Saturday, 27 October 2012

The German Navy's seaborne refueling technology (a hundred years ago)

Most people are familiar with the concept in-fligh refueling, the process of transferring fuel from a tanker aircraft to another - often aircraft. But what is probably less known, is that the German Navy applied the same concept already over 100 years ago for refueling their steam powered fighting ships.

On the picture below you can see a small coal transport ship refueling the large German cruiser "Prinz Heinrich". A transport line connects the ships, allowing sacks of coal to be transferred to the "Prinz Heinrich", while both ships are moving. In 1906, when the photograph was taken, the German Navy was still practicing seaborne coal refueling, but it had high hopes of applying the new technology for its existing and future steam powered vessels. Whether these hopes were fulfilled, is more than I know. Later however, coal fired naval engines were largely replaced by oil fired engines, thus making the coal refueling technology outdated.

The German Navy cruiser "Prinz Heinrich" being refueled while steaming ahead.  The small  dots on the transport line are coal sacks. 

"Miragulous" circumstances in Øresund

At one point this afternoon the sky over Øresund looked menacing:

However, we did not get the expected rain - or snow - as some friendlier skies began popping up:

The mirage effect was clearly visible, when the small Dutch tanker Bro Grace passed Helsingør on its way to Kalundborg:

The small fishing boats on the left of the Bro Grace appear to be floating in the air.

On the right side you can see the passenger ferry Pernille "floating".

The beginning of the winter season

This is how winter begins: -2° last night. 

The lawn and the neighboring roofs had a rather frosty look early this morning, for the first time this autumn. Fortunately it was not as bad as in Germany, where up to 20 cm thick snow covered the ground in many areas - something that has not happened this early in Germany in several decades.

Four early 20th century "mega yachts"

Today, billionaires like Roman Abramovich, Sultan Qaboos of Oman and Larry Ellison are the proud owners of huge mega yachts, capable of cruising the seven seas in great comfort. However, there were a number of great yachts - powered by steam engines - already a hundred years ago. And I am probaly not the only one, who thinks that these yachts of a bygone time were a lot more elegant than their contemporary counterparts ...

Four of these early 20th century "mega yachts" were seen in Sweden in 1906:

The first of the four, arriving on June 1914, was the British Admiralty yacht "HMS Enchantress". On board were the Duke and the Duchess of Connaught, who came to Stockholm in order to attend the christening of their grandchild, the future Hereditary Prince Gustaf Adolf 

The "HMS Enchantress" in Stockholm on June 14, 1906.

The "HMS Enchantress" was later to become a favorite of Winston Churchill's, during his time as First Lord of the Admiralty:

"The HMS Enchantress that took Churchill to sea was one of a lost
breed of ocean-going splendours, a steam yacht. They were glorious
craft with slim and elegantly raked funnels, a bowsprit and sumptuous
polished wood and brass, epitomising late Victorian and Edwardian
style and grace. In 1911, the navy had two - the twin-funnelled Royal
Yacht Victoria and Albert III and the single funnelled Enchantress with a
complement of 196 officers and ratings which was the the disposal of the
Commissioners of the Admiralty, and especially of the First Lord. And
no First Lord took greater advantage of her than Churchill. He had
been in post for only a few weeks before he was on board; and between
his appointment as First Lord in late 1911 and the outbreak of war, he
was on Enchantress for a total of eight months; indeed during some
months, such as November 1911, he was seldom away from her. Much 
of this time he was visiting ships, dockyards and other naval installa-
tions, although the First Lord was a generous host and Clementine and
other family members and friends were often invited to share the pleas-
ures of life afloat.

In 1914, Enchantress served as a field hospital for officers but was
then laid up until recommissioned in January 1919. She was ultimately
broken up early in 1935 when Churchill was asked if he would like to
have the pane of glass from the ship that had been engraved with his
coat of arms. He declined, saying he had nowhere to hang it."

(quote from "Churchill and Chartwell" by Stefan Buczacki (2008))

In July 1906 another large British steam yacht, the "S.Y. Mekong" visited Stockholm. According to newspaper reports from the time, King Oscar II of Sweden paid a visit to the yacht, the owner of which was a "Mr. Singer". 

The S.Y. Mekong was brand new when it visited Stockholm in the summer of 1906. The owner, Mr. Adam Singer of Southampton, had commissioned the ship from the shipbuilders Ramage & Ferguson of Leith. Later Singer sold the yacht to the French Duke de Montpensier. In 1915 it was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and was used as a patrol vessel. 

