Many works of art have been inspired by the world's oceans. Step back in time with photographer Alan Villiers, who chronicled life at sea during the last days of merchant sailing, and explore the history of tattoos and what they mean to different cultures.

Alan Villiers was a distinguished sailor, author and photographer. His work vividly records the period of early 20th century maritime history.

In Elizabeth I with a pelican emblem (1575), Nicholas Hilliard used symbols to communicate messages about Queen Elizabeth I. 

When Captain Cook returned from his first voyage he brought with him the term ‘tattoo’ if not the practice itself.

Tattoos have adorned the highest born royals and the lowliest sailor in Europe for at least 5,000 years.

In the late-18th and early-19th centuries collecting tattooed Maori heads became so popular in Europe that many Maoris were murdered to supply the trade.

Yinka Shonibare MBE explores colonialism and post-colonialism in his art. Nelson's Ship in a Bottle was acquired by the NMM in 2012.

The art of tattooing has existed for many centuries, across different cultures. We list 10 interesting facts about them and what they mean.