World’s largest historic and traditional fleet threatened?

“As bankruptcy looms for many skippers, an ‘irreplaceable’ part of the Netherlands’ maritime heritage is at risk”.

Alarming headlines in the national and international media, like this one in the Guardian of July 15, focus on the dramatic consequences of Covid-19 for Dutch maritime heritage. Over the past 50 years a fleet of a few thousand historic vessels has been preserved by private owners. About ten percent has been converted into charter vessels, sailing with groups in inland and coastal waters. About one third of this group is certified to sail the high seas. Roughly two dozen is working truly globally, from the NW passage to Antarctic waters.

Most of the historic ships are used as sailing houseboats, the smaller as yachts.

The direct threat of Covid-19 concerns the ten percent, the charter fleet. These vessels simply do not fit in to what has become as familiar as it is notorious in the past few months, the “one and a half metres society”. Until June vessels were not allowed to sail with passengers. The market collapsed. It is estimated that the fleet will miss 70 to 80 percent of its turnover in 2020. Nobody knows whether the specific sailing charter market will recover in 2021.

The short-term consequences for The short-term consequences for individual skipper-owners are dramatic. Already some of them are facing bankruptcy. But, in a wider perspective, the situation is even much more serious. With the establishment of the professional charter fleet in the past decades an associated infrastructure has been developed which is vital for the total heritage fleet. Now, not only the charter agencies or the specialised classification organizations are in crisis, but small scale businesses like shipyards, sailmakers, leeboard, mast and block makers are heavily dependent on the charter fleet. These professionally used ships are easily making ten to twenty times the number of sailing days the other historic vessels made.

The real problem is a matter of scale. If the number of professionally used sailing ships drops under a certain limit, the companies of the infrastructure will lose their economic base. That will not only affect the charter vessels, but the total Dutch heritage fleet.

Nobody knows yet what that limit is. Let us hope we never find out.

Frits Loomeijer

The 2019 North Atlantic Fisheries History conference

Re-visiting Fisheries History – Re-visiting Iceland – The North Atlantic Fisheries History Association (NAFHA) has returned to Iceland

The 2019 North Atlantic Fisheries History conference organized by the North Atlantic Fisheries History Association (NAFHA) took place Oct 17,18, 2019 in Reykjavik, Iceland. Co-organized by Guðmundur Jonsson, University of Iceland, and Ingo Heidbrink, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, it was a successful return to the country where the work of the North Atlantic Fisheries History Association (NAFHA) has begun. The topic of the conference‚ ‘Re-Visiting Fisheries History – Re-visiting Iceland’ was mainly chosen to stimulate discussion about recent historiography and more importantly contemporary fisheries history – or in other words, what has happened after the Cod-Wars.

The 15 papers presented by colleagues from seven nations around the North Atlantic clearly demonstrated that there is fisheries history beyond the Cod Wars and that the dramatic effects of the changes within the international distant water fisheries on the fisheries, technology, port cities, nation states, economies, societies, identities, etc. provide rich and plentiful topics for historical research of major societal relevance. One of those fisheries historians and a participant of a number of previous NAFHA conferences, who is well recognized for his research contributions in this field, opened the conference with his keynote paper, ‘The Cod Wars are not over. The use and abuse of the past in present debates’. Unfortunately, shortly after being promoted to Professor at the University of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson got elected President of Iceland and consequently ‘needed to take a sabbatical from academia’. But fortunately it seems that this sabbatical still provides some room for fisheries history which became obvious during the reception at Bessastaðir, the official residence of the Icelandic President (or the Icelandic White House).

Ingo Heidbrink

1852 Baltic Hull Shipwreck Identified

A well preserved ship wreck discovered by Finnish diver Jerry Wilhelmsson four years ago in shallow water off the Aland Islands has been identified as ‘The Regard’, a ship from Hull, which disappeared 168 years ago en route for St Petersburg.

Dr Robb Robinson, from the Blaydes Maritime Centre, The University of Hull, played a key role in the identification of the vessel.

Source: https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/incredibly-well-preserved-hull-ship-which-sank-1852-found-baltic-2450032

Online Scottish Arctic whaling data set

Chesley W. Sanger, Professor emeritus at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, reports that the dataset “Scottish Arctic Whaling (1750-WWI”: A Digitized Statistical Profile” is now available on the whalinghistory.org web site.

