Ships, Sea and the Stars: Royal Museums Greenwich At Home

Discover amazing stories of the sea, space, history and creativity with Royal Museums Greenwich curators and special guests.

This week's episode

Hidden Nature 

This week’s episode of Ships Sea and the Stars is part of Heritage Open Days, and its theme: Hidden Nature. Perhaps during lockdown you’ve noticed the natural world more, or perhaps you’ve always been a keen animal lover.

Whatever it may be, it’s the natural world we’re focusing on this week, and all the places that you might not expect to find it.


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Stranded at sea

This week we’re talking about being stranded at sea.

An estimated 250,000 seafarers were stranded at sea when the pandemic hit and lockdowns started being put into place around the world.

What is it like to be isolated at sea, both in history and in the present? And what has become of those seafarers, so key to cargo shipping, that were stuck at sea?

Join presenter Helen Czerski, curator Hannah Stockton, Reverend Dennis Woodward and Branko Berlan as we delve into the world of stranded seafarers. 

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The wreck of the RMS Titanic was first discovered on 1 September 1985.

For over 70 years the ship had lain at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, until it was finally located by a joint Franco-American expedition.

It remains the most infamous wreck in maritime history – but every year, marine archaeologists are recovering remarkable, often tragic objects from the deep.

Join presenter Helen Czerski, Royal Museums Greenwich curator Andrew Choong and marine archeologist Helen Farr to learn more about the sinking of the Titanic, and find out about the emotions - and ethics - of searching for shipwrecks.

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  • Helen Farr was part of the marine archeology team who in 2018 discovered the 'world's oldest intact' shipwreck, a Greek merchant ship in the Black Sea dating back more than 2,400 years.
  • Andrew Choong is the Curator of Historic Photographs & Ship Plans at Royal Museums Greenwich. In this episode he explores the fate of HMS Captain, and shows us just some of the remarkable objects from the Museum's Titanic collection.

How to find your way

Google Maps. GPS. Sat nav. Can you remember the last time you didn't use one of these to find your way?

This week we're exploring the story of navigation, from beautiful early maps to the latest in satellite technology.

But this isn't just a story of gadgets - it's also about the ways we use them. With that in mind, find out how refugees forced to flee their countries are using remarkable navigational tools to find their way to safety.

This week's guests:

  • Megan Barford, Curator of Cartography at Royal Museums Greenwich
  • Erika Jones, Curator of Navigation at Royal Museums Greenwich
  • Marie Gillespie, Professor of Sociology at the Open University

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Small acts of rebellion

We’re feeling a little rebellious this week. Maybe it's because it’s summer, and we’re all in need of a little escape from reality.

Or maybe it's because the Queen’s House has reopened: the beautiful art gallery is often home to Royal Museums Greenwich’s more radical projects...

Whatever the reason, we’re going to talk about the little acts of transgression that make us human, from historic graffiti to spoken word and speaking your mind.

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Who has the time?

The Royal Observatory is the home of Greenwich Mean Time. It's the place where for centuries astronomers tried to 'fix' time: to measure it, define it, and establish 'one time for all'. But we're human beings, and quite often time doesn't really feel 'fixed' at all...

As the Observatory reopens to visitors, join presenter Helen Czerski to discover everything you've ever wanted to know about time. Why does time sometimes feel like it's going really slowly – and sometimes incredibly quickly? What technologies have we developed to try and measure time more accurately, and why is Greenwich the home of GMT anyway? 

This week's guests include curator of the Royal Observatory Louise Devoy, Observatory astronomer Ed Bloomer, and psychologist and author Steve Taylor.

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Everything is rubbish

This week we're talking about rubbish - literally. What we throw away and what we keep. As part of National Marine Week, we'll be discussing the waste that ends up in our oceans and waterways. Joining presenter Helen Czerskis this week we have three indispensable guests: Royal Museums Greenwich curator Robert Blyth, Professor Pennie Lindeque and Dr Olwenn Martin.

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A guide to living on other planets

In July 2020 NASA plans to send a new rover called Perseverance to the surface of Mars. Its objective? To look for signs of past life.

But what exactly do you look for when you're searching for life on other planets? And could NASA's research on Mars eventually help humans leave Earth for good?

Join presenter Helen Czerski to find out everything you need to know about life on other planets and living in space, with Royal Museums Greenwich astronomers and curators and special guest Dallas Campbell.

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Cutty Sark

Ships, Sea and the Stars is back.

Discover more incredible stories of the sea, space, history and creativity with presenter Helen Czerski and Royal Museums Greenwich curators.

This week we're talk about Cutty Sark, and everything you've ever wanted to know about the beautiful ship as it prepares to reopen to visitors. Why was Cutty Sark built? What was life like on board? And how did it survive through storm, wind and fire?

