Role Play Serial Story from the Messdeck Part IV

Monday, April 20, 2015 0 comments

A Winter Morning

Here is the  next part of the serialized tale from our role play group "The Messdeck".

You can start from the beginning here.

Previously Lt Cmdr Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe is in command of the old airship HMAS Doris currently moored to a tall tower in York on her way to Scapa Flow.  He is visited by a fellow officer Lt John Barbesly. Max knew him as the aid to the Admiral of the Pacific Airship Fleet in Esquimalt but he is now working for Naval Intelligence under the formidable Fleet Admiral Avis Chicheley.  He tells Max about the mystery surrounding the sabotage attempt on Max's ship, the HMAS Velvet Brush, in Esquimalt two years ago.

Here is part IV

Frozen Sky
A serial story from The Messdeck.
Part IV
Collected and edited by Kevin Jepson

Feb 2
* Lt Barbesly excused himself on the grounds of doing his trick on ship watch for the black naval airship moored beneath the old Doris on the tower.  He kindly "donated" the heater to the cabin for the comfort of Miss BB and Iveta, and promising to tell the rest of the Doris' crew that they weren't expected back until first light, he took his leave. After a quick and very cold tour of the Doris to make sure everything was secure, Max went back to the little cabin in the control car and is soon fast asleep.*

*Three hours later, with the automatic timing of a sailor long used to standing 4 hour watches, Max shakes himself awake and does another ship check. As dawn breaks across the grey winter sky the crew begins to climb back up. The first to appear is Sgt Fraser with Cpl Cooke close behind him.*

Fraser comes across the walkway and as he steps onto the control car he comes to attention and salutes smartly. "Good Morning Sir!"

"At ease Sergeant, I trust you had a comfortable night below?"

"Aye Sir. I half expected to find you frozen solid though Sir!"

Max chuckles. "That might have been the case Sergeant, save for a happy intervention by an old friend of mine. How did the rest of the crew fare?"

"No troubles Sir, most spent it in the pub with the crew of that black ship below us. Miss BB seems to have accumulated a fair pile of additional scarves and blankets though."

"And not a small amount of coin either I expect."

"Aye Sir more an likely."

Cpl Cooke comes aboard with a large box which he puts on the deck before saluting Max smartly. "A care package from Lt Barbesly Sir, said he didn't think we was equipped properly for such winter travels."

*Max opens the box to see several canisters that look like they would fit the bottom of the mushroom heater in the cabin. There are also several loaves of bread, some insulated jars of mulled wine, and a lovely old bottle of rum.*

Max clicks his tongue in appreciation. "Ah John, always the organized one eh? Thank you Cpl please stow this in the cabin."

"Aye aye Sir."

*Next to appear is Iveta who almost leaps aboard with a step so light that the control car barely moves. She gives Max a quick salute and a "Good Morning Sir!" and heads directly into the cabin to start working up the course that they will need to fly.*

*A few moments later Max can see Simpson at the top of the stairs burdened with a large duffel bag, followed by Miss BB with an equally large duffel and finally Watkins brings up the rear. Each member of the crew stops and salutes Max as they board the small airship. Except Miss BB who walks right by him before stopping most of the way to the cabin. With a muttered "Oh Dear!" she quickly turns and salutes with a squeaky, "Good Morning" and vanishes into the cabin.*

Max looks out at the slowly brightening winter day and says, "Well gentlemen, at least the wind seems to have dropped so maybe we will be able to make some headway." Turning to Watkins he says, "Prepare for up ship in 10 minutes!"

"Up Ship in 10 minutes Aye aye Sir!"

As the two mechanics climb up the ladder to the open keel walk Max can hear Watkins saying, "Right aft we go and get that old engine warming up, if she'll start at all in this cold!"

"Cpl Cooke!"

The Marine snaps to attention."Sir!"

"Think you can handle the unmooring?"

"Aye Sir, no worries Sir!"

"Very good, grab yerself another couple of them scarves of Miss BB's and standby to go aloft as soon as Watkins gets the drive going."

"Aye aye Sir!"

*As the crew begins the bustle and apparent chaos of a ship preparing to unmoor and head off into the winter skies, Max stands at the front of the control car, his hands clasped behind his back, looking down on the sleek black topsides of the navy airship moored below.*

Now, Mr John Barbesly, I'm thinking there is no way you just happened to be here by accident. You was sent by Admiral Chicheley I'm sure. She's keeping a close eye on us an no mistake. I wonder what she'll make of our little diversion today?

