2004 Tsunami – Indian Ocean

Aug 27
Posted by Dan Filed in Uncategorized

On December 26, 2004 a 9.0 earthquake near the west coast of Sumatra generated a tsunami that slammed into the coastline of 11 Indian Ocean countries, from east Africa to Thailand. By the end of the day 150,000 people had died. The final death toll was 283,000. Many tens of thousands of victims were swept out to sea.

We have all seen the photographs and videos of the 2004 tsunami and its horrific aftermath, as well as the equally similar and tragic event in Japan earlier this year. Words simply are not enough to provide a permanent tribute to such loss. It is humanity’s great gift to have artists who provide lasting memorials for the living and for future generations – static images that somehow come to life in the eyes and minds of the viewer. These memorials are as much a record of the event as the written word, or the photograph, or the cell phone video.

This post contains just a few of these monuments – from India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Maldives, Indonesia, and Thailand. Each memorial possesses a different emotional power.


A Short Editorial

Jan 20
Posted by Dan Filed in Uncategorized

I have been, and will continue to be, very careful about invoking politics, religion, or other controversial topics into this blog. Such discussions have no place here. This is a site to remember and honor the souls of those lost at sea – and to marvel at the beautiful memorials created by survivors, family members, friends, governments, talented artists, and the many generous contributors and volunteers who work so long and hard to make these memorials grow from an idea to reality.

Unfortunately, the dedication of any memorial is not the end of the journey. Most memorials are designed and constructed using private funds. Often, not enough thought is given to the long-term funding and maintenance requirements of the memorial. Human traffic and the natural elements will take their toll – the memorial can become weathered, eroded, or damaged by vandals, with no funding available to repair the damage or even to provide minimal upkeep.

If you live near one of these beautiful memorials, please consider volunteering your time and energy towards maintaining the site in its original state. If you’re a visitor, then please give whatever money you can to the foundation responsible for its upkeep.

Mefkure Memorial – Israel

Nov 12
Posted by Dan Filed in Uncategorized

In 1944 an incident eerily similar to the SS Struma sinking took place. In this instance 350 Jewish refugees bound for Palestine from Hitler’s Europe were lost at sea.

The Mefkure (sometimes known as Mefkura) sailed from the port of Constanta on August 5, 1944, accompanied by two other ships. Their destination was to be Istanbul, in neutral Turkey. The Jewish refugees would then attempt to enter Palestine by whatever means that could be devised.

After midnight the Mefkure was illuminated by flares from an unknown vessel, then fired upon, and finally torpedoed. The captain and 6 of the crew escaped the sinking ship in a lifeboat. Of the passengers – only 5 of a suspected total of 350 survived. After WWII it was revealed that the Mefkure, like the Struma three years earlier, had been torpedoed and sunk by a Soviet submarine – in this case the SC-215.

The first monument to the left shows the routes of the fateful final voyages of both the Struma and the Mefkure – the incidents were three years apart, but joined together forever in this monument. The second sculpture is a memorial to the motor schooner Mefkure and to all her lost souls resting on the bottom of the Black Sea…

Monument to the Discoveries – Lisbon, Portugal

Oct 21
Posted by Dan Filed in Uncategorized

First, the most important part of this post. The two breathtaking photographs shown above are the work of Aires dos Santos. I have spent hours admiring his extraordinary work on the Internet – every subject imaginable – each and every photograph beautiful and memorable. I encourage everyone reading this post to view his work at http://www.trekearth.com/members/AiresSantos/. You will not be disappointed.

The Monument to the Discoveries is located on the estuary of the Tagus river in Lisbon, Portugal – the site where countless ships sailed into the unknown during the great Age of Exploration of the 15th and 16th centuries. During these 200 years the Europeans extended their cultures to virtually the entire globe. The Portuguese were second to none in their curiosity and daring. Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, Saint Francis Xavier, Ferdinand Magellan, Pedro Escobar – their names echo through the annals of discovery. Their reach included the Americas, India, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific islands.

