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Attention All Shipping


Pictures from the exhibition:

Our 2012 Exhibition Attention All Shipping told the story of some of the major developments in maritime communications over the last 200 years. It started with the role played by the Stevenson family of Lighthouse Builders. (We are grateful to the Northern Lighthouse Board for copies of the original, very fine drawings). There was one ‘Black Sheep’ in the Stevenson family, who had no interest whatsoever in Engineering, but ironically, his name is known far more widely today, than the rest of the family put together. Robert Louis Stevenson was the grandson of the founder of the family engineering firm !

Wars are often the birthplace of great inventions! In the 1790s, hostilities with the French resulted in the British Admiralty commissioning the building of a string of Optical Telegraphs, radiating from London to where the fleets were anchored at Yarmouth, Deal, Portsmouth and Plymouth. In these pre-electric days, this was the first time that messages could be transmitted over long distances at speed. It is said that a test message was sent AND acknowledged, from London to Plymouth (215 miles) in about 8 minutes but obviously, the telegraph could only be used in good daylight conditions !

There is a section about Shipwrecks. With valuable input from Burntisland Heritage Trust, we are able to detail the biggest wreck in the Forth - HMS Campania - that lies just outside Burntisland. The Forth has been an important shipping area for hundreds of years but for much of this time, there were no lighthouses and ships were simply at the mercy of the wind.

One of the Museum’s most prized artefacts is on display this year – the Morse key from the German battleship Grosser Kurfurst, scuttled at Scapa Flow in 1919 and subsequently salvaged in 1938. This is the only key ever recovered from the German Fleet and was presented to a press photographer who covered the salvage operation. His widow donated it to the MoC, after hearing a BBC interview with Harry Matthews (the Museum’s founder), in 1986.

Fabulous images shown are ‘State of the Art’ multi beam sonar images and not photographs – reproduced with permission from Advanced Underwater Surveys Ltd (ADUS)

We devoted one section to the Titanic tragedy, in its centenary year. It is interesting to note that the label ‘Unsinkable’ was coined by the Press and not the shipbuilders! On display were artefacts of the period – including Spelterware figurines, magic lantern, typewriter, telephones and gramophones – and we drew a chilling comparison between Titanic and the recent foundering of the Costa Concordia…

We unravelled the mysteries of the Shipping Forecast and recalled the Pirate Radio stations of the 1960s. We were grateful to the RNLI for their very significant input in the exhibition and asked that our visitors would support their good work.

What else?