Olaf Engvig, author, maritime historian, lecturer, coastal skipper, ship restorer and preserver.   The Ships That Built the West: The Scandinavian Navy, WAPAMA and VAERDALEN The Ships That Built the West: The Scandinavian Navy, WAPAMA and VÆRDALEN

Olaf Engvig has published English and Norwegian editions of his new hardcover book: The Ships That Built the West: The Scandinavian Navy, WAPAMA and VÆRDALEN. Read stories of the "Scandinavian Navy" and its impact on the U.S. Pacific coast, and two very different tales of two historic ships. Learn more!

Olaf Engvig's home page. Olaf Engvig's expertise. Olaf Engvig's publications. Olaf Engvig - Small Boats. Olaf Engvig - Ships. Olaf Engvig - Morris Minor. Olaf Engvig - Nike. Olaf Engvig - Author's Notes. Contact Olaf Engvig.

Who is
James P. Delgado?

James P. Delgado reviewed Olaf Engvig's Legends in Sail maritime history book.

James P. Delgado, PhD, FRGS, RPA, is a highly regarded maritime archaeologist. He's Director of the Maritime Heritage Program for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was a co-host of the TV show "The Sea Hunters" for five years, and Executive Director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum for 15 years.

He's been active in shipwreck expeditions all over the globe, including the RMS Titanic, the Carpathia, (the ship that rescued Titanic survivers), and the polar exploration ship Maud, discussed in Olaf Engvig's Legends in Sail book.

He also led the crew that restored Ben Franklin (PX-15), a 130-ton oceanographic research submersible built for famed undersea scientific explorer Jacques Piccard.

As you can see, James Delgado has an excellent background in maritime history, which makes his positive review of Olaf Engvig's latest book Legends in Sail all the more impressive.

Olaf T. Engvig's book Legends in Sail. Norway's sailing history.
Olaf T Engvig's maritime history Legends in Sail book.

While researching some of his previous maritime history books, Olaf Envig discovered that Norway's distinguished maritime history was not well known in the U.S. Much of the documentation and scholarly maritime research of the accomplishments of Norwegian ships and their seamen are written in Norwegian, making more widespread knowledge a challenge.

Engvig is hoping that his book Legends in Sail, an expanded and redesigned version of his Norwegian book Legendariske Skuter, will help alleviate this situation.

Purchase Legends in Sail. 2013. Hardcover, 256 pages. $49.95

Marifrances Trivelli Reviews Legends in Sail

From ancient Viking craft to the tall ships still sailing today, Legends in Sail brings together the fascinating yet little-known history of Norwegian ships for an English-speaking audience. Splendidly researched and beautifully illustrated, Legends in Sail is a must-read for sailors, historians and anyone who loves an adventure at sea!

- Marifrances Trivelli, Director, Los Angeles Maritime Museum

Previously Ms. Trivelli was Curator at Los Angeles Maritime Museum, and Cataloguer / Collections Research Curatorial Department at Mystic Seaport Museum.

James P. Delgado Reviews Legends in Sail

This review was published in Sea History (National Maritime Historical Society's magazine), Spring 2014 edition, No. 146, page 51.

Olaf Engvig is well known in maritime circles, and his books, like his research, are solid, classic and prized. His latest, Legends in Sail, adds to his growing bibliography with yet another book done well. Based on his earlier Norwegian-published Legendariske Skuter, Legends in Sail is a rewritten and redesigned version of the earlier work. Even if you have the earlier version, this is an essential purchase to add to your maritime library.

Engvig tells the story of nine Norwegian vessels, a careful selection of the hundreds of ships by that seafaring nation. In them, Engvig seeks and succeeds in familiarizing a non-Norwegian audience with how ships like these made Norway a leading shipping nation, and how many Norwegian built and operated vessels captured international headlines in their day. Another aspect of this book that makes it an essential read is how Engvig has ably captured the international nature of ships and shipping in these ship biographies, filling in the details before and after the change of flags. Northwest Passage painting found in Olaf Engvig's book Legends in Sail.

The nine ships that make up the chapters are likely known to some historians and aficionados of sail, exploration and maritime history - Gjøa, Statsraad Erichsen, Christiana, Transatlantic, Christian Radich, Lancing, Lingard, Fram, and Maud. A brief introduction to Norway's maritime history sets the stage, spanning thousands of years and illustrating it with vessels such as the Gokstad Viking ship and the 2002-built The World, the first condominium ship ever built.

