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Charles Lagerbom teaches AP US History at Belfast Area High School and lives in Northport. He can be contacted at He is the author of "Whaling in Maine," available through The History Press (

  • Published
    April 1, 2021

    Families and wooden boat building

    It took me aback recently when someone suggested it might be a waste of time for anyone wanting to build a wooden boat. The point he was trying to make was that there were numerous other ways, many of them easier and with much less fuss, to get oneself out on the water. Well … maybe, but I think he is missing something. I say there is something profoundly rich about a wooden boat, some inexpressible quality that …

  • Published
    March 25, 2021

    Maine Maritime Academy’s training ships

    The other day, as I drove through Castine for some research on Fort Pentagoet, I decided to swing down by the town dock. There, I found the Maine Maritime Academy training ship State of Maine sitting quietly dockside in the bright January Sunday morning sunshine. It reminded me of recent news that MMA is working to secure $300 million for a new training vessel, saying the new ship would be “capable of meeting the …

  • Published
    March 18, 2021

    Learning how to scuba – Then and now

    In 1979 during my sophomore year in high school, for my birthday my parents purchased for me a scuba certification course. I had always been intrigued with the idea, mostly from watching Jacques Cousteau on TV. Scuba, short for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, allows you to take a tank of air underwater and breathe. There is no connection to the surface, unlike hard-hat diving which uses a hose …

  • Published
    March 11, 2021

    ‘Shiver Me Timbers?’ Maine’s first pirate

    When I heard about the first pirate known to have cruised Maine waters, images came to mind of Hollywood’s Jack Sparrow or one of the blood-thirsty characters from a Robert Louis Stevens novel or the iconic illustrations of N.C. Wyeth. But the actual story of Maine’s first pirate Dixey Bull does not easily fit into this kind of popular mythology. Dixey (or Dixie) Bull was born in 1611 in Cambridgeshire, England …

  • Published
    March 4, 2021

    The Belfast Bark Suliote, Part 2

    After its noted trip to California, there is not much information available as to Suliote’s next few voyages. At some point, the bark returned to Atlantic waters. On April 9, 1853, Suliote was at Pernambuco in Brazil, recorded as being in ballast, meaning not carrying any cargo. On June 4, the vessel arrived at Boston under a master named Drinkwater. For the next decade, Suliote was involved with the coasting …

  • Published
    February 25, 2021

    The Belfast bark Suliote, part 1

    In 1848, once rumors were confirmed, gold fever hit hard among most everyone along the Maine Midcoast. Belfast’s Asa Faunce was just finishing construction of his 212-ton bark Suliote. It was 105 feet long, drew 11 feet and could hold a decent amount of cargo and a number of passengers. Faunce immediately made it available to ferry to California with paid-up passengers who wanted to seek their fortunes in the …

  • Published
    February 18, 2021

    I’m being followed by a moon snail …

    For the past five years or so, a local dive group in the area called Mid-Coast Maine Aqua-Nuts have been compiling a photo database of marine life of Penobscot Bay. One of the more unique inhabitants of the bay is also one its more common residents. It is the moon snail (Euspira heros), a gastropod commonly found from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to North Carolina. The idea that it is considered very common should …

  • Published
    February 11, 2021

    Scuba divers and red knit caps

    When I was a kid growing up in Kansas, I used to watch “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” Seeing his adventures around the world aboard his research ship Calypso kindled within me an interest in the marine environment. What was also cool about Cousteau’s team of divers, was that when out of the water, they wore their signature red knit caps. Jacques Cousteau was a childhood hero of mine with his marine …

  • Published
    February 8, 2021

    What is it about Cape Horn?

    Cape Horn, located at 56 degrees South latitude, brings to mind visions of wind-whipped water, plunging seas, desperate mariners hanging aloft in frozen rigging, braving howling winds trying to secure flapping sails. It marks where Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet in one writhing mass. The Horn, or “Cape Stiff,” has earned a prominent place in art, music, literature and Maine maritime history. Rounding Cabo de …

  • Published
    January 21, 2021

    Sad ending for a Hero

    In 1968, the Harvey Gamage shipyard in South Bristol built and launched the National Science Foundation Research Vessel Hero. The idea was to utilize a sturdy wooden-built trawler as a scientific platform along the shallow bays and passages of far-south South America and the ice-choked Antarctic Peninsula. The vessel was to operate in conjunction with the appropriately named shore-based United States Antarctic …

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