Grackle II YMS-312 - History

Grackle II YMS-312 - History

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Grackle II

(YMS-312: dp. 270; 1. 136'; b. 24'6"; dr. 10'; s. 14 k.; cpl.
32; a. 1 40mm.; cl. YMS-136)

The second Grackle was launched 9 November 1943 by Henry B. Nevins, Inc., City Island, N.Y.; sponsored by Mrs. W. G. Kroepke; and commissioned as YMS 812, 6 December 1943, Lt.(jg) Ray G. Huling in command. She was redesignated Grackle (AME3-13) 18 February 1947.

YMS-312 put in at Key West 4 February 1944 after shakedown and following sound training there steamed to Curacao, arriving 17 February. Escort, minesweeping. and patrol duties in Caribbean waters occupied her until she got underway 1 September 1944 for San Pedro, Calif., and Hawaii.

Her duty in the Pacific terminated 9 April 1946 when YMS-312 steamed eastward through the Panama Canal for overhaul at Charleston, S.C. On 15 May the minesweeper arrived Norfolk for operations in the Chesapeake Bay until November 1947 when she shifted her base to Charleston. Operations out of this base included tours of service for the Naval Schools Mine Warfare at Yorktown, VA., and the U.S. Naval Mine Countermeasures Station at Panama City, Fla. Periodically Grackle engaged in minesweeping operations off Massachusetts near Martha's Vineyard, completing this duty 27 June 1951 when she reported to the Mine Warfare School at Yorktown for duty as a school ship.

On 1 March 1952 she sailed for the Caribbean to join the Mine Force in combined fleet maneuvers off Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Virgin Islands, and returned to Yorktown near the end of March. Subsequent years were spent in alternate periods of operations that included school ship duties at Yorktown, amphibious exercises along the coast of North Carolina, and mine countermeasures operations along the Eastern seaboard.

Redesignated coastal minesweeper (MSC(0)-13) in February 1955, Grackle was placed in service in reserve 16 September 1957 and was stricken from the Navy List 1 March 1963. After conversion to coastal minehunter, she was transferred to the government of Brazil 19 April 1963 under terms of the Military Assistance Program. Grackle serves the Brazilian Navy as Jurvena (M-14).

The third Grackle (AM-396) was under construction at the Defoe Shipbuilding Co., Bay City, Mich., when her contract was terminated 12 August 1945.

YMS-1-class minesweeper

  •   United States Navy
  •   Royal Navy
  •   French Navy
  •   Royal Canadian Navy
  • 2 × 880   bhp (660   kW) General Motors8-268Adiesel engines
  • 2 shafts
  • 1 × 3-inch/50 calibergun mount
  • 2 × 20   mm guns
  • 2 × depth charge projectors

The YMS-1 class of auxiliary motor minesweepers was established with the laying down of YMS-1 on 4 March 1941. Some were later transferred to the United Kingdom as part of the Second World War Lend-Lease pact between the two nations. One ship eventually made its way into the Royal Canadian Navy postwar.

Grackle II

Main Powers: Enhanced Senses, Agility, and Healing. She also is Telepathic with her sister.

Weaknesses: Some senses are heightened when she's not overly-stressed, inexperience, and fear of boys

Occupation: High School Student

Weapons: Utility Belt, and Grapple baton

Eye color: Redish-Brown Pure-red when using focusing her Eye-sense.

Affliations: Super Sirens, Knight Angels, Teen Titans

Previously going under the vigilante name Violet Hood, May used her metahuman abilities to stop petty crimes in the slimes of Midway City. Trained internally by Roy Harper, May was left to her own devises when he deemed taking a sidekick to troublesome. Asking the first Grackle to follow up his training, May went under the tutorage of Gray Richardson (Earth-46's answer to a Robin like hero). After a rift between him and Crowman (Earth-46's answer to a Batman like hero) formed, Richards drop his mantle, becoming Nightcrow. Afterwards, May was chosen to take over his duties as the new Grackle.

May later teamed up with Valor Girl, Beacon, Trance, and Streaker for a time to form the Knight Angels, but due to other team obligations the group disbanded. She and Streaker reminded friends, and often teamed together on their own. It was only when Streaker wanted to investigate an alien cover up at Midway City's Cadmus affiliate did fate shift completely for the both of them. It was there where they would meet their future team mates and adventures.


