All posts by Mark Taylor

CHRISTMAS EVE: A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS

Image:public domain

A Visit from St. Nicholas

by Clement Clark Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap, When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

TITANIC NEWS FOR CHRISTMAS EVE

Safeguarding The RMS Titanic’s Final Resting Place (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 19 Dec 2019)

Last month the United States officially completed the acceptance process for the agreement and it is officially in force.  The agreement furthers the ability of the United States and the United Kingdom to minimize threats to the integrity of the Titanic wreck site and its remaining artifacts. It is intended to keep the artifacts together and intact in a manner allowing for public access. The United States and the United Kingdom hope that other nations will join the agreement in order to broaden cooperative efforts to protect the Titanic

At this point it is rather moot. There have already been several expeditions to Titanic that brought up artifacts along with survey expeditions to examine the wreck. Additionally you have tourists that dive nearby to see the wreck (for a handsome sum of money). The company that did the salvage operations is no longer doing this and focused on exhibitions for the most part (though they are trying to sell the collection but the price is so astronomically high that is hard to find buyers). It sounds nice but several decades too late for some who wanted the wreck protected from the start.

Inside the Titanic II, a close replica of the 1912 Titanic cruise liner that could set sail in 2022 (MSN, 16 Dec 2019)

Slideshow of what Titanic II will look like compared to the original along with historical and other information. Not much that people have not seen before but interesting to view. Although there has been some buzz about this project now going forward, there really is nothing new to report. No keel has been laid and no one can confirm that a shipyard is actually starting construction, just that it is on again now for 2022. The Chinese are building their own replica that will be docked in a theme park (it has come under criticism for wanting to have a simulated sinking that many thought distasteful).


With Christmas now just a day away, many are getting ready for welcoming Christmas Day. One of the most well-known Christmas songs is Silent Night. A simple melody that spread across many borders and sung in many languages. The movie The Nativity Story had its own version composed by Mychael Danna. It is heard at the end of the movie and is quite stirring on its own. It is sung in Latin but constructed to make it comport to the melody that is so beloved today. You can listen to it on YouTube here:

In case you are wondering about the lyrics, here they are:

Silens Nox (Latin)
Silens nox et sacra
Pastores tremisco
Caelis indicat gloria
Canunt Angeli alleluia
Christus natus est
Christus natus est.

English
Silent Night
Silent and holy night
Shepherds tremble
At heaven’s glorious sight
Angels sing, “Hallelujah!”
Christ is born.
Christ is born.

Translation by Josh(SilentRebel83) at http://lyricstranslate.com/en/silens-nox-silent-night.html.

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve everyone.

today is fourth advent sunday

Photo:Public Domain Photo:Public Domain

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent and it is the last one of course before Christmas.  Advent is a season of preparation for the birth of Jesus and not Christmas itself. While the secular world conflates the two (Advent and Christmas), the distinction is kept within the Christian church. Advent is a time of preparation for the birth so spiritual readings and vestments will reflect it. Unlike Lent which has strict observances that include fasts, Advent has no such strict requirement.

Yet it is a time for reflection as one awaits the approach of Christmas Day. In more olden times, there were fasts (it is still practiced in Eastern and Russian Orthodox where meat and dairy is prohibited for a specific period leading up to Christmas Day) but it is no longer a requirement  in most Western churches. However there is a trend emerging that encourages the faithful to perhaps give up something during Advent or perform a service that benefits others (like volunteering to help feed homeless people).  Music during this period also is designed to do this as well.

Come, let us rejoice in the Lord, let us acclaim God our salvation.
Let us come before him proclaiming our thanks, let us acclaim him with songs. (Psalm 95)

Happy Sunday everyone!

SATURDAY TITANIC NEWS: HITCHENS GRAVE HAS A HEADSTONE;EXPLORERS LOOK AT “ASIA TITANIC”

Robert Hichens from Merchant Seaman Records, Circa 1919 or earlier
Public Doman-Wikimedia

New Memorial To Titanic Helmsman Buried In Unmarked Grave (Belfast Telegraph, 19 Dec 2019)

The family of the helmsman of the Titanic, whose final resting place was a mystery for decades, have now marked his grave with a headstone in Aberdeen. Mr Hichens was buried in an unmarked grave with another sailor – Dutch seaman David Lamb – in Trinity Cemetery, meaning for years his family did not know where he had been laid to rest. The memorial was erected in a ceremony attended by three other relatives as well as Titanic enthusiasts. “It’s amazing, it is just fantastic. There were loads of people there.”

