Death at Sea

April 2023

With frequent headlines in the news highlighting the plight of refugees suffering shipwreck in the Mediterranean, death at sea is an important contemporary issue. This episode explores the historical context of death sea. The age of sail was a period of expedition and conflict where seafarers were increasingly important to the fortunes of the nation. Their work at sea was complicated with many unique hazards which brought them closer to death, whether their own or that of those around them. Accidents and military action were joined by the dangers of disease and nutrition that were amplified in the tightly enclosed world of a floating vessel. Death was another challenge for a crew to overcome and their success depended on.

A focus on the ways in which the dead were treated and remembered by those around remind them is a compelling window into the values of the seafaring community. What were the practical considerations of burying the dead at sea? How was the dead body prepared and disposed of? What was the importance of folklore and supernatural to the seafaring community? How were deaths at sea memorialised?

To find answers to all of these questions and many more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Dr Dan O’Brien, historian of undertakers and funerals in eighteenth century England with a particular interest in death at sea.

  • View The Transcription

    Sam Willis 

    From the Society for Nautical Research in partnership with Lloyd’s Register Foundation, I’m Sam Willis. And this is the Mariners Mirror podcast, the world’s number one podcast dedicated to all of maritime history. Hello, everyone and welcome to the Mariners Mirror Podcast. Today, we have an important topic, as so often today we see tragic tales on the news of migrant ships sinking in the Mediterranean. The bodies recovered from the sea and laid out on the beaches paint a terrible picture of the risks that these people are prepared to take to seek asylum or migrate to Europe, from the coasts of North Africa, and Turkey. Those recovered bodies are only part of the bigger full picture. In fact, since 2014, 26,377,migrants have been recorded as missing at sea, presumed dead. Now there are various ways that you can pick this topic apart to help understand the context. There is for example, a long history of migration via the Mediterranean and human mobility in all directions across the Mediterranean has been recorded for 1000s of years. Today, we’re looking more broadly at the topic of death at sea to give this modern phenomenon some important historical context. To find out more I spoke with Dan O’Brien, a historian of undertaker’s and funerals in 18th century England, with a particular interest in death at sea. Dan is a visiting research fellow at the Centre of Death in Society at the University of Bath. As you will shortly discover Dan is a man of deep thought and knowledge about the passing of time and the temporary nature of the human condition. If you woke up feeling confident in your place here on Earth, you may very well finish this podcast with an appreciation of our fleeting time here, and how our experiences and life will be remembered by those we leave behind. Let it be celebrated that the Mariners Mirror podcast makes our listeners appreciate their own mortality. I hope you enjoyed listening to him as much as I enjoyed talking with him. If this is the last podcast I ever published, then so be it. I would be proud to have spent my last few moments on air with this guest, here is the fluent the fascinating and slightly troubling, Dan.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Dan, thank you very much for joining me today.

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    Brilliant. Thanks for having me, Sam.

     

    Sam Willis 

    So death at sea, I will focus on the age of sail to start with. I think it’s a fascinating topic, involves so much expedition and conflict, can you just talk a little about the unique the unique experience of sailors during the age of sail?

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    I think it’s really interesting, because during the age of sail, there’s such uncertainty. And there’s such promise when people involve themselves in nautical travel, you have the opportunity to make yourself and to further your country. At the same time, the dangers are immense. One thing I’ve certainly encountered, reading for today, is that there are so many dangers, and the people who are involved in these voyages are keenly aware of those dangers as well. They’re very aware of how close they are to death and injury. It’s really fascinating, because in some ways it appeared when we start to see the world becoming slightly smaller. Actually there’s a sort of a terrifying enormity to the sea, at this time, it’s full of uncertainties and dangers, far more so than the land. Many who live their whole lives on land would consider 18th century 17th century England to be a place of tremendous dangers, on the open road. But at sea, there are so many more, it’s a place where people, particularly people when they’re contemplating their end, and they’re thinking about their life, and what they expect from their life. They are faced by if any kind of the small size of their own existence in a larger universe and a universe where their god if you like is very close to them. And it’s a fascinating space for that reason, I think because a lot of the certainties of life on land are not present, but the people who find themselves in these spaces create a sort of order that kind of guides them through that that unknown land.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Let’s just talk a little about the hazards. This is sprung into my brain, when I was doing my PhD, in the first year I came across, this is a long, long time ago, I came across some surgeons journals in the, in the National Archives, and there were not many of them, there were just a handful of them. And they record accidents at sea. And I loved it because there was so many of them, you’d think people would be falling from aloft. And yes, they’re worse examples of that with the American sailors that fell down hatch ways, or dropped cannonballs on their feet, or there’s another one of my favourites. So anyway, very painful, that probably didn’t kill them, it might have broken their ankle. But even just a glimpse at a few of those surgeons journals made you realise the dangers. Let’s just talk about little out, lay them out for our listeners about the dangers of being at sea, I’ll start the dangers of working aloft, there’s one for you.

