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Kalmar Nyckel : Lectures : 2011 – SOS: Saving Our Ships

2011 – SOS: Saving Our Ships

Malcolm Dixelius and Björn Hagberg, The Ship That Changed The World (featuring Kalmar Nyckel in her role for NATGEO TV)

“The Ship That Changed the World,” Malcolm Dixelius, Internationally Acclaimed Documentary Film Director and Producer, Presents a Behind-the-Scenes Look at and Premier Excerpts of His Soon-to-be Released NATGEO TV Special entitled “Expedition Ghost Ship,” DiXit International & Deep Sea Productions, Stockholm, Sweden (For more information see www.deepsea.se and www.dixit.se.)

Malcolm Dixelius, Sweden’s acclaimed documentary film director and producer, will provide a behind-the-scenes look at his most recent endeavor, a film for National Geographic (NATGEO) International that records the experiences of a team of maritime archaeologists who discovered and document “The Ship That Changed the World.”  Called “Expedition Ghost Ship” for a NATGEO TV Special – which is due to be released in the US in April 2011 and distributed to 124 countries by NAT GEO International – Malcolm Dixelius documents a revolutionary Dutch merchant ship from the 1630s that was recently found at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.  “We called the Project the ‘Ship That Changed the World,’” explains Malcolm Dixelius, “for two reasons: first, the ‘Ghost Ship’ we found was in its time a type of ship that truly changed the way shipping was conducted; second, the ‘Ghost Ship’ has changed the world of maritime archaeology by being the object of the first full-scale high-tech expedition in the Baltic Sea.” 

“It’s no exaggeration to call the ship that Malcolm Dixelius and his team of  archaeologists found “The Ship That Changed the World,” reports Samuel Heed, Senior Historian & Director of Education for the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation.  “What Malcolm found in the deep and dark waters of the Baltic is an intact Dutch-built fluyt, the lone survivor from a class of vessels that represented a major advancement in ship design, fundamentally altering the way cargo was hauled and boosting the volume and efficiency of trade.”

“Think about the ship as a Model-T Ford of the 1630s,” adds Sam Heed.  “That’s the way Malcolm put it to me when I first met him, and it’s stuck with me ever since.  It’s an apt analogy.  Most people are familiar with the Model-T and how Henry Ford’s production techniques revolutionized not simply the automobile by our entire system of transportation. 

The ship Malcolm and his team of maritime archaeologists discovered has been resting at the bottom of the Baltic – about 400 feet down – for nearly 400 years.  The ship survives remarkably intact after all these years – with its main- and foremasts still standing and its bowsprit attached.  Believed to be the last surviving ship of its kind, “the Ghost Ship” is an extraordinary find and archaeological treasure.

The last survivor of its kind anywhere, the “Ghost Ship” is a well-preserved example of a Dutch fluyt – or “flute;” sometimes called a “flyboat” by the English – a class of vessels that emerged out of Dutch shipyards in the first decades of the 17th century.  Simple but rugged, relatively easy and cheap to build, inexpensive to operate and maintain, the fluyt revolutionized the ability of merchant fleets to carry bulk cargo.  Just as the expense of operating merchant ships decreased, so also their number and availability increased, resulting in an explosion of international trade and a commercial revolution of the 17th century.  The fluyt and the commercial revolution it in no small way helped to spawn lie at the heart of what historians call the “Golden Age” of the Dutch Republic, and age renowned for its cultural, artistic, and intellectual excitement.

With the fluyt – the Dutch ship “That Changed the World” – ships could be designed and built and operate with an efficiency that allowed for the bulk transport of simple commodities – grains and lumber and such – in ever-increasing volumes and frequencies.  No longer would ships be reserved for spices and expensive luxury items.  With the rise of global trade, fueled in no small part by this new Dutch fluytschip, profits shot up and the commercial revolution of the 17th century gave birth to what we call the Modern World.  And it’s a world we still inhabit – much like with the automobile – only we just don’t see it or feel it as readily, until, that is, we buy something at Walmart or SuperFresh.  But stop by any port in the US, where 2,000 containers every hour by the hour on average are offloaded from ships everyday.  We talk about the “global economy,” but we forget sometimes that the goods and materials that make up that global network move by ship.  90% of the world’s international trade, for instance, still moves by ship.  Efficient ships, heirs to the fluyt ships of the Dutch “Golden Age” of the 17th century, ships that ply the ocean highways, ships that carry bulk cargos efficiently and economically – tulips from Rotterdam, cars from South Korean, beef from Argentina, sneakers from Vietnam, chicken parts from the Delmarva peninsula.  We may live in the age of the automobile, but it’s still an age of the cargo ship as well, an age ushered in by all the fluyt ships just like one Malcolm Dixelius and his team from Deep Sea Productions found at the bottom of the Baltic, the ship rightly called … “The Ship That Changed the World.”