Underwater Survey of Asia Titanic Shows Wreck That Took 4,300(GeekWire, 19 Dec 2019)

The scene of the worst peacetime maritime disaster in history — known as “Asia’s Titanic” — has been surveyed by the Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel, the exploration ship owned and operated by the late Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. R/V Petrel worked in partnership with the National Museum of the Philippines to examine the site of the M/V Doña Paz and M/T Vector in Tablas Strait in April. The passenger ferry and oil tanker collided on Dec. 20, 1987, killing an estimated 4,386 people. Only 24 people were reported to have survived.

Well you do not see this every day. A cruise ship coming into port got an unexpected squall that caused it to collide with another ship already docked. There were only minor injuries to some passengers but the damage was extensive as the video indicates. It appears the captain did his best to minimize the collision by reversing the engines. Although the damage to both ships did not affect structural integrity, it means significant repairs have to be done to fix the damage on both ships.

Happy Saturday everyone. Here is a nice tune to get you into a festive mood.

TODAY IS THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

3rd Advent Sunday

What Is Advent?

Advent on the Christian calendar is a season of preparation for the birth of Jesus. It is a season of joy leading up to Christmas Day and also a time of preparation similar to Lent. Prayer, fasting and penance are part of the Advent season. The rules are not as strict as Lent but a time of self-preparation. The color purple is associated with penance. Each Advent Sunday is meant to ready oneself for rejoicing at the birth of Jesus that is to come. The Third Sunday of Advent is the anticipatory celebration and the color rose is used to represent joy.

The Advent wreath

Many homes and churches will have an Advent wreath to symbolize the season, and to mark each Sunday as it happens. The practice began by German Lutherans in the 18th century as a means of teaching Advent to children. The practice began to spread to Catholics and other Christian denominations as well.

Advent wreaths are circular to show that God’s love is infinite and is made with evergreen leaves.  It used to be a family event to gather the leaves and make the wreath. The practice has resurfaced in recent years as many families now do this again. Advent wreaths made of artificial evergreens are available in a wide series of designs. Handmade ones can be made to last many years.

Advent: Dates, Traditions, and History(Infoplease.com)
Catholic Traditions (Catholic Education Resource Center)

SATURDAY TITANIC NEWS: 20 SHADY FACTS AND LIGHTOLLER WATCH SETS RECORD AT AUCTION

20 Shady Facts About The Titanic II (We Can’t Ignore Anymore)   The Travel (13 Dec 2019)

An interesting look at Titanic II with some clever notations about this so-called replica ship that has yet to be built.

Charles H. Lightoller, second officer of the RMS Titanic.
Circa 1920-1930
Public Domain (from Wikimedia)

Titanic Survivor’s Pocket Watch Sets New World Record At Goldin Auctions  Just Collecting (11 Dec 2019)

According to the folks at Just Collecting, a new record was set with the auction of this watch. “A pocket watch owned by Titanic Second Officer Charles Lightoller has sold at auction in the U.S for more than $170,000, setting a new world record for a Titanic timepiece. The watch sold at Goldin Auctions for $173,500, beating the previous record of $154,000 set in 2008 by the watch belonging to ship’s steward Edmund Stone.” It shows that Titanic still commands a high value for original items such as this. For the seller it is good news. And of course when the taxes come due, the government will get its share as well.

Today is the feast of Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy)

Santa Lucia (St. Lucy)
Santa Lucia (St. Lucy)

Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the blind and eye disorders and her feast day used to coincide with the Winter Solstice which is the day often celebrated as a festival of light in many places. Many stories and legends have become associated with her but research has failed to substantiate many of them. It is known she lived in Sicily early in the fourth century and was persecuted and executed for her faith. One story that is likely true is that she was denounced as a Christian by a suitor after she turned him down because of her faith. She faced torture and death for her beliefs. Because it is believed she was blinded during Roman torture, she is the patron saint of the blind.