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    Working aloft is fantastic. I think, even in the security of the ship itself, the dangers of disease, and contagious disease that you might be familiar with from land, but on a ship, it can spread quickly. And there’s a real uncertainty to who will survive who won’t survive. And of course, the loss of every individual there places further stress on the crew. And then, of course, you’ve got the dangerous from without, as well, you, you have the risk of storms, you have the risk of enemy action. And those things are kind of incursive threats that kind of threaten you within the safety of your ship. And then I think there’s even smaller things, you that there are those kinds of everyday accidents that people who are engaged in, in kind of labouring activities, face, injuries, which can be quite small, physical injuries, contusions, burns, but things which can cycle out of control, and become very threatening to a person who’s a long way from, from help, and is maybe at the mercy of someone who doesn’t have the brand for medical experience, either.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Yeah, I think if you go on a square rigged ship, even now, it becomes incredibly clear just how dangerous they are, there’s a lot of very heavy stuff going on, the ship then moves in all sorts of different dimensions. And you’ve also got the world above you, when I walk around, usually, there’s not much above me, there might be a tree, if I’m gonna take my dog for a walk. But there isn’t this kind of colossal rigging, which is immensely heavy, and it’s populated a lot of the time by people who can drop stuff on you, they can fall, its an incredibly dangerous three dimensional environment. And I think it made people really alert to their, to their fears and their insecurities.

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    Definitely, and I think if like you say, there’s, there’s this very immediate threat to people who are on ship of being quite suddenly hit by something or struck by something and, kind of wiped out, maybe if you if someone drops a hammer from heights, or if someone drops in any kind of tool really from height, if you get struck by that, that could be a suddenly fatal blow. And that’s a lot to think about, really, if you’re kind of in if those day to day threats are coming at you from so many different angles. And you’re in a way that kind of makes you very dependent on the people around you, everyone kind of depends on everyone else to do their bit. But when everyone’s kind of working, when everyone’s busy, in such a three dimensional environment, those risks can become greater than the mitigations for those risks as well. And I think that’s, that’s something which you definitely don’t really find on land in this period, you don’t find that kind of sudden uncertainty, the feeling that you might suddenly be wiped out of existence by, by something because, terrestrial life is quite static in that respect, there’s not like you say, there’s not much going on above you. You might have a lightning storm where you might have someone might be working on a roof, but those things are quite rare, and they’re far less certain to happen than they would if you

     

    Sam Willis 

    If you could reduce it to the most basic thing, even standing up at sea is dangerous, and you can’t take it for granted. And there’s also this whole question, I was talking about surgeons, but the whole questions of medicine, of course, I mean, you you might, as you said, get a burn or a contusion or something, but that might kill you, especially if you’re in the tropics. So you could have a very, what we would consider a minor ailments, but it could spell the end.

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    Definitely. And it’s it’s one of those, those real concerns as well because particularly in the period that I look at, a lot of the medical provision is based around what people themselves buy and bring on the ships as well. So you’re really at the mercy of what you’re human, you’re sort of medical specialist is able to bring on boards and how maybe how survivable some of those things will be as well and how much of them they’ll be left if you’re travelling long distances. So, after a time those risks can increase. And like you say, going into the tropics becomes a risk as well. And I think, certainly from some of the things I’ve read, there’s, there’s quite an acute awareness when you move from one climate to the other, those risks can change quite dramatically. And you can be quite unprepared for some of the risks which occur when you shift from maybe a familiar climb into a less familiar climb. And that can be quite damaging for a crew, if they suddenly lose lots of people, if illness takes hold, and it’s an unfamiliar or tropical illness that people aren’t prepared for, that can can start to lose important members of your crew around you. And then those risks start to increase as well, when the unfamiliar people start taking over those responsibilities.

