Samuel Chase “Murmansk Run” (sold)


35”L x 11 3/4”H x 4 1/2”W 

As long as men write about the dangers of the seas and the heroic deeds of those who take their ship into battle against long odds, they will tell tales of the "Murmansk Run" in World War II, when merchant ships steamed into the stormy Arctic with supplies for the Russian front. It was then that the new Liberty’s went into battle for the first time and, along with their older companions, faced a relentless enemy as they fought through to the Barents Sea and the White Sea to reach the distant Russian supply ports of Archangel and Murmansk.

A voyage to North Russia was never a routine affair, for there was always the hazards of storms and arctic ice, whether or not the ship faced enemy attack. From a day or two after leaving the points of departure--Loch Ewe in northern Scotland, or Reykjavik in Iceland--ships could expect submarine surveillance or attack while they steamed 1,600 miles from Scotland to Murmansk.

Forty convoys, with a total of more than 800 ships, including 350 under the U. S. flag, started on the Murmansk run from 1941 through 1945. Ninety-seven of those ships were sunk by bombs, torpedoes, mines, and the fury of the elements. They carried more than 22,000 aircraft, 375,000 trucks, 8,700 tractors, 51,500 jeeps, 1,900
locomotives, 343,700 tons of explosives, a million miles of field- telephone cable, plus millions of shoes, rifles, machine guns, auto tires, radio sets, and other equipment.

Of all the convoys that made the Murmansk run, PQ17 has become the most famous--and with good reason. It consisted of 33 merchant ships when it left Reykjavik, Iceland, on 28 June 1942, headed for the Denmark Strait, Archangel, and Murmansk. Of PQ17's original 33 ships, only 11 finally delivered their cargoes. Of the six Liberty’s, only Samuel Chase and Benjamin Harrison reached Murmansk. Samuel Chase managed to survive the ordeal - six near-misses from enemy bombers on 10 July caused heavy damage, snapping all steam lines, cutting off all auxiliaries, and blowing the compass out of the binnacle. Her gunners fought their weapons efficiently and courageously in what naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison calls "the grimmest convoy' battle of the entire war." 

USS Olympia (C-6)*


37”L x 17 1/2”H x 5”W

Three years after the initial commissioning in 1895, USS Olympia rose to national prominence on May 1, 1898, in an eight-hour battle when the Spanish fleet was devastated at the Battle of Manila Bay, Philippines. This was not only the first victory of the Spanish-American War, but the Olympia's efforts helped catapult the United States into the role of superpower and won fame for her most famous officer, Commodore George Dewey. It was from Olympia's bridge that Dewey delivered his memorable order, "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley."
Olympia was a well-designed and well-built vessel for its size, capable of delivering a broadside of 1,250 pounds. The ship was lightly armored, which, in the rapidly evolving world of naval ordnance, put the ship at risk. The light cruiser came online at a time when naval technology was rapidly evolving - Olympia was soon outsized and outgunned by the newer vessels, including the US's own battleships.
She was in and out of duty through World War I performing coastal and transport patrol, and ferrying troops. Her final mission occurred in 1921, when the ship carried the remains of World War I's Unknown Soldier from France to Washington, D.C. In 1922 Olympia was decommissioned for the last time and placed in reserve.
The ship was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
Today, Olympia serves as a museum at the Independence Seaport Museum, at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia and the sole floating survivor of the US Navy's Spanish–American War fleet.


SS Carolina, New York & Porto Rico Steamship Co. (sold)


40”L x 14”H x 5”W

The Plant Investment Co. originally contracted for the building of the 380-foot-long passenger liner in 1895 with The Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. The original contract was for $500,000, but the vessel ended up being delivered 3 years late and costing $536,000 over budget.

She was then sold to the New York and Porto Rico Steamship Co. in January 1906, and renamed the Carolina.

On June 2, 1918, the SM U-151, the first German U-boat to operate in U.S. territory in World War I, sank six ships and damaged two others off the coast of New Jersey in the space of a few hours in what is known by historians as "Black Sunday".

