Old Sailors' Almanac


Week 05, 2018

Previous Week   January 29, 2018 - February 04, 2018  Next Week

First Groundhog Day on February 02, 1887

First Groundhog Day on February 02, 1887

First Groundhog Day: On this day in 1887, Groundhog Day, featuring a rodent meteorologist, is celebrated for the first time at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow means an early spring.

Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas Day, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an animal–the hedgehog–as a means of predicting weather. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the Keystone State.

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks and whose scientific name is Marmota monax, typically weigh 12 to 15 pounds and live six to eight years. They eat vegetables and fruits, whistle when they’re frightened or looking for a mate and can climb trees and swim. They go into hibernation in the late fall; during this time, their body temperatures drop significantly, their heartbeats slow from 80 to five beats per minute and they can lose 30 percent of their body fat. In February, male groundhogs emerge from their burrows to look for a mate (not to predict the weather) before going underground again. They come out of hibernation for good in March.

In 1887, a newspaper editor belonging to a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club declared that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog. The line of groundhogs that have since been known as Phil might be America’s most famous groundhogs, but other towns across North America now have their own weather-predicting rodents, from Birmingham Bill to Staten Island Chuck to Shubenacadie Sam in Canada.

In 1993, the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray popularized the usage of “groundhog day” to mean something that is repeated over and over. Today, tens of thousands of people converge on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney each February 2 to witness Phil’s prediction. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club hosts a three-day celebration featuring entertainment and activities.

History Channel / Wikipedia / Encyclopedia Britannica / GroundHog.org / Stormfax

“Tales of Legendary Ghost Ships - Legend of the SS Valencia”

The Old Salt’s Corner

“Tales of Legendary Ghost Ships”

Legend of the SS Valencia

Valencia, SS, the Wreck of (1906): On Monday, January 22, 1906, the coastal passenger liner SS Valencia, en route from San Francisco to Seattle with 108 passengers and 65 crew aboard, passed the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca in foul weather, and ran aground on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. The ship was on a reef, trapped between sheer rock cliffs and pounding breakers. Uncharted rocks and fierce storms made it impossible for rescue vessels to approach from seaward. Scores of passengers drowned when their lifeboats were wrecked or capsized in the surf. Over the next 36 hours, terrified people huddled on the hurricane deck or clung to the rigging as huge waves slowly broke the ship apart. Finally, as rescuers watched, horrified and powerless, a huge wave swept the remaining passengers and crew into the sea. There were 37 survivors, but 136 persons perished in one of the most tragic maritime disasters in Pacific Northwest history.

The Vessel

The SS Valencia was 1,598-ton, 252-foot, iron-hulled passenger steamer built by the reputable William Cramp and Sons shipyard in Philadelphia in 1882. The ship had three cargo holds and four watertight compartments protecting the engine and boiler room, but was not fitted with a double bottom and her bulkheads were alleged to be insubstantial. The Valencia had a cruising speed of 11 knots and was licensed to carry 286 passengers. She carried seven lifeboats with a capacity of 181 persons, three life rafts with a capacity of 54 person, 368 life preservers and a Lyle line-throwing gun with 1,500 feet of manila line. When the Valencia was inspected on January 6, 1906, all of her equipment was accounted for and in good working order.

The Valencia was owned by the Pacific Coast Steamship Company who purchased it from the Pacific Packing and Navigation Company in 1902. The vessel was primarily engaged on the route between California and Alaska. But, in January 1906, she was diverted to the San Francisco-Seattle run, temporarily replacing the SS City of Puebla, laid up for repairs in San Francisco. The ship’s new master was Captain Oscar M. Johnson, who had been with the company 12 years, working his way up from quartermaster.

The Weather

On Saturday at 11:20 a.m., January 20, 1906, the Valencia left San Francisco in good weather bound for Victoria, B.C., and Seattle. On board were 108 passengers, nine officers and 56 crewmen. The ship reached Cape Mendocino, 190 miles north of San Francisco, early Sunday morning. Then the weather began to deteriorate, with constant rain and haze. Mariners call it “thick” weather. That was the last land or light seen by the Valencia until she wrecked on Vancouver Island.