The "S.Y. Mekong" in Stockholm. 

The rest of the "Mekong" story is rather sad:

"On Sunday 12 March 1916 inthe early hours, HMS MEKONG was battling south against an ESE gale and torrential rain. At 4.50am she struck rocks off Gristhorpe and fired agun to summon assistance. The Filey Rocket Brigade set out to locate the
wreck, but in the meantime one member of the crew had tried to swim
ashore with a line tied round his waist. His gallant effort failed, and
his body was found on the rocks later. One other died similarly, but the
remaining crew members were rescued by the Life Saving Rocket Brigade
who lauled them up the cliffs in a breeches buoy. A third life was lost
when one man fell from this buoy and disappeared at once. The wreck of
the MEKONG lay forgotten until 1960 when it was reported that many live
shells were spilling from it. Naval divers were called in the the wreck
was blown up."

Also in July, another large steam yacht, Grand Duke Friedrich August of Oldenburg's "Lensahn"  visited Helsingborg in southern Sweden. The Grand Duke was an avid seafarer, who was known for promoting shipping and shipbuilding in his duchy. He was also the only German Duke, whom the Emperor had granted the privilege to wear an admiral's uniform. 

The "Lensahn III" (launched in 1903) was designed by Johann Schütte, a prominent naval engineer, who served as an adviser to the Grand Duke. The Grand Duke usually he skippered his yacht himself, taking it to a great number of destinations in the Baltic and the Mediterranean.

Grand Duke Friedrich August of Oldenburg's yacht "Lensahn " photographed in Helsingborg  in  July 1906. 
The proud owner of the "Lensahn" posing  for a photographer in Helsingborg.

The end of this beautiful steam yacht was sad. Like so many other German ships, also the "Lensahn" was after WW I sold to the United States. In the end of the 1920's the yacht was hit and destroyed by a hurricane in Miami

Helsingborg, a city with proud maritime traditions, was almost able to match Grand Duke Friedrich August's yacht in 1906. On August 31, the local entrepreneur and politician, consul Nils Pehrson's ( often written Persson) brand new yacht, the "Oriental" arrived in Helsingborg on its maiden voyage from Glasgow, where it was built. At the time it was the largest steam powered private yacht in Scandinavia, with a length of 180 feet (about 55m). 

The brand new steam yacht "Oriental" in Helsingborg on August 31, 1906.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Advanced cross country riding at the Italian Cavalry School in 1906

In the first decades of the 20th century the Italian Cavalry School at Tor di Quinto near Rome was - along with the French Cavalry School at Saumur - the leading institution for horsemanship in the world. Tor di Quinto was probably the foremost academy for advanced cross country riding. 

As you can see from the photographs below (taken in 1906) the elite of the Italian cavalry officers had to master some rather difficult situations, without falling from the saddle .....

Still in the 1930's the Tor di Quinto Cavalry School maintained its high standards, as you can see from this video:

A chilly and windy autumn day in the Øresund region

Yesterday we had a windy and fairly chilly day here in the Øresund region. Nights are turning much colder now. When I am writing this, the temperature outside is 2°C, and probably it's getting even colder in the early hours of this Friday.  

The early evening clouds were quite interesting to watch yesterday:

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Marienlyst - a beautiful Danish palace in search of a new future

Denmark is a country of castles and manors. As a matter of fact, there are more than 600 of them, with the royal winter residence Amalienborg and Hamlet's castle, Kronborg as the probably best known internationally. 

Marienlyst, originally founded as a royal pavilion of the Kronborg castle in the late 16th century, is one of the less known Danish palacial residences, but this small pearl of a building is well worth exploring.

The Marienlyst that we see today is the work of Nicolas-Henri Jardin, a French architect, who between 1754 and 1771 worked as an architect of the Danish royal court. Jardin rebuilt and and enlarged the old pavilion in neoclassical style, a popular style at the time that he was the first to introduce in Denmark. 

Marienlyst was a royal residence until 1850, when King Frederik 7. donated it to be used as a home for disabled soldiers. However, that project did not turn out very well, which is why the castle and its gardens were sold to the city of Helsingør already the following year. 

