Albatross - History

Albatross  - History

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(SP-1003; t. 4; 1. 39'0"; b. 9'0"; dr. 3'3"; s. 13 k.; 1 mg.)

The third Albatross (SP-1003)-a wooden-hulled motor launch built in 1912 by the Adams Shipbuilding Co. East Boothbay, Maine—was acquired bv the Navy under a free lease from John R. Rothery of Boston, Mass., for service during World War I. Fitted out at the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard and commissioned there on 10 August 1917, the vessel was assigned to the 1st Naval District in which she served as a section patrol boat until February 1919. Following a period in lay-up, Albatross was returned to her owner on 1 May 1919.

De Havilland Albatross

The de Havilland DH.91 Albatross was a four-engined British transport aircraft of the 1930s. A total of seven aircraft were built between 1938–39.

DH.91 Albatross
The prototype DH.91 Albatross, G-AEVV, over Hatfield, September 1938 (photo from Flight International)
Role Mail plane and transport aircraft
Manufacturer de Havilland
Designer A. E. Hagg
First flight 20 May 1937
Introduction October 1938
Retired 1943
Primary users Imperial Airways/British Overseas Airways Corporation
Royal Air Force
Number built 7 (including two prototypes)


The Albatross was built as Albatros, a schooner, at the state shipyard (Rijkswerf) in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1920, to serve as a pilot boat (named Alk) in the North Sea. The ship spent two decades working the North Sea before being purchased by the German government in 1937. She served as a radio-station ship for submarines during the Second World War. In 1949, Royal Rotterdam Lloyd bought her for use as a training ship for future officers of their company (Dutch merchant marine). The fact that she was small made her ideal for this kind of work, and the dozen trainees could receive personal attention from the six or so professional crew. While under Dutch ownership she sailed the North Sea extensively, with occasional voyages as far as Spain and Portugal.

The American aviator, filmmaker and novelist Ernest K. Gann purchased the Albatros in 1954, re-rigged her as a brigantine, and she cruised the Pacific for three years. According to Charles Gieg (The Last Voyage of the Albatros), the Albatros survived a tsunami in Hawaii during this time. She was also used in the 1958 film Twilight for the Gods (starring Rock Hudson and Arthur Kennedy), whose script and the underlying novel by the same title were written by the Albatros' owner Gann.

In 1959, Christopher B. Sheldon's Ocean Academy, Ltd., of Darien, Connecticut, acquired the ship to use her for trips combining preparatory college classes and sail training. Over the next three years, Christopher B. Sheldon, Ph.D., and his wife, Alice Strahan Sheldon, M.D., ran programs for up to fourteen students in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific Ocean.

From fall 1960 to spring 1961, a crew of four instructors (including the Sheldons), a cook and 13 students sailed the Albatross from the Bahamas through the Caribbean to the Galápagos Islands and back to the Caribbean a fourteenth student had been on the ship for the first part of the voyage, but had left in Balboa, Panama. At the beginning of May, the Albatross was en route from Progreso, Mexico, to Nassau, the Bahamas. On 1 May, skipper Sheldon decided that they would make a stop at one of the Florida Keys to refuel.

Shortly after 8:30 am on 2 May 1961 the Albatross was hit by a sudden squall about 125 miles (200 km) west of the Dry Tortugas. She heeled over suddenly and sank almost instantly, taking with her Alice Sheldon, the ship's cook George Ptacnik, and students Chris Coristine, John Goodlett, Rick Marsellus, and Robin Wetherill (John Goodlett was on deck in the last minutes, but probably became entangled in some of the lines or a sail of the sinking ship while freeing a lifeboat, and Christopher Coristine reportedly went below deck in an attempt to save someone else). As there had not been time to send out a radio distress signal before she was lost, the remaining crew used her two lifeboats to make way towards Florida. Around 7:30 a.m. on 3 May, the two boats were found by the Dutch freighter Gran Rio, which took the survivors to Tampa, Florida.

