Saturday, June 30, 2012

Abraham Ortelius, Man of Vision

Abraham Ortelius by Peter Paul Rubens
By contrast with John Ogilby, who began his life as a dance-master and theatre owner and drew his map for the Lords Proprietors as a late-life indulgence, Abraham Ortelius began at the age of twenty in 1547 as an illustrator of maps.  He met great men of the cartographic profession like Gerardus Mercator, whose 500th anniversary birth was celebrated on March 4th this year!  Ortelius' comes up in 2027.  His family was originally from Augsburg, however, Abraham was the eldest of three children of Leonard Ortels, an antique dealer in Antwerp.  Abraham learned Latin from his father and independently studied mathematics. 

It's interesting to note that some of his family had escaped religious persecution in Europe by living in England, much like Huguenot Frenchman from the siege of La Rochelle in 1627-8.  My Huguenot ancestor, Jean de Fonvielle came to Carolina from England after spending time there to escape Catholic persecution.  Many North and South Carolinians can lay claim to that history.  It seems that England was the religious refuge of Europeans of this time, not unlike the United States gained famed for in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Ortelius' World Map of 1570, Typus Orbis Terrarum

Abraham Ortelius was admitted to Antwerp's Guild of Saint Luke as an illuminator of maps in 1547.  The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography tells that he after he became a  "dealer and collector of maps, Ortelius eventually started making maps himself. His first map, a wall map of the world, was published in 1564 and was followed by a map of ancient Egypt (1565), a wall map of Asia (1567), a wall map of Spain (1570), and a map of the Roman empire (1571). He had already acquired some renown and means when in 1570 he published his Theatrum orbis terrarum, considered to be the first modern atlas, being a handy collection of maps of the same dimensions providing a survey of the world as known up to that moment.

A portion of Abraham Ortelius' 1587 Americae Sive Novi Orbis Nova Descriptio

As for historians of North Carolina, it is important to note that his Americae Sive Novi Orbis Nova Descriptio, published in 1587, included recent details learned from the Roanoke voyages of Sir Walter Raleigh.  The name "Wingandekoa" is clearly marked with a large sound or river extending west into the mainland (Albemarle?).  "Cape St. John" is also the older name for "Cape Hatteras."  This information could not have been more than a couple of years old.

The really interesting part of this map is the notation "Apalchen" to the west of Wingandekoa.  Is this the origin for the name given to the Appalachian mountains?  The 1528 Narvaez Spanish expedition that explored the interior of La Florida met a nation of Indians near Tallahassee calling themselves the "Apalchen" or "Apalachen," later translated as "Apalachee."  The curious part of this Ortelius map shows that he interpreted this information to mean that "Apalchen" existed directly west-northwest of Wingandekoa, which it certainly did.  He got this interpretation in 1587!  Nice work, Ortelius!  Uh... hope you weren't referring to the Indian nation specifically and not the territory.  :)  We'll talk later about the apparent St. Johns River from the area of today's Jacksonville, Florida area running through the Appalachians... you may have missed on that one, ol' buddy... of course, that may have been the Indians and not the mountains.  Oh, well.  Who can blame you for never having visited America!? 

Of course, Ortelius was well acquainted with many of the affluent and scholarly people of his day.  Theodore de Bry engraved many of John White's watercolor paintings for Thomas Hariot's A Brief and True Report of the Newfound land in Virginia about Sir Walter Raleigh's Roanoke voyages of 1584-1587.  Hariot published his book in 1590.  De Bry was born in Belgium 1528, a year younger than Ortelius and often visited Antwerp as well as London.  Although I've found no reference to date, I'm certain that Ortelius must've known the noted engraver.  He may even have met John White.  As painters and illustators, they all virtually dealt in the same business.  He could easily have known about the Roanoke voyages, even in 1587, not having passed away until 1598. 
Animation of Pangea to today
The most fascinating detail of Abraham Ortelius's work, however, is that he predicted continental drift, the mechanism by which the continents on Earth spread apart from the one giant continent of Pangea, a supercontinent that existed over 200 million years ago in the early Mesozoic era.  This was Mercator's influence that pulled him into scientific geography.  W. J. Kious' "Historical Perspective" in This Dynamic Earth: The Story of Plate Tectonics, explains Ortelius' genius:

Gerardus Mercator
"Abraham Ortelius in his work Thesaurus Geographicus ... suggested that the Americas were "torn away from Europe and Africa ... by earthquakes and floods" and went on to say: "The vestiges of the rupture reveal themselves, if someone brings forward a map of the world and considers carefully the coasts of the three [continents]."

He is the first known to have suggested this idea, obviously from the arrangement of the continents as they appear like scattered pieces of the same puzzle.  As one can easily see in his 1570 map, Typus Orbis Terrarum, the continents do fit together rather well.  Alfred Weggener would have to reinvent this theory almost 400 years later, in the mid-20th century.  It is remarkable that he could make this prediction from his study of maps of the 16th century!

