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.

Cocked hat, Royal Naval uniform- pattern 1843 .jpg

The gold lace on naval officers’ uniforms has traditionally be used to indicate rank. But what are its origins?

Nelson's Coat National Maritime Museum L8624-073_tile.JPG

Get up close to the actual uniform Admiral Nelson was wearing when he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar.

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.

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.

Cover of the personal journal written by Gilbert James Inglis

October’s item of the month is a personal journal written by Gilbert James Inglis. He served as purser on board the convict ship Duchess of Northumberland and kept a diary on a voyage from London to Hobart, November 1852 to April 1853 (RMG ID: JOD/150)

Warspite_cadets_dancing_the_hornpipe_1928.jpg

The hornpipe dance hasn't always been associated with sailors and dancing on deck. 

USS Olympia (Cruiser #6), tattooing, circa 1899.jpg

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

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.

A zebra and giraffe on board the Chindawara at the Royal Albert Dock (1950)

Exotic animals have a long history in Britain. The Royal menagerie at the Tower of London was probably created in 1204 (during the reign of King John). There was an aviary at Greenwich Palace constructed for Queen Anne, which probably included both native and exotic birds, and there were other Royal menageries at Windsor, Richmond Lodge and Kew. 

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