Among the ships sunk by torpedo was the SS Carolina. Prior to the sinking, Captain Heinrich von Nostitz, the U-boat commander, issued a warning as to his intentions. Captain T.R. Barbour of the SS Carolina then gave the order to abandon ship. There were no casualties amongst the 217 passengers aboard the vessel, mostly citizens of Puerto Rico, including men from the Porto Rico Regiment of Infantry, when it was sunk.


Rhona T, 1883* (Whale) (sold)


37”L x 7”H x 6”W

The following was the experience of the whaling ship Rhona T. During the 1870’s and 1880’s many whalers were lost in the ice floes as the hunt became more difficult. During this period 1 in every 17 whaling ships were crushed in the ice.

“The large pans of ice, which by evening before were passing to the southward were now being brought back by the tide. Buchannan strait was rapidly filling up from the same cause. About 2:45pm the ship was brought to a standstill within four hundred yards of open water, and movement in any direction was impossible. She was lying east and west. The ice in front and along the crack we were following immediately began to show signs of enormous pressure. The ship was in a most most dangerous situation, and I realized that we would have a veritable “nip.” I called my men quietly, and at once put them to work getting stores ready to be thrown on the ice at the first evidence of the ship sustaining serious injury. The Neptune had been beset in very nearly the same position last year, but had withstood the strain, rising three feet, and had gotten clear without damage. I hoped that the ice floes would ease or part before doing their fatal work. The pressure against the ship’s sides was incalculable, the heavy ice, from five to seven feet in thickness, as it came against her sides under this powerful strain, broke and rafted up the floe amidships and astern, but still there were no signs of giving way. I yet hoped that the pressure would cease. At 4:30pm the starboard rail gave way with a crash.

At this time, I was in the main hold with party of my detachment getting out provisions; another detail, under Sergeant Kenney, was in the fore peak getting out the prepared depots. Lieutenant Cowell came to the hatch and told me that the bulwarks had given way, but he thought the “nip” was easing. I requested him to look after getting the boats clear. About the same time Sergeant Kenney reported the depots on deck. Almost immediately after there was another loud crash; the ice had forced its way through the ship’s side into the starboard coal bunker. The deck planks began to rise and seams open out. I at once set the men to throwing the provisions overboard as rapidly as possible…”

USS Mindanao (sold)


36”L x 14”H (mast) x 5”W

Mindanao was laid down in 1926 in Shanghai, China and classified as river gunboat PR-8. 

For the next 12+ years, Mindanao cruised the southern coast of China, based alternately at Hong Kong and Canton, protecting American and Allied interests in China and suppressing piracy. In 1938, following the Japanese invasion of southern China and seizure of Canton, she commenced operations to guard American neutrality.

On 2 December 1941 — as Japanese aggression was expected shortly the gunboat received orders to sail to the Philippines. Though designed only for river travel, the Mindanao put to sea. Bucking heavy winds and high seas, she remained on course for Luzon. On the night of 8 December, she received word of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and arrived at Manila Bay the next day.

Mindanao performed inshore patrol, guard duty and acted as station ship in connection with the minefield channels near Corregidor until the end of December 1941, and then took nightly turns with other China river gunboats patrolling east of Bataan. The shortage of fuel in the Philippines ended these patrols in early March. For the next two months Mindanao engaged enemy boats, harassed artillery, and helped rescue American soldiers, and provided support to small boats embarking the soldiers.

When the naval situation in Manila Bay appeared hopeless, Mindanao’s crew was ordered ashore on 10 April to help defend Fort Hughes. Hit by shell fire the same day, the gunboat was stripped of all useful gear. On 2 May 1942, after suffering an aerial bomb hit in the engine room, she was sunk to prevent capture.

Her crew members were later captured and endured the infamous Bataan Death March.


Walter Winans Yacht, 1877 (sold)


45”L x 16”H x 5 1/2”W 

James McNeill Whistler mentions anticipating a trip on the "smaller" cigar boat in a letter written in 1868.  An 1876 letter from Whistler's mother indicates Walter Winans planned in June of that year to sail it to the Isle of Wight.  There is evidence that other well-known figures also enjoyed excursions on the boat.

Newspapers avidly covered the Channel crossing of the Winan’s yacht:

“The recent passage across the Channel of the Walter S. Winans, a  yacht belonging to the Messrs. Winans, and of similar construction to the now famous cigar steamer Ross Winans, possesses much interest to the public who have watched the completion of the larger vessel and speculated so much as to her performance at sea.

