30 September 2008

Tote that bale!

Ok, this is the Ogeechee Canal, a small number of miles southwest of Savannah, Georgia. I have been trying to find this place for a while, but it is not easy. It is not on very many maps, and only has a sign for it going in one direction. It is also privately run so it is not often featured in anything. Anyway, the Ogeechee Canal was originally planned to connect the Savannah River with the Ogeechee, Altamaha, Flint, and Chattahoochee rivers, bringing together much of Georgia's agricultural interior and making Savannah the premier Southern port. It began in 1824 with a State granted charter to Ebenezer Jenckes to build a canal between the Savannah and Ogeechee rivers. News and public support for the project were initially high, but fell quickly and fell hard. In 1825, Jenckes went to New York and met with Governor De Witt Clinton, the champion of the famous Erie Canal. Clinton recommended his twenty year old son, De Witt Jr. He arrived in Georgia amid controversy about his age and experience. His advice to build a feeder canal was also ignored and in March of 1827 he resigned as Canal Engineer.
But the canal's problems had only begun. Soon, investors became delinquit on their payments and much stock was abandoned. Contractors cut corners which caused delays and other problems. The one bright spot was perhaps that the canal company turned to local planters for laborers, leasing slaves and giving money to the landowners. The peak work force was 577 slave and Irish laborers in March 1827.
The sixteen mile canal between the Savannah and Ogeechee rivers was finally completed in December 1830 for $190,000. Its early years of operation continued to be problematic however. Creditors still sought the funds they were owed, and the canal seemed to always be in disrepair. In 1833 the Central of Georgia Railroad was chartered and brought in investors who had given up on the problematic canal. In 1836 the bankrupt canal was sold at sheriff's auction for a fraction of its value.But the canal's new management did not give up on it. The wooden locks were replaced with brick ones, the canal was deepened, and the embankments and tow path were improved. During the 1840's and 50's the canal boomed. Cotton, rice, beans, bricks, naval stores, peaches, and more were now shipped on the canal from the enterprises west of Savannah to the city's docks.
During the Civil War, the canal lay in the path of Sherman's march to the sea, and became the site of several skirmishes in December 1864. The canal was damaged as a result, and was even used by the Confederates to flood the area as a defense. But the canal was repaired and back in operation by March 1866. It was not until June 1876 that operations were again suspended, this time due to damage from a heavy rainstorm. The canal had been in decline due to much industry moving westward out of its reach. The railroad company bought pieces of land along the canal that were beneficial to its own cause, but the days of the canal itself were now over.
Today only a small piece of the canal is preserved by the Savannah-Ogeechee Canal Society. The rest is in various states of decay, but the Society is working to preserve the rest as well. Only a half-mile of the original sixteen miles is kept at the park, at the Ogeechee River (seen above) end, including locks five and six.
A piece of one of the original wooden locks in the Canal museum
Various pieces and tools from the canal

29 September 2008

Memorial Monday

Ok, tommorow marks the end of the Berlin Airlift in 1949. It began in June 1948 when the Soviet Union blockaded Western Berlin from all supplies. Berlin was entirely inside the Soviet occupation zone, but was split between the victorious powers. The Soviets cut off Berlin in 1948 in an attempt to force the Western nations to accept its demands concerning Germany. The Allies turned instead to the sky. While roads, railroads, and rivers were blocked by the Soviets, the treaty signed in 1945 had designated three airspace corridors allowing access to Berlin from the West. There was only one way to stop an aircraft: Shoot it down. And shooting down an unarmed aircraft in a treaty-protected zone would be an unquestionable act of war. On June 25, 1948 the airlift began and lasted for fifteen months. While the blockade was lifted in May of 1949, the last plane of the airlift flew on September 30. During those months, over 75,000 people from the US, England, France, Germany, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Baltic State reufgees loaded and flew over 2,300,000 tons of vital supplies to the people of Berlin in the greatest humanitarian airlift in history. The US and its allies had won a major Cold War victory, and without firing a shot. And so, our first "Memorial Monday" is dedicated to these men and women who showed the Soviets that beating us just would not be that easy.
Photos taken at an airshow at Beaufort, South Carolina in spring 2004.
The Spirit of Freedom is a Douglas R5D transport that participated in the Berlin Airlift, and now flys as a memorial to these brave men who saved Berlin.