The information originally hand copied from primary documents almost a half century ago is now housed in MUN’s Maritime History Archive, St. John’s, NL, and was unfortunately difficult to access. The data were the basis of Professor Sanger’s Ph. D thesis (1985), 16 journal articles (1980-2013), and a summary book, “Scottish Arctic Whaling” (Edinburgh: John Donald 2016). These publications, especially the book, generated considerable interest in this little known but important Scottish industry. It was thus decided to digitize details of the 3,641 individual voyages fitted out by Scottish entrepreneurs.

This data set was the structural framework for the following research findings: Vessels clearing variously from 16 Scottish ports between 1750 and WWI returned with almost 20,000 bowhead whales and 4,000,000 harp seals. And they did so under almost unimaginably demanding and hazardous conditions. More than 110 ships were lost, while others were often entrapped within the pack-ice, causing the whale men to suffer starvation, disease, scurvy, frostbite and death. In 1836, alone, more than 100 whalers on the Advice and Thomas, Dundee, and Dee of Aberdeen perished at Davis Strait.

IMHA Vice President Amélia Polónia is awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa by Université Bretagne Sud

Amélia Polónia, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Porto (FLUP), received, on February 10, in the French city of Vannes, the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the University Bretagne Sud (UBS).

“As in Portugal, the title of Doctor Honoris Causa is one of the most prestigious distinctions awarded by French universities. In this case, however, it has the particularity of being attributed only to “personalities of foreign nationality” who are distinguished by “eminent services rendered to science, letters or the arts, to France or to the University”.

With almost 40 years of connection – 35 of which as a teacher – to FLUP, Amélia Polónia …thus sees internationally recognized a path of excellence in teaching and research in the area of Modern History. Specialist in the History of the Portuguese Overseas Expansion and History of European Colonization, she is widely recognized for her work in the fields of Colonial Studies, Port History or Gender Studies.”

The Honoris Causa PhD award ceremony took place at the Faculty of Law, Economic Sciences and Management at UBS, and was attended by the director of FLUP, Fernanda Ribeiro.

Source: https://noticias.up.pt/amelia-polonia-e-doutora-honoris-causa-pela-universite-bretagnesud/

The Frank Broeze Prize has been awarded to Dr Lisa Hellman

Due to the postponement of the IMHA’s conference, where the winner of the Frank Broeze Prize is usually announced, the Executive Board has decided to announce the winner now.

Professor Frank Broeze was one of the leading maritime historians of his generation. In his honour, the International Maritime History Association has instituted the Frank Broeze Prize to be awarded to the author of a doctoral thesis which, in the opinion of the panel, makes the most outstanding contribution to the study of maritime history. The panel applied the following criteria in deciding the winner of the prize:

  • Contribution to knowledge and understanding of the maritime past;
  • Originality of approach, source material and/or findings;
  • Depth and coherence of argument;
  • Choice and application of methodology;
  • Presentational and stylistic quality.

The judging panel comprised:

Malcolm Tull, Murdoch University (Chair)

Maria Fusaro, University of Exeter

Gelina Harlaftis, University of Crete

Ingo Heidbrink , Old Dominion University

Graeme Milne, University of  Liverpool.

There were eleven applicants for the Prize. The theses were a mix between ‘traditional’ and innovative/interdisciplinary approaches and the judges found all were of a high quality. This impressive research by young scholars bodes well for the future of maritime historiography.

The winner of the Frank Broeze Prize for the Outstanding Doctoral Thesis in Maritime History 2020 is Lisa Hellman for her thesis, ‘Navigating the Foreign Quarters. Everyday life of the Swedish East India Company employees in Canton and Macao 1730-1830’. The judges commented on the “lucid, wide-ranging and interdisciplinary analysis. Interesting structure. Impressive range of languages and historiographies seamlessly blended into a coherent and nuanced analysis”; “Intriguing analysis of cultural exchanges in treaty port life, based on an impressive multi-lingual archive base. Effectively argued and presented”.

Lisa was the first PhD student in maritime history at the Centre for Maritime Studies (CEMAS), Stockholm University. She was supervised by Professor Leos Mϋller and Professor Leif Runefelt from CEMAS. Lisa is currently a Researcher at the Graduate School of Global Intellectual History, Freie Universität Berlin/Uppsala University.

The Frank Broeze Prize carries with it a cash award of €500 and free registration at the Eighth International Congress of Maritime History in Porto, Portugal, 2021.

Due to the overall high quality of the theses submitted, the Executive Board decided to award the runners-up one year’s free membership of the IMHA.