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World Oceans Day

What do you see when you look at the sea? A world to investigate? An environment to protect? Or maybe simply a place to play? Join presenter Helen Czerski and special guests for a deep dive into our relationship with the ocean as part of World Oceans Day 2020

Meet the panel:

  • Lisa Koperqualuk, Vice President - International Affairs, Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada
  • Laura Boon, Lloyd’s Register Foundation Public Curator of Contemporary Maritime, Royal Museums Greenwich
  • Michael Pinsky, Artist
  • Professor Alex Rogers, Deep Sea ecologist and Science Director of REV Ocean

Enjoyed the show? 

With the Museum doors closed, we need your support more than ever. Find out how you can help us continue to care for the national collection.


What is it about mermaids that keep luring us in? The collections at Royal Museums Greenwich are full of these beautiful, strange figures, from grand oil paintings to odd sketches in the margins of journals and charts. But take another look and you'll see mermaids have changed again, from mythical creatures to powerful symbols of gender diversity. Join us this week on Ships, Sea and Stars to find out why...

This week's guests:

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Hidden Greenwich

The Royal Observatory, Cutty Sark, the Queen's House and National Maritime Museum - all these places remind us of Greenwich's unique history. But as well as these historic sites, there are many other stories from London's past waiting to be discovered here. Join us in uncovering hidden Greenwich, and uncover the secret histories of this beautiful stretch of the River Thames.

This week's guests:


Keeping shelves stocked - food, ships and supplies

Cutty Sark is a reminder of Britain’s sea trading past, but it's easy to forget how much we still rely on ships and ports to keep our food shelves stocked.

Over 85% of trade to and from the UK is transported by sea, and half of all the food we eat is imported. What is the history of this crucial maritime connection? And what's happening right now to keep those supply lines open? Find out on Ships, Sea and the Stars.

Togetherness - a Museum Week special

Every year galleries, libraries, archives and museums from across the world come together to celebrate Museum Week - and this week is no different. While we may not be able to meet in person at Royal Museums Greenwich just yet, we can still celebrate all the things that keep us united. 

In this week's episode, New Crescent Society founder Imad Ahmed explains how he and the Royal Observatory have joined forces to highlight the links between Islam and astronomy, while conservation manager Karen Jensen reveals what she's been doing to keep the Museum's collections safe during lockdown. Come together this Thursday and watch Ships, Sea and the Stars.

Escape to the Coast

It’s nearly the May bank holiday – a time that normally would see thousands in the UK flocking to the coast. Even if many of us can’t visit in person, it’s hard to ignore the tug of the tide. Find out about why so many people find themselves drawn to the shore, and the many different objects, artworks, memories and mementos that connect us to the coast.

This week's guests

  • Sue Prichard, Senior Curator of Art at Royal Museums Greenwich
  • Dr David Gange, author and Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Birmingham
  • Owen Humphreys, Press Association photographer

Keeping in touch: communication at a distance

Video calls have become a vital link for families and friends during these past weeks, but people have always found novel ways to stay in touch – whatever the circumstances. Watch now to find out how communication in isolation has always been a hurdle humans have strived to overcome.

Posted by Royal Museums Greenwich on Thursday, 30 April 2020

We’ve come a long way from putting a message in a bottle and hoping for the best. Video calls have become a vital link for families and friends during these past weeks, but people have always found novel ways to stay in touch.

Join presenter Helen Czerski and experts from Royal Museums Greenwich to learn about how humans have communicated throughout history, overcoming vast distances, fierce seas and extreme environments to get the message home.

Staying healthy at sea: art and craft in isolation

Sailors have long known that ‘the devil finds work for idle hands’ – but how exactly can arts and crafts help keep us both mentally and physically healthy? 

Physical activity and artistic expression have gone hand in hand at sea for centuries, and now many of us are following the same example, from virtual PE lessons to drawing, sewing and baking sessions. 

Find out the many ways art can help in isolation, and learn more about how the maritime industries today safeguard the seafarers of the 21st century.

Read more: Crafting an escape - how prisoners of war stitched their way to freedom

Do more: explore our fun family craft activities

Journeys into the Unknown

On the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13, Royal Museums Greenwich invites you on an adventure unlike any other. From deep sea to deep space via some of the most epic voyages in maritime history, find out what it’s like to venture into extreme environments – and what we’ve learned thanks to these remarkable human endeavours. 

Find more: human or robotic space exploration? Watch the debate on Curators Against the Clock

Castaways: isolation throughout history

Social distancing and self-isolation are strange and difficult new experiences for many of us - but looking back through history, being cut off from the outside world is nothing new.

From sailors and explorers stuck in cramped conditions or stranded far from home, to Tudor queens being ‘confined’ to their chamber during pregnancy, there are many examples of people who have faced isolation. How did these women and men cope with their situation - and what lessons can we learn from them?

Read more: dealing with self isolation: a desert island guide

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