Her feast day is celebrated in Scandinavian countries as a festival of light during the long winter night. A young girl in a white dress and red sash carries palms and wears a wreath of candles on head. Special rolls or cookies are made for the day and often handed out to the elderly. It is also celebrated in parts of Italy particularly in Sicily and in many places of the world today. There are many churches dedicated to her and the island of Santa Lucia in the Caribbean is named for her.

Further Information:

Sunday Titanic news:Child’s titanic letter and a gingerbread house you can dine in

Michel, right with his brother, Edmund, taken after sinking to aid in their identification
Public Domain

Child’s Letter Sheds Light On Titanic Sinking – ‘I Didn’t Know I’d Never See Dad Again’ (Daily Star, 6 Dec 2019)

Many extraordinary human stories have emerged from that fateful night, but few are more poignant than a letter written by four-year-old Michel Navratil. Michel was one of two brothers dubbed the “Titanic Orphans” by the press, because he and his two-year-old brother Edmond were the only children rescued without a parent or carer. Michel’s granddaughter Elisabeth has been tracked down by the researchers of a new documentary about the Titanic and she read out for them Michel’s touching account of the iconic liner’s final hours.

Life-size gingerbread house enchants dinner guests at Titanic Hotel Belfast Irelandbeforeyoudie.com (December 2019)

If you’ve ever wondered what it might have been like for Hansel and Gretel to step into the gingerbread house in the Grimm fairy tale, now’s your chance to find out. Magdalena Abakumiec has made—by hand!—an impressive life-size gingerbread house right in Titanic Hotel Belfast, and you can actually dine inside it this winter.

TODAY IS SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

2nd Advent Sunday Photo:Clemens PFEIFFER, Vienna

What Is Advent?

Advent on the Christian calendar is a season of preparation for the birth of Jesus. It is a season of joy leading up to Christmas Day and also a time of preparation similar to Lent. Prayer, fasting and penance are part of the Advent season. The rules are not as strict as Lent but a time of self-preparation. The color purple is associated with penance. Each Advent Sunday is meant to ready oneself for rejoicing at the birth of Jesus that is to come. The Third Sunday of Advent is the anticipatory celebration and the color rose is used to represent joy.

The Advent wreath

Many homes and churches will have an Advent wreath to symbolize the season, and to mark each Sunday as it happens. The practice began by German Lutherans in the 18th century as a means of teaching Advent to children. The practice began to spread to Catholics and other Christian denominations as well.

Advent wreaths are circular to show that God’s love is infinite and is made with evergreen leaves.  It used to be a family event to gather the leaves and make the wreath. The practice has resurfaced in recent years as many families now do this again. Advent wreaths made of artificial evergreens are available in a wide series of designs. Handmade ones can be made to last many years.

Advent: Dates, Traditions, and History(Infoplease.com)
The Catholic Encyclopedia

TODAY IS PEARL HARBOR REMEMBRANCE DAY-“A DATE WHICH WILL LIVE IN INFAMY”

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

On this date in 1941, Japan launched a carrier based strike on U.S. military forces based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Their strategy was to use this attack to convince the country and its leaders that war with Japan would be futile. They achieved tactical surprise as no warning of an attack had yet been received. While decryption of their codes had revealed their intent, the warning did not reach Pearl Harbor until after the attack had begun. The Japanese legation in Washington did not deliver their government’s official response to a recent diplomatic exchange until after the attack due to problems in transcribing the message. The attack began at 07:55 local time (12:55 p.m. eastern standard time). It was early afternoon when President Roosevelt was notified by Secretary of War Henry Stimson of the attack. There was some doubt among some staff as to the validity of the report but President Roosevelt believed it. And subsequent reports would show it was true. Radio was soon reporting on it as well and the entire nation soon learned of the shocking event that had taken place in the faraway location.

