Taking a cruise is supposed to be a fun time, but nature can offer deliver a whammy to even the sturdiest of ships. According to Fox News, the Viking Polaris ( a new ship in the Viking line built in 2022), was hit by a rogue wave during a storm while sailing at the southernmost tip of South America.
The rogue wave apparently hit with such force that it broke cabin windows. Sadly the 62-year old woman was killed by the broken glass likely in her cabin (it does not specify that in the report, but it is a reasonable conclusion) when the wave hit. Other people were injured but not life threatening and were treated aboard ship. There was some damage to the ship as indicated by a recent photo.
“It is with great sadness that we confirmed a guest passed away following the incident,” Viking said in a statement. “We have notified the guest’s family and shared our deepest sympathies.” (Viking statement on death of woman passenger.)
Interviews with some of the passengers indicates that everything was going well until the rogue wave hit. Viking is investigating what happened and has canceled the next scheduled trip until the investigation and repairs are done.
Once you hit December, stories about Titanic tend to thin out. People are more focused on the holidays, so you do not see that much about Titanic. Still there are a few. MSN interviewed Stockton Rush, chairman of OceanGate which dives to Titanic, about people who pay the big bucks to dive down. From the news report, people come for all walks of life who just want the chance to see the wreck. MSN also has a slideshow of various Titanic survivors that is worth a look.
December is the 12th month on the Gregorian calendar. The name derives from the Latin word decem, which means ten. Originally December was the tenth month in an older calendar as it started in March. Apparently the winter days that followed December were not included in a month until much later when January and February were added. December retained its name though. Anglo-Saxons used the term Yule for December-January, but that now that has largely come to mean December and the Christmas season.
December has the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the summer solstice in the Southern. Winter traditionally begins on the astronomical calendar around 21 December or the date of the actual solstice. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and depending on how far north you live, sunlight may only be for a few hours on that day. The symbols for December are the narcissus flower and turquoise, zircon and tanzanite as the birthstones.
Most Christians celebrate Advent in preparation for the celebration of Christmas on 25 December. Jews celebrate Chanukah/Hanukkah, the 8-day Festival of Lights in December as well. Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26-January 1.
On 30 November 1939, in what later be called the Winter War, the Soviet Union invaded neighboring Finland. The objectives were both strategic and territorial. Under the (secret)terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed in August, Finland was placed into their sphere of influence. Prior to the invasion, the Soviet Union wanted Finland to cede land that would provide more security for Leningrad (formerly known as St. Petersburg, changed to Petrograd during World War I, and renamed Leningrad in 1924 after Lenin’s death).
Everyone, including the Russians, believed it would be easy. The Soviet Union had more troops and aircraft. It was expected the Finns would easily surrender. It did not turn out that way at all. After the initial attack and bombing of Helsinki where 61 would die, the Finns instead showed remarkable resistance. The Finnish government used pictures of the raid showing women with dead babies and those crippled by the bombings to engender sympathy from the outside world and to generate the Finnish resistance to the Russians. The Soviet Army, dressed in summer clothing as winter started to set in, quickly realized they were facing stiff opposition. President Roosevelt extended $10 million in credit to Finland (they paid it back after the war). The League of Nations expelled the Soviet Union for its invasion.
The Soviet Union though reorganized and came with different tactics in February 1940. Finnish defenses were overcome and resistance, though still strong, was up against a better organized Soviet Army this time. In March 1940 the Moscow Peace Treaty was signed. The Soviet Union got what it initially demanded and more as well. Finland’s sovereignty was preserved but it came at a cost for the Soviet Union. Most Western governments considered the Soviet Red Army as poorly led.
Hitler and his generals viewed the Red Army as weak and that an attack on it would be successful. They would invade Russia in June 1941. Finland though would go to war with the Soviet Union. as well. There are different views as to why but generally it was to get back the land lost in the peace treaty of 1940. Unfortunately, a faction of Finnish military and political leaders decided to work closely with the German Wehrmacht for a joint attack. While never signing formally the Tripartite Pact that made them an ally of Nazi Germany, the did sign the Anti-Comintern Pact. This pact signed by Germany, Japan and other countries created an alliance against the Soviet Union.
Finland would retake the territories given to Russia but continued on. They participated in the siege of Leningrad by cutting its northern supply. The Soviet Army would eventually push them back and a ceasefire was called on 5 September 1944. The resulting agreement would require the expulsion or disarming of German troops in their territory. Under pressure from the Soviets to expel German forces, Finnish troops fired on German soldiers resulting in exchanges between the two. By November 1944 nearly all German troops had withdrawn. With the end of the war in 1945, the borders were restored to the 1940 treaty. Finland had to pay war reparations to the Soviet Union. Since they fought with Germany, they had to accept responsibility for their part in the war and acknowledge they had been a German ally.