According to Sheldon, the squall hitting the Albatross was a white squall, i.e. an unpredictably sudden, very strong squall. His opinion was that the Albatross was essentially a stable, "safe" ship, and that the crew of teenagers—who had already spent about eight months on board—were sufficiently trained, but that this rare weather phenomenon left the ship no chance. Critics of this view, however, have argued that refittings of the Albatross over the years by her various owners had made her top heavy, which affected her secondary stability, that is, her ability to remain stable or even right herself after tilting to the side, as opposed to capsizing. In her times as North Sea pilot schooner, the ship had a far smaller and lower sail area, which means that the force of the wind did not have as much power and as powerful an angle as it did the day she sank. Almost 40 years after the loss of the Albatross, Daniel S. Parrott reanalyzed some of the documents about the ship and comparable ships in his book, Tall Ships Down. He suggested that due to the ship's impaired stability, even a "normal" squall could have sunk her according to him, only the expert handling of the ship and the habitual prudence of the ship's captain(s) to reduce sail area early had prevented the refitted Albatross from capsizing in previous strong wind conditions.

In 1932, the German sail training ship Niobe suffered a similar fate, killing 69. Parrott draws parallels to the sudden losses of the Marques (1984) and the original Pride of Baltimore (1986), which were similarly affected by large sail areas in the case of the Marques, this was likewise the result of refittings over the years of her existence.

The loss of the Albatross prompted the United States Coast Guard to undertake a thorough review of the instantaneous stability—i.e. the ability of ships to remain upright—and design requirements for sailing school ships. The new rules were codified in the Sailing School Vessels Act of 1982.

Narrations of the last voyage of the Albatross were published by two of the survivors: Charles Gieg, who had been one of the students on board the ship, and Richard Langford, who had been the English instructor.

The 1996 film White Squall, starring Jeff Bridges and directed by Ridley Scott, presents a fictionalized version of the ship's loss. The film suggests that the Albatross was sunk by a white squall, although it does not mention the concerns about the seaworthiness of the ship.

After the loss of the Albatross, Sheldon worked for the Peace Corps and briefly started another sailing school. He died on October 5, 2002, of pancreatic cancer, in Stamford, Connecticut. He was 76.

Operational history [ edit | edit source ]

Royal Australian Navy [ edit | edit source ]

HMAS Albatross began her first cruise a week after commissioning, visiting Tasmania and Victoria. ΐ] On 11 April 1929, the ship was sent from Sydney to off Wyndham, Western Australia to search for Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and the Southern Cross, which had disappeared while en route to England. ΐ] Before the ship could reach the area, Smith was found, having made an emergency landing near the Glenelg River. ΐ] Ζ]

In November 1931, the ship's engines were damaged by sabotage. Η] This occurred again in September 1932. Η] The acts of sabotage were attributed to widespread unrest among the sailors at the time the RAN claimed at the time that Communist influence was the cause, although Tom Frame and Kevin Baker ascribe it to Depression-era pay cuts and retrentions, which were more likely to be forced onto sailors than officers. Η]

On 26 April 1933, Albatross was decommissioned into reserve and anchored in Sydney Harbour, although seaplanes continued to operate from the ship. ΐ] ⎖] In 1938, with the Australian government experiencing difficulties in funding the purchase of the light cruiser Hobart, the British Admiralty agreed to accept Albatross as part payment for Hobart (266,500 pounds from the cruiser's purchase price [ Clarification needed ] ). ΐ] The seaplane carrier was recommissioned on 19 April for the voyage to England, and departed on 11 July, ΐ] with the ship's company transferring to Hobart on arrival.

Royal Navy [ edit | edit source ]

There was originally little need for a seaplane carrier in the Royal Navy, as several aircraft carriers were operational, and most warships from cruiser size up carried their own seaplanes. ΐ] However, the loss of the aircraft carriers Courageous and Glorious early in World War II created scope for the ship's use. ΐ] Albatross was assigned to Freetown in western Africa, where she and her aircraft were used for convoy escort, anti-submarine warfare, and air-sea rescue in the Atlantic. ΐ]

In May 1942, Albatross was transferred to the Indian Ocean to bolster trade there with the Eastern Fleet based at Kilindini, and in September provided air support for landings at Mayotte, during the Madagascan campaign. ⎗] After this, trade protection duties were resumed and continued until July 1943 (apart from refits at Durban and Bombay). Albatross then returned to Britain, where, in September, she was paid off. ⎗]

