The Mariner's Mirror Podcast
The Titanic Inquiry 4: Charles Lightoller
We continue our dramatisation of witness testimony given at the British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry into the Titanic disaster. Today we hear from Charles Lightoller, Titanic's second officer and the most senior officer to survive the disaster. Lightoller is a fascinating character. By the age of 21 he had survived a shipwreck, a cyclone and a shipboard fire. Lightoller was a major focus for both the British and American inquiries. During the Wreck Commissioner’s Enquiry, Lightoller was called to the stand three times over the same number of days and was asked 2951 questions. His testimony is greatly detailed and provides numerous fascinating glimpses into the disaster and its aftermath.
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Vrak - The Museum of Wrecks, Stockholm.24:51In this episode we visit Vrak - The Museum of Wrecks in Stockholm. Nowhere else in the world are there as many well-preserved wooden wrecks as there are in the Baltic Sea. People have lived on the shores of the Baltic ever since the end of the Ice Age, where they have travelled, sailed, hunted and waged war, for millennia. The Baltic has special water conditions: it is cold and brackish and has low oxygen levels, which means there is no shipworm to destroy sunken timber. As a result, at the bottom of the Baltic is an exceptional collection of timber heritage sites, from the Stone Age to the Vikings and beyond. Vrak - The Museum of Wrecks is a contemporary museum designed to explore and share this heritage in innovative ways.
The First Naval Architect: Fredrik Henrik af Chapman (1721-1808)28:29In this episode we explore the extraordinary life of Frerik Henrik Af Chapman, the man considered the grandfather of naval architecture. Born in Gothenburg in 1721 to immigrant English parents, his father served in the Swedish navy before becoming the manager of a shipyard in Gothenburg. His mother was the daughter of a London shipwright. Frerderik was therefore born into a life of ship design and construction and he was just ten when he designed his first vessel. By 23 he ran his own shipyard maintaining and repairing Swedish East Indiamen. This was a period when the science of shipbuilding reached new heights and Chapman, uniquely a mathematician and a shipwright, led the way. Mathematicians who studied shipbuilding lacked the practical skill to implement their own ideas; while shipwrights lacked the mathematical understanding. Frederik was the first person who combined those two skills. He made it possible to predetermine and assess mathematically different attributes of vessels such as stability and sailing qualities. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Jonas Hedberg, curator at Sweden’s National Maritime Museum in Stockholm.
Sweden's National Maritime Museum31:31The third episode in our mini series on Maritime Sweden is a tour of Sweden's National Maritime Museum in Stockholm: Sjöhistoriska Museet. Listen in as Dr Sam Willis is guided around the museum by its curator, Jonas Hedberg. We hear about the founding of the purpose-built maritime museum in the 1930s; explore the extraordinary collection of ship models; artefacts including a magnificent figurehead from mid 1750s; stories of migrants to Sweden after the Second World War; a rail ferry that once transported Lenin across the Baltic; and a Swedish Royal Yacht from the eighteenth century.
The Vikings in Arab Lands26:34One of the most fascinating aspects of Viking history is their voyages east, to Arab lands. Vikings from the geographical area that would become Sweden played an important role in the creation of the political entity known as Rus, and some Scandinavians travelled by river to Arab lands, where they traded slaves for dirhams, and to Constantinople, where they served as mercenaries. Many others who did not actually visit Arab lands met Arabs in Khazaria and Volga-Bulgaria, which were major trading hubs north of the Black Sea. Numerous fascinating sources survive from both the Greek and Arab world depicting far-traveling Swedes, some of which shed valuable light on their customs. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Viking historian Tore Skeie, author of The Wolf Age: The Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons and the Battle for the North Sea Empire.