The sinking of the SS Daniel J. Morrell in 1966 during a fierce November storm on Lake Huron is often compared to the Edmund Fitzgerald, but less remembered. It broke up during the storm and only person out of29 crewmen survived.
The ship was launched in 1906 and at 603 feet long was considered one of the largest bulk carriers on the lakes at the time. Her sister ship, Edward Y. Townsend, was of the same length and both worked the Great Lakes transporting bulk cargo. By 1966, they were no longer the largest but were still making bulk freight deliveries. Both the Morrell and Townsend were making their last run of the season on 29 Nov 1966 when disaster struck. The infamous “Gales of November” were roaring on Lake Huron with wind speeds that topped 70 mph (110 km/h). Seas were high with swells that topped the ship. The Townsend decided to seek shelter in the St. Clair River while the Morrell continued its journey to Thunder Bay for shelter.
At 2 am, noises that sounded like a loud banging drove the crew to the deck. They could see the ship was in dire condition, so many jumped into the frigid waters to die. At 2:15 am the ship broke in two. The crew still on the bow got into a lifeboat mostly wearing light clothing since they had come up from below. Some thought another ship was coming, but the aft was still moving as the propellers were turning. It went about five miles before it sank. Since they had no chance to send any messages, there was no SOS sent from the ship. The surviving crewmen fired off flares to get attention to no avail.
The Morrell was deemed overdue the next day at 12:15 pm at Taconite Harbor, Minnesota. The Coast Guard began looking and at around 4:00 pm located a lifeboat with one survivor in it. The other three had perished from the cold. 26-year-old Watchman Dennis Hale was the lone survivor. He was wearing boxer shorts, a life jacket, and a pea coat. He would need many surgeries to deal with the injuries he suffered that night. Most of the bodies of the rest of the crew were found, though two were never located. Hale’s testimony would prove important to the investigation that followed.
Hale would testify that the Morrell was well known as leaky. He reported to Captain Arthur I. Crawley, who responded they did not have time to fix since they were not in port long enough. The Coast Guard inspected the Townsend and found a large crack in her deck caused by the storm. She was immediately taken out service and never sailed again. Ironically, she would sink on her way to be scrapped off Newfoundland during a storm. She was being towed, so no lives were lost when she sank.
The investigation showed that the steel used in her construction had too much sulfur in it resulting it becoming brittle in cold weather. And the ship finally met a storm on a very cold night that finally did her in. Brittle steel has been identified as to one of the reasons the Titanic sank so quickly. Hale would never sail on the Great Lakes again after surviving the sinking. He spoke rarely about his ordeal but did write a book about it.
A pocket watch belonging to a postal clerk aboard the RMS Titanic has sold for £98,000 – 110 years on. Oscar Scott Woody’s watch is frozen at the time he went into the cold North Atlantic when the ship sank on 14 April, 1912. It was recovered from the ocean and returned to his wife Leila the following month. The watch was sold at Henry Aldridge & Sons in Devizes on Saturday along with other memorabilia from the doomed ship. A first-class menu featuring ‘plover on toast’ sold for £50,000 and a list of first-class passengers went for £41,000.
After he died on 15th April 1912, his father received a telegram from his mother’s cousin, who had spoken with survivors in New York, seeing news of Andrews. The telegram was read aloud by Andrews Sr. to the staff of their home in Comber: “Interview titanic’s officers. All unanimous that Andrews heroic unto death, thinking only safety others. Extend heartfelt sympathy to all.” The newspaper accounts of the disaster labeled Andrews a hero. Mary Sloan, a stewardess on the ship, whom Andrews forced to enter a lifeboat, later wrote in a letter: “Mr. Andrews met his fate like a true hero, realizing the great danger, and gave up his life to save the women and children of the Titanic. They will find it hard to replace him.”
Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Roman Catholics and many Christian denominations. It encompasses the four weeks (Sundays and weekdays) leading up to Christmas Day. Counting back four Sundays from Christmas Day will get you to the first Sunday of Advent. Depending on the calendar day Christmas falls on, Advent usually begins near the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle celebrated on 30 November. Eastern Orthodox, since it follows the Julian calendar, will start their Advent later as Christmas Day falls 13 days after the current Gregorian calendar.
Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning coming or coming to, is a time of preparation for the birth of Christ and a reminder that Jesus will return. During this period, Christians are reminded not to be weighed down or distracted by the cares of this world. Like Lent, Christians are called to reflect on our actions and seek penance. We also should prepare our hearts for the full joy of Christmas. We should not allow our souls to be burdened with predictions of events yet to come, but to be alert and ready. During this period, Catholic priests wear violet vestments, except on the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) where rose may be worn. Altars will be less decorated than usual during this time as well.
