Effort Underway To Declare Sunken World War I Ships As War Grave

Sketch of HMS Cressy sinking by Henry Reuterdahl Image:public domain (Wikipedia)

Sketch of HMS Cressy sinking by Henry Reuterdahl
Image:public domain (Wikipedia)

On 22 September 1914, three British Royal Navy Cruisers–HMS Cressy, HMS Aboukir and HMS Hogue–were sunk while on patrol near Ostend. One German U-boat, the U9, sank all three. From all three ships 837 men were rescued and 1,459 men perished ( 62 officers and 1,397 enlisted men). There was a huge outcry at the time at the large loss of life caused by a U-boat, which up till then were not taken that seriously as a threat. It hurt the reputation of the Royal Navy and forced them to implement stringent anti-submarine tactics after that. The German U-boat commander was given a hero’s welcome and the submarines would prove to be a threat to British shipping. In 1954 the British government sold salvage rights to a German company which eventually ended up being acquired by a Dutch company. And that company has been salvaging metal from the ships since 2011.

This has caused in uproar in Chatham, where a large number of those who perished came from. Now there is demand from local leaders for the government to declare the wreck site as a war grave under the Protection of Military Remains Act. The argument is that if Titanic is a grave, then the remains of three Royal Navy cruisers ought to be as well. So far there is no reaction from the British government and the company that has the salvage rights would likely fight any attempt to interfere with their ability to salvage.

Sources:
1. Site Where 1,500 Chatham Sailors Lost Their Lives Needs Same Protection As The Titanic, Say Campaigners(22 Oct 2014, Kent Online)
2. HMS Cressy (1899)(Wikipedia)
3. Action of 22 September 1914 (Wikipedia)


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The Ghosts of YouTube

Halloween season is a good time to check out the ghosts of YouTube, which is really watching videos that claim to show supernatural activity. There are a lot of these videos, some first person and others presented in a documentary style. Some are spooky and sometimes scary. Sometimes a ghost is seen and other times is of the poltergeist variety. Since we are limited by what is shown, and cannot verify the circumstances of the incident, one must be cautious in accepting them as truth. It is very easy to post images that look real but are not.

Consider Slender Man , a fictional character created by Eric Knudsen who posted them under the name of  Victor Surge in the Something Awful forum. It became wildly popular and fed into the Shadow Men stories that you read in ghost forums or hear on radio shows like Coast To Coast AM with George Noory. Another one I viewed appeared to have an office being ransacked by an invisible entity. Chairs were moved, file cabinets opened and closed, in basket contents tossed on floor and doors being closed. Except nothing shown could be proven as supernatural. Special effects people have been doing this stuff for years in movies and tv shows.

One of the more popular videos concerns a screaming ghost at a hotel. Our point of view are security cameras and we hear the voice of someone talking to another party about screaming sounds coming from a room no one is occupying. So a man is dispatched to check it out. We see him exit the elevator and head towards the room. Not only does he hear the screams, but we do as well. Which is odd since the security cameras have no microphones, so we must be hearing them from the man outside the room. His communication device looks like a standard hand-held device which requires you to press a button to talk. He might be pushing the button to allow us to listen but we cannot really hear what he is saying as the dispatcher is relaying what the person is saying to another party. The room is supposed to be empty and screams are coming from it. At this point you have no idea what is on the other side of the door. It could be someone depressed, in a state of inebriation, or someone high on drugs. The dispatcher advises the man to wait and call the police, which is the sensible course of action here.

For reasons unexplained, the man enters the room anyway using a flashlight. Now why did he not turn on the lights? Some speculate he could not do that as the room key activates the lights. Even if that were true, that would be reason to wait for the police to arrive. You have no idea what is in there. The reason he enters the room is obvious: there is nothing in the room nor any sounds to frighten him. If he felt threatened in any way, he would wait for police. As it turns out the room has been trashed: carpets slashed, furniture tossed, and a shower running. We see a silhouette of something that could be a ghost exit the room and turn left. A light flickers on the right but not in the corridor where the entity is moving down. It looks like someone used the room for an illegal party, something hotels and motels deal with a lot.  And why would a ghost bother to rip up a room in the first place? In the end you are left with more questions than answers and likely the film is an amateur attempt at showing a ghost (a grade d production) on film.