28 September 2008

Submarine Sunday

Ok, so to start off the official Submarine Sundays, I thought I would begin with the most exciting thing that a Trident sub can hope to do: Launch a practice missle. We are not allowed to do swimcalls anymore, we don't hit portcalls, we don't do supersecret missions, this is it. I got to do one once a couple runs ago. We were back in the engineroom, and when it went off, I had a momentary lapse of reality. Why? Because the missile leaving felt just like a very short earthquake back home. It took a few seconds to realize "oh, that was the missile leaving." Other people had been hanging around the tube to see what it was like, and some even said that yes, the boat really does bend a lot during the launch. Scary. So I thought I would put a few videos on here. The first one is a Google video and I don't know how to embed those, so here is the link:
This link is from my boat, but before I got there. It shows the launch process from inside the ship. I did know several of the people on the video, including the Captain and Engineer who were still there when I got there. The video also shows both a day and night launch.

This is a much better video of a launch itself. And this is a double launch.

Finally, when I got on Youtube, I found this video of a recent Fleet Week I thought I would share...

27 September 2008

Dog-eared Saturday

Ok, so I am kicking off "Dog-eared Saturday" with State of Fear by Michael Crichton. No, it does not directly relate to the rest of the blog, but I chose it because I think it is one of the most important and relevant books of our day. In his usual style, Crichton takes actual science, studies, and news reports, and weaves them into a novel that sounds eerily real. State of Fear takes on science itself, the national and global media, big corporations, and politics, all in an effort to find: What really is global warming? In the story the characters find themselves chasing around the globe "eco-terrorists" intent on scaring the population of the world into believing the planet is falling apart. When it is all said and done, the message becomes clear: Goverments, corporations, media, they all thrive off of a crisis. They need it to stay in power, and with the end of the Cold War, global warming quickly rose to the top of the "fear" list. Overall, an outstanding read, and while fiction, clearly points out the flaws in the modern popular way of thinking. Highly recomended read for anybody. You can find it on Amazon here.
Michael Crichton
2004 HarpersCollins Publishers
567 pages (not including notes)

26 September 2008

Flag Friday

Ah, a typical day in Georgia has given us this rainy scene, with our flag becoming rather soaked. Again.

25 September 2008

Little blog, big ideas

Ok, so I've mentioned that I have ideas brewing in my head of things I want to do with the blog, and I think I'm finally coming up with some cohesive plans. I want to bring more into the blog, and I'm thinking some weekly features will be a step in the right direction. Here are my current ideas:

Flag Friday - photos of flags, usually the US flag, but others thrown in there too

Dog-eared Saturday - book review, often as possible something related to the rest of the blog, but not always

Submarine Sunday - stories and articles about subs/military/my job

Memorial Monday - my chance to reflect on a past event of my choosing. See the 9/11 post for an example.

So what do you guys think?

24 September 2008


Ok, so the Wife's Dad has a large pond at his house, a pond that he is now draining so he can clean up the bottom of it. This has attracted a large number of birds such as storks and egrets because of the fish that get "beached". I just thought I just thought I would share because the photos are interesting.