The 52-meter high monument is in the shape of the prow of a ship. The bow faces the river – the stern side features a sword reaching the full height of the structure. On the sides of the monument are representations of 33 Portuguese instrumental in the quest for discovery – explorers, scientists, artists, missionaries, and cartographers.

The monument was conceived and executed by artist Cottinelli Telmo and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida as part of the Portuguese World Fair in 1940. The original materials were perishable, so it was rebuilt in concrete in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. A stunning mosaic wind rose forms the pavement leading up to the monument. Displayed within the wind rose is a world map with the routes of famous Portuguese explorers. The mosaic was a gift from South Africa in 1960.

Today we have still have explorers – they launch into space and explore the great depths of the oceans – they climb mountains and risk their lives in caves. Despite modern technology and all precautions, some die. We hear about their deaths – we celebrate their courage and mourn their loss. But think about all those lost at sea during the Age of Discovery – those countless souls who sailed from the estuary of the Tagus river in Lisbon, or from England or France or the Netherlands or Spain – not knowing their destination or their fate. Their names and faces are not found on the Internet or in history books. Think of them also when you admire the beauty of the Monument to the Discoveries…

The Ancient Mariner and the Albatross…

Oct 12
Posted by Dan Filed in Uncategorized

In the village of Watchet (Somerset, England) is a haunting work of art by the Scottish sculptor Alan B. Herriot. This beautiful piece is a tribute to the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his ageless tale “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. As a metaphor, there is perhaps no more famous allusion than “an albatross around my neck”. Coleridge penned the lines that created this symbolism in 1798 – a testament to the power of poetry.

Great poetry can be enduring, whether accurate to truth or even legend. The albatross, in the actual lore of the sea, is not usually the sign of an encumbrance. It is quite the opposite. An albatross following a ship, to any real sailor, is a sign of good fortune.

I have been fortunate enough to see these magnificent birds in flight. While I have sailed many of the world’s oceans on barques and aircraft carriers, and flown over the world’s oceans in the finest aircraft made by man, I remain humbled by the albatross. They spend years at a time without ever touching land – yet they survive. In flight, they are the definition of perfection of purpose and beauty. No aircraft designed and flown by man will ever possess the purity of this single magnificent bird – with the wings of an angel and a feather touch to the wind.

The lore of the sea actually relates that each sailor who dies at sea will return reincarnate as an albatross. That is the legend that the sailors abide. Who’s to say that it isn’t true?

Please take advantage of the Internet and download a copy of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” to your computer. It is a fascinating tale. And please visit the link below to watch and hear Alan Herriot describe the creation of his memorable statue.


ANZAC Cove – Gallipoli, Turkey

Jul 23
Posted by Dan Filed in Uncategorized

In the inglorious and brutal history of warfare, few places have ever witnessed the carnage that played out in World War I at a place in Turkey called Gallipoli. From April 25, 1915 to January 9, 1916 a joint British and French operation was conducted to capture the Ottoman Empire capital of Istanbul and to control the Dardanelles – the sea route to Russia. The British and French operation failed, but only after the deaths of over 130,000 participants – with an additional 261,000 wounded. Many experts estimate that the dead and wounded total is actually significantly higher.

The casualties came from seemingly everywhere – the United Kingdom, Turkey, France, Australia, New Zealand, British India, Newfoundland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and French West Africa. Gallipoli was an equal opportunity place of courage, sacrifice, devotion to duty, and death. Almost half of the dead were never identified – body parts by the thousands buried in mass graves. Hundreds more died in naval actions supporting the landings, forever lost to the sea off the coast of Turkey

Cemeteries and monuments are found throughout the area. They are somber and beautiful and meticulously maintained by several countries. One of the heroes on the Turkish side was Mustafa Kemal. His rise to the presidency of Turkey began at Gallipoli – a place he would always hold sacred for anyone, regardless of country, who fought at that horrific time and place. In 1934 Kemal, now known as Ataturk, was President of Turkey. He ordered the construction of a monument at ANZAC Cove. ANZAC was the Australian-New Zealand Army Corp. ANZAC Cove was the location of one of the landings made by Australian and New Zealand Army troops during the campaign. ANZAC Cove was a place of particular killing and sorrow.