The weather remained thick with strong winds blowing from the southwest. The Valencia was forced to navigate by dead reckoning, using compass courses and approximate distances sailed, to determine the ship’s position. Captain Johnson reckoned the Valencia would reach the Umatilla Lightship around 9:30 p.m. on Monday, January 22, 1906. Then the quartermaster would start to take soundings to determine their position relative to the coastline. But a following wind and a strong three-knot northern current positioned the vessel more than 20 miles farther north than expected. The ship passed the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and, at 11:50 p.m., went onto Walla Walla Reef at Shelter Bight, 11 miles southeast of Cape Beale, on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island.

A Night of Wind and Rain

It was high tide when the Valencia went aground, with rain, strong southeast winds blowing 25 to 35 miles an hour and heavy swells coming in from the ocean. First the ship struck a rock a few hundred yards offshore, rupturing the bottom of the hull and flooding the middle cargo hold. Then a large wave lifted the Valencia over the rock, driving her inshore. As waves swung the ship around, Captain Johnson, believing the ship would sink, ordered her beached, stern first. The vessel wound up on the reef, with the bow toward the open ocean, in about four fathoms of water, less than 100 yards from shore.

The coastline was a continuous 100-foot sheer rock cliff constantly pounded by heavy surf. Proceeding along the shoreline was impossible, and the top of the bluff was covered with trees and dense underbrush. A telephone/telegraph line, following a crude trail blazed through the forest, had been strung in the trees linking the Carmanah Light Station to Cape Beale and Bamfield Creek. The Valencia was trapped in an uninhabited wilderness with no means of communication or escape.

Panicked Actions and Errors

As a precaution, Captain Johnson ordered the crew to lower six lifeboats from the hurricane (uppermost) deck to the saloon deck and made fast to the rail, with no order to abandon ship. When the engines stopped, the electricity went out, leaving the ship in total darkness. The passengers, in a mild panic, began boarding the lifeboats, calling out to the deck hands to lower away. In the darkness and confusion, the davit crews, unable to determine if the orders were official, began launching the lifeboats. Within a half hour all six boats were gone.

One lifeboat had been loaded beyond capacity and the aft davit broke away, spilling more than 21 persons into the water. Everyone in the boat drowned. While lowering two of the lifeboats, one end hung up in the falls (an accident called “cockbilling”), upending the boats and dumping about 25 people into the sea. One crewman was rescued; all the others perished. Three lifeboats, carrying approximately 50 persons, were successfully launched; one disappeared, her fate unknown, and the other two capsized in the huge breakers. Only 12 men made it to relative safety, the others either drowned or were dashed against the rocks.

One survivor clambered onto a large rock near shore, only to be swept away by a large wave hours later. Two survivors gained entrance to a shallow cave, but the rising tide forced them onto the face of the cliff where they fell to their deaths. Nine survivors reached shore about 500 yards northwest but out of sight of the wreck. The party spent the night huddled among the rocks. At dawn on Tuesday, they climbed the 100-foot cliff.

continued ...

History Link.org

“I’m Just Sayin’”

“I’m Just Sayin”

“You can discover more about a person

in an hour of play

than in a year of conversation.”

~ Plato.

“Thought for the Day”

“Thought for the Day”

“Never tell the truth to people

who are not worthy of it.”

~ Mark Twain

“What I Have Learned”

“What I Have Learned”

“We were all humans until

race disconnected us,

religion separated us,

politics divided us,

and wealth classified us.”

~ Anonymous

Bizarre News (we couldn’t make up stuff this good – real news story)

Bizarre News (we couldn’t make up stuff this good – real news story)

Another mystery 'Mad Pooper' is terrorizing lawns in New York

Another mystery 'Mad Pooper' is terrorizing lawns in New York

Call it a case of illegal dumping in Orchard Park.