Part V is here.

A Night to Remember

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 0 comments

On this night in 1912

In the icy darkness of the North Atlantic sometime between 2.15 a.m. and 2.25 a.m. a primitive spark gap transmitter blasted the following message into the aether and was forever silent thereafter.

... --- ... ... --- ... -.-. --.- -.. -.-. --.- -.. - .. - .- -. .. -.-. .-.-.- .-- . .- .-. . ... .. -. -.- .. -. --. ..-. .- ... - .-.-.- .--. .- ... ... . -. --. . .-. ... .- .-. . -... . .. -. --. .--. ..- - .. -. - --- -... --- .- - ... .-.-.- - .. - .- -. .. -.-. .-.-.-

RMS Titanic, passengers and crew.

May the silence of the deeps keep you safe unto the ending of the world.

The only known photograph of Titanic's Marconi room. Taken by passenger Fr. Browne, who disembarked in Queenstown.
Operator is probably Harold Bride. Photograph from the Fr. Browne collection. 

The Titanic Marconi room set from the James Cameron movie.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your spark gap clean.

Photos from the fantastic webpage

Role Play Serial Story from The Messdeck Part III

Monday, April 6, 2015 0 comments

Catching up!

Here is the third part of the serialized tale from our Roleplay group.

You can start from the beginning here.

Last time we left Max and his crew aboard the aging cargo airship HMAS Doris tied up to a mooring tower on the edge of York in England. It is a freezing cold winter's night. Since there is no lift and it would be a long climb for Max with his bad leg, he has sent his crew below so they can get warm and have some good food while he stays aboard on "Ship Watch".

Frozen Sky
A serial story from The Messdeck.
Part III
Collected and edited by Kevin Jepson 
Feb 1
*Max opens the cabin door. Standing in the control car is a tall Royal Navy Lieutenant in a heavy winter great coat with a leather satchel over one shoulder. His fur lined hood is thrown back and he has a great big grin on his  face.*

"John Barbesly! Good God man what brings you to ice bound Yorkshire? Come in and get out of this wind!"

"Could ask you the same question Sir."

"Belay that Sir stuff, nobody here to worry on it John."

*They go back into the little cabin. Max clears a space of the Navigator's charts, carefully avoiding the communications equipment, while the Lieutenant starts to unpack his satchel.*

"First off I'm going to get rid of this cold! You will like this Max!" and he takes out an odd mushroom shaped contraption and puts it on the floor under the table. After fiddling with it for a second or so he pushes a button and there is a quiet womph sound and then a rich red glow from inside the mushroom's top.

Max jumps back "Dammit man, you trying to blow us up!"

"No Sir! See this is based on the same pattern as the Davies Mine Lamps. The hydrogen may get inside but if it burns it can't get through the mesh."

*Soon there is a lovely warm current of air coming out from under the table. Out of the satchel comes cloth wrapped hot food and some insulated tankards of mulled wine.*

"I seen your Marine getting this ready to bring back up to you an overheard him talking to his Sergeant and he mentioned your name so I said I'd take it up to you."

"Much appreciated John, much appreciated indeed, was fair to being frozen solid I was. But what are you doing in old Blighty? Last we met you was Admiral's Clerk on that flagship in Esquimalt[1]. Were just before we left in such a rush!"

"Oh Aye and that's a tale indeed, you get going on that food and drink I'll fill you in!"

*As the chill finally starts to leave the little cabin on the Doris, the Lieutenant tells Max of the events that followed the precipitous departure of the Velvet Brush from Esquimalt*

"You hadn't even got over the horizon towards the mainland before all hell broke loose in the shipyard. There was Lobsterbacks[2] everywhere. One of our own detachments was detailed to try to round up as many of the Company Boffins as had not managed to leave. The ones they rounded up were surprised, it was like they couldn't understand what was happening."

Max munching on a pasty says "Well yer probably heard that someone had tried to disable us with a bomb. Were planted in the drive, would have taken our tail right off!"

"Aye we did hear that eventually, but we hadn't at that time. A signal had come from the Admiralty ordering the whole yard locked down! The Old Man was livid, he got the order direct and was told to take over the dockyard. Seems that the Admiralty wasn't taking any chances that the dockyard officers weren't in on something nasty."

"Argh, can't imagine that were a fun thing to do."