Abraham Ortelius was, indeed, a man of great vision.  That he possibly conferred with Theodore de Bry, and/or John White, Thomas Hariot, and others of the Roanoke voyages gives us the impression that these endeavors were all cutting-edge science of the 16th century, as indeed, they were.  Remarkable that the Lords Proprietors of Carolina relied on a local dance master for their map while they were surrounded by such greatness and science.  In retrospect, John Ogilby must have charged less.  You get what you pay for, as they say. 

Mistakes of Our Ancestors

John Ogilby (1600–1676), by William Faithorne
Today, we live with the errors made by our ancestors and their partners who explored America.  We tend to lionize our ancestors into something larger than reality.  Indeed, as we debate the wisdom of America's founding fathers in our politics, it helps to understand just how human these people actually were.  Errors were quite common in history and some still persist today.  Here is presented just one of those errors from an early map that has remained in the present.

John Ogilby (1600-1676), noted as a publisher and geographer, did not begin his career as such.  As a young man, his father died, leaving a debt which John paid with money from a lottery secured by the Virginia Company in March 1612.  Seven years later, he was apprenticed to John Draper, a London dancing master.  It appears that this was his first trade.  The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography tells that John Ogilby spent his professional life under various titles: "dancing-master, courtier, and theatre owner between about 1620 and 1641; poet and translator from 1649; and, from about 1669, compiler of geographical works and atlases, culminating in his Britannia (1675)."  Ogilby only became a cartographer in 1670, soon receiving a commission from the Lords Proprietors of Carolina for a map of their province in America.  The Oxford DNB goes on to say, "he conceived of a series of atlases to cover the whole world, to be funded through lotteries, subscription plans, and advertisements. The first, Africa, appeared in 1670. Others followed soon after: Atlas Japannensis (1670), America (1671), Atlas Chinensis (1671), and Asia (1673)."  The most important part of understanding John Ogilsby 1671 map of Carolina is the next line from the DNB:  "These were not the fruits of Ogilby's own work but rather well-produced compilations of extant translations and others' accounts, a common practice at that time."

1671 Ogilby Map of Carolina, titled "First Lords Proprietors' Map; New description of Carolina by the order of the Lords Proprietors"

By the title of John Ogilby's 1671 map, "First Lords Proprietors' Map; New description of Carolina by the order of the Lords Proprietors," we can glean that the Proprietors had not yet made a map of their territory and desired to know what their holdings entailed.  They had only owned Carolina for less than a decade (a very short period of time in the 17th century).  Still, there were accounts from various expeditions by Englishmen to Carolina, or through Carolina from Virginia.  Merchants had plied these waters probably since the founding of Jamestown in 1607.  Ogilby had access to many of these details as he prepared his 1671 map.  Undoubtedly, he relied heavily on Richard Hakluyt's information concerning the Roanoke voyages.  He read of Governor John White's avenging the death of George Howe by attacking Indians on the shores of the mainland just west of Roanoke Island.  Of course, White discovered then that they had made a mistake and attacked their friends from the island of Croatoan (today's Hatteras) and not the intended hostiles of Dasamonquepeuk.  As you can see, Ogilby marked "Croatan" on his map to indicate where future explorers may find the renowned friendly Indians of that nearly century-old tale. 

However, Ogilby may not have read that account clearly enough to realize that the Croatoan Indians did not actually live in that location on the mainland, but instead, went there simply to gather the corn left by the hostile Indians that had fled English vengeance.  The weather was unseasonably hot and dry.  Crops did not grow well without water and they were hungry on their tiny island far from the mainland.  Ogilby made a mistake.

That was not his only mistake on this map.  In the area of the "Clarendon" River, now known as the Cape Fear River, he clearly understood and drew the area of the "thoroughfare" across from the present Wilmington in North Carolina today.  By 1671, the Barbadoes Adventurers led by Sir John Yeamans had already planted a town on that river.  They had difficulty there and abandoned the settlement.  Many other cartographers refer to this settlement as "Charles Town," not to be confused with the "Charles Town" settled in 1671 further south by the same group.

Ogilby produced this map in 1671 and probably had no knowledge of the Barbadian plans to settle Carolina again.  Still, he had heard of the settlement in the area of Old Town Creek south of today's Wilmington.  Note where Ogilby marked "New Town" on his map.  It is much farther inland from the "thoroughfare" than Wilmington... NOT where the first "Charles Town" was actually founded.  He has "New Town" even farther north of Stag Park, about the area of today's Burgaw.  There was not a settlement that we know of there by 1671.

