Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Answer: The Greek Islands: Birth and Graffiti?

About those islands...  

Our Challenge this week was to find out about the Greek island of Delos and the reported appearance of a new-ish island near Santorini.  

Delos: Right in the middle of the Aegean.

I had a couple of Challenge questions about Greek isles.  The first asked about something I spotted while wandering around on Delos.     

1.  What's remarkable about this graffiti I found on Delos?  Do you see what I see?  Can you prove it? 

This is clearly graffiti from a while ago.  If you look at the stone carefully, you can make out a number of different names and dates.  A few that stand out are: 
     B. Cooper, Esq., 21 Sept, 1826 
     John A. Cook, USN
     Cap. M. C. Perry, USN, 1826 
That last name rung a bell for me.  If I remember correctly, wasn't he the Commodore that forced Japan to re-open itself to trade in the 1850s after more than 200 years of self-imposed isolation?  
Naturally, I did searches for these names (Cooper, Cook, Perry) each at a time, but only M. C. Perry got many hits. My memory served me well. M.C. Perry (Matthew Calbraith Perry,  was an officer in the US Navy from 1772 - 1855).  
Now, the question becomes:  Could this graffiti be from the same famous M. C. Perry who opened Japan in 1853?  
The Wikpedia article about Perry tells us that "..From 1826 to 1827 Perry acted as fleet captain for Commodore Rodgers. Perry returned to Charleston, South Carolina for shore duty in 1828."  But that's a bit vague. It's not clear where he was in 1826-27.  Where was the fleet in those years?  Where was Matthew Perry? 
My first search to answer this was for: 
     [ "Matthew C Perry" Greece 1826 ] 
(If that hadn't worked, I would have started varying his name, trying variants like "M. C. Perry" or "Matthew * Perry" -- but I didn't need to, as this query worked just fine.  
My first hit was to an article from the official US Navy history archives, which includes a biography of Perry, and a fairly extensive timeline.  One entry there is:   
Sep. 1824 - 5 Aug. 1827 - Served as Executive Officer, U.S.S. North Carolina, flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron under Commodore Rodgers, engaged in protesting American commerce from Greek pirates. In 1825-26 participated in a visit to the headquarters of the Greek Revolutionists and in an interview with the Captain Pasha of the Turkish Fleet. Promoted to Master Commandant, 21 Mar. 1826.
That's pretty compelling. We now have him in the Aegean Sea during 1826.  Looking a bit deeper in the SERP, I found the Robinson library article about Perry where it is said that:  
"He subsequently [after 1824] served as Executive Officer of the USS North Carolina, flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron under Commodore Rodgers, which was engaged in protecting American commerce from Greek pirates. He was promoted to Commander on March 21, 1826, and spent most of the next four years stateside."  
This is confirmation of the dates, ship, his officer and his promotion to Commander.  Now.. did they make it to Delos in 1826?  
To answer that question we need to find the log book of the USS North Carolina, or perhaps letters from men on board.  
I already had a big hint that this exists when read the USN history of Perry which has a link to this image: 
USS North Carolina Log Book 1836-37, from US Navy Military history site.
How to find the log book?  My query was: 
     [ "logbook" "USS north carolina"] 
which led me to the first result from Google Books which was the:  "Guide to Non-federal Archives and Manuscripts in the United States Relating to Africa: Alabama-New Mexico."  
This book is called a finding guide and is an index to archives and manuscripts in other places.  (In this case, just the states from A - N. There's another finding guide for states from New York to Wisconsin.)  
In this guide I found the intriguing entry by doing the obvious search in the book for "USS North Carolina" and "logbook": 

This is great!  The logbook still exists somewhere, and this finding guide can tell us where the logbook is kept.  
Now, where is the finding guide?  
I clicked on the "Find in a Library" button (on the left side of the Google Books page) and discovered that this finding guide is kept at a library just 2 miles from my house (at Stanford)!  Unfortunately, the logbook itself doesn't seem to be digitized, and I don't know exactly where the logbook is, but if I can get to the finding guide, I'll be able to look at the rest of the page to figure out where it is. (And then I'll call the friendly archivist there to find out if we can get the answer from them.)  
At this point, it looks completely plausible that the USS North Carolina visited Delos sometime before March 21, 1826 (remember: he was promoted to Commander on March 21.. he would have made his graffiti reflect his new status).  
I'll visit Stanford later this week and see if I can't track down the logbook itself.  Stay tuned.  
As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that it might be possible to find a record of the movements of Perry's boss, Commodore John Rogers, of the Mediterranean fleet in 1826.  My query in Google Books was: 
     [ Navy John Rodgers Delos ] 
I was rewarded with a hit!  In the book The Navy's Godfather: John Rodgers, we find this quote at the beginning of Chapter 16.  
"By the middle of June, 1826, the squadron had reached Vourla near Smyrna, after a lesiurely thirty-four day sail, the length of the sea, from Gibraltar with stops at Algiers, Tunis, Carthage and the islands of Milos, Paros, and Delos. The commodore spent four days at each island, digging among the broken columns and tombs, exploring what were once magnificent Greek structures, and collecting enough relics to fill ten wagons, including two altars from the temples of Diana and Apollo on Delos."  
Not only do we know that the USS North Carolina (which had M. C. Perry onboard) visited Delos, but they specifically stopped at the temples of Diana and Apollo.  (Recall that the graffiti was found on the base of the statue of Apollo... at his temple.)  I'd say that M.C. Perry, the famous one, was not only there, but spent quite a bit of time etching his name into the pediment at the Temple of Apollo.  
SearchResearch Regular Reader Chris did a clever search for: 
     [ U S Navy 1826 ] 
and found the Naval Register for 1826, which includes entries for Cooper, Cook, and Perry.  They were all on the same Mediterranean cruise under John Rodgers, and apparently "visited" the Temple of Apollo together as well.  As Chris points out, they were: John A Cook,  Lieutenant on the Porpoise; Thomas J Manning, midshipman on the Porpoise; Benjamin Cooper, a lieutenant on leave; and of course, M.C. Perry was (at the time) a Lieutenant on the North Carolina. 
 (Nice find, Chris!)   
While on this Aegean Island cruise, I also visited Santorini, which is a lovely arc of islands left over from a series of volcanos, sometimes explosive and other times a bit milder. I knew that a new island had risen from the sea floor something in the early 18th century, but that's about all I know.  I really wanted to get a written report about what that must have been like, which leads to the following Challenge:  

