The Lost Fleet

It's the mid-19th century and the American whaling fleet, the wonder and envy of the maritime nations of the world, is struck by one hammer blow after another. Yankee whalers are contending with icebergs, storms, rogue whales, sharks, hostile natives, and disease. Now conditions are getting even worse, and the chances become ever slimmer a whaling master and his crew will return from a voyage safe and profitable. The scarcity of whales, the increasing dangers of going further into the Arctic, and the roving Confederate privateers are making this already difficult profession ever riskier. Many whalers give up the life — but some carry on the vocation.One such man is a tall captain from Wethersfield, Connecticut, Thomas William Williams. Not only does he go out on voyage after voyage, but he even takes on board with him his tiny wife, Eliza, and his infant son and daughter. The Lost Fleet's thrilling narrative recounts Williams' remarkable career, including a daring escape from the Confederate cruiser Alabama and a daring rescue and salvage of lost ships off Alaska's coast. A family saga, a true narrative of adventure and death on the high seas and a detailed and well-researched look at the demise of Yankee whaling–Songini has crafted an historical masterpiece.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this site consists of my own personal opinions (and occasionally the opinions of others) and does not officially represent my employer's view in any way.

July 14, 2015 · Comments Off on Slay The Gray Whale: Another Donald T. Slogan? · Categories: Blog

After fatal and tragic Cabo San Lucas gray whale assault, will #DonaldTrumpforPresident claim it's time to crack down on Mexican gray whale migration? Will Donster (rhymes with you know what) say that the best native whales don't cross the border to spawn on our beaches. The lazy grays only come here and get a free ticket to sponge up free American plankton that should go to our own red-blooded and industrious US-of-A whales? That these migratory whales will prey on harmless American fishermen and tourists? That they'll refuse to learn English gray whale speech patterns?

One shudders.

February 05, 2015 · Comments Off on Revamp and Reboot · Categories: Blog

Dear readers of my whaling and Boston underworld books–I intend to reboot this site and launch a separate site for the Boston Mob. Stay tuned. The rest of you, go back to sleep…

February 05, 2015 · Comments Off on On Funerals and what they Mean · Categories: Blog

I was back down in Jamestown skiing last Sunday–I thought I'd update my thoughts of funerals, published originally last August:

Sunday, 10:30 a.m., sunny, no wind, dry air. The deportment of the small but sober looking crowd in the parking lot in the cool air at Fort Wetherill in Rhode Island said either: A) funeral; or B) religious service. Perhaps the two were a bit one.

As more cars parked and people stepped out for greeting, the handshakes, the hugs, the tears were unmistakable. Funeral. I knew where this group would go–the nearby natural exalted rock stage where there is a view of the Atlantic and of Newport that money can't buy. Not a more grand sight in New England. So, I had to huddle with the little guy and wife in the uncomfortable rocks by the side of the cliff we had been going to sit on…I am sensitive to these things.

The mourners filed onto the cliff. More tears; some dropped flowers into the outgoing tide 40 feet below; I saw what I took to be a small urn pass hands.

My brain's opera hall echoed with a strain from neolithic times; to peat bogs in North Europe; to sad apes trying to piece something together after a death. Among the couples, I noted the old woman who lacked a man. She received special gentle deference. I assumed it was her husband that was the missing. And I guessed the ashes being handed off, perhaps, had been a grandfather. A sire of mighty children? Maybe a fool or knave? Or a mix of the twain? I don't know. But looking at the expanse of ocean, I thought the gesture of the flowers indescribably sad and lovely.

Then a small unlovely fisherman, pole in hand, in red cap and jeans, broke into the tribal congregation. "Gonna bring me some luck?" he asked. I assume he didn't read the signs–admittedly unwritten, though obvious. Then he took his perch in a cleft of the rock to ply his crude, yet serene, art.

How perfect.

