The big news tonight here in Boston is a fire in the Back Bay that led to power going out in huge swaths of Boston. Apparently the fire started in a utility building containing two large transformers. In order to fight the fire, it was necessary to cut power to the transformers. That has now led to a power blackout in Back Bay, Prudential Center, Copley Square, Chinatown, the Theater District, and Kenmore Square. They are saying now on TV that they are allowing people to return to their homes but they have no idea when power will be restored to this area.
As some of you are no doubt aware, I am fascinated with 19th century America, and one of the most significant developments in maritime history happened 150 years ago this week. For the first time ever, a battle was fought between ironclad warships in Hampton Roads, Virginia on March 9, 1862. The Confederates had recovered the sunken steam frigate U.S.S. Merrimack and rebuilt it, converting it to a casemate ironclad vessel that they renamed C.S.S. Virginia. The Union’s vessel, the U.S.S. Monitor, was a technological marvel, made almost entirely of iron and containing a revolving gun turret, as well as flush toilets, a forced air ventilation system, and a couple dozen other new inventions. I have found the ship fascinating ever since I was a kid. Perhaps one day I will get a chance to see the recovered parts of the ship at the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News.