Some of the ships in the book for some historians need no introduction. What this book does is offer a focused, flowing narrative enhanced by rich graphic support. This does not make this a coffee-table book, but rather a beautifully designed and ably illustrated work in which the carefully selected illustrations enhance the narrative. In the case of Gjøa, one illustration (above/right) in particular nicely fits and in a way not found in all histories - it is of a color mural of Gjøa in the Northwest Passage, done by Nils Hagerup and in the former San Francisco Stock Exchange building. The mural as well as the text make the point that this small former fishing sloop became world famous, especially in San Francisco where she resided for 69 years following Roald Amundsen's conquest of the Northwest Passage. On the following pages, images and a reproduced postcard (below/left) depict Gjøa's deliberate beaching and preservation at the foot of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. The chapter also includes images of Gjøa's restoration, how the ship looks today, and the monument to it in San Francisco.
Legends In Sail by Engvig: Postcard of Gjoa deliberate beaching and preservation in San Francisco.
The naval brig Statsraad Erichsen, built in 1858, is the next chapter's subject and its 104 year career is well told as is her context as in her time the world's oldest sail training ship and with 80 years of unbroken service in that class. The story of the sail training ship Christiana is the next chapter. For years mistakenly thought to be the Donald McKay-built clipper Star of Empire of 1853, sold to Norwegian owners and converted to a sail training ship in 1877, what Engvig reveals is that it actually was another 1853-built Star of Empire, launched from the yard of Donald Babcock of Robbinston, Maine. The history of the ship is masterfully intertwined with Engvig's detective work to discern its true origins.

These two examples are not solitary or rare. This book is a treasure. Each chapter and its ships continue to merge scholarship, a solid understanding of ships and shipping, well-written text and an excellent selection of images to bring, in its own way, each of the vessels to life. As a one-time polar venturer, I was particularly pleased not only with the inclusion of the legendary Fram and Maud, but also with Engvig's exceptional handling of each ship's history, accomplishments and character. As the archaeologist who led the team who documented the wreck of Maud in the Arctic in 1997, I was struck by how brilliantly Engvig encapsulated that work.

I recommend Legends in Sail to all who love ships and the sea and especially to those who write the biographies of ships.

- James P. Delgado, Director of NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program

Previously Mr. Delgado was Executive Director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum; he's an author and has been active in shipwreck expeditions.

Purchase Legends in Sail. 2013. Hardcover, 256 pages. $49.95

Corioli Souter reviews Legends in Sail

This review was published in The Great Circle, Journal of the Australian Association for Maritime History, Volume 36 No. 1, 2014, pages 120 - 123.

The objective of Legends of Sail is to provide an international audience with a background to Norwegian maritime achievement of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This beautifully illustrated, hardcover volume easily achieves this as well as providing a well researched historical précis of the life of specific sailors. The focus is sailing vessels involved in polar exploration and sail training ships. The narrative follows the life of vessels of notoriety as well as those which readers outside the Norwegian sailing world would know little about. This is a proudly Norwegian book. Envig states that it was these ships that helped 'transform Norway from a poor agricultural country to one of the major seafaring nations of the world'.

The book opens with the story of a common little coastal freighter that went on to be the first vessel to open up the Northwest Passage. This rollicking tale of the arctic explorer, Roald Amundsen, is retold using the sloop Gjøa (jakt in Norwegian) as the central element. From skipping port when unable to pay for victualling the vessel, to the gallant promise of finding the magnetic north pole, the Gjoa survived fire, grounding and storms. This reviewer's understanding of Arctic geography was much improved after reading this tale although a higher quality map would have been useful. Place names originating from ships and their crew in polar regions is not an unusual occurrence but at Gjoa Haven, King William Island in Canada, the attribution is important in that it was also the first recorded location of the Magnetic North Pole. During his 22-month long stay, Amundsen also made the somewhat unfortunate discovery that the magnetic pole was a moving target. The Gjøa was a touchstone and meeting point for Norwegians in San Francisco for over two decades when she was 'a ship in the park' - the city's first historic ship. This story is really about three journeys. First, the epic polar adventure; then a chronicle of celebration followed by neglect when the vessel became a tourist icon in the US; and finally, Gjøa's return home.

Two further Norwegian polar vessels are described, the Fram and the Maud. In 1895, the Fram, a world prototype polar ship and 'doubled ended like a Viking vessel' carried the explorer Fridtjof Nansen as close as anyone had been to the North Pole. It also was the first to take Amundsen to the South Pole in 1911, despite him telling his backers and the King and Queen of Norway he was returning to the North Pole. Envig's focus is again on the ship itself with a detailed review of her journeys, refits and eventual preservation in Oslo. The author is a renowned campaigner for the preservation of historic vessels and in his closing remarks about the Fram he states quite simply yet eloquently: 'Vessels built of iron must become parts of our maritime heritage. They need a house, just like the Fram'. The final polar story is devoted to the Maud, 'the world's premier Arctic expedition and research ship of her time'. By now, the reader is well acquainted with the exploits of the Norwegian pioneer, Roald Admundson and this chapter provides a detailed conclusion to the records set by this explorer and the vessels, now including aircraft, under his command.

The rest of the book is devoted to general sailing vessels and more specifically, sail training ships. With 80 years of military and civil service, the Statsraad Erichsen was Oslo's first sailing training ship and on her retirement, the last Norwegian brig and the world's oldest sailing ship. This story gives us insight in the life of turn-of-the-century young sailing cadets - from those that were savvy enough to succeed to the boys that were put ashore with the note 'not fit to be a seaman'. Considering the challenges, including learning to swim by being thrown overboard in the Norwegian spring, it is unlikely that many modern day cadets would have passed muster.