The city of Helsingør, which still owns the Marienlyst, has used the palace for different purposes, lately mostly for various cultural activities. As you can see from the pictures shown here, the exterior of Jardin's palace is in good shape, but a few years ago experts found out that the building is in need of extensive structural renovation. That was thought to be so costly that the city authorities were about to sell the property to a private buyer. 

However, a group of influential friends of the culturally important palace was able to stop the privatisation plans. Recently a society called Marienlyst Slots Venner (Friends of the Marienlyst castle) was established in order to secure the financing of the renovation work. The city of Helsingør will continue to be the owner, but a foundation will be in charge of the future operation of the palace after the renovation work is done. 

One can only hope that there are enough friends of the Marienlyst palace in order to preserve it for future generations to enjoy!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Vandkunsten architects: 58 modern homes in the old Swedish fishing village Viken

The art of creating something new in a traditional environment has always been one of the major challenges in  architecture. The fact that that there are so many failed projects tells us about the difficulty of this task. That's why it is a particular pleasure to report a success: A group of 58 homes in the picturesque former fishing village Viken in southern Sweden. The Tre Gudor project consisting of 1 1/2 - 2 story houses, designed by the Danish architect firm Vandkunsten, was built in 2000 - 2001 on the grounds of the old school. In the general design of the area the Danish architects were inspired by the intimate and varied style of the old fishing village. Now, a little more than ten years later, the Tre Gudor looks even better, with the gardens and the greenery in a more mature state. No wonder that the project was awarded the prize for best architecture in Scania already in 2002!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Alhambra now - and more than100 years ago

Alhambra in Granada is without  doubt one of the most beautiful historic sites in the world. The Alhambra and its gardens were declared national artistic monuments in Spain already in 1872, and in 1984 the UNESCO World Heritage Committee included Alhambra and the Generalife of Granada on the World Heritage List

 Below you can compare a photograph of Alhambra taken in the 1890s with a photo from 2005. 

(picture by wikipedia)

Here is a photo of the famous Alhambra Myrtle Yard (1890s):

This Alhambra video with Finnish classical guitar maestro Timo Korhonen is worth watching and listening to:

Monday, 22 October 2012

Another beautiful private garden in southern Sweden

Southern Sweden is blessed with a great number of beautiful gardens - big and small, castle gardens and small private villa gardens. Some time ago I highlighted a  private garden in Höganäs in northwestern Scania. Today I would like to introduce another favourite of mine, a private garden located in the charming former fishing village Viken, just south of central Höganäs. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Wilh. R. Lundgren - a classic Swedish rescue boat

An early 1920s photo of the Swedish rescue boat Wilh. R. Lundgren, based  in  Vinga

Since its founding in 1907, the Swedish Sea Rescue Society ("Svenska Sällskapet för Räddning af Skeppsbrutne") has been working with maritime search and rescue on Swedish lakes and seas. Currently the  society runs 66 life boat stations, with about 170 boats and 1800 volunteers. 

A rescue team setting out in stormy weather (early 1920s)
The first Swedish boats used for rescue operations were rowed by the volunteer crews. However, very soon  the Sea Rescue Society realized that it was necessary to acquire engine powered rescue boats. For that purpose the society organized a competition in order to find a type of  rescue vessel that best suited the needs in Swedish waters. 

Inspector J. Hutchinson-Kay and his Swedish wife  

The first prize was awarded to a design by the Lloyd's inspector, naval engineer J. Hutchinson-Kay

The volunteer crew  at the Grönhögen rescue station ready for action  (early  1920s)

Before the first new rescue ships were commissioned, the Sea Rescue Society asked Hutchinson-Kay to make a number of adjustments in order to make the boats more suitable for Swedish circumstances. 

The first new rescue boats were launched in 1912. In the beginning of the 1920's there were already seven Hutchinson-Kay type engine powered rescue boats operating in different parts of Sweden. Below is a drawing of the fifth boat, the Wilh. R. Lundgren, operating in the Skagerack, between Pater Noster in the north and Tistlarna in the south. The interior design of the Wilh. R. Lundgren differed somewhat from the interior of the other six boats, due to a number of adjustments done to make it more suitable for the harsh Skagerack environment. 

Rescue boat Wilh. R. Lundgren:

Length: 13,1m
Breadth: 3,8m
Carvel-built (oak)
Iron keel, 2,8 ton
2 cylinder 30hp engine

Hopefully somebody will make a replica of this gorgeous boat sometime in the not too distant future!