The Common Grackle is a bird found throughout Maine in the summer but it migrates to the southern states for the winter. As is well described in the Birds of Maine field Guide, the male is a “Large [11-13 inches] black bird with iridescent blue black head, purple brown body, long black tail, long thin bill and bright golden eyes.” The female and juveniles are similar, but with duller coloring and smaller.

A Grackle Altercation with Silent Arbiter (2009)

Another observation worth quoting is from A Field Guide to the Birds of North America: “It is an opportunistic feeder and will eat almost anything, from grain to insects to fish, eggs, fledgling birds, and mice. It will wade into water, visit feeders, and follow agricultural vehicles in its search for food.”

Jots and Tittles of Beaks and Feet

The wide variety of modern bird behaviors – as well as the traces that result from these behaviors – continue to captivate and fascinate me. Given recent revelations of birds’ dinosaurian ancestry and the interrelationships of modern birds (an evolutionary history spanning more than 150 million years), this wonderment should be expected. Accordingly, then, the traces made by modern birds can be equally varied, and can serve as guides to the behaviors of their predecessors, especially when made by birds interacting with ecological margins (ecotones).

A mixture of tracks left by boat-tailed grackles (Quiscalus major) and American crows ( Corvus brachyrhynchos ) on wind ripples in the upper part of a sandy beach. So if paleontologists found something similar in the geologic record, would they be able to say more than “Looks like a bunch of birds were walking around”? That’s why we look at modern traces and their associated behaviors: to get beyond such easy (and terribly incomplete) answers. (Photograph by Anthony Martin, taken on Tybee Island pen is about 15 cm (6 in) long.)

The most recent example I witnessed of bird tracemakers and their traces in an ecotone setting was last month on Tybee Island (Georgia). Tybee is a barrier island just east of Savannah, and one I had visited in May, when I noted burrowing wasps in the coastal dunes there. The tracemakers were boat-tailed grackles (Quiscalus major), a passerine bird (“songbird”) that people commonly see and hear along the Georgia coast. Grackles belong to to an evolutionarily related group (clade) called Icteridae, colloquially known as “blackbirds.” I frequently see grackle tracks on the upper parts of beaches and in the dunes, where they are oftentimes the most common vertebrate traces above the high tide mark on Georgia shorelines.

What was strikingly atypical this time, though, was how all of the grackles I saw making tracks were adult females. Female grackles are distinguished from males by their brown coloration, whereas the males are iridescent black, almost deep purple when viewed in the right light. Female adult grackles are also noticeably smaller than adult males, at about 70% their lengths and half their weights. Like most passerine birds, grackles have four-toed anisodactyl feet, with the “thumb” (digit I) pointing directly backwards with respect to its three forward-pointing toes (digits II-IV). Such tracks show their feet are well adapted for grasping branches in trees yet they hang out along shorelines and nest near water bodies. I also wondered whether the tracks of this gender-sorted assemblage could be distinguished from those of the larger males, but didn’t get a chance to test this idea.

Girlfriends going out for a bite to eat by the beach: a group of boat-tailed grackles – all female adults – foraging in between the sea oats on the south end of Tybee Island. Here they were on the seaward side of the dunes, and just before sundown. (Photograph by Anthony Martin.)

Yet it wasn’t track sizes that caught my attention: it was what they were doing and the traces they were leaving. They were actively foraging, walking in between stalks of the sparsely populated sea oats (Uniola paniculata), which were barely holding down the dunes. This meant lots of slow, methodical walking with their heads down, and beaks actively snatching anything of interest. What were they finding and eating? On an over-developed island like Tybee, it could be almost anything. Grackles are notoriously omnivorous, which explains why they’ve easily adapted and thrived along the eastern coast of the U.S. despite extensive human alterations to this island and elsewhere.

Grackles in different feeding postures: two with their heads down and feet together (foreground and right), and another with her head up and left leg ahead of her right, and all after walking slowly and stopping often. With that in mind, think of the trackway patterns that would correspond with these movements and postures. (Photograph by Anthony Martin, taken on Tybee Island.)