     

    Sam Willis 

    That’s interesting. I also suspect it would make the general population who’ve had more experience in the maritime world than perhaps we do today, being more empathetic to those suffering from grief. So more people will have suffered from grief, because more people will have known more people who had been at sea, it seems to have been something that we’ve now grown out of, do you agree with that?

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    I think so I think there’s a certainly, a sense of these are people who understand a shared sense of loss and a sense of the precocity that comes with ever present death and the risk of ever present death. And I think, in a way, traditionally, maybe there was a sense that when people experienced death frequently and makes them sort of hardened to death. But I think the reality is that these people, in fact, have a keener sense of that loss.  They have a very personal sense of the loss of others as well through their own experiences, whether that’s seeing people on board the ship, who they know who’ve died, or whether it’s families on land, who know of a friends or family members who’ve passed as well, there’s a sense that it’s almost like a shared community. It’s a very broad kind of shared community of people who have that same shared experience, whether it’s transferred through written or spoken means or even through memorials as well.

     

    Sam Willis 

    As memorials are fascinating. We’ll talk about them in a minute. Okay, let’s look at practicalities How was a dead body disposed of at sea?

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    Okay, so the disposal of a dead body is is one of them really interesting differences between death on land and death at sea. The disposal of a dead body at Sea has a lot of similarities with the disposal of a body on land. But there are some really interesting points of difference as well, which are kind of a consequence, if you will have the very unusual nature of burial at sea. So when someone dies, the body is prepared. And this takes a fairly traditional form in the period, the body, if there’s time will be washed and cleaned, usually by members of the dead person’s close community. That, again, is quite a traditional aspect of people’s preparations for death on land and at sea. After that, the body will then be kind of in shrouded, usually with the assistance of a sailmaker. And they will sew the body into essentially like a big wrapping or shroud made of canvas. And this is a really interesting point where the the kind of the final stitch comes in, which is the slightly questionable issue of whether or not the very final most stitch on the stripe passes through the nose of the deceased. I’ve never actually come across any evidence for that in the 18th century. I’ve heard of cases from the 19th century when allegedly that happened, I can see the merit of such an action, potentially, because it’s a way maybe of checking that the dead person is really dead. But then I’ve also encountered sources from the 17th and 18th century where people were quite clearly alive, who kind of at the very last minute kind of announced that they were, you know that they were actually not dead. So they clearly hadn’t had this done to them. So I think maybe it’s one of those myths. But I think what it encapsulates is that moment of closing up that moment of sealing off. And of course, when you’re being buried at sea, unless you’re a very high status member of the crew, the likelihood is that you will be buried and shrouded in canvas. And that’s quite a difference to is land burial period where people would expect in the 18th century, the late 17th century even to be buried within a coffin. So you’ve been in the kind of cosy, very concealing confines of a wooden coffin, but at sea you’re wrapped in the shroud. And of course, when you’re wrapped in the shroud, you have some shot placed in there as well. That very practically is to ensure that the body sinks and goes to the the ocean floor. So at that point, you can prepare the body, you’ve got it ready, you’ve got the shot in, you’ve went sealed up, the hope is that this is going to be enough to ensure that you kind of maintain the dignity of the body and everything stays intact and sinks out of sight. When the funeral happens,

     

    Sam Willis 

    Can I just come in there? That’s an interesting point, why did it matter that everything was out of sight? Why did they have to sink to the ocean floor?

