MARCH FLASHBACK: For those who like noting such things, i.e. me,
the Great March Storm of ’62, took place March 6 – 8.
Unlike this current low, the epic March Storm – rated high among the ten worst storms to hit the mid-Atlantic seaboard in the Twentieth Century -- exploded right along our shoreline. It then hung in place, while further intensifying. Once it was full-blown -- I recall steady 60 mph winds -- it went nowhere fast. It stayed put, holding near hurricane-force winds, stacking floodwaters for an astounding five high tides.
One unusual aspect of that storm that isn’t always emphasized is the way it all but blew itself out, running low on energy. In fact, the most destructive – and deadly -- final high tides came when the winds had died to near nothing. Of course, by then, the ocean was literally beyond itself. It was so high even lower tides saw waves breaking on the built-upon areas of new shoreline.
DESTROYER DOWN: As to the USS Monssen (DD-798), the famed American destroyer that was swept ashore in Holgate during the storm, it was already in big trouble, so to speak.
Launched in June of 1943, the USS Monssen (DD-798) was the reincarnation of the highly-decorated USS Monssen (DD-436), sunk by Japanese warships off Guadalcanal in November, 1942. It had been part of the battle for the Solomon Islands, later dubbed the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. In 1992, the upright-sitting vessel was found on the bottom in an area known as “Ironbottom Sound,” near Savo Island. Its guns were still trained in the final position they were aiming while being crippled by no fewer than 39 shells, including 3 of battleship caliber. It was abandoned as it burnt.
Below: Last days of the USS Monssen (DD-436)
As to Holgate’s USS Monssen (DD-798), it had been no slouch itself, receiving eight battle stars during the latter part of World War II, Pacific theater.
After an initial post-war decommissioning (1947), USS Monssen (DD-798) was recommissioned in 1951. It patrolled the East Coast of the US with the 6th Fleet.
It was again decommissioned in 1957, having become outdated due to Cold War advances in naval vessels.
The destroyer was on its final voyage, being towed to Philadelphia by tugboats, when it broke free at the height of the March Storm, being dramatically swept ashore on LBI. Hardcore Navy folks would swear the destroyer knew what the future held when it broke free that day.
Below: Rare naval footage, immediately after the stranding of the USS Monssen (DD-798).
Below: And as she looked when the sun came back out. (All Below: : NavSource Naval History: Photographic History of the United States Navy. See http://www.navsource.org.)
Click on photos for larger look.
Photographic History of the United States Navy
Efforts to re-float the destroyer were long and painstaking.
Below: The Navy looks ashore to the job ahead.
Soon, help arrived ...
The de-stranding process was multi-stepped ... and sandy.
Until, finally, ship met ocean again.
Despite holding pat in the sands of LBI for six weeks, Holgate’s USS Monssen (DD-798) was eventually freed and hauled off to its fate. It was scrapped the following year.
Below: Finally in-port ... and ready for end times.
On a truly tragic note, there was a death related to the freeing of the grounded ship. A worker was killed when a heavy rope (possibly a chain) snapped and flew back.
I can relate to that, to some degree, after once seeing (on the west coast of Mexico) a chain tow-line snap, as a stuck pickup was being pulled out of the sand by another truck. The loosed chain hit a stander-by and sliced his forearm (something awful) and also broke his ulna (arm bone), which he had put in front of his face. He had actually anticipated/feared a snap. Had he not had his arms up? Well, the snapped chain had come slicing in neck-high. I was into medicine at the time and was the lone person offering first aid, not easy to come by in that part of Mexico. I left the scene leaving what I think was a long-lasting appreciation of surfers by the locals there (near Zihuatanejo.)
Despite my contacting experts on naval vessels, no one can tell with certainty if there was anyone aboard the USS Monssen (DD-798) as it washed ashore in Holgate. If anyone can help me out with that info, I’d love to interview any folks who might have ridden out the grounding. Tell me that wouldn’t be a tale to tell. As to the tugboat captains, who kinda-sorta lost a naval destroyer, I could likely have some fun with that tale also.
“Tug 473 to Tug 534. Hey, Fred, is this storm something awful or what? Oh, by the way, I’m hopin’ you have that destroyer we’re towin’ to Philly. … Oh, you were hopin’ I had it, eh?” Nope. … Uh, I’m kinda open for suggestions on what we should do now? I can’t say I’ve ever lost an entire naval vessel before.”
By the by, you might recall those rusty, holey, thick-steel sheets – maybe four feet by three feet -- that were uncovered in Holgate after Sandy. Those were from an insta-roadway the Army Corps laid down to get at the USS Monssen (DD-798).
Technically, those metal pieces are known as Marsden matting. Militarily speaking, they’re called pierced steel planking, or PSP landing mats -- that "landing" part indicating their primary purpose was for laying down improvised airstrips.
The military was supposed to take up the PSP matting after the destroyer was freed but many of the mats/planks had been driven so deeply into the loose post-storm sand that the cleanup crew simply lost sight of them. Now, when exposed, those mats are an insane laceration and tetanus hazard for beachgoers and buggyists. Fortunately, they don’t come to light that often. In fact, when they’re showing, most folks have a ton more on their minds than emerging Marsden matting, as Sandy proved.
OmNom the lazy seal pup has been hauling out of the sea and onto the beach recently, to loaf around in the tire tracks and be completely adorable.
What makes OmNom the seal pup so special is that he is not easily chased back in the water. Even when Stu, our local Marine Mammal Stranding Center volunteer and all around beach-do-gooder tried to get him off the beach so he wouldn’t get run over, the OmNom was perfectly happy to fight Stu to the death. Never forget: Whales blow, Seals bite.
While OmNom was healthy enough to haul himself in and out of the water and all over the beach for the past few days, he still looked a little down-n-out. You can see here his eyes are a little gross and gooey, even for a Seal. Time to call the pros.
Jay from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center: Seal Catcher. Like I said, he’s a biter.
It’s easy for the trained pros at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center to get the pup in the net. Getting OmNom out while he tries to bite your hand off appears to be the dicey part.
Mission Accomplished. While it is always a little sad to see a wild animal in cage, OmNom is in fantastic hands. If he’s sick, he’ll get the help he needs from the good folks at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. If not, he’ll get some great free meals and be released soon enough with a great story to tell his marine mammal friends. No harm, no foul.
Thanks MMSC. Godspeed. Remember, whenever you see a Seal or a Whale, call it in the MMSC. Even if they don’t feel they can or need to come out for a rescue, any and all reports have tremendous value to them.
OmNom was just one of three seals Jay would be picking up across the State of New Jersey today. That’s a lot of gas, and a lot of fish soon to be eaten. Go back and click-to-enlarge photo #3. Look into OmNom’s adorable, but goopy, eyes and explain to him why you don’t think you are going to write a small check to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center to help them keep doing this kind of great stuff. Then feel the burning guilt and shame and make a small donation to them. It’s the right thing to do!
A foiled bunker I did on a banana blank by Ryan Hickey.