"Yer right on that score, the Marines were no problem, I think they would rather be under the command of a serving Fleet than a dockyard anyways, and they just wheeled about and got on with it. I went with my Admiral to the Dockyard HQ and was there when the he assumed command. The poor dockyard commander looked surprised but didn't bat an eye, simply stood up saluted and left his office. I was detailed to collect every piece of paper in the place, organize it by date and correspondent. Have you any idea how much paper there is in the HQ of the biggest airdock and naval base on the Pacific Coast!"

Max chuckles "Aye well yer did always like paperwork John."

"Well I tell you my taste for it waned considerable that night! But I tell ya Max, it were what happened the next morning that really made things go crazy?"

"We was heading north towards Prince Rupert by then, had some trouble with the drive arcing all over the place, burned one of our Black Gang pretty bad. Aye and just as he got better he was blown to smithereens in bloody Portsmouth!"

"I heard about that Max, lost yer Commander and them young lads and right in the middle of the largest naval base on Earth too. I can tell you that made every dockyard, port and base in the Empire act like there was war on! Was like somebody kicked the biggest ant hill the world had ever seen... But as I was sayin, next morning word came that somethin odd had happened at the Company yards outside Vancouver. The Old Man, having spent a long night interrogating the dockyard commander, 'in conference' is the term the report used, swore mightily and grabbed the Marine Major and his troop from the flagship, me, and a bunch of dockyard workers, and flew us in a runabout straight there."

Max nods and says "Ah, we seen what happened there as we flew over, were the strangest thing, there were a great ship just like us and she simply collapsed in on her self as we passed."

"Aye and when we got there all that was left was a mass of girders. It was odd indeed, there weren't a single piece of fabric anywheres in that pile. Nothing, not even the cloth covers of manuals and books, no seabags, no tool bags, nothing! Were like she had been attacked by a giant swarm of moths. Well we secured the site and I went with a couple of Lobsterbacks to secure the office. But as we were approaching some bastard set fire to the place and it was pretty well done by the time we got there. Heard later the bloke who set the fire had died in it too, served the bastard right."

"So did you find out anything about that ship?"

"Aye more 'n I wanted to know, I were put in charge of the team searching it. I can tell you she were nearly finished but that she would never have flown."

"Eh? Why is that?"

"She were a direct copy of your ship, but she had no core.[3]" Max starts and John holds up his hand "Aye and that's OK Max, I been briefed since as to what that means and all, it's my new job see?"

*He folds his collar back and Max sees the insignia of Naval Intelligence.*

"Ah, if she had no core then how could she have flown?"

"Well see that is the question the Intelligence Boffins had too, best guess, and you never heard this from me, is that if that bomb had gone off and disabled your ship in Esquimalt the Company would have spirited the core away and mounted it in the copy. Along with a bunch of other equipment that hadn't been installed yet but was just lying around."

Max takes a big swig from his mulled wine, and after a second or two says "Seems like there is no way they could have got away with that."

"I agree and that were the conclusion of the brass hats in Whitehall too. Don't know the official rationale but personally I think it was a botched job. The sabotage may have been intended to happen somewheres over the rough country North of Vancouver, then they could have salvaged the core and other bits and mounted it in their copy and nobody would be the wiser."

"Christ John, you saying they intended to bring us down in flight!"

"I am Max, and everything that's happened since would tend to confirm that wouldn't you say? Were only cause you were tipped off by finding that device before you left that you been able to stay in one piece."

"An that's a comforting thought to be thinkin and all. So how did you end up in Intelligence then?"

"Well, see that ain't something I'm really sure about. Was about two months later, after we heard about the attack on the Velvet Brush in Portsmouth when I were approached by this odd fellow from England."

"Odd fellow?"

"Aye some high brow named Biffington, he had my transfer papers and within a fortnight I was in Portsmouth talking to..."

Max finishes his sentence "Fleet Admiral Avis Chicheley"[4]

"Aye that's her, and things have been very interesting indeed ever since!"

Part IV is here
[1] Esquimalt just outside Victoria, British Columbia was the second largest Royal Navy base in the Pacific after Hong Kong during Queen Victoria's time. In our world it is also a major Navy Airship base. Max and his crew received the HMAS Velvet Brush from the Company builders there nearly two years ago.
[2] Lobsterback is a navy slang term for Royal Marine, used because of their bright red tunics. The other term often used is Bullock, which means bull.
[3] The Core is the extremely powerful heat source that powers the HMAS Velvet Brush and a major military secret. See my Practical Airship Design series for more info on this fascinating Airship.
[4] Second in command of the entire Royal Navy and head of Naval Intelligence, a formidable and manipulative power behind much of the events of the past two years in our Role Play World.