The story of the Christiania highlights the pitfalls of researching and identifying vessels. Formerly the Star of Empire, this vessel was confused (along with this reviewer, initially) with the Boston clipper and Atlantic record holder of the same name. Our vessel, however, went on to have a successful career, including surviving an apparent tsunami off the Cape of Good Hope. Its inclusion is as the first Norwegian sail training ship for the merchant marine where for 20 years, it was the home for 731 'young city boys'.

The Transatlantic was the first and last Norwegian cargo-carrying sail training ship. First a Clyde clipper and the only 'Cape Horner' in Norway's sail training fleet, the vessel had an infamous past as the Mersey, a part of the Nourse line which worked the 'Coolie' trade. Unfortunately, the story of indentured labour was neither given as much consideration nor empathy compared with the Norwegian players in the vessel's history. As a fully rigged ship and renamed Dvergsø, she became part of speculative shipping during WW1. The owner of the Dvergsø turned a tidy profit during the time many merchant fleets ceased operations for fear of being destroyed by submarine attack. The story surrounding the last purchase of the ship by Lars Jørgensen is a wistful although perhaps spurious recollection: 'It seems that Jorgensen was not able to get rid of the beautiful and world famous sailing ship that had had such a distinguished career. He probably hoped for the longest time to sell her back to the sail training ship organization so she could continue her operation as a sail training ship'. Less conjecture and more supporting references for all phases of the ship's history would have given this story more authority.

The author's passion for Norwegian sail training ships culminates with the tale of the Christian Radich. Marketing Norway's maritime traditions through film, the Christian Radich was the star of Vi Seiler (1948) and Windjammer (1958), based on the book, The Last Grain Race by Eric Newby. Built just prior to the outbreak of WWII, the Christian Radich only had three years as a Norwegian sail training vessel until it was seized by the Nazis and used as by Hitler's Kriegsmarine. Bombed while in dry dock by the allies, the bulk of this narrative is devoted to the public image of the ship post restoration. This account also includes personal recollections from the author who served as a crewmember on a Sail Training Association race in 1980.

The Lancing vessel biography is an important inclusion given that most of her history had not been published in English until now. Built as a steam sail ship in France in 1865 but converted to a sailing ship in Great Britain, it wasn't until Norwegians owned her that her mettle was truly tested. She went on to have an illustrious career as a luxury liner, tramp ship, private charter for Inca treasure-hunters as well as surviving a collision with an iceberg.

'Proud Norwegian maritime history and shameful cultural heritage' is the opening statement for the chapter devoted to the bark Lingard. Envig doesn't pull his punches when he recounts the history of the vessel after being bequeathed (along with a considerable amount of money) to the Norway Maritime Museum in 1945. Envig also uses the opportunity to alert readers to the recent disposal of the last WW2 Escort Destroyer, the T-276 Cailiff due to there not being funds or a museum willing to take her.

Legends in Sail not only celebrates the voyages of noteworthy sailing ships but is a history of ship preservation initiatives. Each story pays homage to the crew, some of whom, I suspect, have not had much written about them. While the text is easy to read, there are spelling mistakes and some of the sentence structures are grammatically incorrect. While it is acknowledged that this is a popular publication, a reader would have benefited from in-text references or footnotes. The images are engaging with captions that hint to other arcs of the story, however, more in-text detail including dates and location information would have been helpful. The inclusion of many paintings as well as a request of the reader to help identify a signature on one of them is a unique approach. Some images and captions, however, are problematical. For example: 'Like all sailors the Christian Radich cadets found playful girls in every port'. While the vessel referred to in this caption may belong to the 1950s, why the author considers it appropriate to write in a manner synonymous with this era is a mystery. He partially redeems himself by noting the opening up of sail cadetships for girls in 1983 after the vessel underwent a refit.

This is very much a personal journey with a focus on the maritime links between Norway and the US. The work contains many fascinating and relevant anecdotes. My personal favourite was Engvig's suggestion that the Statue of Liberty needed a 'good polish' after describing the French sculptor Barthodi as a passenger on the Lancing envisioning 'a giant goddess wishing all Europe's poor and oppressed welcome to the Land of Opportunity'. Wherever possible, he peppers the text with references to Norway's royalty as well as the illustrious Viking past: a steamer rigged as a three masted bark is audaciously considered 'more than anything, like an enormous Viking longship or drakkar'. It is not a long reach - Norway's place in the history of sailing ships is as significant and should become as well known as its Viking past.

- Ms. Corioli Souter, Curator of Maritime Archaeology at the Western Australian Museum.

Olaf T. Engvig     150 Chickasaw Street     Ventura, CA 93001
Phone: 818.266.5170     olafengvig@earthlink.net

New Hardcover Maritime History Book by Olaf Engvig
The Ships that Built the West: The Scandinavian Navy, WAPAMA and VÆRDALEN

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