Here we see the gathering of the birds
Better way to die: dry out and suffocate, or get eaten?
Whenever someone went near the pond, the birds would take off as a group, and circle high above for a while

Then a few of them would come back, like this guy who flew almost right over us
Another interesting site is this little red guy, who visits sometimes

23 September 2008

USS Nebraska

Ok, so for those who have read this post already, I was asked to change the original post because the details were inccorect, however noone has offered the "real" story yet either. Anyway, here is the latest report from NaveTimes:
"Sailor killed after getting caught in rudder ram
By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writerPosted : Tuesday Sep 23, 2008 16:07:36 EDT

A sailor who died Saturday after he was injured aboard the ballistic-missile submarine Nebraska had become “entangled and pinned” in the rudder ram during a cleaning evolution, according to the Naval Safety Center’s Web site.
The Navy was notifying the sailor’s next-of-kin and, as of Tuesday afternoon, had not yet released the victim’s name. The safety center Web site identified him as a third-class machinist’s mate.
Navy officials have not provided any details about the “apparent accident” as the boomer was operating off Oahu on Saturday.
“There was no damage to the submarine,” Lt. Cmdr. Dave Benham, a spokesman for Submarine Force Pacific, said Monday evening. “None of the other crew members were injured. The crew was brought into port to address the needs of the crew because of this tragedy” and to help in the investigations into the incident, Benham said.
He said it was premature to discuss what types of investigations will be conducted. Nebraska crew members rendered medical assistance before the sailor was taken off the submarine by medevac helicopter, but he died en route to the hospital, said Lt. Kyle Raines, a spokesman with Submarine Group Trident in Silverdale, Wash."
Fatal accdients on submarines are very rare, the most recent being the one sailor killed when the USS San Francisco hit an underwater mountain, and the two sailors killed on the USS Minneapolis-St Paul when they were washed overboard. The Navy has not lost any nuclear subs since the USS Thresher in 1963 and the USS Scorpion in 1968. But these incidents as well as the many close calls over the years serve as a grim reminder that what we do is dangerous. This post is dedicated to all of the men lost in submarine accidents, past and present. Please remember them for the sacrifice they have given.

21 September 2008

Siege? Fail.

Ok, so our last stop was on the way back to the Wife's Dad's house, at the Ninety-Six National Historic Site. This was a very important settlement in the Colonial days, and was the site of two Revolutionary War battles. The painting above, in the visitor center, depicts the later battle.
We begin in the visitor center, where artifacts from the entire war are on display
History is.... sexy?

The park trail does not follow the historical timeline, so for ease of understanding, the photos are not in order, but arranged so the story is easier to follow.

This is the historic Charleston Road. Down this road was a trading post built by Robert Gouedy in 1751. He became the area's first permanent settler, and an influential man in the future Ninety-Six village. In 1759, a stockade was built around one of his barns, also believed to be somewhere down the Charleston road, which came to be known as Fort Ninety-Six. This fort held up well against two attacks by Cherokees on February 3 and March 3, 1760.

This is the site of the Village of Ninety-Six. It is believed that the town got its name from being ninety-six miles from the Cherokee settlement of Keowee, but this distance turned out to be wrong. Following the attacks in 1760, the Cherokee signed a treaty in 1761 that limited their travel and influence past the town of Keowee. Following the treaty, many settlers came to the area, now free from fear of Indian attacks. But with the outbreak of the Revolution, fears were again raised and a stockade was built around the village. The tall grass in the photo above shows where the stockade was located. Sentiments in the Carolina Backcountry were far more divided than along the coast, and for that matter, than in most of the rest of the country. Some settlers remained loyal to the Crown for protection against future Indian threats, while others felt the British had not done anything to help them, and thus sided with independence. These divided loyalties clashed in the first major land battle of the Revolution in the South.

In November of 1775, Patriot forces in Charleston sent gunpowder and other supplies west to the Cherokees, supposedly for hunting. In addition, a Patriot leader local to Ninety-Six, Major Andrew Williamson, arrested the local Loyalist leader Robert Cunningham and sent him to Charleston. These actions caused the Loyalists to unite a force of about 1,900 under Cunningham's brother, Patrick. Williamson responded by building a stockade fort with 600 Patriots. The reconstruction of this fort is seen in the photo above. On November 19, fighting began, and was heavy, but sporadic for three days until the two forces agreed to let their superiors settle their differences. This was short lived however, because Patriot Colonel Richard Richardson arrived, arrested several Loyalist leaders, and sent them to Charleston. While the first major battle was over, the area continued to be plagued by skirmishes for the next several years.