From October 1943 until early 1944, Albatross underwent major conversion, to a Landing Ship – Engineering (LSE), in order to support the Normandy landings. ΐ] ⎗] She was initially deployed in the Thames estuary as part of the deceptions to divert enemy attention away from Normandy, but on 8 June 1944, she was moved to Gooseberry 5, off Sword Beach at Ouistreham to provide repair facilities and supply anti-aircraft and bombardment support. ⎗] Her allocation immediately followed the assault and coincided with the "great storm" that disrupted Allied plans. ⎗] Her repair duties at Sword saved 79 craft from total loss and returned 132 more to service off the beachhead. ⎗] In July, Albatross returned to Portsmouth for replenishment and to rest her crew and, on return to Normandy, she was reallocated to Juno Beach. ⎗]

On 11 August, while off Courseulles-sur-Mer, Albatross was hit by a torpedo which inflicted major structural damage and killed 66 of the ship's company. ΐ] ⎗] Albatross was withdrawn from service and towed to Portsmouth by the Dutch tug Zwart Zee. ⎗] Her repairs lasted until early 1945. ⎗] After a brief spell as a minesweeper depot ship, she was paid off into reserve on 3 August 1945. ⎗]

Post-war [ edit | edit source ]

Hellenic Prince photographed between 1949 and 1951

Albatross was sold to a British company on 19 August 1946 for commercial use. ΐ] ⎘] The plan was to originally convert her into a luxury liner, but as the refurbishment was financially prohibitive, it was instead proposed that she be renamed Pride of Torquay and used as a floating cabaret at Torquay. ⎙] Before this went through, the ship was purchased on 14 November 1948 by the British-Greek Yannoulatos Group, and was renamed Hellenic Prince to recognise the birth of Prince Charles on that day, and his Greek heritage. ⎘] ⎚] The vessel was converted into a passenger liner at Barry in Wales. ⎚]

In 1949, she was chartered by the International Refugee Organisation as a refugee transport to relocate displaced persons from Europe to Australia. ⎚] On 5 December 1949, Hellenic Prince arrived in Sydney Harbour with 1,000 passengers. ⎚]

In 1953, Hellenic Prince was used as a troopship during the Mau Mau Uprising. ⎚]

The ship's career finally ended when she was scrapped at Hong Kong on 12 August 1954. ⎘] ⎚]

The Day the Albatross Went Down

CHRISTOPHER SHELDON is writing a book, a love story really, about himself and his wife -- how they met on Capt. Irving Johnson's last voyage around the globe, and how she died at sea.

Mr. Sheldon, now 69, was skipper of the 92-foot brigantine Albatross when the vessel sank suddenly on May 2, 1961, in a fleeting yet violent storm after leaving the Yucatan. Six of the 18 people on board perished.

The ship went straight down," said Mr. Sheldon, who lives in Norwalk. "I could just see her sinking down out from underneath my feet and beginning to right herself as she went down."

The survivors were able to bail out two heavy wooden lifeboats and were rescued by a freighter two days later. Reporters swarmed around Mr. Sheldon and the others when they arrived in Tampa, Fla., but he remembers very little of the period immediately following the tragedy.

"I was very exhausted," he said. "I spent 15 or 20 minutes talking with the Coast Guard. I don't even remember flying home. It's almost a blank. In those days they didn't have trauma sessions like they do today for people who go through something like that."

Very soon after his return he was enlisted by Sargent Shriver, then director of the Peace Corps, as the first Peace Corps envoy to South America. Mr. Sheldon, who was fluent in Spanish and had lived and studied in Latin America, said the new posting kept him active with little time to brood.

"It more or less took my mind off it," he said. "I really didn't settle down for another six or eight years, until 1968, 1969, and by then Iɽ lost contact with everybody. And I didn't try to renew it."

In fact, Mr. Sheldon said, none of the survivors, both by happenstance and design, ever talked again, until recently, when the movie "White Squall" was being released. The screenplay is based on a book about the sinking written by Chuck Gieg, a student who survived the incident.

"We walked away from each other," said Tod Johnstone, an artist who lives in Stonington. He too was a student on board the Albatross and now, at the age of 52, has a small role in the movie. He plays his own father.

Both Mr. Johnstone and Mr. Sheldon say the release of "White Squall" has been therapeutic, that it has given them an opportunity to purge feelings dormant for too many years.