Portion of 1709 map made by John Lawson and John Senex

No mention of this "New Town" is ever made on later maps.  However, John Lawson used Ogilsby's map, made for the Lords Proprietors, to make his own map, again addressed to the Lords Proprietors, in 1709.  The map was made to accompany his book, A New Voyage to Carolina, in which he described in great detail the plants, animals, and customs of native inhabitants of the Proprietor's lands.  He repeated the erroneous "Croatan" labeling across from Roanoke Island.  He even went so far as to call the Indians of Hatteras Island, "Hatteras Indians," well... because the Croatan lived elsewhere, right?  Wrong.  The error stuck.

1820 Brazier-Fulton map of Croatan and Roanoke Sounds
The very name of "Croatan" was used on many later maps and it even gave its name (again) to the body of water that separated the mainland from Roanoke Island, "Croatan Sound."  It is still called this today, as shown on the Google Earth image below:

Google Earth image showing "Croatan Sound"
One can imagine the thoughts of the Croatoan Indians on Hatteras at the silly-sounding Englishmen as they continued to refer to this area as "Croatan."  They had probably forgotten the mistaken event in 1587 that started it... the easy mistake that John White had made and apologized for as he visited Hatteras Island to plead with his friends, Manteo's people and his mother, chief of the Croatoan people.

Clearly, our ancestors, including our founding fathers in America, have made many mistakes.  Of course, most United States citizens today will say that the British made this mistake, somehow disconnecting themselves from the ones who made these simple errors.  That is not to say that we do not still make mistakes, just that our advancing technology prevents these larger ones.  Speedier communication afforded by satellite and the internet helps a great deal when you imagine that it took weeks and even months to get a message across the 17th-century Atlantic.  One has to also imagine a time without television, xerox, and a plethora of computer graphic formats.  Our society has much to be thankful for.

The study of history reveals many mistakes.  It sometimes makes history quite enjoyable and entertaining, contrary to the impression given by most high school students.  Think of how you were drawn to this blog entry.  :)

John Ogilby could have avoided this mistake by reading Hakluyt more carefully.  He did not.  Why, we can only guess.  Perhaps he had dance classes coming up and had to prepare lessons for his students.  Obilby had a life that interfered with his hobbies, after all.  His mistake in 1671 became translated to our modern generation as "Croatan Sound."  We probably shouldn't go into the name of the "Croatan National Forest," located also NOT on the Outer Banks, but near New Bern in Craven County... on the mainland once again.

If I were a Croatoan Indian, I would feel kind of annoyed.  :)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

CSS Neuse Gets a New Home

CSS Neuse early on display in the open.  Photo taken from Jerry Blackwelder, "The Fall and Rise of a Confederate Ship," The State (Sept, 1990).
Back in the early 1960s, three local businessmen from Lenoir County decided to invest in a common venture to bring the CSS Neuse up from the bottom of the Neuse River.  May 19, 1963, the large Confederate gunboat was finally pulled from the river and the state later took charge of it and moved it to the already existing Richard Caswell historic site in Kinston, NC.  See the video:  The Story of the CSS Neuse, a Confederate Battleship in Kinston, NC.  That was almost 50 years ago. Today, the boat gets moved into its final location... a temperature and humidity-controlled facility in downtown Kinston, North Carolina.  For nearly half a century, however, the boat did not have it so good.

Construction of the 158 by 35-foot sister ship of the CSS Albemarle had begun in New Bern in 1862, but Union forces took that city, shelled the unfinished gunboat, and the hull of the Neuse was floated upriver to White Springs (today's Seven Springs) above Kinston to safeguard it while being finished.  The Neuse was then planned to assist in recapturing the city of New Bern.  However, it would never make it back.  Instead, it would fire its guns only once in a land battle to cover its retreat from Kinston as the Civil War came to a close.  Before leaving Kinston, Commander Joseph Price and his "long-legged boys from the piney woods" set the steam engines to explode and scuttled the CSS Neuse in the shallow waters of the Neuse River where it would lay for a hundred years until the Civil War centennial in 1961 revived interest in it.

The beleaguered vessel underwent over two years of back-breaking effort to be pulled from the sandy bottom.  It suffered again under that effort, for maritime archaeology was still in its infancy.  Procedures and methods that we easily assume today were nonexistent in the 1960s.   As the picture below shows, there had been a substantial section of the hull intact when these efforts began.  Furthermore, after the boat was pulled from the water, it lay on the bank of the river for months until the state had taken charge and removed it five miles to Kinston.  It had been cut in three sections to make the transport.  Again, she suffered. 