A woman has complained to police that someone's been defecating outside her home.

And besides asking police for help, there's an advertisement in the Orchard Park PennySaver warning the culprit to stop.

“To the person/jogger who is pooping on our lawns in the Village of O.P.: STOP!!”, the ad reads.

Police received a complaint November 8th from a woman on Woodview Court who said she found feces and tissue outside her home, said Orchard Park police Lt. Jason M. Schiedel. The woman who registered the complaint believes the perpetrator may be a jogger and indicated that it has happened more than once, Schiedel said.

Police have received only one complaint, though the ad in the pennysaver said multiple homeowners have been victims. The ad points to potential health code violations and claims the activity is putting people in the neighborhood, especially children, at risk.

“We have installed trail cams to identify you!” the ad reads.

If someone is caught, possible criminal charges would involve public lewdness or exposure, but the person would likely have to be caught in the act.

The police admitted, we “don't have much go to on.”

The Buffalo News (12/01/2017) video

What happens to films selected for preservation by the Library of Congress?

Mr. Answer Man Please Tell Us: What happens to films selected for preservation by the Library of Congress?

Originally established in 1988, the National Film Preservation Act tasks the board with selecting American films that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant. They can pick up to 25 per year, and the movies must be at least 10 years old.

The National Film Preservation Board is made up of representatives from a number of industry organizations, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Directors Guild of America, and the National Society of Film Critics. With the new selections, there are 725 films in the registry.

Selection for the registry is an honor, of course, but what does it mean beyond that? How does the Library of Congress, the U.S. legislature’s storage agency for documents and media, go about preserving movies?

Selection implores the Library of Congress to get the best possible copy of the film in its original format and store it in their vaults at the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia. This ensures the film will be available to future generations.

For Hollywood movies, the process is usually pretty easy. “We simply ask the studio to donate a copy”, according to Steve Leggett, program coordinator for the National Film Preservation Board. In some cases, that isn’t even necessary. The Library of Congress has more than 1 million films on file, many of them sent by studios or filmmakers for the sake of copyright registry. When the original Star Wars was selected in 1989, Leggett says, congressional librarians simply checked that the 35 millimeter print submitted with Lucasfilm’s copyright application was in good shape. It was, so no further action was needed.

For older and more esoteric selections like newsreels, silent films, documentaries, and early technical achievements in filmmaking, Leggett says the library often seeks out a copy from the community of preservationists. Universities, private foundations, and hobbyists that preserve old films might get a call from the Library of Congress if they have a good copy of a National Film Registry selection. In rare cases, the library will barter for the film, using redundant materials on its shelves. Other times, it will make a copy or pay the archivist to make a new 35 millimeter copy for them. The Culpeper facility stores nitrate prints, the original film stock for many early movies, in specialty lockers because the material is highly volatile and flammable.

Silent films can be tricky because studios often released, revised, and then re-released versions of the film. When one is selected, Library of Congress archivists collect as many aspects and versions of the film as they can, which might mean contacting several studios and archivists.

Of particular challenge in 2015 was the induction of Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, William Greaves’s quasi-documentary of his 1968 theatrical project staged in Central Park. The film was screened often through the years, as Greaves gained a cult following. It was released on DVD in 2006, but the National Film Preservation Act specified that the library should seek a copy in the original format, which it didn’t have. Leggett said Greaves’s 1968 original cut was “lost”, but the library worked with the late filmmaker's estate to create a new 35 millimeter version that resembled it.

The Audio-Visual Conservation Center itself, buried on a mountainside, has storage space controlled to stay cool and dry. “A film could survive for hundreds of years there”, Leggett says. He admits the audiovisual center wouldn’t survive a nuclear strike—in the event of World War III, the world might lose its best copy of Buster Keaton’s The General - “but it did survive an earthquake with all materials intact.”

Library of CongressQuoraWikipediaLibrary of Congress films (YouTube Search) video

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang - U.S. Navy

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang


(1) Most often associated with the submarine service; an individual aboard a submarine not a member of the crew who is assigned to the sub for a period of time to perform a specific mission; usually intelligence related.