So here’s what’s cool: these grackles were eating locally by chowing down on sea oats. That’s right, given all of the human-provided junk food they had available, they were going for the all-natural, organic, raw, and totally vegetarian option. (Tragically, it was not gluten free. But I think they were OK with that.) As a result, their tracks showed lots of short steps (diagonal walking) punctuated by “T-stops,” where they stopped to place their feet side-by side (making a “T” pattern), all of which were accented by beak traces, the last of these intersecting depressions formerly occupied by the sea-oat grains.

A close-up of the grackle from the previous photo, showing exactly why it stopped it with its feet together and put its beak down to the sand: fallen grains of sea oats. (Photograph by Anthony Martin, taken on Tybee Island.)

Another close-up of a grackle, but with sea oats in her beak. More importantly, check out the tracks behind her, the little depression where the oats laid on the sand (arrow), and the beak mark next to it that she made just before grabbing the grains. (Photograph by Anthony Martin, taken on Tybee Island.)

Boat-tailed grackle tracks that say, “I’m out looking for food, and whole grains only, please.” Note the “T-stop” pattern in the tracks and a beak impression within the trackway (center bottom) coinciding with some sea-oat grains, and a similar set of traces toward further down the trackway. (Photograph by Anthony Martin, taken on Tybee Island.)

So if you’ve read anything written by me before now, you probably know what I’m going to do next. (No, not that. But maybe next time.) I’m probably going to say, “Hey y’all, why don’t you look for traces like these next time you’re out walking along the beach?” But I’m also likely to say, “Gee, I wonder if traces like these would show up in the fossil record?” Both are important questions to keep in mind, even though the first deals with the here and now, whereas the other dives into deep time.

As a paleontologist, though, I’m all about the deep-time question. For example, when did the ancestors of grackles and other blackbirds start eating seeds from the ancestors of the sea oats, and in coastal environments? How would we know when these proto-grackles started having cereal for breakfast? If any trace fossils that look like the ones shown here do somehow got preserved, they should help connect those dots between all of the genes, bones, and other scientific evidence we use to figure out the evolution of this diverse clade of blackbirds.

Yeah, I know, it’s a body fossil. But hey, it’s the Berlin specimen of Archaeopteryx, probably the most famous body fossil in the world, so it’s OK. I was lucky enough to see it in person at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin early last month, and like most paleontologists who see it, I was awestruck by its 150-million-year-old beauty. Understandably, then, the evolutionary history of birds was on my mind when – three weeks later – I watched those grackles making traces on a Georgia beach. Will Archaeopteryx trace fossils ever be found? Let’s hope so, and if they do, they deserve to be as famous as this specimen. (Photograph by Anthony Martin.)

A Pair of Boat-Tailed Grackles

John James Audubon's life work, The Birds of America , remains today as one of the great achievements of American art and one of the most important documents of natural history. Among the birds depicted in this magnum opus is the Boat-Tailed Grackle, one of the largest birds of its kind in North America, the male reaching almost a foot and a half in length.

After "examining their Manners very Closely," noted the artist and naturalist in his journal during a stop that he made toward the end of his Mississippi River trip in January 1821, he drew a pair of watchful Boat-Tailed Grackles (New-York Historical Society, New York). He noted in his journal that the Boat-Tails' "walk is Elegant and Stately carrying their Long concave tails rather high." As noted by Carole Anne Slatkin, in the closely related example at the New-York Historical Society, "he showed each perched bird gracefully elevating its conspicuous, spatulate tail, which grows to a length of seven inches in the male, and from which the species' name derives. In his composition of Boat-Tails made about ten years later, from which Havell produced the engraving for The Birds of America , [Plate CLXXXVII] Audubon again showed the male with tail raised and long, heavy bill open, perched in a live oak below the female, each bird again with a keenly alert expression." ( John James Audubon, the Watercolors for The Birds of America , New York, 1993, p. 94).

