Iron Wills, Iron Ships

Although a draw, the fight between the Monitor and Virginia decisively ushered in the modern era

What the USS Monitor’s crewmen remembered most about the moments before the battle on the morning of March 9, 1862, was the silence. Read more »

Shipwrecked History: Spanish Ships Found In Pensacola Harbor

A hurricane sank a fleet in Pensacola Bay 450 years ago, dooming the first major European attempt to colonize North America, a story that archaeologists are just now fleshing out

On August 15, 1559, the bay now known as Pensacola slowly filled with a curious fleet of 11 Spanish vessels, their decks crammed with an odd mix of colonists and holds filled to bursting with supplies and ceramic jars of olive oil and wine from Cadiz. Aboard the 570-ton flagship Jesus stood the wealthy and ambitious Don Tristan de Luna y Arellano, with direct orders from the king of Spain to establish a permanent colony in La Florida. The rest of the fleet included two galleons, beamy cargo ships known as naos , small barques, and a caravel. North America had never before seen anything like it on this scale.Read more »

The Tempest

The storm that wrecked the Virginia-bound ship Sea Venture in 1609 inspired a play by Shakespeare— and the survivors’ tribulations may well have sown the first seeds of democracy in the New World

The story of the British ship Sea Venture is one of history’s most remarkable sagas, an almost unbelievable tale of shipwreck, endurance, and human resourcefulness. But it is more than that. The fate of the survivors of the Sea Venture reverberates in literature, in political theory—in the very founding of America. Read more »

The Agony Of The Indianapolis

She was the last major American warship sunk during World War II, and her sinking was the single worst open-sea disaster in our naval history. How could it have happened?

On July 16, 1945, the heavy cruiser Indianapolis departed the California coast for the Pacific island of Tinian. On board was a heavily guarded top-secret cargo destined to end the war. Only hours before the Indianapolis began her high-speed journey, the first successful atomic detonation had ushered in the nuclear age. The cruiser itself carried vital elements of the atomic bomb that would be dropped on Hiroshima. Even Captain Charles B.Read more »

Trove

The saga of Kip Wagner, the first modern American to grow rich from ancient Spanish treasure

The stretch of sand that runs along for miles at the margin of Cape Canaveral was irresistibly reminiscent, I thought, of Cape Cod. But then one sandspit is very like another, except for the temperature surrounding it. That day the sea was remarkably peaceful though not very blue: it reflected a gunmetal sky. Here and there a family party sat on the sand and ate, but the place was by no means crowded, if you didn’t count the seagulls, and nobody seemed eager to go into the water.Read more »