Monday, April 6, 2009
Here is an example. We got this old model ship from eBay. It was one of those spur of the moment bids- which you kinda later end up regretting- to be honest. :-) The ship arrived in broken condition, and with literally balls of dust (and grease!) collected on its deck and sails. On first thoughts, we had a good mind to put it back on eBay, or just sink the cost. It really was that bad. And we didn't want dust mites crawling in our home. It looked like it was a part of someones kitchen hood.
Anyway. We are collectors- (or so we let ourselves believe), and werent quite willing to let go without a fight. So one afternoon we took this outdoors, and gave it a good dusting. Not much use.... Several paper-towels, and of-course baby-wipes (remember, its our favorite cleaning tool) later, the ship still showed no signs of recovery. We decided to give it a final shot, with compressed air- the ones you use to clean your laptop keyboards and electronic equipment. (Another run to the store, and $5.00 more sunk into the investment cost). After almost half a can of compressed air blowing through her sails, more baby-wipes, and earbuds, she finally seemed to be catching the wind. A little help from Elmer's glue helped fix back the broken front part (think its called the 'Boom').
With the wind changing, and the decision now in favor of keeping her, now that so much work had already gone into it, we started doing some study on the type and nature of this ship. (It was sold as a war ship- which it really wasnt). This is where it starts to get interesting. This type of ship is called a Clipper Ship, and they were famous for trade in the 1800-1870's. These were made for trade, and sailed the high seas mostly between England, US and other parts of Europe 'and China, and European colonies. These were built sleek and light for high speed, and clippers raced against each other setting record times which were often published in news papers. You can read the whole history about clipper ships on Wikipedia.
Now coming back to "our" ship :-), there is a small label on this one that says "Hurricane". Our research was based on this. The time spent, eventually paid off. Though the Hurricane, was not known among the great Clippers like Cutty Sark, and Flying Cloud, she too had her flying moments, before finally being sold in Singapore in 1876 and renamed (hence appearing for the last time in shipping registers. (By the way, she was launched in 1851 in the shipyard of Isaac C. Smith, in New Jersey.) The whole nautical history is thankfully registered here on one
The departures of clipper ships were announced on Clipper Ship sailing Cards at their ports such as the one shown below. (Source: UC Santa Barbara, Dept of Geography, Website)
It gets even hotter now: I found a reference on New York Times archives, about the Hurricane and other clipper-ships in a race to Rio de Janeiro, dated March 29th, 1852.
Her moment of Glory came when in1852, she arrived at San Francisco from Rio de Janeiro in 66 days, a time which has only been beaten once in those times.
Phew! that was some journey. We just went from a dusty old model one afternoon, to sailing around the world, and ending up on the top of our front door.
Perhaps, this is why people collect, to begin with. :-)
Below is an Oil Painting of the Hurricane, from the Peabody Essex Museum Archives.
Oil 29 1/4 x 41 1/2 in., signed: Skillet (Artist), Built 1851, Hoboken, N. J., weighing 1,680 tons.
Happy Sailing !!