Site of the Ninety-Six jail, which the Loyalists used as a stronghold during the battle.

Grave of James Birmingham, killed in the Battle of Ninety-Six and the first South Carolinian killed in the cause of freedom.

The next major battle didn't come until 1781. The British, having reached a stalemate with the Americans in the Northern colonies, had launched their Southern Campaign. Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina were captured and the American army was shamed at Camden. But Patriot victories at King's Mountain and Cowpens, coupled with the high casualties of Guilford Courthouse and the constant partisan activities of Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter, and Andrew Pickens, had all but run the British out of the Carolinas. General Nathanael Greene, following Guilford Courthouse, had begun a campaign of retaking British outposts begining with Fort Watson and Camden, where the Americans had been so badly defeated just a year before.
On May 21, 1781 Greene arrived at the British outpost of Ninety-Six with a force of about 1,000 men. Pictured above is the Island Ford road, which the Patriots arrived on.

The Patriots discovered that the British had created an elaborate defensive layout. The town still had its pallisade fence to protect it, and the stockade fort from the 1775 battle had been rebuilt on the same spot, which also contained the town's water supply. But the most formidable creation was the new Star Fort, a large earthen fort on the other side of the town. The three areas were connected by trenches to carry supplies and information. These trenches are today marked by the small white posts seen in the photo above leading to the rebuilt stockade fort.
Greene realized that the Star Fort was the heart of the defenses, but also knew it was too strong for a direct assault. This point was driven home on the night of May 22, when Americans building an assault position seventy yards from the fort were driven off by the British. To solve the problem, he turned to Polish engineer Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko, to direct a series of approach trenches. While not a siege in its normal sense, its method of execution was the same. The first trench was built over 200 yards from the fort, well out of firing range. The intense heat, mosquitoes, and nearly rock hard southern clay made the digging nearly impossible. Nevertheless, the first trench was completed on June 1.

From the first trench, a line of approach trenches were created in a zig-zag pattern to prevent the British from firing directly down the trench. The concept allowed soldiers in the first trench to shoot over their comrades heads to defend them while they dug. About seventy yards from the fort, the second trench was dug, being completed on June 3. From here, more approach trenches were dug, until the third and final trench was built on June 10, at forty yards, musket rage, from the fort.
An example of a canon the Americans used to protect their trenches
During the night of June 13, the Americans built a thirty foot rifle tower out of logs near the third trench. This was built to allow rifleman to take out British soldiers who had been shooting into the trenches from the fort and killing American soldiers. The tower was so effective that the British commander, Lt. Col. John Cruger used sandbags to raise the walls of the fort six feet, and attempted to burn down the tower with heated canon shot. The attempt failed due to the freshness of the wood.
Also near the third trench, the Americans began to dig a mine shaft with the idea of placing gunpowder under the wall of the fort and exploding it. the mine was never completed, but the idea would resurface eighty-three years later at the bloody siege of St Petersburg in the Civil War.

Greene now learned that 2,000 British reenforcements were enroute to the town, and decided that an attack was needed before he became trapped. At noon on June 18, the attack began. Col "Lighthorse Harry" Lee captured the stockade fort, and Greene's men surged from the third, and closest, trench. Canon attempted to breach the earthen wall, while men with axes cut through the pallisade surounding the fort and men with hooks sliced open the sandbags atop the fort. Cruger ordered his men to stop the attack and sent them into the ditch surrounding the fort. After very bloody hand to hand fighting, the Americans were driven off. Greene collected his forces and left, next appearing at Eutaw Springs. In July the British and Loyalists left Ninety-Six for Charleston, burning what they could and attempting to destroy the Star Fort.
This house was built nearby in 1787, and moved here in 1968.
The house interior is now made to look like an 18th century inn.

Remote Control submarines?

Ok, so in the spirit of my new status as a "submariner" blog, thought I would share this article my dad sent me.