One of the symbols of Advent is the Advent wreath. This wreath has four candles (battery operated ones are acceptable) and are lit for each Sunday in Advent. Usually, a prayer is also spoken while lighting the prayer and often families will do it together. Most candles are purple, but one will either be white or rose for Gaudete Sunday. The popular Advent calendar is to not only marks down the days till Christmas, but also days of devotion during the season. A Christmas novena is also done. The traditional one is the St. Andrew Christmas Novena which begins on 30 November (the feast day of St. Andrew) and runs till Christmas Eve. A nine -day novena begins on December 16 and goes till Christmas Eve. Many Latin American countries celebrate this as Las Posadas, and it is popular in the Philippines as well (called Sambang Gabi).
There is specific music for the Advent season that is often played in Catholic and Christian churches during religious services. Music such as Silent Night, Adeste Fidelis, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing will not be heard until Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. Secular songs such as White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer are reserved for Christmas concerts (which are sometimes held in churches) are not sung at all during religious services. While Christmas decorations may be outside the church, you will not see Christmas trees in the main area of the church where mass is celebrated. This has nothing to do with any connotation that a Christmas tree is pagan but rather that during Advent we must be solemn in observing it. So, a lighted Christmas tree is often near the entry or just inside the entry (if they have one). This has been the tradition that Saint Pope John Paul II started when he got a Christmas tree from his native country of Poland.
Flowers and wreaths are acceptable near the altar and not on it. Advent wreaths are often placed near the altar and lighted before the service begins. A Christmas crib or nativity scene may also be displayed as well.
For many in the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving is a time to go for some long walks or exercise to work off all the food eaten the day before. Many put up holiday lights while others head to do some shopping. Friday after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday where stores open to the masses to sell products at deeply discounted prices. Alas with the inflation running high this year, most will keep to necessities. Only those with disposable income will be spending lots of money. Kim Kardashian will probably drop lots of money and then tweet out what she has bought to those who actually follow her.
Or you could sit back for a bit and have a bit of fun after all the heck you went through to get the materials for the feast, cook and serve to friends and family. Or that family member that grumbled they did not like the cranberry sauce since it did not come out of a can, or that the mashed potatoes were too mashed for their taste. So take step back and enjoy some humor. Here is the now infamous turkey drop scene from an old tv show called WKRP. The infamous turkey drop will never be forgotten. And of course all the poor fools who thought they knew how to deep fry turkey and instead ended up cooking something else entirely different.
Deep fried turkey tastes delicious but requires careful preparation. Far too many people put a turkey into the pot but fail in putting too much oil. The hot oil bubbles over the top, hits the ground and fires erupt. If your turkey fryer is too close to home, well it can be quite unfortunate. The most inane thing to do is put a frozen bird into hot oil. I am dumbfounded that people did not get this in their high school science class. Putting something cold, especially frozen, into a hot liquid will have explosive consequences. The safest way is simply to use a large deep fryer that sits on your counter top. You simply lower the meat into the oil, close the lid, and set the timer. There are indicator lines that show exactly how much oil to use. If you are going to use the open deep fryer, you have to follow those instructions carefully and make sure to use less oil than actually needed. And make sure to have lots of baking soda or the right fire extinguisher rated to put out oil based fires. Never use it indoors and always away from any structures. Keep children and pets away. A splash of hot oil on your skin will be very painful, so wear protective gear on your hands and even your face.
Thanksgiving was not an official national holiday until 1863. A letter from a 74-year magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, inspired President Abraham Lincoln to create a national holiday. She wrote in 1863 that we needed to have a national day of Thanksgiving so that everyone could celebrate it on the same day. At the time Thanksgiving was celebrated by the various states but not on the same date. She wanted President Lincoln to make it a national day so it would become a permanent part of “American custom and institution.”
According to Abraham Lincoln Online , other presidents had ignored such requests. Lincoln decided to act on her request and directed a proclamation be drawn up. On 3 October 1863, President Lincoln’s proclamation that establishes Thanksgiving as a national day was issued. It sets aside the last Thursday of November as a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Secretary of State William Seward actually drafted the proclamation which Lincoln signed. Thanksgiving became a national holiday and was celebrated on that date until 1939. President Roosevelt in 1939, 1940 and 1941 changed it to the third Thursday (to extend the Christmas season) causing considerable controversy. A joint resolution of Congress in 1941 resolved it by decreeing Thanksgiving would fall on the fourth Thursday of November.