Two photos of recovery: the Neuse still in the river showing deck planking (left) and the boat on the shore (right) before being transported to Kinston at the Richard Caswell site.
The Neuse was put in place at its new home in Kinston and a concrete pillar "shed" was built to partially protect it from the weather while Leslie Bright and his team worked for years to conserve the boat and the many artifacts associated with it.  Those efforts were largely finished by the 1970s.  The varying temperature and humidity, snows of winter, rains of spring, and the excesive heat of the summer have done continual damage to the CSS Neuse.  Even the leaves of fall threatened the boat with decay and insect infestation.  Year-round devastation resulted and successive treatments have been necessary to preserve the state's cultural resource. 

Furthermore, due to its position near the river bank, the Neuse had been exposed to nearly as many destructive forces as it experienced when scuttled in 1865!  Two hurricanes have threatened to rebury the boat and Hurricane Floyd in 1999 destroyed the visitor's center associated with it.  The boat was removed closer to Highway 70 and placed under a new temporary structure while plans were made to move it lock, stock, and barrel into a new facility in downtown Kinston. New exhibits have continuously been designed and built by East Carolina University's Museum Studies Program under Dr. John Tilley in anticipation of Neuse's future.  I enjoyed being a part of the last of those classes before this move today. 

The story of its resurrection and life over the past half-century have been a tragic one.  The people of Kinston, who had fallen in love with their huge tangible historic artifact of a bygone age, have sought for those many years to preserve the Neuse for as long as possible.  Their love of this boat can be seen today on a corner of downtown Kinston, in the construction of the only ironclad replica ever built (half-scale), the CSS Neuse II.  It sits in a park just behind the new building designed to preserve the boat today.  Certainly, these residents and the state have put a lot of effort into the CSS Neuse.

Photos of the first housing near the Neuse River.  At left is a full view of the Neuse and at right is Leslie Bright (foreground) and his team as they took efforts to conserve the boat.  Photos from Underwater Archaeology Branch in Fort Fisher, NC.
CSS Neuse II in downtown Kinston location (left) and the CSS Neuse remains on display in a newer shelter near Highway 70 (right).  Photos by Baylus C. Brooks.
North Carolina Historic Sites maintains the boat and its artifacts today.  The website announced plans for the new facility in downtown Kinston on Queen street.  The move was more than a decade in the planning. 

Empty home at 6 am!  Photo by Baylus C. Brooks.
Today, June 23, 2012, is the day of the move.  It began at 6:00 am. The Neuse's temporary housing near Highway 70 is now empty and the three sections of the CSS Neuse have been loaded onto special wheeled devices for their transport downtown.  These three sections will be hauled down Highway 70 by semi-trucks to its new home at 100 North Queen Street in the brand new CSS Neuse Interpretive Center, designed by Dunn & Dalton Architects of Kinston.  The move was performed by Wolfe House & Building Movers LLC of Pennsylvania. Wolfe is owned by the Blake Moving Company of Greensboro, contracted by the state for the move.

CSS Neuse site director Morris Bass and Dusty Westcott with NC Historic Sites prepare the specially-designed video car to videotape the move (left) and the truck with the first section pulls out of the old Vernon-road facility onto Highway 70 (right).  Photos by Baylus C. Brooks.recovery

William Rowland snaps pictures as he happily observes the second truck as it exits the old facility (left) and the third truck exits with the bow of the boat (right).  Photos by Baylus C. Brooks.

The first truck pulled out of the old Vernon-road facility at about 6:30 am.  The three sections were formed in line while on the highway and before the move began, which would be done in unison.  William (Bill) Rowland was on hand to witness this historic event.  Bill, who has a manuscript collection at East Carolina University's Special Collections in Joyner Library detailing every aspect of the CSS Neuse's recovery and history, including GPS coordinates of the known positions of the boat and its artifacts, was on hand with a big smile. He makes his way downtown to await the boat's arrival and join with the gathering crowd.

The three sections of the CSS Neuse were lined up on Highway 70 before the trip downtown (left) and Bill Rowland goes downtown and dons his hardhat for the installation of the first (or stern) section of the boat in the new facility (right).  Photos by Baylus C. Brooks.

The first, or stern section arrives and is guided by remote control into the building.  Photos by Baylus C. Brooks.

Another happy person, Assistant Site Director Holly Brown snaps pictures as the Neuse glides into its new home (left) and as the crowds gather even thicker on an early Saturday morning in downtown Kinston (right).  Photos by Baylus C. Brooks.

The middle section (about 50 tons) moves into the building (left), Bill Rowland showing off the bow and final section (middle) before it goes into its spot below the "ghosting" that will give visitors an idea of the shape of the original hull.  This ghosting will be lowered onto the Neuse's remains once it has been secured into place.  Photos by Baylus C. Brooks.

The three sections of the hull were separated from the trucks and then remote-control guided into place by the special wheeled devices attached below them.  Holly Brown states that the devices allow for a full 360-degree turn radius for maximum maneuverability.  This is a professional job well done.  It went off without a hitch and was mostly over by noon.  I'm sure that made Bill very happy.  Just look at his face!  :)