... all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by
April 11, 2009 8:28 PM   Subscribe

Around Cape Horn - if you've ever wished for an authentic glimpse into the bygone era of the majestic age of sailing, this is it - a rare 1929 true adventure film about sailing a four-masted commercial barque around the Cape Horn during a huge gale. It was shot with a hand-cranked camera by Captain Irving Johnson who offers a spirited narration. 36 minutes, B&W
posted by madamjujujive (28 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
That was the longest run on sentence I ever heard spoken!
posted by Senator at 8:35 PM on April 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

I wish it wasn't so horribly compressed. This sort of thing fascinates me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:54 PM on April 11, 2009

This really is amazing, and it makes my life seem very tame. Thanks for posting this, mjj!
posted by carter at 9:21 PM on April 11, 2009

I didn't know this sort of footage existed, amazing!
posted by furtive at 9:22 PM on April 11, 2009

That is great great greatness. I loved his anti-safety regulation approbation throughout the film. Really, the end shots of the sails from the little tug or fishing boat are incredible. But this is a wonderful 30-some-minutes.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 9:27 PM on April 11, 2009

posted by whatnotever at 9:37 PM on April 11, 2009

More about the Peking.
More about Capt. Jürgen Jürs.
posted by Floydd at 9:55 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


More on Irving McClure Johnson (1905 - 1991) and his wife, Electa "Exy" Johnson (1909 - 2004), equally as much an intrepid adventurer as her husband.
posted by ericb at 9:59 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mystic Seaport's Irving Johnson Collection
"Author, lecturer, and seaman, Irving Johnson and his wife Electa circumnavigated the globe seven times between 1933-1958, then dedicated 17 years to sailing the inland waterways, canals and seas of Europe and Egypt. The Johnsons documented each voyage extensively, often visiting remote islands and captured images of traditions, customs and lifeways that in many cases no longer exist. Mystic Seaport is the repository of Captain Irving Johnson's films donated to Mystic Seaport by Mrs. Electa Johnson."

Irving and Electa Johnson Manuscript Collection (Coll. 240)
posted by ericb at 10:02 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

This brings to mind the films of landlubber Richard Proenneke documenting his time "living off-the-land" in Alaska. Previously on MeFi - 1, 2, 3, 4.
posted by ericb at 10:11 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

This was really cool.

That was the longest run on sentence I ever heard spoken!

I just assume he took one breath and then kept talking for 36 minutes.
posted by !Jim at 10:37 PM on April 11, 2009

The same Peking that is now at South Street Seaport. Wow.
posted by dhartung at 10:52 PM on April 11, 2009

I like how the captain had his men pull up clumps of seaweed to look for new species of "parasites", in hopes of leaving his historical mark that way.
posted by nomisxid at 2:13 AM on April 12, 2009

That was totally awesome.

An intersection with the broader arcs of history - if they carried nitrates (from mines in the Atacama desert, presumably?) to Hamburg on the way back I wonder if that would mean their cargo at least partly went into explosives for the munitions stockpile used in WWII. (Several years still before Hitler's election but I wonder how strictly the Weimar Republic was obeying the limitations on manufacturing weapons under the Treaty of Versailles.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:34 AM on April 12, 2009

Oh man - I love how he trains for sailing by climbing a rotten pole and standing on his head. The good ol' days.
posted by mannequito at 3:04 AM on April 12, 2009

Nice...thanks for the post.
posted by HuronBob at 5:18 AM on April 12, 2009

Wow. That just blows me away. Thanks for posting this.
posted by RussHy at 5:30 AM on April 12, 2009

They don't make 'em like this any more, and it's a damned shame.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:09 AM on April 12, 2009

This is a really great find. Thanks mj3!
posted by planetkyoto at 7:47 AM on April 12, 2009


The stuff about the dog was just hilarious!
posted by orme at 8:59 AM on April 12, 2009

The liability considerartions are staggering. " There is no safety manual on board and each individual is responsible for themselves." Hows about that concept America 2009?
posted by Xurando at 9:35 AM on April 12, 2009

At 12 minutes in, when he is being filmed sewing sails, the guy is huge. No wonder they all wanted wrestling lessons, his arms and shoulders are just massive.

Also: "The dog doesn't want petting, just kick a stick or kick him in the face, it's all the same to him"...

Hard times, even for dogs.
posted by Brockles at 10:28 AM on April 12, 2009

Related - a great read - The Last Great Grain Race. Thanks MJJ, fascinating stuff.
posted by adamvasco at 12:46 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by localroger at 6:36 PM on April 12, 2009

Madame, thank you for this.
Great stuff.

and I'd swear that that stretch of road he's practicing on in Hadley, Mass. is called Cemetery Road. My brother flipped the family car on it.
posted by Busithoth at 11:44 PM on April 12, 2009

Rounding the Horn is a very enjoyable, informative, and revelatory read, if you're into this sort of stuff.
posted by Danf at 11:36 AM on April 13, 2009

A reply I received from a salty friend of the family (in his 70s) after forwarding him the above link:
Interesting video on the old windjammer, I see you got it from Mystic Seaport Museum. I have been there twice and was pleased to see the small square rigger Joseph Conrad there. A book, written by Capt. Alan Villiers (deceased) featured this ship the time he took her on a circumnavigation. I wrote to Villiers asking if it was possible for me to get sea time on a square rigger. He kindly replied and told me it was impossible at that time, the only way was for me was to go East and ship out on a Burmese rice barque, the only wind driven commercial ships then in existence. Being impecunious at the time I couldn't afford the fare from Belfast to Dublin let alone to Burma. I had read many books on sail and they filled me full of adventure, I could imagine myself out on the yards furling sail in a blow off Cape Horn and doing great deeds (not uncommon for a 16 year old raised within a stones throw of the ocean). However I had to settle for the hardships of a fisherman's lot on the Atlantic coast of Ireland (that was quite hard enough believe me).

The romance of sail is mostly nostalgic bullshit. I have sailed with a few older men who had done a few trips in sail and some who had been brought up on coastal schooners. Some of them were real hard cases, they were glad the windbags had vanished. yet for a few of the the more imaginative there was a certain romance.

I forwarded the video to my brother(in Ireland) who has also spent his life at sea, and he found it fascinating but wondered why someone had never chucked that dammed dawg over the side!! There is another like video of a voyage on a barque by Villiers.

I saw some commercial sailing ships myself and several Sail training ships (a very different animal). One was the famous Cutty Sark, she was anchored off Greenhithe (Thames River) before being turned into a national treasure, another the Lawhill, a four masted barque, at anchor upriver at Lorenco Marques, E Africa. Several Portuguese fishing schooners anchored in Lisbon, prior to departure for the grand Banks of Newfoundland, and again some in St. Johns.Nfld. A few had no engine.

There is much talk these days about "Tall Ships" a nomenclature unknown to professional seamen .
posted by furtive at 2:38 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

furtive, what a great comment and another wonderful historic video clip. This gent's perspective is so interesting and so well-stated - you should get him to do some YouTube comments on "the fisherman's lot on the Atlantic coast of Ireland" - I am sure they would be fascinating, too. Thanks for taking the time to come back to this thread to share this wonderful commentary and the links!
posted by madamjujujive at 10:23 AM on April 21, 2009

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