With the Shenandoah unable to proceed any further into the Sea of Okhotsk, the crew reluctantly abandons Siberian waters and start sailing out through the Kuril Straits, and towards the Arctic Circle. For three weeks there has been only one prize. The Officers are muttering about the captain, the mates are fighting duels (sort of) in steerage, and Captain Waddell is no doubt getting buttock clenching practice as he navigates his ship through fog without hitting ice or land. But what is that off in the distance? Is it a fleet of sails. No, it’s a fleet of whales! And if there are whales, can whalers be far away?
With a large part of the crew recovering from the biggest (and northernmost) hangover of their lives, the Shenandoah attempts to continue its cruise in the Okhotsk sea, off the coast of Siberia.
Following the shipboard breakdown in discipline due to staggeringly immense quantities of liquor they captured from the whaler Abigail last week, what more could go wrong for the officers of the Shenandoah? Well, try waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of ice hitting the hull, and coming up on deck to find an ice storm raging. How will the Shenandoah avoid the fate of Franklin’s ship the Erebus, where the crew went mad and ate each other? Find out in episode 33 of Shenandoah Down Under, the one with the pack ice…
After a month of little excitement, the CSS Shenandoah captures the whaler Abigail, in the Okhotsk Sea off the coast of Siberia. The Abigail is carrying twenty barrels of whale oil, but also has fifty barrels of brandy, rum, whiskey and gin, together with 180 cases of ‘assorted spirits, wines and ciders’ on board. To make things plain, that is a lot more liquor than whale oil. Quite what Captain Nye of the Abigail was doing with so much alcohol has been lost to history, but it was labelled, ‘for medicinal purposes only’, so clearly he was careful of the health of his crew and of the local Inuit.
There must have been a lot of sick people on board the Shenandoah, because for the next four days there was (quote), “Hell to pay among the crew.” When Sherman said ‘War is hell”, he probably wasn’t thinking about this….
As the CSS Shenandoah prepares to steam into the Sea of Okhotsk, things are getting decidedly chilly. In three weeks of sailing and steaming the ship has gone from 100 fahrenheit temperatures (38 celsius) to a below freezing 26 (-3 Celsius). It is just lucky that Midshipman Mason has been making so many pairs of pants, although with his chilblains playing up, a pair of slippers would also come in handy for the long evenings he spends reading Les Miserables…
With the Shenadoah off the Russian coast, Rob and MOB further explore the strange case of the Dogger Bank incident, also known as the “Russian Atrocity”, where the Russian Baltic fleet in 1904 mistook a fleet of British fishermen for Japanese torpedo boats (as you do). Tune in to hear more about this great day in Russian naval history, if, by great day, you mean embarrassing ommnishambles.
The CSS Shenandoah forges ever northwards towards the sea of Okhotsk, its path taking it close to the Kuril Islands, an archipelago running between Japan and Russia. Rob and MOB examine the complicated history of these islands, whose ownership is disputed to the present day. This involves describing the unfortunate fate of the Russian Baltic fleet in 1905, who sailed almost the entire way round the world, arriving just in time to be sunk by the Japanese.
All this was in the future for the crew of the Shenandoah however, who are faced with heavy weather, storms, squalls, and temperatures that are starting to get a little chilly. Nothing can stop Midshipman Mason however, in his implacable quest to make himself another pair of pants, even if it means getting some unfortunate candle grease stains.
As the CSS Shenandoah continues her journey into the Northern Pacific, Midshipman Mason wonders if the ventilation duct in the Midshipman’s berth is about to turn from a turn from a pleasant supply of cool tropic breezes to a less pleasant supplier of arctic gales. Arctic gales spoiler alert: he is right to worry about this!
Back in the USA, the Northern States cope with their own cold wave of grief over Lincoln’s death, as his body is carried in state on a last railway journey back to Springfield Illinois. With the war in the continental United States reaching its end, questions remain about the war in the Pacific. Will the Shenandoah ever take another prize? Will the time-expired sailors re-enlist, and why does the plot of Dicken’s Martin Chuzzlewit annoy Americans so much?
As the CSS Shenandoah scuds north, towards towards the Russian sea of Okhotsk (not to be confused with toddlers fashion label Oskosh Bigosh) they look in vain for a sail on the ‘China Path’, the route between San Francisco and the Orient. With not a prize in sight, Midshipman Mason wrestles with one of the most difficult parts of the sailors life – making himself a new pair of pants.
150 years later, Rob and MOB recount some of the strange tales found in “Leviathan, the History of Whaling in America”, by Eric Jay Dolin, including the epic tale of the great stone fleet. This was the Yankee’s plan to blockade the harbours of the South, using sunken whaling ships to block the harbour channels. What happens when BOTH sides of the Civil War are busy sinking Whaling ships? Find out in episode 28 of Shenandoah Down Under, the one with the pants.
As the Shenandoah moves deeper into the Pacific Michael and Robert are delighted to welcome Hawai‘i Pacific University associate professor of History Justin Vance, who has just been named the 2015 Hawaii History Educator of the Year. Justin takes us through the suprisingly profound and long lasting consequences for Hawaii and other Pacific islands caused by the American Civil War. Hawaii started the Civil War as the world’s great centre of whaling support, an industry that the Shenandoah did it’s very best to destroy. But the Civil War was also Hawaii’s salvation, as the North’s insatiable appetite for sugar could no longer be slaked by the Southern plantations. Find out how ‘the voyage of the Shenandoah connects the Civil War to the world’, on this weeks episode of Shenandoah Down Under.
The peregrinations of the CSS Shenandoah this week take it to the island Kingdom of Pohnpei, where four Yankee whaler captains out on a ‘Bust’ get the worst possible introduction to their hangover, a Confederate warship arrived to loot and burn them. But it is not all plain sailing for the Confederates either. Pohnpei has very high rainfall, and it is not easy burning a ship in pouring rain!
This weeks episode also sees the introduction of the journal of Midshipman Mason, a high minded 20 year old busy reading the works of Charles Dickens when not sinking Yankee whalers. This week he is reading ‘Nicholas Nickleby’, and making cryptic comments, in French, about the morals to be found on a pacific island. Join Rob, Mob and guest listener Andrew Bean, as we try to decipher salty sea comments in a language none of us understand.
With the Shenandoah about to land in Pohnpei in what is now the Federated States of Micronesia, Rob, Mob and guest Rick Meints step back a bit to consider events in early April in the sideshow theatre of the American Civil War that was actually happening in America, populated by minor and little known figures called Lincoln, Grant and Lee.
Also, in the present day, the Sea Shepard ship the Bob Barker claims the prize of an illegal fishing vessel, proving once again that while history doesn’t repeat, it sure does rhyme….