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 The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay

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Norseman
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PostSubject: The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay   Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:43 pm


The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay

A while ago I became very interested in the item below - perhaps you know of similar areas? I will add the links that take you to the original files - I don't want to take credit for others work. Photos are all at the end of the post.

At http://www.gearthhacks.com/dlfile27908/Aerial-view-of-the-Ghost-Fleet-in-Mallows-Bay-1942.htm you can find this description -

Just offshore of Charles County, Maryland, across the Potomac River from Quantico Marine Base, lies one of the Potomac River's great historical oddities. From a distance, the water's surface is broken by patches of low scrub covered islands, seemingly overcome by the tide. On closer inspection, the islands have distinct outlines, familiar forms, and an arrangement unusual to behold in most quiet coves along the Potomac. This is Mallows Bay, the resting place of some 130 sunken ships, including the remains of 81 historically significant wooden steamships built under a crash government program during World War I.

For decades, the mile-long isolated cove about 30 miles south of Washington has served as a dumping ground for old ships. And for almost half a century, the site has been virtually ignored by all with the exception of wildlife and the anglers. Today, historians, conservationists, and many citizens are interested in designating the area as a special shipwreck preserve to maintain this unique historical site. According to Don Shomette, a maritime historian and underwater archeologist, Mallows Bay holds the greatest concentration of sunken ships in North America. "It's one of our stunning and undiscovered resources," said Shomette. The diverse collection of ships at the site includes various sailing vessels, steamships, and even an 18th century longboat, which also is the oldest wreck in the cove.

The main attraction at Mallows Bay is the steamship fleet. During World War I, the United States built a fleet of 336 wooden steamships, intending to use them in the war against Germany. The hulking, coal-dependent ships ranged from 265 to 285 feet long and cost more than $1 billion to construct. However, it was soon discovered that the long transatlantic journey required so much coal that the ships could not carry much cargo and the steamships were rendered obsolete by the time the war was over in 1918. In the early 1920s, the majority of the fleet was sold to a variety of investors for scrap material and by the 1940s, most of the hulls had been salvaged by prospectors, burned to their waterlines and abandoned.

At http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/11/AR2010121102381.html you can find more info (slightly edited)

The sordid story of the ghost fleet of Mallows Bay

In 1917, German U-boats were wreaking havoc with transatlantic shipping, dispatching tons of much-needed supplies destined for the Allies to the bottom of the ocean. America could ill afford to lose these ships. That year, an engineer named Frederic Eustis proposed constructing hundreds of wooden steamships, using a design and building method that would ensure they could be turned out quickly. William Denman, chairman of the United States Shipping Board, announced plans to build 1,000 ships. This "almost endless chain of boats" (as The Washington Post put it) would overwhelm the Kaiser's submarines. Boatyards across the country started churning out wooden steamships. But there was a problem: The ships weren't very good and they were obsolete before they even set sail, they were too small to carry any real weight, even though some were 300 feet long. Plus, the Great War had ended.

What to do with these lousy boats, which totaled more than 200? "They tried to give them to Uruguay, and they didn't want them," Don said. It is a sad day, indeed, when even Uruguay won't take leaky wooden steamships off your hands. The ships cost a total of almost $1 billion to build and they ended up selling the entirety of the fleet for $175,000 at auction. The buyer was Western Marine and Salvage Co., a firm in Alexandria that berthed the ships at Widewater, Va. The plan was to tow them one by one to the wharf in Alexandria and burn the ships to reveal metal fittings that could be sold for scrap. "The first one up in Alexandria caught fire and burned the waterfront down," Don said. "It wasn't a good start." The whole thing was snakebit. In 1924, 214 hulls were towed to Mallows Bay, an area on Charles County's Nanjemoy Peninsula, across from Quantico. You could literally walk a mile without touching the water, they were packed so tightly. Though local watermen protested that the ships would ruin the waters they depended on, the salvage company got permission to start burning the fleet. The Post reported hordes of squealing rats leaving the ships as they were set on fire. When the price of scrap dropped during the Depression, the Alexandria firm sort of washed its hands of the affair and entrepreneurs set up shop.

It became a free-for-all down there and because of Prohibition, the ships became excellent places for erecting stills. . . . The upshot was that the area became a place where a lot of unemployed men worked trying to round up whatever scrap metal they could take off. You might have 75 to 200 men in different boats.Where there are single men and booze, prostitutes naturally follow. At least 20 Potomac "river arks" - houseboats that served as floating brothels - dropped anchor. Because Mallows Bay is directly across from the Marine base at Quantico, it is not inconceivable that Marines may have indulged in the illicit offerings.

You can read more by Donald G. Shomett at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/naturalresource/winter2001/ghostship.html and an interesting pdf at http://www.cnrs-scrn.org/northern_mariner/vol04/tnm_4_4_15-22.pdf . I'm sure there is much more on the web too.

The images are fascinating

USS Banago was a Ferris design for the Emergency Fleet Corporation see link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:USS_Banago_EFC_Ferris_design.jpg



Hough was another designer



Now for the aerial shots













Anyway I hope you found it interesting - anyone know of other ghost fleets?

Regards Norseman
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Damien
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PostSubject: Re: The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay   Tue Oct 25, 2011 11:15 pm

Thanks Norseman that was a good read. Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay   Wed Oct 26, 2011 8:08 am

Brilliant. I had heard of this saga but great to read about it like this. Cheers... Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay   Wed Oct 26, 2011 2:07 pm

that's amazing...........just gobsmacking!

neil.
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PostSubject: Re: The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay   Sat Oct 29, 2011 6:51 pm

Definately interesting and looking at that ship in "Dazzle camo" it reminds me of the steamers of the fijords circia 1930 that my "SS Viking" is based on maybe a resurection and alteration of the plan is called for
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