For Mr. Sheldon, many of the feelings are painful. "I've seen the movie twice," he said. "The second time, I walked out during the sinking scene."

Particularly emotional for Mr. Johnstone was playing his father in the movie. In actuality, said Mr. Johnstone, his father offered little comfort when he returned home from that harrowing voyage, a frightened, shaken, 17-year-old. "I had bumped around every boarding school in New England before sailing on the Albatross," said Mr. Johnstone, who owns the Anguilla Gallery. "I didn't get the parental attention I needed. This was sort of an escape from hell for me."

But his father saw the vessel's sinking as somehow related to his son's other shortcomings, said Mr. Johnstone, who was at the helm when the Albatross sank. So in the movie, he said, "I gave myself all of the love and energy my father wasn't giving me."

The Albatross was out on a year-long school-at-sea program based on Mr. Sheldon's experiences on a similar voyage as a teen-ager. He and his wife, Alice, one of the first women to graduate from Cornell Medical School, had been married three years at the time, having met on board Captain Johnson's Yankee during a voyage lasting from 1956 to 1958.

The couple advertised their plans for the Albatross in Yachting Magazine and the National Geographic. Most of the students who signed up, he said, "were quite normal," and were not the confused, emotionally deprived teen-agers depicted in the movie.

To keep the program potent academically, he hired an English teacher and a math teacher. Mrs. Sheldon was more than prepared to teach marine zoology. And he himself tutored the students in Spanish.

The Sheldons tailored the curriculum to their itinerary. In addition totraditional studies, the teen-agers were taught celestial navigation aboard the two-masted vessel.

It all came apart quite suddenly. "It was misting slightly," Mr. Sheldon said. "I was ready for a squall. I was at the main sheet, ready to let out the main. But then it just hit with such force, nothing could be done. We just went right over on our side."

What struck the vessel was what is known as a white squall, what meteorologists call a micro burst. Warm air from the lower atmosphere moves through a pocket above, is cooled suddenly, and descends in a rapid column of cold air.

"It is very local, and very powerful," Mr. Sheldon said. "There can be winds of up to 150 m.p.h."

Another factor that contributed to the rapid sinking of the Albatross, he said, was its design. It was a heavy, full displacement vessel stabilized by ballast within, unlike modern yachts with their deep keels.

"They don't come back like a modern yacht does if they ever do get overcome," said Sheldon. "We only had one hatch open, yet it went down in a minute's time."

In addition to Alice Sheldon, four students and the cook perished.

Mr. Johnstone said one student drowned when he ran to free a lifeboat and became tangled in the rigging. He said he can recall someone trying to break out of the charthouse doors, but the water pressure prevented that.

One survivor, he said, climbed into a dumbwaiter from below and was shot out like a cannon from the air pressure. Others escaped through the forward hatch.

Mr. Sheldon never married again, although he said he has had a companion for many years. He also never had children. He and his wife had planned to begin a family when they returned home.

For now, he is working on the book.

"The title, 'Where Lies the Final Harbor' is taken from a quote by Herman Melville: 'Where lies the final harbor from whence we unmoor no more,' " said Mr. Sheldon. "It describes my philosophy of life. When you are on the sea of life, you never know where you are going to end up, how you are going to end up, and when you will end up. I believe you should give it your best and get as much out of it as you can."


Awkerman, Jill A., David J. Anderson and G. Causey Whittow. (2008). Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Kushlan, J. A., M. J. Steinkamp, K. C. Parsons, J. Capp, M. A. Cruz, M. Coulter, I. Davidson, L. Dickson, N. Edelson, R. Elliott, R. M. Erwin, S. Hatch, S. Kress, R. Milko, S. Miller, K. Mills, R. Paul, R. Phillips, J. E. Saliva, W. Sydeman, J. Trapp, J. Wheeler and K. Wohl (2002). Waterbird conservation for the Americas: The North American waterbird conservation plan, version 1. Washington, DC, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2019). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 1019 Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2019.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. (2014). The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.


These long-lived birds have reached a documented 50 years of age. They are rarely seen on land and gather only to breed, at which time they form large colonies on remote islands. Mating pairs produce a single egg and take turns caring for it. Young albatrosses may fly within three to ten months, depending on the species, but then leave the land behind for some five to ten years until they themselves reach sexual maturity. Some species appear to mate for life.

