Life at sea

Gain a fascinating insight into the lives of sailors and seamen throughout history. From the protocols of the Royal Navy to the traditions, customs and working lives of 18th and 19th century crewmen, we explore what life was really like on the high seas.

Lieutenant's logbook for HMS Temeraire 1803-1809

Artist and writer John Kelly delves into the fascinating history of the ship's log and the many experiences and discoveries it has recorded.


It will be five years this July that our team of Navy Board In-letters volunteers: Derek, Roger, Terry, David, John and Fred, have so far provided full page summaries to seventy-six of our volumes from the archive. This is over more than double what had been achieved only two years ago.

A group of passengers with lifejackets aboard 'Kungsholm' (1966), undergoing life boat drill Waterline Collection, National Maritime Museum, London tile.jpg

The Waterline Collection consists of 16,500 photographs that tell the story of the leisure-cruising industry. 


Every maritime nation can tell of captains who stayed with their ships until the last moment, and sometimes beyond.

This Item of the Month is some photograph albums showing life at sea in the merchant service in the eve of the First World War

Account of the Arctic Regions by W Scoresby, Vol.II.Frontispiece. Dangers of the Whale Fishery (banner)

Artist and writer John Kelly looks at how the ship’s log has long contributed to literature and the visual arts.

Oil Tanker

This item of the month is a 1970s journal kept by the merchant navy’s first female navigating cadet, 18 year old Nina Baker on board British Petroleum (BP) Tanker Vessel British Willow. Nina’s journal influenced me to explore women’s developing role in the merchant navy during the second half of the 20th Century and beyond.

Full dress coat - cuff detail, Royal Naval uniform- pattern 1856.jpg

Our uniform collection holds over 7000 items, including items owned by Admiral Nelson, Edward VII and Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher. 

Full dress coat - cuff detail, Royal Naval uniform- pattern 1856.jpg

The Royal Navy introduced coloured cloth on to their uniforms in 1863, so that it was possible to distinguish between naval departments.


An early kind of glossy magazine, the Navy and Army Illustrated was a subtler means of recruitment for the Army and Navy