SNR Winter Lectures 2022/2023

October 2022

9 Nov 18:30

Captain Peter King The life and times of the merchant schooner Supply, 1832 to 1861

I first came across Supply in a footnote to a paper on the Coconut Oil Trade from the Gilbert Islands by the distinguished Pacific Island historian Prof. H.E. Maude in his book “Of Islands and Men” The footnote in respect to Supply stated:

Smith had a particular affection for the Supply, which he bought in 1851 for £750, presumably with a view to the new Gilberts venture and from all accounts [quoting from the Sydney Shipping Gazette 27 September, 1851] ‘she was a lovely schooner, built of the best British oak for the Trinity House Commissioners, who had used her as their yacht’.

The Trinity House (of Deptford Stronde) has never had Commissioners per se and never owned a yacht called Supply. My interest was aroused. That I was reading Maude’s book in the first case reflected my great interest and love of the Pacific Islands and their people, arising from my first command, the cargo-passenger MV Moanaraoi trading in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony, 1968-70. As it transpired, during that period of her colourful life from 1851 to 1854, Supply was serving on an almost identical trade to that followed by MV Moanaroi 115 years later under my command. My interest was further enlivened by service as Director of Operations of the Trinity House Lighthouse Service from 1991 to 1999, with responsibilities for the general aids to navigation about the coasts of England Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, which involved frequent interface with the Irish Lighthouse Service.

My ensuing research into the life and times of Supply, research which has incorporated a number of false leads, has proven to be a fascinating journey across many miles of ocean including visits to Ireland, Australia, Kiribati, French Polynesia and California. Subsequent research has posed many queries, some of which remain un-answered. This paper reflects my researches to date.

7 Dec Dr Crosbie Smith The Sea’s Capricious Fury

Ask a discerning audience of 100 people to name a famous author of any sea story involving a merchant steamer – and the answers might well include Joseph Conrad for Typhoon and Lord Jim published around 1900.  This talk revisits Typhoon. Few writers have captured so profoundly the character of the sea as Conrad, himself a former master mariner in sail with experience principally in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Set in eastern waters, his short novel Typhoon dramatically illustrated the theme that scientific models, however well-grounded in mathematics, did not allow humans to exert control over nature’s capricious powers. In revisiting Typhoon, I show just how pervasive in Conrad’s literature was the word “Capricious” and argue that, though almost certainly familiar to him as a reader of Dostoyevsky, the term is highly applicable to Victorians’ sense of the sea’s “senseless and capricious fury; how its surface was forever changing, and yet always enticing, while its depths were for ever the same, cold and cruel, and full of the wisdom of destroyed life.”

18 Jan  Dr Ben Redding The First Voyage of the Gloucester (1654-56): Life and Death in the Caribbean

The public announcement of the finding of the Gloucester shipwreck in June 2022 off North Norfolk, originally lost in May 1682, has attracted both national and international attention. This paper looks at the wider career of the Gloucester by focusing on its first major voyage to the Caribbean during the Cromwellian Commonwealth. It shows that the Gloucester’s significance to history expands beyond the shipwreck; it was also an important asset to British war efforts and geopolitics in the Caribbean. Exploring the experiences of the Gloucester’s crew, it reveals how they faced extreme physical and mental hardships in an unforgiving environment.

Dr Benjamin Redding is Senior Research Associate on the Gloucester Project at the University of East Anglia. Together with Professor Claire Jowitt, he is writing a cradle-to-grave history of the historically and culturally significant seventeenth-century warship.

15 Feb  Dr Nick Hewitt  LCT 7074 – details to follow

As soon as they are available full details of the programme will be posted in the member’s area of the SNR website.




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