Date: September 1, 2008

The advantages of unmanned vehicles present major opportunities for the future submarine force, and the Navy is dealing with several technology hurdles as it seeks to make unmanned systems more compatible with subs, according to Vice Adm. Jay Donnelly, commander of submarine forces.

An unmanned system “gives us that extra sensor capability,” Donnelly said while discussing current technology efforts in an Aug. 21 interview with Inside the Navy. He added that submerged launch of both undersea and aerial unmanned vehicles was the next step for the submarine force, and the Navy is working toward that end.

The “eventual goal” is to make current and future submarines capable of launching an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) while submerged, and research and development funding is being spent on that project, Donnelly said. Also, the Navy is deciding whether it will launch 21-inch unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV) from torpedo tubes or a large-diameter UUV that could be deployed from large-diameter tubes on Ohio-class ballistic missile subs, the admiral added.

Currently, submarines can launch UAVs, but they must surface to do so, although it can be done in less than an hour, he said. Two subs have been deployed with the Buster UAV, a portable surveillance aircraft that takes infrared images. The Los Angeles-class submarine Montpelier (SSN-765) was the first sub to get Buster, a UAV that is currently used by the Army.

“We modified some of our antennas to enable us to do command and control and receive the video downlink,” the admiral said, adding that sailors were being trained to fly Buster -- built by Mission Technologies Inc. -- remotely. “It’s a baby step to see, ‘What is the utility of extending our sensors to off-board sensors?’”

The ability to launch UAVs without surfacing would be an even larger boon, though that remains a far-off goal, he said.

Another option is to hand off a UAV that is already in the air to a sub, Donnelly said.

“You don’t always have to launch your own,” he said. “If there’s another UAV in the area, as long as we can use this antenna to get the downlink and maybe even control it,” a launch of the sub’s own UAV would be unnecessary.

The admiral said he sees a “similar future” with UUVs, but there are issues that need to be resolved in the meantime.

“We have to decide whether we want to go with a 21-inch that goes out the torpedo tube, or with a large-diameter that could go out one of the large-diameter tubes on the SSGN” Ohio-class subs, he said. The large-diameter tube could be incorporated on the third production block of Virginia-class attack subs, he added.

“That’s the future,” he said. “I don’t have a program for this, but that’s an option.”

Late last year, Naval Sea Systems Command successfully demonstrated the first underwater launch and recovery of two UUVs from the Los Angeles-class attack sub Hartford (SSN-768).

Another sub technology currently under development is the photonics mast. The Navy has put in place a technology insertion program to enhance the mast -- a non-penetrating periscope -- in order to improve the resolution that would match high-definition televisions, Donnelly said. -- Dan Taylor

18 September 2008

The Bridges of Greenville County

Ok, so this is the Campbell Covered Bridge, near Greer, SC. There were three covered bridges still standing in South Carolina about twenty years ago, but Campbell's is the sole survivor. It was built in 1909 over the narrow Beaver Dam Creek in northern Greenville County, near Tigerville and Gowensville. It was built by Charles Irwin Willis and named after Alexander Lafayette Campbell, the owner/operator of a grist mill located near the bridge. The bridge is 35 feet long and 12 feet wide and has been restored twice since it's completion, with the most recent being in 1990.

Another view of the Kudzu National Forest...
I'm guessing this used to be Campbell's mill...? Stone foundations nearby (covered in Kudzu of course) suggest other buildings, such as a house.

While we were here, the Wife's friend Sara came out to visit. Say hi Sara!
This is the Poinsett bridge, just a little further north. It is the oldest bridge in South Carolina, having been constructed in 1820. This bridge was once part of an old state highway that tied Greenville, SC with Asheville, NC. The bridge was named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was South Carolina's first Commissioner of Public Works.

This bridge is 130 feet long and spans over Little Gap Creek in northern Greenville County on Callahan Road, just off of Old Hwy 25. It is said that Poinsett bridge was designed by Robert Mills, who is known for his Gothic-style arches. Poinsett Bridge would be no exception, as it has a 14-foot arch-way that the creek flows through.