(Scene from the 1942 movie Holiday Inn starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. At the time the movie was made in 1941, Thanksgiving had shifted back and forth starting in 1939. This animation from the movie illustrates this perfectly.)
Lincoln’s proclamation was written during the American Civil War, a terrible time in U.S. history. Today we forget why this day was made a national holiday. It was to thank God for the blessings of liberty but also to ask his help. In our politically correct times, this proclamation is not always read in full or edited. So here is the original proclamation. Read it and understand why Lincoln thought a national day of Thanksgiving was needed for the United States of America.
— Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day October 3, 1863
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth. A. Lincoln
On 21 November 1916, HMHS Britannic was sunk by mine near the island of Kea in the Aegean Sea. The ship sank in 55 minutes and 1,035 people were rescued, only 30 perished. Britannic was the third and last ship of the Olympic class liners built by White Star Line. The other two were Olympic and Titanic. Britannic was launched in February 1914. Many design changes were made prior to launch due to lessons learned from Titanic. Those changes were:
Double hull along the engine and boiler rooms raising six of the watertight bulkheads up to B deck.
More powerful turbine installed due to increase in hull width.
Watertight compartments were enhanced so that the ship can stay afloat with six compartments flooded.
Motorized davits to launch six lifeboats (only five out of eight were installed before war service). Manual operated davits were used for the remaining lifeboats. The new design also allowed all lifeboats to be launched even if the ship was listing. There were 55 lifeboats with capacity for 75 each so that 3,600 people could be carried.
When World War I broke out, the ship had to be retrofitted as a hospital ship. Most of the furnishings were stored in a warehouse to be placed back aboard after the war. The Britannic began service as a hospital ship on 12 December 1915. She was sent to the Aegean Sea to bring back sick and wounded soldiers. Her first tour of service was ended on 6 June 1916 and she was sent back to Belfast to be refitted back as a passenger liner. As this was underway, the ship was again recalled to military service on 26 August 1916 and was sent back to the Mediterranean Sea.
On the morning of 21 November 1916, the Britannic under the command of Captain Alfred Barnett was steaming into the Kea Channel when at 8:12 am a loud explosion shook the ship. The explosion, unknown at the time whether it was a torpedo or mine, damaged the first four watertight compartments and rapidly filled with water. Water was also flowing into the boiler room. Captain Bartlett ordered the watertight doors closed, sent a distress call, and ordered the lifeboats be prepared. Unfortunately, while they could send messages, damage to the antenna wires meant they could not hear the responses back from ships responding to their SOS. Britannic was reaching her flooding limit and open portholes (opened by nurses to ventilate wards) were bringing more water in as well.
As the ship was still moving, Bartlett did not order lifeboats be lowered but two lifeboats were lowered anyway. They were sucked into the ships propellor and torn to bits killing everyone in those two lifeboats. Bartlett ordered the ship stopped to assess the damage. The ship was listing so badly that the gantry davits were inoperable. Thinking the sinking had slowed, he ordered the engines back on to try and beach the ship. The flooding increased as more water was coming in aided by the open portholes the nurses had opened to air out their wards early in the morning. Bartlett ordered the engines stopped and to abandon ship. She would sink at 9:07 am, 55 minutes after the explosion. Thankfully the water temperature was high (70 F), they had more lifeboats than Titanic, and rescue came less than two hours. Nearby fisherman were able to help and at 10:00 am, the HMS Scourge arrived and later the HMS Heroic and later the HMS Foxhound.
1,035 survived. Of the 30 lost, only five were buried as their bodies were not recovered. Memorials in Thessaloniki and London honor those lives lost. Survivors were housed on the warships and the nurses and officers were put into hotels. Most survivors were sent home, and some arrived in time for Christmas. Speculation about whether it was a torpedo or a mine was resolved when it was learned that a German submarine (SM U-73) had planted mines in the Kea Channel in October 1916. The loss of two Olympic class ships was a major blow to White Star Line. They would get, as a result of the Treaty of Versailles, the German ocean liner Bismarck (renamed Majestic), which replaced Britannic. They also got Columbus which was named Homeric.
Britannic has been largely forgotten except when news of expeditions were made to the wreck site over the years. The wreck itself was bought by noted author Simon Mills, who has written two books on the ship. An expedition in September 2003 located by sonar mine anchors confirming German records of U-73 that Britannic was sunk by a single mine. The expedition found several watertight doors open making it likely the mine strike was during a watch change on the ship. One notable survivor was Violet Jessop. She had been on Olympic as stewardess when it collided with the HMS Hawke, aboard Titanic in the same capacity when it sank, and then aboard Britannic as a stewardess with the Red Cross.