Fred Hocker, Expedition Ghost Ship: Sailing and Sinking a 17th-Century Merchant Ship

Dr. Frederick Hocker comes to us all the way from Stockholm, Sweden,” notes Samuel Heed, Senior Historian and Director of Education for the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation.  “Fred Hocker is Director of Research at the world-famous VASA Museum, Sweden’s most-visited site.  Not coincidentally, he also happens to be one of the world’s leading authorities on maritime archaeology.  Dr. Hocker has been directing the archaeological research at the VASA Museum since 2003, where he is responsible for documenting and publishing all the archaeological finds associated with the extraordinary 17th-century warship Vasa, a monumental undertaking.”  The Vasa is reputed to be the largest single preserved object in the world, one that continues to delight and surprise all sorts of historians and archaeologists.  (See VASA Museum web links at www.vasamuseet.se and www.maritima.se.)  

“We are delighted to have Dr. Hocker back for a return engagement,” says Heed.  “Fred’s an international star in the world of maritime archaeology, and anyone who remembers his ‘Raising the Vasa’ talk for the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation two years ago knows what a treat it is to have him in our midst.”  Dr. Hocker is making a special visit to the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation in March, joining Port Captain Sharon Litcofsky and the Kalmar Nyckel crew for the annual “up-rigging” of the ship.  Fred Hocker will be helping Captain Sharon reassemble the sails, yards, and lines (all eight miles of them) on the Kalmar Nyckel, which he is undertaking as part of his active research for his next installment of the multi-volume account of all things Vasa.  Dr. Hocker’s work has become the definitive treatment, and his research with the Kalmar Nyckel will inform his latest work which covers Vasa’s sails and rig.  The Kalmar Nyckel – which is a full-scale and faithful reconstruction of Peter Minuit’s original flagship that brought the first permanent European settlers to the Delaware Valley in 1638 – is a kind of living laboratory for Dr. Hocker, a place where he can further his research about the Vasa and other ships of the early 17th century.  “Since the Vasa and other ships from the early 17th-century are artifacts that can’t be sailed,” explains Heed, “Dr. Hocker finds our fully functioning Kalmar Nyckel, with its accurate rig and sail plan, to be a uniquely valuable resource, a place where he can figure out how ships of the period functioned and operated under actual sailing conditions.”   

Fred Hocker has been leading maritime archaeological excavations all over the world for twenty years.  Beside the Vasa, he has directed research and documentation for the Civil War ironclad U.S.S. Monitor, the 17th-century Swedish warship Kronan, the remains of a 9th-century Byzantine shipwreck off Turkey, a 19th-century schooner wreck in Lake Champlain, an 18th-century pilot sloop near Savannah, Georgia, and a 16th-century Iberian ship off Bermuda, among many others. 

Before joining the Vasa Museum in 2003, Dr. Hocker was the Senior Researcher and Research Coordinator for the National Museum of Denmark Centre for Maritime Archaeology.  He has been the Sara W. and George O. Yanni Associate Professor of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, a Visiting Faculty Member at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, a Research Associate at the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, and an Archaeologist at the Bermuda Maritime Museum.  Dr. Hocker holds his Ph.d. in Anthropology and Archaeology from Texas A&M University, a Diploma in History from the University of Cambridge, England, and his B.A. in History from Middlebury College.

Matthew Stackpole, "Charles W. Morgan: America’s Last wooden Whaling Ship - Past, Present, and Future"

The Charles W. Morgan is America’s last surviving wooden whaling ship.  Built in 1841 in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the whaling capital of the world and a place made famous by Herman Melville, the Morgan enjoyed a long and prosperous whaling career, one that spanned 80 years and 37 voyages before retirement in 1921.  In her day, the Morgan was commanded by 20 different captains who sailed her around the world and to 59 different ports-of-call.  After being preserved and on display for a time in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, she came to Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea in 1941.  There she resides, a National Historic Landmark and treasured icon of America’s past

Today, the Charles W. Morgan is undergoing a thorough and loving restoration at Mystic Seaport, a “voyage of preservation” led by Matthew Stackpole.  Underway since 2008, the restoration project will be finished in 2013, at which point the Morgan will once again take her place as an educational resource, historic exhibit, film and media star, and “porthole” into America’s diverse past.  

Kalmar Nyckel : Lectures : 2011 – SOS: Saving Our Ships

Did you know: That Fort Christina, founded by the Swedes, was the first permanent European settlement in the entire Delaware Valley?

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