Category Archives: History

Arthur Beale talk: The Sea Chart with chart expert John Blake

The Sea Chart John Blake

Historic West End, London chandlers Arthur Beale  Ltd are putting on a talk by navigator and historian John Blake on The Sea Chart.

The event is to be held on Wednesday the 4th May at St Giles in Fields Church just over the road from Arthur Beale and proprieter and sailor Alasdair Flint tells me it is a free event!

Alasdair suggests arriving early to browse the selection of nautical goods in the shop and notes that there’s a tendency to end up in a pub or going for a curry afterwards.

Please email talks@arthurbeale.co.uk to reserve your place.

Bloomsbury has just published the second edition of John’s book The Sea Chart with a foreword by Sir Ben Ainslie CBE, an additional 55 pages and 44 more illustrations of early sea charts and maps which will be available to purchase after the talk at a special price of £22.50.

Here’s Arthur Beale’s promotional blurb:

 

‘John Blake served in the Royal Navy and in the Reserve for nearly 16 years as an executive and navigating officer, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

‘During his naval time he served extensively in sea-going ships and qualified as a navy underwater diver and a naval air defence specialist. On leaving the service he gained a business diploma and moved into retailing, opening three retail stores in Covent Garden, London; Boston, Massachusetts and later in Osaka, Japan, featuring exclusively British gift products.

‘He is a keen maritime historian and a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation and writes regularly on maritime history for yachting and maritime magazines. He is a member of the Society of Authors.

‘John Blake’s talk will look at how the sea chart was pre-eminent in exploring and discovering the world since the earliest known chart of c.1275 with illustration from seventeen major archives and museums across the world, including those from Europe, China, India and Arabia, America and of course the foremost explorers of the 19th century Britain.

‘John has given highly acclaimed talks at the National Maritime Museum, Royal Ocean Racing Club, The Darwin Centre, Pembrokeshire, Royal Thames Yacht Club, United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, Royal Southern Yacht Club, New York Yacht Club, Royal Lymington Yacht Club, Little Ship Club, London, Marlborough College Summer School, Bath Sailing Club, Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers, Wessex Cruising Association and the Indian High Commission (Nehru Centre), London.

‘In 1991 John Blake and his wife started an Intellectual Property Licensing Agency, Classics Licensing Company, and in 1996 helped initiate and run the licensing of the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office archives, producers of the Admiralty sea charts, as their Licensing Agent for six years under the brand name The Admiralty Collection.’

 

On the 9th June Alasdiar and colleagues will show the 1950s film Ha’Penny Breeze. Set in Pin Mill on the River Orwell, he says it is a little gem. Calling all East Coast Sailors!

Ha'penny Breeze

High Teas and High Seas – stories of emigrants sailing to Australia


This looks interesting and fun (in parts) – a book just out from the Australian National Library about the history of emigration to Australia: High Seas and High Teas: Voyaging to Australia, by historian and curator Roslyn Russell. My thanks go to Chris Brady for alerting me to this one.

Here’s the press release:

‘The rats I frighten away by throwing books or anything hard at the spot at which they commence their gnawing.’

Emigrant Janet Ronald wrote this in the journal she kept on board one of the ships transporting free settlers from Britain and Ireland to Australia in the nineteenth century.

On journeys lasting more than 100 days non-stop, our forebears endured raging seas, the dazzling heat of the tropics and freezing temperatures as ships journeyed far into the southerly latitudes. They also formed social communities, putting on plays, developing sometimes lasting relationships and taking part in wild nautical rituals.

Packed in cheek by jowl with fellow passengers and crew, life on board was rigidly defined by social class. Lower-class passengers dined on homemade concoctions of mutton fat pudding (‘clammy to the mouth when eaten cold’), preserved potatoes and experimental stews, while those travelling first-class enjoyed elaborate multi-course dinners, including fresh meat, slaughtered on board.

Navigating the social mores on these giant floating microcosms was only half the story. Amid the chronicles of flirtations and high jinks, odours and rats, there were also tales of despotic captains, severe water rationing, disease, domestic discord and violence, fear of enemy ships and violent storms. From those sailing under servitude to emigrants seeking a new life, the people who braved the journey changed Australia.

Using diary entries and shipboard newspapers, author Roslyn Russell gives a vivid sense of what it was like to leave one life for another and sail across the world into the unknown. In the foreword, Kerry O’Brien writes about his Irish ancestors’ perilous voyages to Australia in the nineteenth century—as both free settlers and guests of Her Majesty.

Roslyn Russell expertly curates the travellers’ personal diaries, allowing the reader to hear directly from 19th-century men like Joseph Pettingell, who lost a beloved child on the journey from London to Hobart in 1834, and women like Annie Gratton, travelling solo and determined to stay ‘respectable’ on the trip from London to Melbourne in 1858.

Background feature pages reveal the colonies’ desired emigrants (‘free from all bodily or mental defects’), answer the delicate question of how men and women relieved themselves on board, list the basic rations doled out to each passenger, and much more.

Other highlights include shipboard newspapers, which appear here in full-page images of front-pages and choice extracts, including an unsolicited advice column on how ladies should behave on board, circulated on the Great Britain in 1861, and a lost and found article appealing for someone to come forward with information about a lost ‘recollection of how I spent the night before last; how I found myself under the table, who picked me up and put me to bed with my boots on’.

Many of the diarists were skilled artists and the book is full of sketched landscapes, birds, people and nautical scenes.

 

Viking ship sets sail to America

Viking ship sails for America via Iceland and Greenland

Reproduction Viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre has set sail for North America via Iceland and Greenland, and we can follow its progress here and on this Facebook page.

Great good luck to them. This will be an amazing and challenging trip, of course, and the crew will experience conditions few of us could face and will be far from any sort of quick rescue.

We live in very different times and it’s striking that this voyage will in some ways be different those experienced by the Vikings, and for good safety reasons. The skipper and crew have waited for a suitable weather window – in an open boat, you would. Modern weather forecasting must be a huge blessing.

Also I gather the ship is only permitted to carry 30 crew, not the 100 it would have had in the Viking era – which means she cannot be rowed in the way the Viking forefathers did, and so is motorised.

Still, I can’t imagine there’s a red-blooded sailor alive that wouldn’t love to spend some time sailing a craft like that – particularly if (like me) they have good reason to believe the Vikings were among their ancestors…

Do you want to see the sailing? See below!