Expand the photograh and read the words of Ataturk. Seven decades have not decreased their power or eloquence – nor will seven centuries.

Cape Horn Memorial

Jul 4
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A second memorial on Cape Horn can be found within walking distance of the Albatross Memorial featured in a previous post. This memorial, like the Albatross, pays tribute to those who have lost their lives in the transit of Cape Horn – but it also pays tribute to those who successfully made the journey in the three-hundred years of commercial sail and exploration in the great windjammers.

Translated, the monument reads:

“To those who have crossed it and to those who have lost their lives to its demands.”

The End of the World…

Jun 18
Posted by Dan Filed in Uncategorized

Cape Horn…

For almost 600 years mariners have considered this single geographic spot to be the end of the world. Talk to anyone who has ever sailed on the oceans and the words ‘Cape Horn’ contain equal measures of dread, mystery, and anticipation. Cape Horn is the ultimate challenge – Cape Horn is their deepest fear.

Books abound about the challenges of sailing around Cape Horn. Two of the very best are Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. and The Last Time Around Cape Horn (The Historic 1949 Voyage of the Windjammer Pamir) by William F. Stark. Much more will be written about the ill-fated Pamir in later posts. The history of the Pamir is fascinating – fifty years under sail in war and peace under national several flags. Stark’s fine book tells the story of Pamir’s final journey around Cape Horn – which turned out to be the very last navigation around Cape Horn by any commercial sailing vessel.

A voyage around Cape Horn under sail is generally defined as a voyage of at least 3,000 nautical miles which must pass through 50 degrees South Latitude in both the Atlantic and Pacific (or Indian) Oceans. This would place the vessel only 600 nautical miles north of Antarctica. ‘Under Sail’ means that the use of any propulsion except the wind is prohibited. It is a challenge and it is dangerous, but once it was somewhat common. Today it is an extremely rare event – best said in a quotation from the web site of the International Association of Cape Horners:

“Cape Horn is sometimes called the Mount Everest of sailing. Mount Everest was first climbed on 29th May, 1953. We believe that, since that date, fewer people have qualified for full membership of the IACH than have climbed Mount Everest.”

A superb site to discover the IACH and the history of sailing Cape Horn can be found at http://www.capehorners.org/. Take the time to visit and browse their ‘Related Items’ page. It will take you to the web sites of their international chapters, links to videos of sailing Cape Horn, satellite photographs of the area – even information on visiting the area. Perhaps no other spot on earth contains as many souls lost at sea

Ghosts of Cape Horn continued…

Jun 15
Posted by Dan Filed in Uncategorized

First and foremost, the beautiful photograph and poem seen on my previous post was directly taken from a web site of the Chilean chapter of The Amicale Internationale des Capitaines au Long Cours Cap Horners – The International Association of Cape Horners. This association has chapters in several countries. Full membership in the I.A.C.H. is available only “for those who have voyaged around Cape Horn under sail”. This must be an exclusive club indeed.

Please visit http://www.caphorniers.cl/CH_monument.htm to read the fascinating details about the design and construction of this beautiful memorial at the end of the world.

My next post will discuss more about the I.A.C.H., links to their web sites worldwide, and much more about the legendary Cape Horn.

Ghosts of Cape Horn…

Jun 15
Posted by Dan Filed in Uncategorized

Designed by Lissette Moreno
Copyright © 1999 – 2010 Brotherhood of Cape Horners – Chilean Section.
All rights reserved.

Cape Horn Memorial

Monumento Cabo de Hornos I, the albatross that awaits for you at the end of the world…

I, the forgotten soul of the sailors lost that crossed Cape Horn from all the seas of the world.

But die they did not
in the fierce waves,
for today towards eternity
in my wings they soar
in the last crevice
of the Antarctic winds

Sara Vial
Dec – 1992