Audubon frequently made multiple watercolors of the same species of birds, often re-working poses and subjects before selecting the most characteristic composition for the final, engraved image. Of the known extant watercolors of the Boat-Tailed Grackle, the example in the New-York Historical Society relates closely to this image, with the pose of the birds altered here to create a dramatic, horizontal composition, in contrast to the vertical composition of the Historical Society watercolor. Here, however, the artist also places the male in front of the brown-feathered female, and overlaps the tails of the birds, and depicts both with crisp, precise details, finished with exceptionally refined pencil lines to create a vivid iridescence on the feathers of the grackles. And, with a naturalist's touch, Audubon includes the species' egg in a corner of the composition.

Noseband Special: Part I: The History of the Noseband

For many decades the noseband was of no particular interest to the world wide equestrian press, but over the past years this piece of leather on a horse’s bridle has made it into the headlines, unfortunately, for unpleasant reasons. Often too tightly cranked in dressage or too deeply dropped in pony classes, the noseband has been wrongly used either to hide training issues or out of ignorance.

This raises the justified question whether it is useful that a steward checks the correct fitting of a noseband only after a CDI class is finished instead of before the ride. The International Society of Equitation Science (ISES) has brought the wrong use of nosebands into the open on a scientific level. While it regretfully casts a negative shadow over the use of noseband it quite rightly, points out that severely tightened nosebands are an indicator of wrong developments in dressage even at high performance level.

Nosebands, the Centre of the Attention

In the interest of the welfare of the horse it is important that wrong and abusive use of the noseband should be brought to light. Eurodressage’s chief editor Astrid Appels already wrote on the problem in her much noticed editorial “A slip of the tongue” in June 2011. While critical minds caring for the horse are appreciated, there are also even more fanatical voices out there who condemn any use of a noseband and consider it cruelty towards the four-legged partner even to put one on. They simplify and solve the issue by claiming that riding without a noseband is the best to reveal which top riders have a light and ideal contact and which not.

Like all things in the world there is much grey area in between the black and white. The same is valid for the noseband. For this "Noseband Special" we are tackling the topic of the noseband from different perspectives and instead of focusing mainly on what a noseband can do for a horse, we will also look into its origins, history and evolution and in which ways it can be useful in the training of a dressage horse.

History: The Evolution of the Noseband

It is said that long before humans put the first bits made of wood or iron into a horse's mouth they used the sensitivity of the nasal bone to tame the strong animals. About 7000 years before Christ carriage drivers used a noseband similar to the dropped one which was positioned that deeply that it pressed into the nostrils if the reins were pulled and thereby hindered the poor horse from breathing. It is reported they stopped the horses that way. On sculptures from Persia 1000 years later horses were shown “on the bit” for the first time with a round topline and the head at the vertical. Because the horses used at that time were heavy bodied stallions and the curb bit was still not invented experts assume that the noseband on the sculptures had been barbed inside to control the power of the horse and bring its head down.

In the 16th century when Italy became famous as the centre of art the horses painted at the time were still the heavy type for which man needed much strength to collect them, even though the curb had been invented and fine tuned for long. Sharp curb bits and the “careta”, a barbed noseband with reins attached, held the horses together. The noseband wasn’t always barbed, sometimes it was only a plain flat leather noseband. It is said that the famous Grisone used a kind of noseband called “capezona” to which reins were attached and which tightened when the reins were taken.

The noseband as we know it nowadays is a rather young piece of tack, originally evolved from the cavesson we still see today in lunging, hand work or even in riding. The most simple noseband for sure is the one we can see in Francois Robichon de la Guérinière’s legendary manual “Ecole de Cavalerie” (“Reitkunst”), but it could be seen on even earlier historical paintings. It is a simple thin and flat piece of leather pulled on each side through the lower parts of the cheek pieces. De la Guérinière didn’t mention anything on this noseband, nor on its construction nor on its aim. Instead he explained quite detailed how a rider can find the appropriate bit by writing how the different bits work and fit in different mouths.

He didn’t spend a word on the shown noseband because it didn’t seem to be of any importance for the art of riding he practised and it was little more than decorative. Instead de la Guérinière pointed out that most important to riding are the hands and the judgement of a rider. Without these requirements the best bridle would remain useless. These are wise words which have changed in truth in our days. This simple noseband printed in “Ecole de Cavalerie” can still be seen, for example in bridles used in show classes or on stallions bridles. Its purpose is still nothing but decoration.

