The Mariner's Mirror Podcast
Maritime Africa 5: The World Heritage Sites of Songo Mnara and Kilwa Kisiwani
We continue our mini-series on maritime Africa with an episode on Songo Mnara and Kilwa, two significant maritime settlements on the Swahili Coast. In the previous episode we heard how the Swahili coast of east Africa is particularly rich in its maritime cultural heritage and trading past, where African and Arabic cultures have mixed for centuries across the Indian Ocean. In this episode we investigate two locations in great depth, both Swahili stone towns that made their place in global maritime history. Dr Sam Willis spoke with Mercy Mbogelah, who manages the ruins of both sites for UNESCO World Heritage.
Maritime Special Forces 1: The SBS
This is the first episode of a two-part mini-series on the history of maritime special forces. In this episode we hear about the Second World War origins, development and early history of the SBS - the 'Special Boat Service'. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Saul David, a military historian given unprecedented access to the archives of the SBS for his book - SBS - Silent Warriors: The Authorised Wartime History. Founded in the dark days of 1940, Britain's Special Boat Service was the world's first maritime special operations unit. It started as an inexperienced and small outfit that leaned heavily on the courage and enthusiasm of volunteers but went on to change the course of the war. Its operational inventiveness has served as a model for special forces ever since. Their assignments were some of the most challenging of the war. Feted by history they have gone on to become legendary military operations. The SBS operated globally: in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Channel and the Far East. Operating with flimsy canoes and armed with close-combat weapons - often nothing more than knives, pistols and their bare hands - these men operated repeatedly and successfully deep behind enemy lines. They landed secret agents, destroyed enemy infrastructure, attacked enemy shipping, spread uncertainty and fear and paved the way of some of the most important large-scale operations of the war, including D-Day.
Navigation in the Middle Ages
The subject of navigation in the Middle Ages is fundamental to maritime history as it lays the foundation for the exploration, migration, global trade and international wars that followed. It is also a fascinating and multi-faceted topic; one which takes us out into the deep oceans where issues of wind, current, tide and depth are all influential, but also up into the sky where the sun, moon, planet and stars help us find out where we are and WHEN we are: the history of navigation is intimately linked with the question of time at sea. To find out more, Dr Sam Willis spoke with Dr Seb Falk from Girton College, Cambridge, an historian who specialises in the history of astronomy, navigation and mathematics from their ancient origins to modern developments. For Seb the Middle Ages were a time of wonder. They gave us the first universities, the first eyeglasses and the first mechanical clocks as medieval thinkers sought to understand the world around them, from the passing of the seasons to the stars in the sky. Seb is the author of an important recent book: The Light Ages: A Medieval Journey of Discovery.
The Maritime History of Time
The history of time and how it relates to the maritime world is one of the most significant chapters in global history. The question of time is nothing less than the question of civilisation; the question of us. Time itself has been harnessed, politicised and weaponised; clocks have been used to wield power, make money, govern and control; to exchange knowledge and even beliefs. For the maritime world, the history of time takes us from some of the most ingenious inventors and scientists the world has ever seen to the spread of empires around the globe. To find our more Dr Sam Willis spoke with David Rooney, an expert on the history of timekeeping and civilisation who has worked as the Curator of Timekeeping at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and is the author of ‘About Time: A History of Civilisation in Twelve Clocks.’