The Mariner's Mirror Podcast
Mary Celeste: The Mystery Explained
This episode looks at one of the greatest of all maritime mysteries – the extraordinary tale of the Mary Celeste.
On 4 December 1872, in the middle of the Atlantic near the Azores, the brigantine Dei Gratia chanced upon another brigantine. She was under sail but entirely silent, and it soon becomes clear that she was entirely deserted. She was called Mary Celeste.
Ever since - for over 150 years - the mystery of why the Mary Celeste was abandoned and what happened to the ten souls on board has spawned thousands of conjectures, conspiracy theories, fictions and fantasies; mostly myths made from fractured truths.
To find out more – and in a bid finally to unpick the myth from the reality, Dr Sam Willis spoke with maritime historian Graham Faiella, author of The Mysterious Case of the Mary Celeste: 150 Years of Myth and Mystique . They discuss her story from beginning to end – from her construction in the Bay of Fundy, through her life as a merchant ship, on to her final fateful voyage, and then to the remarkable enquiry that took place in Gibraltar, as British maritime authorities were the first to embrace the challenge of trying to understand what happened.
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The Rules and Regulations for Composite Ships21:48In the archives of the Lloyd's Register Foundation is a stunning hand-illustrated portfolio of the Rules of Composite Ships. These were a set of rules regulating the construction of this new type of vessel born of the industrial revolution. Half iron and half timber, these 'composite' ships transformed maritime capability whilst at the same time challenging existing knowledge of shipbuilding. The illustrated portfolio is the work of Harry Cornish, once Chief Ship Surveyor at Lloyd's Register, a marine classification society. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Max Wilson, archivist of the Lloyd's Register Foundation archives. They explore the Cornish drawings as well as the ship plans of several famous composite ships, including the most famous of them all - Cutty Sark.
The Maritime Silk Road29:55This is episode six of our special mini-series on the maritime history of China and it looks at the Maritime Silk Road. This fascinating topic is far richer and deeper than the name implies. On the one hand we discover all about the ancient maritime trade route by which silk was transported abroad from China – but as you will discover it is far more complicated than that – and far more interesting as a result. It’s a topic that links Asia and Europe’s deep past with the present day and modern China’s strategic global ambitions. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Tansen Sen, Director of the Center for Global Asia and Professor of History, NYU Shanghai.
Women Shipbuilders on the Clyde and Tyne22:52In this, the third of three dedicated episodes to women in maritime, Cecilia Rose speaks to Dr Nina Baker and Dr Antony Firth about women shipbuilders on the River Clyde and the River Tyne, as part of the ‘Rewriting Women into Maritime History’ project. Dr Nina Baker is an independent researcher who works on the history of women in engineering, focusing on the Clyde in Glasgow, whilst Dr Antony Firth, the head of Marine Strategy at Historic England, is organising an exhibition about women shipbuilders on the River Tyne. We learn more about these related research projects and how we can all get involved!
'SHE_SEES': Women in Maritime 218:10In this, the second of three episodes dedicated to women in the maritime world, we look at the Lloyd's Register Foundation's ‘Rewriting Women into Maritime History’ project through an artistic lens. Cecilia Rose speaks to Erna Janine - a London based textile artist specialising in Japanese Freestyle Weaving, and Emilie Sandy - a photographer and visual artist focusing on portraiture and storytelling. Their new joint venture, ‘SHE_SEES’, combines the mediums of textiles and photography to tell the stories of women involved in maritime industries today. We learn about how these women came to their respective professions and how they can inspire others.
Rewriting Women into Maritime History20:04In this, the first of three dedicated episodes, we explore a new project designed to change our perceptions of the historical role of women in the maritime industry over the centuries. 'Rewriting Women into Maritime History' is run by the Lloyd's Register Foundation and brings together leading maritime organisations. One of the key aims of this project is to empower women by reframing the narrative of a predominantly masculine industry, and by promoting opportunities to encourage more women into the sector. To find out more, Cecilia Rose spoke with Helen Doe, a maritime historian and author who has published extensively on maritime subjects, including the role of women in the industry.
HMS Poseidon: China's Secret Salvage of Britain's Lost Submarine36:05The British submarine HMS Poseidon sank off the Chinese coast during normal exercises in 1931 having struck a freighter. Just over half of her crew made it out of the hatches as she sank. Twenty-six remained trapped. Eight of those attempted to surface using an early form of diving equipment specifically designed for submarine escapes. Five of those survived and became national heroes. And then, at an unknown time in the subsequent years, the Chinese government secretly raised the wreck. To find out more about this remarkable story which takes us through themes of imperialism, international sea power, the development of submarine and diving technology and medical history, Dr Sam Willis spoke with historian Steen Schwankert. Editor and award-winning reporter with seventeen years of experience in Greater China, Steven is the Asia chapter chair of The Explorers Club, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and founder of SinoScuba, Beijing's first professional scuba-diving operator. Steven uncovered this story and spent many years researching it. He is the author of the book Poseidon: China's Secret Salvage of Britain's Lost Submarine.
The Six: The Chinese Survivors of the Titanic Disaster45:07Of the 2,240 passengers and crew on board RMS Titanic on her fateful last journey, eight were Chinese, all travelling Third Class. Six of those eight survived, an exceptionally high survival rate for any given nationality. Remarkably, four escaped on the same lifeboat as the Titanic’s owner J. Bruce Ismay, while another was the last person rescued alive from the water. Those six men were forgotten by history until, in 2020, the film maker Arthur Jones and historian Steven Schwankert joined forces in a bid to track down those men in the historical records and tell their stories. Not only does the research itself tell a fabulous tale, but so too does the history they uncovered. For these Chinese men, surviving the Titanic disaster was not the end of their troubles – it was just the beginning. They faced deportations, slurs on their characters and racial condemnation. As research for the film progressed it became clear that almost nothing was known about these man in their subsequent years and that some may never even have told their families what they had experienced. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Arthur Jones, Director of The Six.
The Maze Collection of Chinese Junks27:48In the stores of the London Science Museum is a highly significant collection of ship models of Chinese junks. They were commissioned by Sir Frederick Maze who worked as the Inspector General of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service from 1929-1943. Maze was a true Sinohpile and was particularly fascinated by Chinese maritime history. He lived in China at a time of rapid modernisation and could plainly see Chinese maritime traditions disappearing in front of his eyes. As a result he commissioned a series of ship models of Chinese junks and sampans, to be built in Hong Kong and Shanghai by expert Chinese shipwrights. They are an extraordinary collection and demonstrate a stunning variety of Chinese shipbuilding traditions and technology and details of daily life - down to the religious beliefs of the sailors. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Donna Brunero at the National University of Singapore, an expert on the maritime realm and port cities of Asia.
The Chinese Shipwrecks of South East Asia34:05This episode continues our mini series on maritime China with an episode on Chinese shipwrecks found in Southeast Asia and what they tell us about the development of Chinese shipping and trade from the ninth century onwards. The wrecks include the ninth century Belitung wreck, twelfth century Flying Fish, thirteenth century Java Sea, fifteenth century Bakau wreck, and from the seventeenth century the Binh Thuan and Vung Tau Wrecks. Together they provide unmatched insights into world maritime engineering and innovation, industry and manufacturing in China, and a network of trade that linked China to the world beyond its shores. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Mike Flecker, one of the world's leading authorities on the development of Chinese shipbuilding and trade, and who led excavation teams on all of these wrecks.