Sea Control 113 – Abraham Lincoln’s Self-Education

Most people know that Abraham Lincoln was an avid reader and self-educated man. But how much did this education influence his conduct during the Civil War?

A tower of books about Abraham Lincoln as seen from the top down.
A tower of books about Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater (Photo from NPR)

Join Sea Control: North America for an interview with Matthew “Matty” Keller, a retired member of the U.S. Navy who is working out the answer to that very question. During the course of the discussion, he addresses how Lincoln taught himself to be a military leader, how a First Lieutenant’s thoughts remade the Union Army, and how reading a map led to the destruction of a Confederate ironclad.

DOWNLOAD: Sea Control 113 – Abraham Lincoln’s Self-Education

Russian & Soviet Fleets, 25 Years Apart

Russia Resurgent Topic Week

By Louis Martin-Vézian

In 2 parts:


PART 2Soviet and Russian Navy blk(2)

Louis Martin-Vézian is the co-president of the French chapter at, and the founder of CIGeography, where he post his maps and infographics on various security and defense topics. He is currently studying Geography and Political Science in Lyon, France.

Read other contributions to Russia Resurgent Topic Week.

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Call for Articles: Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) Week, June 1-5

By Sally DeBoer

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have consistently proven their considerable utility since their operational debut. Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) may be ripe for similar operational success. Despite the command and control challenges inherent in conducting underwater operations, the sophistication and proliferation of UUVs has accelerated rapidly over the last decade.

From Boston Engineering’s hyper-realistic BIOswimmer, which mimics the swimming motion of a tuna to maintain position while conducting inspections of hulls and other underwater infrastructure, to Boeing’s mini-sub sized Echo Ranger AUV, UUV platforms run the gamut in size, endurance, and capability. UUV’s actual and notional applications are similarly diverse. Suited for ISR operations in contested environments, port security, special operations, and mine clearance/countermeasures as well as more mundane tasks like maintenance and mapping, UUVs offer tremendous utility for maritime forces’ rapidly evolving mission set, maximizing the benefits of underwater stealth while minimizing risk and, eventually, cost. Critics of UUVs, however, cite substantial development costs and technological hurdles (like the aforementioned communications difficulties). Indeed, just because UUVs can accomplish a mission may not mean they should…particularly when other assets can accomplish the job equally well.

BIOswimmer Pictured in Action

During the first week of June, CIMSEC will host a series focused on the development, application, and unique challenges of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV). As such, this is a general call for articles concerning UUVs. Articles should be between 500-1500 words in length and must be submitted no later than 25 May. Contributions may address the utility of UUV platforms to address the Navy’s evolving needs, the challenges of their application, their contributions to a particular mission or strategy, or some other facet of UUVs. Publication reviews will also be accepted.

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Length: 500-1500 words
Due by: 25 May 2015

March 24, A Very Significant Day For Mariners

John-HarrisonIf you were aware of the grounding of the British fleet, and the deaths of over 2000 sailors, off the Isles of Scilly, west of Cornwall, in October 1707, then you are either the rare supercentenarian or you are a maritime history geek such as myself. All of this begs the question, why is this date in maritime history so important?

Well since you’re wondering, it took those deaths to get the attention of the Admiralty in solving one of the biggest conundrums in ocean navigation, accurately measuring longitude.  Seven years later in 1714 Parliament passed the Longitude Act,  [they] convened a Board of Longitude to examine the problem and set up a £20,000 ( $2.5 Million 2015) prize for the person who could invent a means of finding longitude to an accuracy of 30 miles after a six week voyage to the West Indies. It also made minor awards for discoveries and improvements to the general problem. (Citation from The Royal Naval Museum) 

John Harrison undertook this challenge with no formal education or training. By Jove he was just a self taught clock maker! John’s belief was that time would prove the correct measurement of Longitude. He was going head to head with the Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne, the most prominent proponent of an astronomy-based method.  Maskelyne wholeheartedly believed that longitude could be calculated using lunar charts and tables, and that using a mechanical piece was irrelevant.  

The prize offered by the Board of Longitude was a tempting one for Harrison and he set out to make a sea-going timekeeper that could keep accurate time to claim the prize. It became his life-long work. The idea was to be able to compare local time to that of the pre-determined Greenwich time (which the timekeeper or chronometer would be set to), and thus find the longitudinal position of the ship.

After years of development and five versions of his time piece, H-1 to H-5, it was a copy of H-4 that accompanied Captain Cook’s h1_smsecond voyage (1772-1774). The Captain was so impressed with the chronometer that he was able to accurately chart the South Sea Islands. He eventually took the chronometer on his third and final voyage. 

John, however did not win the entire prize. During the periods of 1765 and 1773 he was awarded a little more than half. In 1774 the Parliament set new standards for winning the prize; all entries must be submitted in duplicate, undergo testing for one year at Greenwich, be further tested on approved voyages by the board. h4

John Harrison died on his 83rd birthday on March 24, 1776 at Red Lion Square, London. He was buried in a vault in Hampstead church. A tomb was later erected by his son, William. In 1879, the London Company of Clockmakers reconstructed it as a mark of respect for his achievements- even though Harrison had not been one of its members.

So please, on this day March 24th lift a glass to the man who made a navigators heroes since 1772.


Cheers John!