Sunday, December 27, 2020

Tip of the Ship

While driving around Cape May down the Jersey shore,
this blogger once stumbled upon a curious sight just off the shoreline in an area known as Sunset Beach. It appeared to be the rusted portion of some kind of structure poking up straight out of the water at high tide. As the people in the vicinity paid little attention to it, I concluded that whatever it was, it had been there for a while.

Later, I learned this haunting anachronism I accidentally encountered was, in fact, the wreck of the S.S. Atlantus, one of an elite few concrete ships built for World War I’s Emergency Fleet circa 1918.

The Atlantus was actually launched a month after the end of the war, built by the Liberty Ship Building Company in Georgia to serve as a transport for returning U.S. troops. They radically opted for concrete as an alternative to steel which was in short supply during the war. The availability of steel soon saw the decommissioning of the concrete ships after the war had ended.












In 1926, while awaiting a new role in a ferry operation in Cape May County, the Atlantus broke free during a storm and ran aground 150 feet from the coast where the eroded hull still peeks above water today. For a time, a painted billboard hung on the wreckage advertising boat insurance.

We will inevitably see less of the historic shipwreck as years go by, epitomizing the temporary nature of history itself. Perhaps it symbolizes our perspective in the overall scope of history where the salty waters of time continue to slowly wash away that which remains of the past.

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Christopher Robinson

Sunday, December 20, 2020

There She Stands, So Grand Near the Sand

She’s nearly 65 feet tall, 140 years old and can put away more peanuts than they pack at the Planters factory. Sound like anyone you know?

Built in 1881 by James Lafferty, Jr., Lucy the Elephant is an instantly recognizable building and National Historic Landmark located in Margate, New Jersey.

Much like the iconic Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, Lucy was erected to attract visitors to a nearby area of real estate, viewable from her observation ‘howdah.’

Created primarily out of tin and wood, the 90-ton monstrous mammal sports a spiral staircase within her hind leg leading to quarters that house a gift shop, museum and offices.

Originally the first of three such oddities, Lucy soon weathered and deteriorated but was spared from destruction in the 1960s through the locals’ ‘Save Lucy’ campaign and survived a hurricane and even a lightning bolt!

Her ill-fated younger cousins who kept watch over Coney Island, Brooklyn and Cape May, New Jersey, respectively, are now but ‘elephant’s memories.’

Inquiring cryptozoologists can visit Lucy for guided tours which are given continually during her daily open hours. She can even be rented on Airbnb... but I suppose, in the words of Groucho Marx, “that’s entirely irr-elephant.”

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Christopher Robinson

Sunday, December 13, 2020

A Coliseum Ya Gotta See


The construction of the Flavian Amphitheater, as it was originally known, began in 72 AD under the Emperor Vespasian. Its completion in 80 AD was overseen by Vespasian’s son, Titus.

Created from limestone and volcanic rock, the ancient ‘Coliseum’
seated 55,000 people and although partially in ruins, still stands proudly in central Rome, east of the Roman Forum. But what exactly took place within that hallowed structure?

Nothing less than spectacular mock-battles
and gladiator exhibitions were staged by Rome’s elite and voraciously cheered on by the Coliseum’s throngs. Often these spectacles were preceded by grand processions and pageantry in the form of criminal executions.


Thousands of wild lions, bears and dogs were slaughtered for a pre-game show as well as turned against condemned individuals in brutal executions. As with other historical atrocities, the act of human beings feeding fellow humans to animals for the arousal of other humans would seem inconceivable were it not for its perpetuity in our collective conscience leaving us slightly desensitized.

The gladiator matches which encompassed the ceremonies’ main event saw skilled men and women fighters enter the Coliseum on foot or horseback wielding swords, shields, tridents and nets to battle their opponents until injury, stalemate or death concluded the match.


These exhibitions were carried out by fighters of varied social standings including veteran soldiers, slaves and knights who often competed to engage in combat merely for the fame, attention and honor.

Following subsequent periods where the Coliseum became a church(ironically) and fortress, it fell to lightning and earthquakes before laying derelict as a quarry, its marble and trimmings pillaged for centuries.


Restoration of the Coliseum probably began in the 1800s and continued into the 1990s. Today it boasts almost 7,000,000 annual visitors as one of Europe’s great tourist attractions.

Not surprisingly, movie crews have ventured out to this historic arena on many occasions, beckoned by its ancient aura. Some films that prominently featured the Coliseum include Roman Holiday starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, Return of the Dragon/Way of the Dragon starring Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris and (of course) Gladiator starring Russell Crowe.

It all stands to reason... that all roads, in fact, lead to Rome.

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Christopher Robinson

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Peruse Peru as You Choose

I would build such beautiful
buildings to house the chosen
few, like an Inca from Peru.

--Neil Young


In 1911, American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered what he claimed was the ‘Lost City of the Inca.’ He had in fact conflated Machu Picchu with Vilcabamba, the secret city where the Incas fled the Conquistadors from Spain.

Amidst mountainous forests on the steep slopes of the Andes stands this incomparable relic of 15th Century Peruvian agriculture, science and religion where natural landscapes merge effortlessly with man-made stonework ingenuity.

Among Machu Picchu’s breathtaking highlights are the mysterious and cavernous Temple of the Moon and La Ciudadela, the historic site’s high pinnacle.

Despite such a largely intact ecosystem there is much that remains unknown regarding Machu Picchu’s significances, functions and overall purposes. With so many questions and beautifully puzzling pieces to arrange, it would seem, once again, that the ancients have had the last laugh.

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Christopher Robinson