TDISH: An Embarrassing Launch

On August 10, 1628, King Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden and his entourage were gathered on the docks of the Stockholm shipyards to take part in the ceremonies to launch the king’s newest warship, the Vasa, named after the ruling dynasty.  The massive ship, armed with 64 800px-Vasa_stern_color_model.jpgbronze cannons, was the largest warship in the world and was meant to be symbolic of Sweden’s rise to the ranks of the Great Powers of the seventeenth century.  Unfortunately, today would not be the triumph Gustavus II Adolphus hoped.  Less than 20 minutes and about one mile into her maiden voyage, the Vasa was struck by two strong winds that caused the massive ship to founder and sink to the bottom of the Baltic Sea, killing 30 crewmen.

For years, a mystery has surrounded these events – what exactly caused such an amazing ship to sink so quickly.  Recent studies have shown that the ship was particularly top heavy and was so cutting edge in its construction that it went past the technological capabilities of the day.  However, there was also a borderline comic reason for the sinking – the ship was lopsided.  Why was it lopsided?  Well, of the four construction leaders on the ship, two used a Swedish ruler that measured 1 foot and was divided into 12 inches and two used a Dutch ruler that measured 1 foot, but was divided into 11 inches.  So depending on who was doing the measuring, the measurements of an inch were different and thus led to major structural problems with the ship.

Featured Image: “The Vasa.” By JavierKohen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Image 1. “Painted Model of the Vasa.” By Peter Isotalo – Own work, CC BY 3.0.
Source: Chatterjee, Rhitu. “New Clues Emerge in Centuries-Old Swedish Shipwreck.PRI‘s The World. 23 February 2012.

Tied To Today: Impeachment

On Thursday, May 12, 2016, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached.  The Brazilian Senate voted to suspend her presidency for 180 days while she faced trial on corruption charges.  If found guilty, Brazil’s acting president, Michel Temer, Rousseff’s Vice President, will finish out the term.

1024px-Rolandas_Paksas-_horizontali_fotoHistorically, impeachment is a relatively rare occurrence – only two United States Presidents (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton) have ever been impeached.  Neither was removed from office.  As rare as impeachment is, removal from office is even rarer.  In fact, only one European leader has ever been removed from office through the impeachment process, Rolandas Paksas, the president of Lithuania in 2004.  Paksas was removed from office just over a year after his swearing in on charges of violating his constitutional oath based on his alleged ties to Russian organized crime.  Paksas was accused of illegally restoring the citizenship of Yuri Borisov, a helicopter manufacturer, who was convicted of selling arms to the Sudan.  While these proceedings caused extensive embarrassment for the young democracy, Lithuanians can now point to the strength of their democracy – the impeachment proved that their constitution works.

The next six months will be very interesting as the world watches the proceedings in the second most populous country in the Western Hemisphere.

Image 1. “Rolandas Paksas.” By Vaalliant – Own work, CC0.
What has gone wrong in Brazil?” BBC News. May 12, 2016.
Myers, Steven Lee. “Lithuanian Parliament Removes Country’s President After Casting Votes on Three Charges.” New York Times. April 7, 2004.

TDISH – This Day In Strange History: Americans Invade England

On April 23800px-John_Paul_Jones_by_Charles_Wilson_Peale,_c1781, 1778, the fledgling United States Navy successfully launched an amphibious assault on the town of Whitehaven, England in what some call the most recent invasion of the country.  The newly constructed sloop-of-war, the USS Ranger, under the command of Scottish-born Captain John Paul Jones sailed into the port of Whitehaven and sent a landing party to shore who spiked the seaward facing guns protecting the port.  The raiding party also burned a coal ship, The Thompson, in the hopes of the fire spreading to the entire merchant and coal fleet anchored in the harbor.  The citizens of Whitehaven managed to contain the blaze to The Thompson, which was lost.  The assault on Whitehaven is the only time American troops have ever been in England as a hostile force.

John Paul Jones’ actions throughout the American Revolution earned him a place in United State history as an almost mythical figure.  He is frequently honored with the sobriquet, “Father of the American Navy.”  He lies buried at the United State Naval Academy in the Naval Academy Chapel.  His tomb is watched over my an honor guard of Midshipmen whenever it is open to the public for viewing.

John Paul Jones tomb

John Paul Jones’ sarcophagus



Featured Image, Public Domain.
Lloyd’s Evening Post. Vol. XLII. — Numb. 3252, as edited by Terry Heller.
Portrait of John Paul Jones. By Charles Willson Peale –, Public Domain.
John Paul Jones’ sarcophagus. By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Kevin H. Tierney – This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID 050527-N-6077T-007 (next) Public Domain.