The Maritime Heritage Project

World Harbors from The Maritime Heritage Project in San Francisco.

Sea Captains



Captain George M. Totten

Totten Inlet lies in the southern end of Puget Sound in the U.S. state of Washington and is one of Washington's most productive areas for growing oysters. In the mid-1800's when commercial fishing and the lumber businesses were in their infancy, the native oyster industry began. Washington Territorial politicians were so impressed with this mollusk they dubbed it the "Olympia Oyster" in the legislature of 1889. Not wanting to leave the source of this tasty morsel, they elected to maintain Olympia as the capitol city of Washington. These tiny oysters were such a delicacy during the Gold Rush days, it took only a short time to overharvest and deplete the beds within San Francisco Bay.

Note: According to one source, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes during the Wilkes Expedition of 1838-1842, named this inlet to honor George M. Totten, one of the expedition's midshipmen. Note: That in "Sea of Glory," Nathaniel Philbrick's National Book Award Winner, Joseph Totten was on board, not George M. Totten.

Meeting on Board the Tennessee.

At a meeting of the passengers, held on board P.M.S.S. Co’s steamer Tennessee, on the 19th January, 1853, at 10 o’clock, A.M., William T. Coleman, Esq., was called to the chair, and Messrs. C. A. McNulty, Benj. A. Brown, Albert Berry, and P.W. Sherman, were appointed vice presidents; Messrs. T. R. Anthony, and J. A. Thompson, were appointed secretaries.

On a motion, the President appointed Messrs. Wm. R. McCally, H. Hazeltine, W. H. Hoy, James C. Stebbins, and John Dows, a committee, to draft resolutions expressive of the sense of this meeting.

The following resolutions were reported by said committee and unanimously adopted:

Resolved, That we feel with more than ordinary force the sense of duty and justice in expressing our high approval of meed of praise to the officers and crew of the ship, for their kindness and courtesy, and for the untiring diligence, in the performance of their whole duty during our late trying scenes on the passage from Panama to San Francisco.

Resolved, That of Capt. Geo. M. Totten, whose police is unsurpassed, and whose ship is a very pattern of cleanliness and order, and whose urbanity and regard, was equal to all. The travelling public cannot have to high an appreciation, and his passengers most heartily approve and commend.

Resolved, That of the Purser Theo. L. Schell, whose gentlemanly deportment won favor from all, and whose correctness in every move and obliging attractions, went so far to make us comfortable.

Resolved, That of the unstopping, untiring and efficient 1st officer, Mr. Peter H. Dowlie, who sacrificed his quarters and his comforts for the relief of the sick, we feel we cannot speak too highly. But it is of Dr. ?.H. McNaughton, the Surgeon of whom we would most particularly make mention. We have never witnessed deeper devotion to duty, greater alacrity in attending to the calls of the sick, or more unceasing exertions to relieve their distresses. For several days he saw no sleep, and was ever found at the side and administering to the wants of the afflicted; personal pr?ration was the consequence, and he was alike temporarily a fellow sufferer; but his nerves again brought him to his feet, and he has throughout unflinchingly stood at his post.

For such men we feel we cannot say enough; they may meet with embarrassments and the virulence of disease may sometimes baffle them, but their energy and assiduity will eventually bear them out in triumph.

Resolved, That these proceedings be published in the San Francisco, Sacramento, Stockton and Marysville papers, and that the officers of the meeting present a copy of the same to the officers of the ship.

Signed, Wm. T. Coleman, President

~ ~ ~ ~

Breverton's Nautical Curiosities: A Book of the Sea

Nautical Curiosities A Book of the Sea.Breverton's Nautical Curiosities" is about ships, people and the sea. However, unlike many other nautical compendiums, the focus of this book is on the unusual, the overlooked or the downright extraordinary.

Thus, someone most of us do not know, Admiral William Brown, is given equal coverage to Admiral Nelson. Without Admiral Brown releasing Garibaldi, modern Italy might not exist. And without the barely known genius John Ericsson designing the "Monitor," the Confederacy might have won the American Civil War.

You will be stimulated as you read about the remarkable people - explorers, admirals and trawlermen - who have shaped our world. The sea has had a remarkable effect upon our language. We hear the terms "steer clear of," "hit the deck," "don't rock the boat," "to harbour a grudge: and the like, and give little thought to their origins. In the pages of this book, the reader will find the roots of "bumpkin," a "brace of shakes," "born with a silver spoon," "booby prize," "above board," "bombed" (in the sense of being drunk), "blind-side," "the pot calling the kettle black," "wasteres," "barbecue" . . . Other colourful terms, which have passed out of common usage, such as "bring one's arse to anchor" (sit down), "belly timber" (food) and "bog orange" (potato) are also included, as well as important pirate haunts, technical terms, famous battles, maritime inventors and ship speed records.

"Master Under God"

Captains exercised absolute authority at sea and so were dubbed "Master Under God" by early insurance writs, agreements with ship owners and passengers and the Board of Trade.

The captain is responsible for its safe and efficient operation, including cargo operations, navigation, crew management and ensuring that the vessel complies with local and international laws, as well as company and flag state policies.

All persons on board, including officers and crew, other shipboard staff members, passengers, guests and pilots, are under the captain's authority and are his ultimate responsibility.

On international voyages, the captain is responsible for satisfying requirements of the local immigration and customs officials. Immigration issues can include situations such as embarking and disembarking passengers, handling crewmembers who desert the ship, making crew-changes in port, and making accommodations for foreign crewmembers.

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