'Medusa' story told … Dog license deadline April 30 … Time to license dog … Portsmouth romantic … Jordan retiring … Mills chairs board … McKenna stars
Wind-whipped waves during the mid-March weekend storm just north of Foss Beach were awe-inspiring to humans. They seem to have caught this seagull's attention as well. (Jim Cerny photo)
By Jim Cerny
Ship wreck stories are popular, and on March 11 at the Seacoast Science Center
, Dr. Charles Mazel told the story of the famous wreck of the Medusa
was the technical director for the expedition that in 1980 located the wreckage of the French frigate Medusa
(Méduse) that went aground off the coast of Mauritania in 1816, on its way to Senegal. This might have been just another among the world's thousands of shipwrecks, no better known than Rye's own wrecks
, such as the lumber schooner Lizzie Carr
, now enshrined at the Seacoast Science Center. But the Medusa
had political repercussions in France and, even more important, it became the subject of Théodore Géricault's masterpiece, The Raft of the Medusa
, showing survivors on a raft.
Charles Mazel. "Raft of the Medusa" by Géricault.
Mazel divides the story into three parts: (i) the history of the wreck, (ii) the history of the painting, and (iii) his personal experience on the expedition to find the remains.
was a fast 40-gun frigate, leading a convoy of three other slower ships, taking a new governor to Senegal. The Medusa
was similar in size, armament, and appearance to the USS Constitution
. Mazel summed up by saying, "the whole story is the story of half measures," i.e., the captain was incompetent. A crucial navigation mistake caused them to go aground. Some escaped in the life boats, but 150 were left to survive on a makeshift raft. By the time the raft was rescued 13 days later, only 15 remained, having resorted to murder and cannibalism. And as Mazel says, "there is nothing like cannibalism to get in the history books."
The wreck and rescue were a sensation in France and caught the attention of Géricault, who was 27 and trying to establish his reputation. He spent 18 months on the project, 8 months on the final painting — which is a gigantic 16 x 24 feet and hangs today in the Louvre
The expedition in 1980 to find the wreck was somewhat anticlimactic. The funding and equipment were minimal, with four sailboats as the working vessels. But they had several good estimates of the wreck's location and used a magnetometer to find the wreck in just one day! They recovered enough artifacts to confirm the wreck's identity but did not attempt a larger salvage effort.
This talk punctured a personal myth that I'd been carrying around. I was well aware of the painting and knew it was by "one of those French artists" — David, Delacroix, or Géricault — but I did not realize it represented a real event. I'd always taken it as a painting of romantic pathos, taking "medusa" metaphorically to mean something too horrible to look upon. Oops!
The following items are by members of the "Rye Reflections" staff
Forsythia branches were cut in late February, brought indoors and started blossoming within three days, providing an early taste of Spring. (Bob Dunn photo)
- The deadline for licensing your dog at Rye Town Hall is April 30. A civil forfeiture penalty of $25 is imposed on all those who are late. A current rabies certificate is required. Last year, according to the Town Report, 107 of the 1134 license applications were late.
- Portsmouth has been chosen one of the eight most romantic cities in the country by MSN, because: " … there are no hamlets along the coastline that quite compare with Portsmouth, the peninsular city on the Maine border that combines rich maritime history with colonial architecture, as well as winding streets from Market Square to the South End. Like so many nautical towns, this waterfront also burned, but that was over two centuries ago! Today, visitors browse the shops on Merchants Row, once home to rum runners and naval supplies, disappear into Strawbery Banke, a neighborhood-sized living museum, or capture views of the Piscataqua River along Bow Street."
- It'll cost $1.75 per hour to park at Jenness Beach in Rye and at Hampton Beach this season, a 25-cent increase requested by the state Division of Parks and Recreation and approved by the legislative Finance Committee.
Girl Scouts at Rye Elementary School — including Daisies, Brownies and Juniors — gather with Principal Lane Richardson to celebrate the 98th birthday of the Girl Scouts organization on March 12. Click on image for a larger view. (Kim Reed photo)
- Everett "Bud" Jordan, longtime Rye Public Works Director, will retire on June 1. The position has been posted and published in the Portsmouth Herald and on monster.com.
- Joe Mills has taken over as chair of the Rye Board of Selectmen, succeeding recently re-elected Priscilla Jenness. As per custom, the position is rotated, being held by the board member who is in his or her last year of a three-year term. Craig Musselman becomes vice chair.
- Talk about a toss-up. Victoria Kilroy couldn't have won her North Hampton School District race by any closer margin over Robert Hamilton. In that town's election they ended up with the exact same number of votes, so the race had to be decided by a coin toss with Victoria being victorious. If you missed the results of Rye's March town election click here for the official tallies.
- Britney McKenna of Rye, N.H., was a key player for Trinity College's winningest-ever ice hockey team that was edged out by Elmira College, 2-1, in the NCAA Division III tournament's opening round.
A senior forward who previously played for Governor Dummer Academy, McKenna scored her team's only goal in the second-period in the longest women's hockey game in history when Trinity defeated Middlebury in four overtimes, 2-1. The game lasted 123 minutes and 49 seconds, nearly 22 minutes longer than the previous record. In 25 games McKenna scored 11 goals and had 4 assists. She is the daughter of Laurel and Shawn McKenna.
McKenna rushes puck up ice. (Trinity College photos)
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Brush area at Rye Recycling Center had to be open every day except Sunday throughout most of March as homeowners cleared their yards over and over, raking up brush and small branches (piled high in background) and in some cases fallen trees. All will end up being mulched and paid for by a company with bigger equipment than the Town has.
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