(2) On surface ships, any member of the ship's company who is not assigned to the Engineering Department. “There are two kinds of people on a ship: Engineers and Riders. When the Engineers cause the ship to move through the water, everyone else goes along for the ride.”

Ring Knocker: A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. Used pejoratively if the officer in question is overly proud of this fact.

River Rat: Crew member of a brown water boat or patrol craft.

Just for MARINES - The Few. The Proud.

Just for you MARINE

Starboard: Naval term for ”right side of ship” when on board a ship and facing forward; opposite of port. “Starboard” is the same with respect to a ship regardless of where a person is located or which way a person is facing, whereas "right" might be ambiguous.

STEAL: Stealthily Transport Equipment to Another Location.

Stick: Squad of servicemembers being transported either via aircraft or ground vehicle. (Term “Chalk” is used by Army to reference platoon plus size unit.)

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

VFA-22 - “Fighting Redcocks”
CVW-17 - Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia, U.S. - Established July 28, 1948

Where Did That Saying Come From

Where Did That Saying Come From?

Where Did That Saying Come From? “Pleased as Punch”

Pleased as Punch”  Meaning: To be very happy. Very pleased.

Origin: 'As pleased as Punch' derives from the puppet character Mr. Punch. Punch's name itself derives from Polichinello (spelled various ways, including Punchinello), a puppet used in the 16th century Italian Commedia dell'arte.

Punch and Judy shows, the popular summer-time entertainments on British beaches, have been somewhat in decline from the latter half of the 20th century onward, due to them being seen as politically incorrect. That's hardly surprising as the main character Punch is a wife-beating serial killer.

In performance, the grotesque Punch character is depicted as self-satisfied and delighted with his evil deeds, squawking "That's the way to do it!" whenever he dispatches another victim. Nevertheless, there is still what might be called a folk affection for the old rogue in the UK and it would be a shame to see the tradition fade away completely.

The show had an Italian origin but has been much changed over the years. It began in Britain at the time of the restoration of the monarchy in the 17th century. The Diary of Samuel Pepys has an entry from 1666 that shows this early origin and also the popularity of the show even then:

I with my wife... by coach to Moorefields, and there saw ‘Polichinello’, which pleases me mightily.

The phrase 'as pleased as Punch' appears fairly late in the story. The earliest known record is from William Gifford's satires The Baviad, and Maeviad, 1797:

Oh! how my fingers itch to pull thy nose! As pleased as Punch, I'd hold it in my gripe.

T'As pleased as Punch' is now the most common form of the expression, but when the term was coined it was just as usual to say 'as proud as Punch'. Charles Dickens, for example used the two terms interchangeably in his novels; for example:

David Copperfield, 1850: I am as proud as Punch to think that I once had the honour of being connected with your family. /p>

Hard Times, 1854: When Sissy got into the school here.. her father was as pleased as Punch.

Phrases.org UK

Science & Technology

Science & Technology

Science & Technology

Social interactions override genetics when birds learn new songsU.S. Library of Congress backtracks on complete Twitter archiveResearchers discover a chemically primitive dwarf star in the galactic haloNeuroscientists identify a circuit that helps the brain record memories of new locationsLack of sleep boosts levels of Alzheimer's proteinsMRIs safe with older pacemakers, study findsIs punishment as effective as we think?

Phys.org / MedicalXpress / TechXplore

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

Solar System’s First Interstellar Visitor Dazzles Scientists

Solar System’s First Interstellar Visitor Dazzles Scientists

Astronomers recently scrambled to observe an intriguing asteroid that zipped through the solar system on a steep trajectory from interstellar space—the first confirmed object from another star.