2.  Can you find a written contemporaneous account of that early-18th century eruption on Santorini? 
To figure out what "early 18th century" eruptions might have happened that led to the creation of a new island near Santorini, I did this query: 
     [ Santorini new island 1700..1799 ] 
Remember that "early 18th century" means sometime in the years 1700 - 1799, which is why I added the number ranger operator:  I want web pages that talk about Santorini, "new island," sometime in those years.  
That query gives lots of good background, including the observation that a new island emerged around 1707.  But the results don't seem to contain any first-hand accounts. 
I checked newspapers, but there are few European (Italy or Greece) newspapers online from those years.  So I turned to Google Books with the query (and the new information that the eruptions started in 1707): 
     [ Santorini 1707 eruption ] 
and quickly found the book Santorini and Its Eruptions (Ferdinand A. Fouqué and Alexander R. McBirney).  In the early part of the book he draws on contemporary sources, primarily a book from 1842 by M. L'Abbe Pegues, Historie et Phenomenes du volcan et des iles volcanoiques de Santorin.  In this book he writes (drawing extensively from authors who were present): 
"On the 18th of May 1707, two light earthquake tremors were felt on Santorini... at sunrise on the 23rd, a mass seemed to be floating on the water ... seen about 200 meters west of Micra Kameni at a spot where the sea had been only eight fathoms deep and fishermen had formerly cast their nets. It was at first taken for a ship wrecked on the reefs of Micra Kameni, but soon was recognized as a new bank that had just been formed of blacks rocks with white ground in the center. No audible sound or violent shaking had accompanied the appearance of the island.  For several days it was possible to visit it without undue risk.... From the surface of the rocks they [the visitors] collected large numbers of oysters and urchins [from rocks that were uplifted from the sea floor]. But suddenly the visitors felt the ground shake and move beneath their feet as the reef began to tilt.  The sea became agitated and turned yellowish around the shore; it gave off suffocating sulfurous odors, and dead fish floated to the surface of the water.  The island grew before their eyes; in a few moments it rose in height about 7 meters and spread laterally to twice its former diameter..."
The book goes on to describe several months of hot water, floating rocks (pumice), discolored water, flames, the sound of a roaring furnace, and boiling water.  At times incandescent rocks covered the surface of the island, making it glow in night and day.  Explosions, fiery jets, the sounds of cannon and pipe organs. All in all, it sounds quite magnificent, if somewhat frightening.
Near the end of the long and dramatic account of the eruption, Fouqué mentions another book that he used for his account--that of the Journal de Voyage of Aubry de La Mottraye. 
Turn back to Google Books and search for: 
     [ Santorini Aubry de La Mottraye ] 
(I didn't search for the book title, Journal de Voyage since I was hoping for an English language edition, or any other books he might have written on the topic.)  
This search took me exactly to the place I was seeking--his book "A. de La Motraye's Travels Through Europe, Asia, and into parts of Africa," in English, scanned into Google Books. 
From Google Books: page 411 of the scan.
The good news is that this account (in the book by Aubry d.L. M, but a marginal note says was written by Antonio Delenda di Gasparo) is VERY consistent with the account we found earlier (in fact, it's very clear that Fouqué drew heavily on Aubry's account, right down to the oysters on the rocks cast up by the eruption).  
I highly recommend this book for the sheer adventure of it.  His accounts of traveling through Europe, Asia, and Africa are remarkable (and much of the Middle East--remember that he was walking or sailing for most of this tour).  And the illustrations, such as of this Turkish hamam (Turkish bath), are truly remarkable.  
A Turkish hamam from the early 18th century.

Search Lessons 

There are many here... 
1. If you keep digging, you can find remarkable things.  I didn't know that we'd be able to locate the logbook of the ship that took the graffiti artists to Delos.  This is a nice example where doing one more query gets your research to a whole new level.  
2.  Sometimes you have to go offline.  I should say that I know where there's a book that will point me to the logbook.  But it's not online.  Yes, more and more stuff IS being digitized, but many archives don't have the resources to move everything into the digital realm.  So sometimes... how have to visit the archives in real life. 
3. Remember to follow parallel paths to get to what you seek.  In the above example, the trick that got us to the logbook of the USS North Carolina was to do a search for Commodore John Rodgers, who we KNEW had to be onboard with M. C. Perry.  That kind of parallel searching is incredibly useful (when you can do it).  Sometimes the shortest path to your goal is to find someone (or something) that must also be closely related to what you're searching.  

I'll let you know what, if anything, I learn about the whereabouts of the logbook.  
Search on!  (And avoid the rocks falling out of the sky!)  

No comments:

Post a Comment