to port. The US govt put out a call to buy the oldest and most decrepit ships at "rock bottom" prices, which were 90% whale ships from New England, and sailed south filled with New England rocks and scuttled in the channel. Interestingly, the Confederates thought it was an armada come to attack the city so they also sank their own ships in the channel! It was discovered after the war the ships completely disintegrated and didn't really do much, but it destroyed a large part of the whaling fleet and was one reason after the war the whaling industry didn't recover (along with the discovery of oil in PA).
posted by stbalbach at 7:37 AM on September 14, 2007


Man, some of us should go down there and try to get these things running again.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:04 AM on September 14, 2007


I grew up not too far from here, and knew about the Navy's enormous James River Reserve Fleet, but I've never heard of this before.
posted by killdevil at 5:43 AM on September 14


People in the Bay Area are probably familiar with the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet, up near Benicia. It's pretty neat. I think there's one in Texas as well.
posted by padraigin at 8:21 AM on September 14, 2007


According to the BLS calcualtor, $1,000,000 in 1917 is about $16M today. That would be a $3 billion boondoggle today.

How much is Iraq costing a day again? About $200 million?
So, 2 months in Iraq, or so, is one of these fleets.
posted by bonehead at 9:27 AM on September 14, 2007


Artist photographer captures this theme best at a New York location, Shooters Island.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 2:50 PM on September 14, 2007


I grew up near there and had never heard of this. I think I may make a trip there.
posted by empath at 3:07 PM on September 14, 2007


The satellite photo is the piece de resistance. Nice post.
posted by chinston at 9:35 PM on September 14, 2007


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