The Dropped Noseband Set the Standard

The noseband which soon after its invention began to dominate until the 1970s was the dropped noseband or how the Germans call it, the “Hanoverian noseband”.

It was invented in the 19th century by Ernst Friedrich Seidler, a German trainer who worked at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna under the tutelage of legendary chief rider Maximilian von Weyrother. Based on the traditional cavesson he developed the dropped noseband which is named after Germany’s great cavalry school of Hanover where Seidler worked as well.
Although not easy to fit correctly on all horses this noseband was the most common for snaffle bridles for many decades and got established as a traditional part of the tack used at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. The dropped noseband appears in the exhibitions during which the horses are worked in hand or in long reins or with the young stallions when they are presented in a snaffle bridle. Also at the Royal Andalusian School in Jerez de la Fronteira and at the Portugese School of the Art of Riding in Lisbon the dropped noseband is still in regular use when the horses are ridden in the snaffle bridle or worked in hand.

The flash noseband (also called “Aachen noseband” ) which is without a doubt the most popular among dressage riders today emerged comparatively late. The exact date of invention nor the inventor are known but it was about in the late 1960s when it increasingly appeared on the jumping scene for which it was originally made to keep the horses mouth more effectively shut. It also served as aid to attach a standing martingal to the cavesson, something not allowed in jumping competitions anymore. From the jumping camp it transferred to dressage in the 1980s and now has by far overtaken the dropped noseband which was so common among dressage riders of all decades before.

The grackle, figure eight or as the Germans say “Mexican” noseband was named after the horse Grakle that won the British Grand National in 1931 wearing this noseband. It was first seen in jumping on the horses of the successful Mexican jumping team of the late 1940s and it is still quite popular among jumping and eventing riders. This noseband has never really spread within dressage, though it is occasionally seen in training sessions.

The Mystery Use of a Noseband

Nowadays many magazines throughout the world repeatedly publish journals in which the different nosebands are shown and their function and fitting explained, but the major literary handbooks of the “old masters” fail to go in-depth on the matter. Either because there were more or less only two nosebands around -- the dropped and the English -- or it was just natural that every bridle was fitted with a noseband and there were no such discussion of “with or without” or “which” like nowadays.

One of Germany’s most popular riding manuals, Wilhelm Müseler’s “Reitlehre”, first published in the 1930s and still in print, explains that nosebands are there to hold the bit straight and quiet and to prevent that the horse opens its mouth and thereby avoids the impact of the reins. He enumerated the most common nosebands, but didn’t mention a word about how they should be fitted or how differently they work on a horse. Did Müseler assume when he wrote his book about 80 years ago that his readers were competent enough to know the use and fitting themselves?

Richard Wätjen, an accomplished German dressage rider and trainer round World War II, distinguished in his manual “Das Dressurreiten” that the correctly fitted bridle is most important if one wants to advance his horse in dressage. He recommended to attach a noseband to every bridle and, judged by the description he gave, he was referring to dropped noseband. For him the aim of a noseband was to make it impossible for the horse to open the mouth, but he warned the readers only to tighten the noseband so much as the horse could still chew.

While these and other old manuals like those of Bürkner, Podhajsky, Steinbrecht, Seunig, Decarpentry or Bürger never really go out of fashion and are all still in print today, there are more recent manuals on the market which became quite popular as well.

In British Olympic dressage rider Jennie Loriston- Clarke’s book “The Complete Guide to Dressage” which was first published in 1987 the author mentioned the flash and the dropped noseband. Loriston-Clarke stressed the ability of the flash to hold the bit straight and advised the reader to pay detailed attention to the correct fitting of the dropped noseband. Loriston-Clarke warned that if the upper part of the noseband is too long it interferes with the bit and applies a constant pressure and this could lead to a tongue problem. With a young horse being broken in the now well known FEI judge recommended using a cavesson instead of a noseband at the beginning.

Surprisingly one of the most popular manuals of the past few years, “Dressurreiten” by multiple Olympian Kyra Kyrklund and Olympic judge Jytte Lemkow, doesn’t mention the topic of nosebands at all.