Now, new data reveal the interstellar interloper to be a rocky, cigar-shaped object with a somewhat reddish hue. The asteroid, named ‘Oumuamua by its discoverers, is up to one-quarter mile (400 meters) long and highly-elongated—perhaps 10 times as long as it is wide. That aspect ratio is greater than that of any asteroid or comet observed in our solar system to date. While its elongated shape is quite surprising, and unlike asteroids seen in our solar system, it may provide new clues into how other solar systems formed.

The observations and analyses were funded in part by NASA and appear in the Novempber 20 issue of the journal Nature. They suggest this unusual object had been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system.

Immediately after its discovery, telescopes around the world, including ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world were called into action to measure the object’s orbit, brightness and color. Urgency for viewing from ground-based telescopes was vital to get the best data.

Combining the images from the FORS instrument on the ESO telescope using four different filters with those of other large telescopes, a team of astronomers led by Karen Meech of the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii found that ‘Oumuamua varies in brightness by a factor of ten as it spins on its axis every 7.3 hours. No known asteroid or comet from our solar system varies so widely in brightness, with such a large ratio between length and width. The most elongated objects we have seen to date are no more than three times longer than they are wide.

“What a fascinating discovery this is!” said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “It’s a strange visitor from a faraway star system, shaped like nothing we’ve ever seen in our own solar system neighborhood.”

NASA (11/20/2017) video

© CEASAR CHOPPY by cartoonist Marty Gavin - archives Ceasar Choppy's Navy! “© CEASAR CHOPPY” by Marty Gavin


“‘Livin’ After Midnight” - Judas Priest 1980

“‘Livin’ After Midnight” - Judas Priest
Album: British Steel
Released 1980 video

By 1980, more than a decade into their career, Judas Priest were ready to take on the world. With the release of their sixth album, the classic 'British Steel,' and the single 'Livin After Midnight' they were really delivering the goods.

The song packed a real one-two punch that woke up U.S. fans to the power of the Priest. “Livin After Midnight”, with its simple, almost The_Kinks-like riff, was a perfect melding of metal and pop, in the best sense of both worlds.

In just over three minutes, Priest packed all the power of their metallic sound into a simple, direct pop track. Leaving behind earlier, more complicated songwriting, the band turned in a riff, melody and driving beat that was irresistible to rock radio. Record buyers also got hooked, giving Judas Priest their first major hit. The album cracked the Top 40 in America and the Top Five in their native England.

Judas Priest official website / Billboard / All Music / Song Facts / Ultimate Classic Rock / Wikipedia

Image: “British Steel (album)” by Judas Priest



The Revolutionary War between the United States and Great Britain officially ended on September 3, 1783, with a treaty signed in Paris, France.

True or false: White wine is made from white grapes; red wine from red grapes.

False: Red wine is made by including the skin of the red grapes. White wine can come from grapes of any color.

Which of these items became standard equipment on automobiles in 1909? Headlights, the rear view mirror, the windshield, or the electric starter?



A Test for People Who Know Everything

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “THE LETTER OF THE LAW” ($200):

“M: If it can go wrong, it will.”

Answer for People Who Do Not Know Everything, or Want to Verify Their Answer Urban Dictionary

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES” ($200):

“With a machine gun part of its design, the WWI Fokker Eindecker has been called the first true example of this type of plane.”

Answer for People Who Do Not Know Everything, or Want to Verify Their Answer WWI Aviation

Answer to Last Week's Test

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “DRAW YOUR 'GUN'” ($200):

“'Weapon' that serves as indisputable evidence of a crime.””

● Answer: A smoking gun. The Free Dictionary

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “BEVERAGE BRANDS” ($200):

“General term for any noncommissioned officer aboard ship, chief.”

● Answer: Dr Pepper. The Daily Meal

Joke of the Day

Joke of the Day

Joke of the Day

“Secrets to Inner Peace.”

If you can start the day without caffeine,

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,

If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment ,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without alcohol,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

Joke of the Day

Then You Are Probably The Family Dog!

And you thought this was going to get all spiritual ....

Handle every stressful situation like a dog.

If you can't eat it or play with it,

Then lift your hind leg,

Piss on it and walk away.