There is another that claims a poltergeist has scared a dog and man. The man finds one of his dogs cowering under the bed and later hears a crashing noise coming from the attic. He investigates and finds something or someone has been going through his stuff. He puts down his camera and walks around. A large can sitting on luggage topples over and he runs away leaving his camera behind. The lights go out and then we see a motion, likely a gloved hand, striking the can. Poltergeist? Not likely. Using night vision is popular too since it allows you to see things that cannot normally be seen in the dark because it amplifies light from the lower end of the spectrum. So naturally a ghost might be seen except the one I saw appeared as a black object (an image of a woman in 19th or early 20th century clothes). While everything else was amplified, the apparition appeared as a black image being superimposed on the night vision image, which made me suspect it was a fraud.

Not everything is a fraud, some purported images can be nothing more than tricks of light, dust particles, and sometimes our desire to find a ghost. In other words we see something we do not understand and think it might be ghostly. Perhaps it or is not. I have no idea whether ghosts are real or not but one must carefully examine evidence and exclude everything plausible to end up believing it was a ghost. Ghost hunters love to go to houses, cemeteries, and other places to find ghosts. And they often claim they do. Except as Paul McCaffrey notes in Skeptical Briefs*, most do not use the proper scientific method. In his study of an alleged Harper’s Mansion in Australia, the team spent a lot of time examining the environmental conditions over a longer period of time than most ghost hunters do. This allowed them to have a baseline of what is normal for the house and what would stand out. They had teams check out everything, cameras to record movement, sensors to detect changes in temperature. The house was made secure so no one could enter or leave during the tests and drapes closed. They did this for four months. And while there were times that could have shown something out of the ordinary, examination of the audio and video data did not find evidence of supernatural activity. There were no unexplained disturbances on the audio or visual recordings, Unusual noise often turned out to be something outside like a car, dog, people talking, footsteps, or wood cracking.

So in the end the ghosts of YouTube can be fun and scary too watch, just remember that a lot of it is just entertainment. Especially the ones that say they are true.

*The Harper’s Mansion Ghost Study (Paul McCaffrey, Skeptical Briefs, Newsletter of the Committer For Skeptical Inquiry,Vol. 24 No. 3, Fall 2014)


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English Autumn

Photo: George Hodan (publicdomainpictures.net)

Photo: George Hodan (publicdomainpictures.net)


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Titanic Week In Review

1. Rare Titanic Menu Auctioned Off
MSN News reports the rare Titanic menu auctioned off by Henry Aldridge & Son fetched $96,000 (£60,000).  A small locker key from Titanic topped $99,000 (£62,000). MSN reports the bidding was fierce and bidders were from around the world. Andrew Aldridge is quoted to say “Some of the items we had on sale today were extremely rare, which prompted a lot of interest from people here in the UK as well as from Monaco, South America and the USA.” Perhaps Premier Exhibitions can learn a thing or two from Aldridge about selling Titanic artifacts.

Image: Public Domain (NOAA)

Image: Public Domain (NOAA)

2. Ballard Says Adios To Mystic Aquarium
Robert Ballard has ended his long term relationship with Mystic Aquarium to focus on other projects reports Hartford Courant. Ballard cites his work with his Ocean Exploration Trust and the Center for Ocean Exploration at the University of Rhode Island as the reason for ending the relationship. “I couldn’t keep this many irons in the fire. I had to make some decisions” said Ballard. Ballard helped raise money for Mystic and his leaving is bittersweet says aquarium president Stephen Coan. “But I’m really happy for him,” he said. “So many things have come together for him over the past few years in terms of having the tools he needs for his research and the affiliations to support that work” said Coan.

3. New Photographs Of Titanic Launch
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum now has on display 166 never before seen photographs of Titanic’s launch at Harland & Wolff in 1911. Photos of Titanic sister ship Olympic are included.