A few months ago I attended a funeral service in a VFW hall. The man who'd passed had suffered terribly; was good and decent. His grandchildren were comfortable enough to play on and around his coffin, whose lid was up. The body stared up as the kids, who'd really loved him, went about their business of being children. I've never seen anything more lovely.

Across the universe, some intelligence watches (maybe) this kind of a gesture. Does it understand tears, the craving for meaning? Does wonder why something as weak and transitory as a human ape holds a ritual to remember what represents a drop in a irresistible Niagara of progress? Does it cry with us? Laugh? Scratch its head?

November 03, 2014 · Comments Off on "Exorcist" Demon not such a Bad Fellow · Categories: Blog

In honor of Halloween, I'm posting my meditation on the Demon God of the "Exorcist" franchise.

Poor Pazuzu: "The Exorcist" slandered this demon god rather unfairly. Pazuzu should fire his agent for casting him in the cinematic possession franchise. He's actually a good guy, blocking diseased winds and what not. (Who knows: he might be able to disinfect the foul gasses emitting from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, etc.)

Sure he looks mean (a face like a rabid dog's, and, yes, he's packing a serpent under his briefs), but think about the rough spirits he has to keep in line. In the truly execrable "Exorcist II: The Heretic," Pazuzu had to go toe to claw with Elizabeth Taylor's husband AND Nurse Ratched. Only the Luca Brasi spirit enforcer of Mesopotamia could have pulled that off. He's anything but some nasty jerk demon with nothing better to do than infest prepubescent rich white American girls.

In any case, over the past two decades, the Bush family has sufficiently punished the entire neo-Babylonian region for any slights Pazuzu might have inflicted here in the U.S.A., real or imagined.

P.S.

Between drugs, budding estrogen levels, rock and roll, consumerism and teen rebellion, over time, Regan would have manifested all the symptoms of demonic possession unaided.

October 28, 2014 · Comments Off on Why I Didn't Write About Whitey · Categories: Blog

A nice article in the local paper about "The Boston Mob." Again, I don't much feature Whitey Bulger, a not very interesting figure. There were far more colorful characters to write about from the 1960s, and they didn't kill women.

September 22, 2014 · Comments Off on The Plovers of Cape Cod · Categories: Blog

My eyes got the treat of seeing piping plovers in Dennis, as they flew over the cerulean-to-clear water, in small elite squadrons. I've watched plovers fly in other places, such as Brant Rock in Marshfield.These tiny mixed pilot-planes always amaze me. They show a precision and intuition in flight, while in groups, that is astonishing. One bird moves; all his wing-men, maybe a dozen others, move with him. It's all so fast: sudden landing–then, just as abrupt, takeoff without any runway.

The squadrons veer off and then straighten. They show an astonishing superhuman yet military-like precision. More people should watch plovers perform–skip the meat-headed Blue Angel demos. Observation of these little miracles will make us appreciate non-violent flight. And we don't have to worry about a plover breaking formation, striking another plover, and crashing into the stands and igniting a holocaust among the viewers.

September 05, 2014 · Comments Off on Navajo-Marine Grade Security · Categories: Blog

I rarely ever mix my business writing with my personal scribblings. My writings on my website and personal blog and other social media reflect my opinions only and not my employer's point of view. However, the below is kind of an interesting piece and touches on some history. So I'll offer the first paragraph and a link to the original blog I wrote–if you want to continue.

Here goes:

Looking for an example of ironclad encryption? Then think back about seven decades ago to World War II, the battle of the Pacific in particular. It was there that U.S. Marines deployed native Navajo-speakers to encrypt commands and reports on the battlefield.

In fact, just last month one of the last survivors of the original volunteer encryption unit passed on, as an article in the Economist points out. (You may recall the movie “Windtalkers,” with Nicolas Cage, which covered the subject.) To finish the blog, click here.

September 02, 2014 · Comments Off on Big Sums and Small Men: Boston Mob · Categories: Blog

The Fall River "Herald News" on "Boston Mob": The men in it remained small even when the sums became fairly large. All too true.