Swedish Naval Power 1500-present26:38This episode starts a new mini-series on the maritime history of Sweden, and we begin by exploring Sweden’s fascinating naval history over the last 500 years, and how Sweden’s modern defence thinking has been shaped by its past. Founded in 1522, the Swedish navy is one of the oldest continuous serving navies in the world and its complex history reflects the numerous geo-political changes that have affected the countries around the Baltic ever since. With a shifting map of allies, threats and foes, the Swedish navy has been a constant presence and a hotbed of maritime innovation; not least introducing the line of battle as a naval tactic in 1563 under Erik XIV, half a century before its widespread adoption by other European navies. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Fred Hocker, Director of Research at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm.
Nelson and the Walrus15:04A special episode which explores the young 16 year-old midshipman Horatio Nelson's exploits on the Phipps' expedition in search of a Northeast Passage in 1773, in which he fought off a walrus. The episode is linked to an ongoing project run by St Paul's Cathedral and the University of York '50 Monuments in 50 Voices' which showcases thought-provoking, individual responses to 50 unique monuments at St Paul’s Cathedral from artists, writers, musicians, theologians and academics. Of all of those monuments, Nelson's tomb is the most significant. This episode presents an original piece of prose written by Dr Sam Willis inspired by Nelson's tomb and his exploits fighting off a walrus when he was a teenager. 'I Survived the Walrus' is written in Nelson's voice. It explores the myths that grew up around Nelson's life; the curious mixture of inner strength and physical frailty that characterised his life and exploits; and his ability to inspire and comfort.
Great Maritime Innovations 2: Sea Charts31:21This episode looks at the fascinating history of sea charts, a subject crucial to the making of the modern world. The world took shape in our minds through the development of the sea chart, which in turn led to colonization, globalisation - a great mixing of the populations of the world that has created our diverse nations and complex history of today. It is often assumed that ships alone were the tools by which the sea became arteries of trade transport and conquest, but that is to overlook the sea chart as the indispensable instrument that made this happen.
Great Maritime Innovations 1: The Stockless Anchor27:08This episode starts a new mini-series on maritime innovations, and we start with one of the most important: the stockless anchor. A Victorian innovation, the stockless anchor transformed seafaring, making it safer and simpler.The stockless anchor was a simple but clever design which presented many advantages over traditional anchors. Previous anchors were fitted with a stock: a rod set at an angle to the flukes which dug into the seabed. That rod helped the flukes find the right orientation to bite. This feature however, caused the anchor to be an awkward shape, requiring davits suspended over the bows to raise or lower them and prevent damage to the hull. The ship also needed an ‘anchor bed platform’ for storing the anchor when not in use. The stockless anchor didn’t have that rod and the flukes simply pivoted against the main shank. This pivoting action helped the flukes bite and the lack of the stock meant that the anchor was easier to manoeuvre when raising or lowering and could be drawn up into the hawsehole for safe storage. Due to the simple geometrical design of the stockless anchor, it was also capable of free falling through water much faster when it was required. As with all of the best technological inventions it was simple, manifestly a better design, and required someone with a touch of genius to think it up. That man was William Wastenys Smith. To find out more about this brilliant maritime innovation Dr Sam Willis spoke with William Wastenys Smith’s great-granddaughter, Trish Strachan. This episode includes a number of reports and thank-you letters from leading seamen in the 1880s, sent to Wastenys Smith commenting on the remarkable quality of his new invention.
Freak Ships of the Nineteenth Century: SS Bessemer33:18This episode explores ss Bessemer (1874), known as the 'Swinging Saloon Ship.' An experimental cross-channel steamship, Bessemer was designed with a central saloon that moved on gymbals, to counteract the motion of the ship. It was designed to eliminate seasickness. The man behind the idea was the lifelong seasickness-sufferer Sir Henry Bessemer, an avid and successful inventor. He was already well known for transforming the way that steel was made, making it stronger and cheaper, advantages that transformed structural engineering. To find out how he fared when his great mind turned to the maritime world Dr Sam Willis spoke with Zach Schieferstein from the Lloyd's Register Heritage & Education Centre.