Skip to main content

The Mystery of the H.M.S. Ravenna

The U.S.S. New Orleans

Shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States government purchased a Brazilian navy cruiser that had recently been built at a British shipyard. The ship was christened the U.S.S. New Orleans (CL-22) and remained in service until 1922. Being of British manufacture, the cruiser was armed with British guns that required British ammunition. This was a bit of a problem, since neutrality laws made it illegal for the U.S. to purchase the required ammunition from England.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, an English East India Company steamer, the H.M.S. Ravenna, deviated, for some unknown reason, from her usual course and arrived in Antwerp where, according to the ship's manifest, she took on ballast. This ballast was neatly boxed and handled with great care as it was loaded into the Ravenna's cargo hold. The steamer then went back out to sea and was never seen again.

Interestingly, the disappearance of the Ravenna coincides strangely with the timely appearance of an unknown ship that was discovered by a United States patrol boat floating about 200 miles off Sandy Hook. When the patrol boat discovered this vessel, the crew was perplexed and bewildered-- while the ship was in excellent condition and appeared not the least bit damaged, there was not a soul on board.

Stranger still was the fact that in her hold was neatly boxed cargo. Upon the steamer's hull was painted the ship's name, Scipio.

The patrol boat towed the Scipio to shore, and the mystery ship was docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Workers unloaded the neatly-boxed ballast from the cargo hold of the Scipio without asking questions. And they didn't ask any questions when they were ordered to load the Scipio's strange cargo onto the U.S.S. New Orleans.

And nobody seemed to ask any questions when the U.S.S. New Orleans suddenly had an abundance of ammunition, even though it was the only ship in the U.S. Navy that used smokeless powder during the war.
And nobody asked questions when, in September of 1898, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was opened to the public and there, lying snugly in the "boneyard" where forgotten ships rust away into nothingness, languished a steamer with the name Scipio painted in white lettering on its hull. In time the elements caused the white painted letters to fade and flake away, revealing another set of letters, faint yet distinguishable, reading Ravenna.

While official records fail to explain how the U.S.S. New Orleans obtained its ammunition, the evidence suggests that the United States managed to circumvent international law with the aid of the British, by towing ashore the H.M.S. Ravenna-- disguised as an abandoned derelict-- with its cargo hold filled to the brim with illegal ammunition.

Popular posts from this blog

Jenny Hanivers, Mermaids, Devil Fish, and Sea Monks

Three centuries before P.T. Barnum attracted flocks of crowds with his mummified Fiji Mermaid (which turned out to be a papier-mâché creation featuring a monkey's head and a fish's body), sailors around the world had already began manufacturing "mermaids".  Known as Jenny Hanivers, these creations were often sold to tourists and provided sailors with an additional source of income.  These mummified creatures were produced by drying, carving, and then varnishing the carcasses of fish belonging to the order rajiformes- a group of flattened cartilaginous fish related to the shark which includes stingrays and skates.  These preserved carcasses can be made to resemble mermaids, dragons, angels, demons, and other mythical creatures.

Jenny Hanivers became popular in the mid-16th century, when sailors around the Antwerp docks began selling the novelties to tourists.  This practice was so common  in the Belgian city that it may have influenced the name; it is widely believed …

The Roberto Clemente death conspiracy

Was the Hall of Fame baseball star assassinated by the CIA?

From the Sandy Hook school shooting to the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370, it seems that every tragedy in recent times is accompanied by a slew of conspiracy theories. Yet history is filled with events that would be enshrouded in conspiracy theories if they happened today. One such event is the plane crash that killed baseball Hall-of-Famer and Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente on December 31, 1972.

Most of us are familiar with the story: Clemente, playing the role of humanitarian, decides to accompany a flight of emergency aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, after the victims claim that the corrupt military dictator, Anastasio Somoza, was preventing the much-needed emergency supplies from getting into the hands of earthquake survivors. The rickety plane goes down off the coast of  Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, immediately after takeoff. Strangely, Clemente's body is never found.

This story has all t…

The Incest Capital of the World?

At the far eastern edge of Kentucky, nestled in Appalachia, resides Letcher County. In spite of its isolation and poverty (approximately 30% of the county's population lives below the poverty line), Letcher County has managed to grow at an impressive rate, from a population of just 9,172 in 1900 to a present-day population of nearly 25,000. However, even if Letcher County tripled or quadrupled its present population, there's still a pretty good chance that virtually all of the county's inhabitants would be related to each other-- thanks to one particularly fertile family whose astounding rate of reproduction can put even the friskiest rabbit to shame.

Around the year 1900, Letcher County was the home of a man by the name of Jason L. Webb, who made national headlines for having the one of the largest families in the world. According to newspaper reports of the era, Jason had 19 children, 175 grandchildren, and 100 great-grandchildren. Perhaps even more impressive was his br…