4 Titanic Artifacts Value Goes Up But No Buyers As Of Yet
It was announced this week that a new appraisal of the Titanic collection sets its value at $218 million. It was previously valued $189 million so it has gone up in value. Unless there are some very wealthy investors willing to stake the money, it may be very difficult to sell as a whole lot. I wonder if they are planning to challenge the salvage ruling as too constrictive in selling the collection.


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Countdown To Halloween#3

Fantasia (1941) is perhaps Disney animation at its finest. While Disney has done other animations that get praise, this movie is at the top of most lists. There are two sequences of interest in the Halloween season. One is the famous-and scary-Night on Bald Mountain using the music composed by Modest Mussorgsky in 1867. Mussorgsky composed it as a symphonic poem but it was not well liked in his day and never performed. In 1886, five years after his death, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov arranged the music as a fantasy for orchestra. And it is this version that is used rather than the original one composed by Mussorgsky. It was first performed in Saint Petersburg in 1886 to great acclaim and became a concert favorite. For the Night On Bald Mountain chapter in Fantasia,Leopold Stokowski arranged this version based on Rimsky-Korsakov. It has become a classic. And now here it is.[Disclaimer: Our attorneys at Dewey,Cheateam, and Howe want to remind that unless the video is an authentic authorized version by permission of the copyright holder,this public showing may be in violation of copyright law. While this has been posted to YouTube, it does not mean the copyright holder has given permission to be shown on YouTube.]


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Titanic News: New Photos of Titanic’s Launch and Titanic Artifact Collection Will Now Cost More To Purchase

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912.

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912.

1. According to The Guardian, 166 photographs– never seen by the public before–are going on display at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. The photos show Titanic during her launch at Harland & Wolff on 31 May 1911. Images from Olympic are also included.

2. The Atlanta Business Journal is reporting a new appraisal of the Titanic artifact collection held by Premier Exhibitions is now worth $218 million. The appraisal was done by The Alasko Co.  The previous appraisal set the value at $189 million. The appraisal only covers the artifacts and not any of the intellectual or archaeological assets by Premier Exhibitions.


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Countdown To Halloween#2

Exploring haunted houses to find ghosts is often done by so-called paranormal teams fitted out with all kinds of special gear. Not to be outdone,the Muppet Labs has gone mobile to prove the existence of ghosts. And Beaker, the ever faithful assistant, is sent into a haunted house while the doctor in charge is safely outside in the mobile lab. And now the story of that adventure….


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Titanic Week In Review

Photo courtesy George Behe

Photo courtesy George Behe

1.Titanic Menu Up For Auction
BBC is reporting that a menu from Titanic’s first class restaurant will be auctioned off on 18 October by Henry Aldridge & Son. The menu, stuffed inside a coat pocket, is expected to fetch £70,000($112,528). A deck plan used to help a survivor find the way to a lifeboat on Titanic will be auctioned off as well.

2. Ancient Wreck Dubbed Titanic of Ancient World Proving To Be Treasure Trove
The 2,000-year-old Antikythera shipwreck in Greece is the focus of a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) expedition reports LiveScience.com. The ship likely sank between 70 B.C. and 60 B.C while on its way from Asia Minor to Rome. It was found by sponge divers in 1900 and early efforts to retrieve valuables proved costly in human lives. Some of the earlier items brought up back then included bronze and marble statues of heroes and horses, jewelry, furniture, glassware and a a complex astronomical calculator called the Antikythera mechanism. Jacques Cousteau also dived to the sunken ship and brought up some amazing items as well. This most recent expedition from Sept. 15 to Oct. 7 also brought up some fascinating items as well. Also the dive allowed for the use of rebreathers to allow divers to spend more time down exploring the wreck. They also used high resolution 3D maps of the site that showed it much larger than previously thought. Another expedition is being planned for next year.

3. Premier Exhibitions Facing Stronger Criticism Over Bodies Exhibition
As noted in an earlier posting, human rights activists in Toronto is calling for the seizure of the human bodies on display claiming many of the Chinese included were imprisoned or killed by that government. The Toronto Sun reports that Choose Humanity spokesman Joel Chipkar says the cadavers on display (which include men, women and children)were executed for engaging in such acts as belonging to group such as Falun Gong. Premier Exhibitions has not issued a formal response to the allegation.