The purpose of the attack was to seriously cripple the U.S. naval and air operations (both the Navy and Army Air Corps). The surprise was effective and sank or crippled numerous American ships. However the jewels of the fleet were the aircraft carriers and they were not there. And the Japanese had no idea where they were. After conducting the first two strikes, a third strike was considered to more completely wipe out the storage, maintenance and dry dock facilities. Captain Minoru Genda,who helped in the planning,argued for invasion to maximize American losses. Admiral Nagumo decided to retire because of deteriorating weather, the unknown location of the American carriers, the long turnaround time required for a third strike that would allow American forces to gather and counterattack, and the fact the Nagumo’s strike force was at the extreme limit of logistical support. They were low on fuel and another strike would require them to travel at reduced speeds to conserve fuel. So he headed home. Much later Admiral Yamamoto, who supported the decision at the time, would in retrospect say it was a mistake since it allowed the U.S. to come back quickly.

The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941 Image: Public Domain (National Archives and Records Administration,ARC Identifier#195617)

The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941
Image: Public Domain (National Archives and Records Administration,ARC Identifier#195617)

Most of those who died at Pearl were sailors aboard the ships that were damaged or sunk. Of the 2,008 sailors killed, 1,177 were killed when the forward magazine on the USS Arizona exploded. Eighteen ships were sunk, beached, or run aground. 188 aircraft (mostly Army Air Corps) destroyed, 159 damaged. Most of the planes were destroyed on the ground. Only eight pilots got airborne and did attack Japanese aircraft but only one was shot down. Some pilots were killed or shot down later by friendly fire. Five inbound planes from USS Enterprise were shot down. The Navy lost 24 of its PBY planes. Additional casualties came from when Japanese attacked barracks. 2,403 Americans killed and 1,178 others were wounded. Since the U.S. was not at war, they are all classified as non-combatants. The Japanese lost 55 airmen, nine submariners and one captured. They lost 29 planes in battle and 74 were damaged by antiaircraft fire.

Most Americans were enjoying a pleasant Sunday.  Secretary of State Cordell Hull met with the Japanese ambassador around 2:30 p.m., just when the first reports were coming in about the attack. Popular Sunday afternoon radio shows were interrupted with the stunning news about the attack on Pearl Harbor. From coast to coast, Americans were riveted to their radios listening to the latest updates. Lines of volunteers began forming outside military recruitment centers. The isolationist sentiment was ushered to the rear while most of the nation united against the Japanese. On 8 November before a joint session of Congress, President Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Signing Declaration of War Against Japan 8 Dec 1941
National Archives and Records Administration

And a hour later Congress officially declared war on Japan. Far from causing the U.S. to cower, it brought Americans together like never before. Hitler’s decision to join with Japan on 11 Dec was somewhat of a surprise-to his German High Command! They had not planned with war with the United States so soon and now they faced a two front war with an highly industrialized power against them. Mussolini foolishly committed Italy to the war with the U.S. as well. For Japan they had control of the Pacific until June 1942. That is when the U.S. Navy engaged the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. At the end of the battle, four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk to our one (the Yorktown). It was a shocking loss to the Japanese (and one they kept secret for as long as possible). The Doolittle Raid had convinced them to take on the American Navy directly. They did and lost spectacularly. And it shifted the balance of power in the Pacific. Admiral Yamamoto had been correct in his assessment of how the war with America would go:“I shall run wild considerably for the first six months or a year, but I have utterly no confidence for the second and third years.”

Yamamoto would not survive the war. President Roosevelt ordered that he be taken care of for his part in planning the Pearl Harbor attack. Thanks to the work of U.S. Naval Intelligence that had broken Japanese codes (code named Magic), his travel plans to the South Pacific in April, 1943 were learned. Orders were given and select pilots were used to target a very important high officer but were not told who it was. On 18 April 1943, a squadron of Lockheed P-38’s were assigned to intercept and bring down his transport being escorted by Japanese zeroes. There were two Japanese transports. After a dogfight with the Zeroes and transports, the transport with Yamamoto’s plane crashed into the jungle north of Buin, Papua New Guinea. Japanese search parties found his body, thrown from the aircraft and under a tree. He had two .50 caliber bullet wounds, one in his left shoulder and the other that had exited through his right eye. The true manner of his death was hidden from the Japanese public and not revealed until long after the war had ended. He was cremated, given a state funeral, and given posthumous titles and awards. Today the place where his plane crashed is a tourist attraction.

For more information:
Home of Heroes
Pearl Harbor Remembered
The History Place
Pearl Harbor Attack(Naval Heritage & History Command)
Battleship USS Arizona History