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    It’s quite in a way, it’s it seems to be a fairly important aspect of ensuring that there is separation between the dead and the living and the hope that by placing the body into the sea weighted, and allowing it to sink all the way to the bottom, it won’t float, it won’t kind of exist anywhere on the surface, it kind of it won’t return to the surface, because there is this theory that accompanies burial at sea. If it’s not conducted properly, there may be supernatural consequences that there may be risks faced by the members of the crew for improperly burying a member of their community. It’s quite interesting, because when we see examples of sea burial where it goes wrong, that moment where the body lingers on the surface, is viewed rather negatively, it’s viewed as being a rather unpleasant or kind of confrontational moment between the dead body and the crew, where they’re faced with their own failure to dispose of it properly to create that boundary between them, because boundaries in the 18th century are quite important, and the 17th. The idea once the dead bodies buried that is separated from the living now that’s very easy to achieve in a land burial, because the caffeinated bodies placed in the ground and earth is placed on top of it. And that kind of boundary between the living and the dead is closed. At Sea, it’s far harder, it’s far less certain, because the sea itself has a degree of liminality. to it. It’s kind of a permeable space where things can go in and come back out again. So by hoping to ensure that that body sinks all the way down, you can do as much as you possibly can to ensure that separation between. There is a really interesting account from a Dutch traveller, who sailed with the Dutch East India Company. What was quite interesting about his experience was that he witnessed a sea burial where things did go rather wrong. The body once it was tossed into the sea, lowered into the sea, if you will, didn’t sink, it floats. When it floats, the members of the crew who are with him, watch the body, and they start to discuss what the body is doing now become rather curious about whether or not the body is continually facing east when it floats in the water, with the sense that maybe bodies placed in the sea, kind of almost instinctively, face towards the east as in an appropriate Christian burial. What’s really interesting about that is their curiosity reaches the level of some of them taking a pole and poking the body to see how it moves and to see whether it corrects its course and then floats with its head facing towards the east. Again, I think this is really interesting because it highlights two things. One, this sense that the sea is an unusual space, and we can view the sea unfavourably as a permeable and dangerous place where the living can be attacked by the dead who can’t be kept from them. We can also view the sea as essentially a sort of enormous burial ground where the souls of the dead can live across an enormous space, unconstrained by soil. So maybe it’s this kind of idealised burial space. More curiously, the sense that these men can tell where the head of the body is, gives a sense that when you’ve got this in shrouded body, you can still kind of discern the human form, it still has a level of humanity to it, that a body in a coffin doesn’t have, you know, body in a coffin has a sort of Avatar like quality, where it’s kind of reduced to the very inhuman form of the coffin. That becomes the closest we get to contact with the dead individual. But with this in shrouded corpse, the people can see where the head is, and they can start to think about it as still existing as a body and I think it’s, it’s quite a sort of ma carb curious thing. These people on the ship are starting to think about, you know, what it’s doing and what that means and, and in a way because they’re interacting with this pole and sort of prodding it, they haven’t quite separated themselves from it. As a member of their crew, they haven’t quite released it to the deep, kind of lingers they’re uncertain

     

    Sam Willis 

    It’s interesting because you could, you could quite easily turn a human shaped body in a wrapped in a sail into a non human shaped body wrapped in a sail by stuffing it with stuff or putting some planks in it. You definitely could make it more have more coffin like but they obviously chose not to do that, which is quite an interesting point.

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    Right its interesting, there are some accounts of people trying to do that, trying to kind of stuff other items into sort of confuse the form of the body. I think for the most part, what we’re encountering is, is a body which is quite similar to the sorts of the pre coffin burial forms were certainly in the mediaeval in the early, early modern, sort of into the 17th century at the beginning, you have those enshrouded burials on land, where it’s quite clear that there is a human form being buried in the ground, that kind of keeps people closer to, to the presence of the dead alongside them. Now, it’s interesting because of course, when we, when we have that moment of burial, the moment of burial has a ceremony around it, which assumes quite a similar form, to the land based view. So you know, when we’re thinking about all these differences between burial at sea and burial on land, the actual funeral service itself has a lot of similarities, there’s an encounter between the individual assuming the role of minister and the corpses you would have, at the entrance to the churchyard, you have that moment where the people are summoned by bells or guns. And again, that’s quite similar to how the tolling of the bell in the land base funeral calls those people to the service, and marks that moment of the funerals beginning. The separation between the moment before the funeral and the time of the funeral. And then the moment after the funeral again, that way of kind of creating different boundaries between the living and the dead. And then again, we have the Book of Common Prayer, and the Book of Common Prayer. The reading that you use for a sea burial is almost identical to the land burial, except when it talks about, you know, placing the dead into the ground, here you have a place in the dead into the sea. And the sense that this individual will, much as the dead go into the land until the Day of Judgement, this individual will go into the sea, until the day when the dead are called from the sea at the Last Judgement. So it tries to create these kind of carry similarities at the same time between land burial and sea burial. And I think it’s an interesting way of maybe in some other distant was kind of trying to organise an order that moments of burial to give it a sense of form and structure, even if some of the events before that, before the burial and indeed, after the burial can be very uncertain. And those are the moments where we see folklore kind of creeping in and this you know, the sense of creating those boundaries, the penalties for not creating those boundaries and, and the other things that attend that

     

    Sam Willis 

    Tell me about how deaths at sea were memorialised.