YMS class

The minesweeper HMS BYMS 2167 (J 967) of the Royal Navy.

Technical information

Displacement270 BRT
Length136 feet
Complement32 men
Armament1 3" AA gun 2 20mm AA (2x1)
Max speed15 knots
EnginesDiesels, 2 shafts
Power2000 HP
Notes on class

All ships of the YMS class

Royal Navy (more on Royal Navy)

494 Minesweepers (634 names) of the YMS class. 40 of them were lost.

Grackle II YMS-312 - History

For the Birds – Common Grackle

Chances are good that Common Grackles have returned to your neighborhood by now. These large members of the blackbird family are one of the first of our migratory breeding birds to come back to Maine.

With a sleek, glossy black plumage and a yellow eye, the adult Common Grackle is a striking bird. The birds are about 12 inches long, including the long tail. It is not easy to tell males from females although the head of males, in favorable light, has a glossy purple head and breast. The female is usually slightly smaller than the male. In flight, grackles hold their tails in a V, like the keel of a boat.

Despite their sleek appearance, grackles will win no contests for the beauty of their songs. Both males and females sing the same harsh, squeaky song that some ornithologists interpret as “squ-eek”, “readle-eak” or “scuda-leek”. Some people think the song sounds like the opening of a gate with a rusty hinge. These birds also give a characteristic raspy “chack” call, often in flight.

Males sing more frequently than females and male song rates are highest early in the breeding season. Any individual sings a single song but there is a lot of variation among individuals. The songs therefore seem to be useful for individual identification.

Grackles are habitat generalists. Suburban areas, farmlands, swamps, and orchards are all suitable. Favoring more open habitats, grackles are typically not found in deep forests. Before European settlement and the clearing of forests, Common Grackles were uncommon birds in New England now they are abundant. Aided by the planting of shelterbelts, Common Grackles have expanded their range westward across the Great Plains.

This species is highly gregarious if you see one, you will probably see 10. Except for females incubating eggs, grackles roost together at night in noisy roosts, sometimes more than 100 birds in one roost.

Unlike some of our long-distance migrants, Common Grackles do not winter very far to the south of us. Some winter in southern New England with more wintering from Pennsylvania south.

Once the grackles return, keep an eye out for their courtship displays. The male will raise the feathers around his neck, drop his wings and sing his song for a prospective mate. This behavior is called the song spread.

Pairs form soon after the birds arrive. The female builds the nest, usually well above the ground in a conifer. The male guards the female throughout the nest construction process. Once the nest is complete, the female will perform a wing quivering display, a signal that she is ready to mate.

The male aggressively keeps other males away from his mate. A common threat display is sky pointing, when the male raises his bill vertically. This behavior is given by one male on the approach of another male. The display usually results in one of the males departing.

Common Grackles may nest alone but more often in colonies of ten or more pairs in tall trees, especially evergreens. Sometimes, nests are made in freshwater marshes, old building and even the lower parts of Osprey nests. The nest is made of twigs and grass stems. Most nests contain 5-6 eggs, which the female incubates for about 14 days before hatching. The newly hatched birds are ready for their first flight in 14-16 days. Unlike their dark parents, juveniles are dark brown with brown eyes.

Grackles have a broad diet, although insects are the most commonly captured prey. Grackles often search for food on the ground, walking slowly and deliberately. Occasionally, a bird may run and leap into the air to catch an insect. Grackles may probe in the ground for earthworms and will even take them from robins. Grackles will also search for food in trees. Besides insects, grackles are known to eat spiders, snakes, lizards and mice. The eggs and nestlings of other birds are not safe from grackles. Grackles are even reported to wade belly deep in freshwater for crayfishes, minnows, frogs and salamanders. Grackles will eat seeds including corn, acorns, and seeds of various weeds. In fact, Common Grackles are now a major agricultural pest, causing millions of dollars of damage to sprouting corn.

Some Common Grackles attain impressive ages. The oldest known Common Grackle was banded in Michigan and recaptured 20 years and 11 months later in Illinois! A Common Grackle in Minnesota lived to be at least 17 years old while a New Jersey bird lived to be at least 16 years and 1 month old. The average life span is likely much less than these extremes.

Grackle II YMS-312 - History

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