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The Sea Gypsies

The Moken are a nomadic sea culture of Austronesian people who likely migrated from southern China some 4,000 years ago, and, moving through Malaysia, eventually split off from other migrant groups in the late 17th century. Their home is the Mergui Archipelago, some 800 islands scattered along 250 miles (400 kilometers) of the Andaman Sea, off Myanmar (formerly Burma). For decades piracy and Myanmar's military dictatorship kept outsiders away.

The Moken Boat. Jacques Ivanoff.

"The Moken are born, live, and die on their boats, and the umbilical cords of their children plunge into the sea," goes an epic of the Moken. For eight to nine months each year, the Moken -- a group of about 2,000-3,000 people -- live aboard their low-slung kabang punishment, according to the myth, laid upon the society by an ancestral island queen, Sibian, when her husband, Gaman the Malay, committed adultery with her sister. The queen declared that the kabang would represent the human body, with the front of the boat a mouth constantly seeking nourishment and the back an anus for defecation.

As divers and beachcombers the Moken take what they need each day fish, mollusks, and sandworms to eat; shells, sea snails, and oysters for barter with the mostly Malay and Chinese traders they encounter. They accumulate little and live on land only during the monsoons.

They are master fishermen and expert divers, catching fish on spears with ease, while collecting a variety of other fruits of the sea by hand, such as sea cucumbers at low tide and shellfish at high tide.

As have many of the world's people, the Moken have been exploited and harassed throughout history by the British, Japanese, Thai, and Burmese alike.

June 12, 1893, Boston Daily Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.


Rudyard Kipling's Genius in Short Stories

The productions of Mr. Rudyard Kipling are eagerly sought by readers of all classes, and the collection of short stories just published under the title of "Many Inventions" will be welcomed wherever the English language is spoken. Mr Kipling's reputation as an author is too well established to need additional commendation. He took the reading world by storm a few years ago and he still retains the eminence where his wonderful art of story telling first placed him.

"Many Inventions" is only one more proof of his genius in short-story writing. Every one of the fifteen stories bears the imprint of a master who conjures up incident as if by magic, and who portrays character, scenery and feeling with an ease which is only exceeded by the boldness of force. His plots are ingenius, but they are not intricate in spite of the fact that they are startling. They are contained mostly in a single idea, often in a single character, frequently even in one event.

Complete works of Rudyard Kipling.Complete Works of Rudyard Kipling. "The Disturber of Traffic," for instance, is the story of how one man gets insane while working in a lighthouse on the African coast. His mind becomes "streaky" from watching the incoming and going of tides, and, he sees nothing but streaks running one way or the other. The terror which seizes him drives him to resort to all sorts of things in order to save himself from the agony which the "running streaks" excite in his mind.' He blocks the straits with wreck buoys in order to divert the steamers from "streaking the water" before him, until he is taken on board an English surveying ship, raving mad, and stark naked . . . To emphasize the scene, he introduces another man who "wasn't rightly a man. He was a Kling. No, nor yet a Kling he wasn't, but his skin was in little flakes and cracks all over. . . . His hands were all webby-foot, too. . . . His name was Challong, what they call a sea-gypsy," He does not expend much in characterizing this strange being, more animal than man, yet it stands out as clearly as if he had devoted pages of description and dramatic writing to his portraiture . . .

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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