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    So the memorization of death of seas is an interesting aspect because one of the key things with the sea is we you know, we think about the seas as a burial space. Probably the greatest difference between the sea as a burial space, and the land as a burial space is the inability to place a marker where the deceased has been buried. And this is in the 18th century, as we go into the 19th century. This is really important because up until the sort of mid to late 18th century, people aren’t really memorialising they’re dead on land, in a widespread way, there’s not the same culture of materialization we might be familiar with, you know, in in that was sort of the the main 19th century. But people start to to memorialise their dead on land. And when they do, it creates that point of separation between burial at sea and burial on land, because the expectation arises that people who are buried on land will be buried in perpetuity, that they will be placed in their graves and they will remain in those graves forever. So quite often, perpetuity isn’t entirely promised. But it’s expected. And I think expectation here have become slightly more important than practice because people believe that if you’re placed in the ground, if you’re remains are intact, then that’s where you will be on the Day of Judgement. And that’s essentially the sign that your relatives have done the right thing they placed you they buried you, they memorialised. But the memorial is also really important because it creates a space where you can be visited where you can be remembered and that your individual name your identity, some of the things that made you important can be recalled by family members. And it kind of creates the opportunity after you died, or repeated contact with you so people can come back to where you are, they can talk to you, they can, lay Memorial Items, they can remember. But at sea, that’s not possible. So you have to create those proxies. And this sort of proxy memorials that occur tend to be restricted to people of great and of higher status. In the Atlantic community, America and to a lesser extent in England, there are some attempts by people to add the people who died sea onto the existing memorials of those buried on land. So when the opportunity presents itself, a name will be included on a headstone. It will be kind of included amongst that list of the family dead in a family plot. But I think what’s really interesting is that for the people of great status, you know, for those kinds of great military leaders who died at sea, there’s a lot of materialization. And the materialization kind of encapsulates that desire, both to remember the deceased to advance the claims of the nation. And but also at the same time to retell the story of the moment when they died, and to retell the kind of the story of the moment where they defined themselves, which is usually that same event where they died. And I think it’s really interesting. I, I kind of, I came across a couple of good examples quite recently in Westminster Abbey,

     

    Sam Willis 

    I was going to say, I was literally about to interrupt. I wrote a book on the glorious first of June battle called the glorious first of June, and I didn’t know how I was going to begin it. And then I was weirdly visiting Westminster Abbey. And I’m just going to jump in here. So nowadays, if you go into Westminster Abbey, you go in through the north door or the east, you go in through, you basically don’t go in through the massive West door, okay? You go out that way, or the way that was the way I was taken. But if you I then turned around with my kid and pretended I was going into Westminster Abbey, the way you’re supposed to go into Westminster Abbey, which is through the enormous West door. If you go in through that door, the first thing you see, I can’t remember if on the left or on the right, but it’s literally by the front door of one of the most important churches in the country is a memorial to a sailor who died at the glorious first of June. It is it is the most important place in Westminster Abbey. I think it’s by the door, everyone sees it. It’s where you put your you know, your wellies and your walking sticks if you are in your house, but if it’s chilly, it’s just there. It’s fantastic. Anyway, everyone should go to Westminster Abbey, which is full of maritime memorials, but have a look particularly at the one on the west door. I think it’s on the left as you’re in. Anyway, I’ve stolen your thunder you carry on tell me about Westminster Abbey,

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    I would I would highly endorse it. For that reason I was I was astonished actually, myself, I, because I think I’ve always I’ve always sort of cultivate this sense of St. Paul’s is the kind of the pantheon of national heroes and such but, you know, with Nelson being below the floor and all that. But some, yeah, Westminster Abbey has this fantastic collection of very vivid memorials, to people who’ve died, often rather suddenly at sea, or possibly rather ingloriously at sea, in moments of, of kind of national celebration and glory. And I think what’s, what’s really interesting about them as structures is the way that they combine both the figurative language of kind of memory and triumph, they have Britannia, for example, you have Fame the figure with a trumpet who kind of appears quite frequently on these memorials. And then you also have these very vivid depictions of the naval encounters themselves and sometimes even depictions of the ships which these individuals served on. So I think probably the one that came to mind most was the the Three Captains Memorial and the three captains Memorial we now have you have this fantastic kind of triangular structure to it, where has this has a great sort of height, and it has is populated by many, many figures. And it’s quite interesting because actually on it, you know, the three captains themselves,

     

    Sam Willis 

    who were they, what doe it relate to? give us a time period.