Albatrosses feed primarily on squid or schooling fish, but are familiar to mariners because they sometimes follow ships in hopes of dining on handouts or garbage. Albatrosses have a special place in maritime lore and superstition, most memorably evoked in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

One wise bird

It’s also likely Wisdom is older than 70 in 1956, she was conservatively estimated to be five years old, the earliest age that Laysan albatross can reach sexual maturity.

In 2002, Robbins returned to Midway and noticed an albatross with a ragged band that needed replacing. He soon realized two things: He’d banded the bird way back in 1956, and, at age 51, she was a record-breaker. Biologists at the time had pegged a Laysan albatross life span at 40 years.

For her many years evading the lethal hazards of being an albatross—dangerous tsunamis and sharks, to name a few—on top of newer threats posed by humans, such as warming seas due to climate change, plastic pollution, and fishing lines, she was given the name Wisdom.

Since then, Wisdom has become an internet darling, both at home and abroad. In Hawaii, Laysan albatross, known as mōlī, hold a prominent place in indigenous culture as a symbol of the god Lono, who represents rain and agriculture.

Her fame has drawn attention to the perils facing seabirds and Laysan albatross in particular, says Beth Flint, a Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist in Honolulu. (Learn about the global decline in seabirds.)

“She’s a bird with a life span comparable to a human,” Flint says. “I think her greatest contribution is the interest she stimulates in folks. She’s also drawing more people into the sciences.”

The Artificial Albatross - History of an Early Flying Machine

History is littered with attempts at aviation, performed by people eager to soar as high and as gracefully as birds. One flying machine was inspired by birds so much that its inventor named his creation after one. L'Albatros artificiel, or the Artificial Albatross, was a glider invented by Jean-Marie Le Bris in 1856. Le Bris was a sailor and sea captain who had become fascinated by the flight of the albatross. These birds glide in the air, using currents of wind more than the power of beating wings to fly. It was this innovative method of flight that inspired Le Bris, who began to study the albatross and their wings in closer detail.

First Photographed Glider

Based on the aerodynamic quality of an albatross' wings, Le Bris invented the Artificial Albatross glider, which was shaped like the bird itself. With a wood frame and covered in cloth, its wingspan was 50 feet. The pilot (Le Bris) sat inside, almost like in a canoe, and used levers to operate the movements of the wings and tail. The glider was put on top of a cart which itself was attached to a horse that ran against the wind. At this point, the Artificial Albatross was released from the cart and began to rise into the air. There is one report that claims the cart's driver became caught on the restraining rope and experienced flight along with the glider and Le Bris. The original report of this first flight indicates that the glider reached a distance of 600 feet and a height of 300 feet. Apparently the landing, cart driver and all, was pulled off with only a broken glider wing. This was the first flight in history to reach a point higher than its departure. In other words - up.

Jean-Marie Le Bris' 1857 Patent

Le Bris' second test flight of his invention wasn't so smooth. This time he suspended the Artificial Albatross from a mast and yard arm over a quarry. At first the flight went well, but when an unexpected wind hit, the glider crashed and Le Bris broke a leg.

In 1868, Le Bris continued to test his invention, building a second flying machine with the help of the French army. This glider was much like the first one Le Bris invented, but it was lighter and had weight distribution controls. It was also the first flying machine in history to be photographed. Not only that, but Le Bris invented and patented flight controls.

Jean-Marie Le Bris spent the remainder of his life experimenting with his dream of flight. He was murdered by gang members in 1872, but his legacy and dedication to aviation lived on. Le Bris was an innovator who was able to mold elements of nature into useful mechanical forms and this innovative spirit inspired others, helping to further aviation progress.

Caring for Albatross Fabric:

This fabric is tough and resilient to many things, so you may not have to worry much about its care. Make sure you hand dry it when you wash it, or it gets wet. It is safe to keep it away from high temperatures and direct sunlight.

It may attract moths and mildews, but if you want to protect your cherished Albatross fabric’s garments, you must use insect repellents and keep them stored in airtight bags. Don’t overthink it!

Watch the video: Άλμπατρος - Μια ιστορία αγάπης


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