4. If You Have $10.9 Million This Former Straus Property Could Be Yours
The Straus inheritors wanted to live big in Red Bank, New Jersey. So they decided to build a huge estate on 29,000 square feet that would have included a 27-room chateau had the Great Depression not slowed down and ended construction. They did build some fine buildings based on 18th century Provence and imported nearly everything to make it look right. What could not be imported was made by French and Italian artisans who came over to do the job. It was sold in 1951 and the houses became part of a co-op. This being a very wealthy area though, it was not a commune but a very nice place for those with lots of money to live in a lovely estate and share common amenities like a pool (important on those hot summer days). Now the whole thing is up for sale. Just fork over $10.9 million and it is yours. Pool included.

Not Titanic
1. I like the ABC show Castle. And like everyone was stunned at how last season ended. We are now two episodes into this season and this is what we learned:that Richard Castle has a very dark secret. And somehow that caught up with him just before the wedding. And he apparently, in conjunction with others to cover it up (possibly not by choice), staged the disappearance and likely used drugs of some kind to permanently loose those memories. Does anyone think the movie Total Recall is being done on us just with a Castle twist? Personally it would have been more likely had old enemies of his father had staged it. Hey, maybe they did for all we know. Not really liking this at all. One hopes down the road Kate does not wake up to find it is the day of the wedding and all that happened really was a dream.

2. Hells Kitchen continues its tradition of D list cooks who seemingly fall apart under the intense scrutiny of Chef Hell (Ramsay) and his assistants. It is becoming easier though to pick the ones that are clearly just there to cause problems in the group.

3. Someone needs to tell the folks over at Amazing Race we really do not care or need to know someone really had to go to the bathroom bad during the race. But we also found out in the first episode that some people really are quite stupid. One of the real estate gals actually said the sun rises in the west and settles in the east. The stunned looks on the two who heard her say that was funny. Needless to say the real estate gals were eliminated. Hopefully by now they have figured where the sun actually rises and sets. And it has been doing it exactly that way for a very long, long time.

That’s all folks!


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If You Have $10.9 Million This Former Straus Property Could Be Yours

In Red Bank, New Jersey the children of Isidor and Ida Straus decided to build a huge estate called Cobble Close in the 1920’s. It was modeled on 18th century Provence and no expense was spared to get the best of everything. Anything that could not be imported was built to on site by French and Italian artisans who immigrated to America for the job. The huge expanse of space-29,000 feet–allowed them to plan a majestic 35-bedroom chateau (not built), orangery, a barn and a caretaker’s cottage. The Great Depression slowed and ended the construction. The Straus family sold it in 1951. The estate buildings were turned into homes and a co-op was created so that the building owners could share use of the pool and other things.

Now it is up for sale, the entire estate. The buildings look really good as do the interiors. The area itself is quite wealthy and rated a nice area to live in. With 29,000 feet, you can certainly find a place to escape from the cares of the world. Just fork over $10.9 million and it is all yours.

Source:Macy’s Family Built This Frozen-In-Time Compound Between Titanic Disaster And Depression(6 Oct 2014,Zillow Blog)


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MasterChef Junior Season 2 Update

Photo: Fox

Photo: Fox

MasterChef Junior will now be premiering on Tuesday 4 Nov at 8 p.m. in Utopia’s old time slot (that failing show is now banished to Friday). A new cast of very young cheftestants is ready and eager to prove they are just as good as the ones 18+. And of course our culinary trio of Joe Bastianich, Gordon Elliot, and Gordon Ramsay are going to lead them on this food journey. Unlike the other show, foul language will not be used (although Gordon did break down last year and say a rude word but then he had a whole bowl of cream dumped on his head!). And of course these being very young kids, they are being watched by a team of medics and other personnel to make sure all is well. If you want to see interviews of the kids competing, go to MasterChef Junior at Fox.com.


 

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