Captain Herndon of The Ship of Gold

Sunday, April 5, 2015 0 comments

Exploration of the valley of the Amazon (1853)

William Lewis Herndon was a professional naval officer in the US Navy during the first half of the 19th C.
He is mostly remembered as the captain of the SS Central America the famous "Ship of Gold" which sank in a hurricane of the coast of Cape Hatteras in 1857.

However his long and distinguished career in the Navy included one of the first source to mouth explorations of the Amazon river. Captain Herndon's report of his explorations in the Amazon was a best seller and immensely popular when it was first published in 1853. One young man was so inspired that he set out to travel down the Mississippi to try to get to the Amazon himself. There were no ships heading to Brazil from New Orleans so he stayed in the States changing his name from Samuel Clements to Mark Twain, the call of the men on the riverboats sounding the depths.

You can read a scanned copy of Captain Herndon's book here at the Internet Archive

Captain Herndon, although a US Navy officer, was in command of the SS Central America when she was lost in a hurricane in 1857, taking 423 men and many tons of gold to the bottom of the Atlantic along with her.

He was widely honoured for his heroic attempts to save his ship before loosing his life when she finally foundered after 3 days of pounding in the hurricane.

From Wikipedia

Herndon was carrying perhaps 15 tons of gold (then worth $2,000,000) and 474 passengers, many of whom were from California and were returning to the East Coast, as well as 101 crew members. After leaving Cuba on 7 September 1857, a few days later, they encountered a three-day hurricane off Cape Hatteras. The hurricane steadily increased in force. By the 12th, the Central America was shipping water through several leaks due to the ship's lack of water-tight bulkheads and general unseaworthiness. Water in her hold put out her boiler fires, precluding the use of steam for both controlling the ship and pumping out the bilges.
Herndon recognized that his ship was doomed; he flew its flag upside down as a distress signal and hoped another ship would see them. At 2 p.m., the West Indian brig Marine arrived to help take passengers from the stricken steamer. It did not have room to take on all of the passengers and crew. Commander Herndon supervised the difficult loading of women and children into lifeboats to transfer to the Marine. He gave one of the women passengers his watch to send to his wife, saying that he could not leave the ship while there was a soul on board. Most of the women and children reached safety on the Marine. Herndon's concern for his passengers and crew helped save 152 of the 575 people on board.
Men on the Central America tried to break up wooden parts to use as floats, in hopes of surviving the sinking. Some were rescued later by passing vessels, but most of the 423 persons on board died in what was the largest loss of life for a commercial ship in United States history. Survivors of the disaster reported last seeing Commander Herndon in full uniform, standing by the wheelhouse with his hand on the rail, hat off and in his hand, with his head bowed in prayer as the ship gave a lurch and went down.
The ship disaster and loss of so much gold, which banks still depended on, contributed to the financial Panic of 1857 in the United States.
The wreckage of the ship was discovered in a 1987 treasure recovery expedition.

The story of the Central America and the search for her is chronicled in a book "Ship of Gold" by Gary Kinder and will be the subject of another post. Stay tuned.

Keep your sightglass full your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Spring Regional Parasol Duelling Competition

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 0 comments

Parasol Pursuits!

This year at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo there will be not one, but FOUR Parasol Duelling events.

We will be having a formal panel and inside demonstration on  Saturday April 18th, two outdoor demos on Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday April 19th there will be a Parasol Duelling competition!

Looking forward to seeing Ladies from all over competing in this competition.

Over the Summer there will be more Parasol Duelling competitions across North America at Steampunk events large and small.

All leading up to the Second Annual World Championships which will be held in Calgary this September at the Beakerhead Festival. 

So start practicing Ladies!

To find out more about this great sport go to:
Madame Saffron Hemlock’s Parasol Duelling League for Steampunk Ladies

Click here for information on the history and development of Parasol Duelling 
or click the Parasol Duelling tag.

The Rules for Parasol Duelling are here.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

About Gears, Goggles, and Steam oh My!

Here I collect interesting bits of information related to the world of Steampunk.

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