This wrongheaded tale

By David Grima | Jan 03, 2019

The New York Post newspaper has perpetrated a horror upon the world in its deliciously wrong description of an old Rockland ship that turned up off the coast of New Jersey recently. See if you can spot the marvelous blunder as reported in this Dec. 27 story:

“Remains of a shipwreck have been discovered on the New Jersey shore — 132 years after the vessel caught fire mid-voyage and sank into the sea, according to reports.

“The weathered, 25-foot structure turned up over the weekend at Stone Harbor Point following changing levels in the sand, reported.

“Experts believe the wreckage, which remains partially covered in sand along the shore, is from the D.H. Ingraham, a schooner that originated in Rockland, Maine, and was destined for Richmond, Virginia.

“The vessel was carrying limes when it caught fire and sank a mile and a half north of the Hereford Inlet in North Wildwood on Dec. 4, 1886, according to the Ocean City Life-Saving Museum.”

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Perhaps my most memorable experience this Christmas, spent as usual in the concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street, where I am forced to live, was to hear the English gothic horror film actor Christopher Lee’s heavy metal rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy.”

Lee, who died in 2015 at age 93, was famous for many film portrayals of naughty Count Dracula, along with a large number of other movies which also leaned heavily upon a refined gothic sensibility for their fear factor. I received a copy of his autobiography from Santa.

Late in life, he got into heavy metal music, and produced several albums. ‘Twas the night after Christmas when I heard him singing his Metal Christmas stuff for myself, and it was quite a treat. Which is a bit of an understatement.

* * * * *

There is a village in Wisconsin called Maine, and according to what I could find out, this little Maine has a population of around 2,300 and an average annual snowfall of 5 feet. Talk about horror!

The highest temperature recorded there is said to be 107 degrees Fahrenheit, which was reached in 1936; the lowest is minus 40 degrees, apparently recorded in 1899, 1948 and 1951.

Think I’ll stick with the Maine that I know.

* * * * *

The Dead River fuel office in Rockland has a small fish in a small tank on the shelf near the front door. The fish is called Greg Jr., and is apparently named after a company employee named Greg who works in the Brewer office.

Greg’s fish died, so I am told, and the Rockland staff seem to have taken up this new fish in honor of the old.

* * * * *

Dead River bought up Webber Energy a while back, which had bought up Kalloch Fuel a longer time ago. I think that’s right.

* * * * *

The poor chap who drove his truck through the door at Camden National Bank the Saturday morning before Christmas missed squashing me by only a few feet. Based on my experience as an eyewitness and near victim, I would say he forgot to put the truck in park when he got out of it.

He has my sympathy. I once did that very thing myself, and almost tore my car door off its hinges. It’s not something that is likely to happen with a stick-shift transmission, which I now have. Well, my car has it, actually.

* * * * *

Speaking of heating oil, I saw a story, Dec. 20 explaining that the Coast Guard vessel Thunder Bay was returning to Rockland after being fixed up in Maryland.

The story, in an online mag called Work Boat, said Thunder Bay is needed at home for ice-breaking duties, for which the season is said to have begun here in the Wild and Wooly Northeast. I was further informed by the article that more than 85 percent of home heating oil in the U.S. is consumed in this top right quadrant of our fair country, which is no surprise to me, and that 90 percent of this oil is delivered by sea.

Thus the need for clear lanes along our dear coasts and up our rivers.

* * * * *

The same day I read about oil and ice-breaking, I heard on the radio that there is now a market for fake old Scotch whiskey. It was reported that the market for fake stuff has been created because the real old stuff can be sold for a fortune.

According to one tipsy website: “Over the past four decades, Macallan has built probably the best reputation for quality malt whisky; rare expressions can change hands for thousands of pounds, and prices for such bottles are continuously going up.”

* * * * *

Speaking of Wild and Wooly, why is it that every minor piece of precipitation that falls as snow these days is described by insane meteorologists as a storm? Quite mad.

* * * * *

So for those who have not yet identified the monstrous blunder in the New York Post story quoted above, I will reveal all.

The secret is hidden in this paragraph: “The vessel was carrying limes when it caught fire and sank a mile and a half north of the Hereford Inlet in North Wildwood on Dec. 4, 1886, according to the Ocean City Life-Saving Museum.”

I feel I am safe in saying categorically that no ship from Rockland ever carried a cargo of limes.

Rather, it was carrying casks of lime powder, a building material distilled in kilns along our waterfront from lime rock dug out of our quarries (now the city dump), and manufactured here in our wonderful city by the sea. Billions of tons of the stuff were shipped to New York and other metropolitan locations for use in making building plaster.

The forensic clincher in this wrongheaded tale about lime fruit is the report that the lost vessel caught fire.

Lime powder is notoriously flammable when mixed with water, and many are the tales of ships whose cargoes burst into flames either here at the docks or later at sea, when the lime powder happened to get wet.

In fact, I read once that the dangers involved in this sort of combustion caused people to transport the lime powder casks in old and leaky ships, so that the value of a lost vessel would only amount to the value of an old rubbishy bit of boat, and not some expensive new one.

Of course, by using old and leaky ships to deliver lime powder, the risk of fire was increased many times. Tell me the logic of that, if you please.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Harold Bryson Mosher | Jan 07, 2019 05:53

Lime is basic, the opposite of acidic.  Pulverized limestone is used to neutralize acidic soils.

Posted by: Eric Thurston | Jan 04, 2019 16:08

Limes are acidic, so perhaps the acid ate through the hull allowing sea water to come in, thereby causing the lime to catch fire and the ship to sink.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jan 03, 2019 15:34

Sounds like the logic we are hearing from Lord Trumpleton these days. Hmmm.

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