The Walter S. Winans started from Havre for Newhaven at 5.30 a.m. on the morning of the 28th.  The wind was blowing stiffly from the N.W., and a heavy sea was running. The yacht had on board a fell supply of coal, and was immersed to a few inches below her centre. The engines worked smoothly and well, and she rode the heavy seas with ease and entire freedom from rolling. Rising slightly to the large waves, she pierced their crests, which, dissolving, glided over the upper surface of her bow, and as far aft as the forward end of the deck; the main body of the waves passed gently along her sides, rising but little thereon. Not a drop of water ever came upon her deck, while vessels of her size in sight were dashing the spray high over their bows. No shock of any kind was ',felt as she met the heaviest swells; on her rounded surface the waves could inflict no blow. The side seas, when her position was changed, and she lay in the trough of the sea, passed under her without causing any perceptible roll; and this, too, whether she was going ahead or stopped.

She now lies in the West India Docks, alongside the Ross Winans, after having so successfully made the first sea trip of any cigar-shaped steamer in English waters.”


RMS Connaught*


45”L x 14”H x 4 1/2”W

The paddle steamer RMS Connaught was one of 4 sister-ships on the Holyhead-Kingstown (Dublin) mail run. She was built by Lairds for the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company in 1860. Under her Master Captain Kendall she could accomplish the Channel crossing in under 3 3/4 hours at a speed of 18 knots. For 20 years, she was the fastest vessel afloat.

This four-stack steamer was a precursor to ocean liners, although in this case the power was designed to speed postal mail and not passengers. The sleek hull, dominated by the paddle boxes and stacks makes one think of Connaught as resembling a ship "which seems to consist exclusively of engines," as described by Jules Verne. 


USS Bremen *


37 1/2”L x 9 1/2”H x 4 1/2”W

The SS Bremen was a German-built ocean liner constructed for the Norddeutscher Lloyd line (NDL) to work the transatlantic sea route. Bremen was notable for her high-speed engines, and low, streamlined profile. At the time of her construction, she and her sister ship Europa were the two most advanced high-speed steam turbine ocean liners of their day. She was built from 7000 tons of high-strength steel, allowing a weight saving of some 800 tons on the structure.

Her maiden transatlantic crossing (departing Bremerhaven for New York on 16 July 1929) took only four days, 17 hours, and 42 minutes with an average speed of almost 28 knots. After ten years of service, she had completed almost 190 transatlantic voyages.

With the start of the Second World War in 1939, she was ordered to make for the Russian port of Murmansk. Underway, her crew painted the ship grey for camouflage. After returning to Bremerhaven she was used as a barrack ship; there were plans to use her as a transport in Operation Sea Lion, the intended invasion of Great Britain. In 1941, Bremen was set alight by a crew member while at her dock in Bremerhaven and completely gutted. A lengthy investigation discovered that the arson was the result of a personal grudge against the ship's owners, and was not an act of war. She was dismantled to the waterline so the steel could be used for munitions. Her remains were then towed to the River Weser and were destroyed by explosives. Some parts of the double hull remain visible to this day.


Nippon Maru (sold)


 43”L x 7.3/4”H x 8”W

The Nippon Maru was completed as merchant tanker in 1936, completing numerous peacetime voyages for her owners to North Sakhalin, Borneo and Los Angeles.

In August 1941 she was converted to a Naval Auxiliary Tanker and requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy. By November she was involved in practicing refueling at sea in preparation for “The Hawaii Operation”  -  the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor.

Along with seven other oilers, the Nippon Maru accompanied the Hawaii strike force, refueling destroyers, battleships, and aircraft carriers, and then stationing themselves at a rendezvous point for the return trip to Japan.

The Nippon Maru was in constant continuous service throughout the Pacific war, often sustaining dud torpedo hits from American submarines. But the Nippon Maru’s luck ran out on January 14, 1944 when the American submarine Scamp (SS-227) fired six torpedoes at her. She was hit twice - aft and amidships - fire broke out, and the ship sank in two minutes.




*Gallery Location: J. Willott Gallery, 73190 El Paseo Palm Desert, CA 92260

(760) 568-3180, Josh Willott