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    The three captains Memorial remembers how William Blair, William Bayne and Lord Robert Manners, and they all die in the battle of the saints or as a result of Battle of the saints.

     

    Sam Willis 

    So this is talking about the American Revolutionary War. 1780s

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    Yeah. So this is so it’s, in essence is a very significant battle. It’s a very great British triumph. But these three individuals have died. So, the monument kind of achieves that level of expectation, presents us with a series of different figures kind of arranged in this kind of very dramatic triangular form with fame at the very top with these kind of giant wings looking a bit like an angel with a trumpet. And then below you have Britannia with a lion. And you have Neptune with a, I believe what is intended to be a seahorse, but it looks more like a kind of a just like a giant horse in the waters, it’s a very dramatic scene, again, populated by these very, kind of boldly kind of figurative characters, you know, characters that aren’t really, you know, features of real life. Within the memorial, the captains themselves reduced to these three rather fashionable looking cameo pieces, presenting their heads, and giving a sense of who they were meant as individuals, but in a very kind of distant way. And behind each one of these, we have the ships that they served on as well. So we have a sense with these men, these are these are individuals who died. But actually, we get a sense that they are kind of placed within this wider narrative, not necessarily about death, or about suffering or about hardship, which are the things that we narratives we find that people talk about the sea is a place of uncertainty and kind of suffering, that here we have, essentially a very triumphal image of these three individuals. With a constant reminder that these were people who served on these ships, the ships are at the heart of the, of their story. And it’s, it’s quite an interesting Memorial because it’s, you know, I think if you, if you didn’t fully know who they were, you wouldn’t necessarily know that it was a naval Memorial. It kind of warrants a closer look. But when you do look closer, then it’s it’s really sort of rich visual language. And you do see kind of motifs of ships appearing quite frequently in memorials. Often there’s reminders of vessels that people have served on as a very visual kind of reminder of maybe an experience and a service that was quite separate to land quite separate to the audience who might be looking at these things. And that’s quite that’s a nice one to start with. Because again, there’s a tremendous scale to it as well. And I think it’s, it’s quite imposing, but it’s interesting how, within the memorial, we have a sense that these people did something really good and really profitable for their nation. Even if their end, you know, was maybe slightly less than then than that.

     

    Sam Willis 

    So we’ve got just a memorial here we’re talking about memorial at Westminster Abbey so you know, very high status very important. Lots of people have seen it. I’m just want to contrast this with contemporary death at sea. Now I spend quite a lot of time in Cornwall and on the cliffs in Cornwall, you will often find right at the end, a little crucifix, perhaps memorialising, maybe a fisherman maybe someone who died in the sea swimming, you know, that kind of tragedy has anyone looked at the kind of the modern material culture of death at sea.

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    I’ve not come across much actually, it’s interesting that you mentioned you know, the idea of kind of commemorating people within that kind of literal space and commemorating them near the sea, because there is a lot of research into people attempting to memorialise a marker place where someone has died because traditionally, Memorial structures are placed within a burial ground. But obviously, when you die at sea your body is potentially, if you’re lost at sea, your body is separated from the land, so there’s no immediate place to memorialise them. So, you know, I suppose there’s an urgency to memorialise the place or near to the place where you died. And it’s, it’s interesting because a lot of the writing about for example, the places where people who were killed in road accidents are commemorated those kinds of spontaneous memorials. And, you know, they’re very interesting structures because often the place that they memorialise is a place that was significant to that person’s life in as much as it’s the place where their life ended, and often whether life ended quite suddenly. And that can be an attempt for the bereaved people to engage with the deceased individual in some way to recognise that kind of the rest of a life that was stolen from them or a life that was suddenly cut short in a space because I think, and this kind of applies even to the 18th century there’s an expectation that you know, people will live long and happy lives, you know, long unfulfilled lives and often with the sudden death they challenge that you know, the spontaneity of them, the uncertenty of why they happened or where they happened even starts to kind of pose questions for the bereaved. And often the way to answer that is to, to engage, kind of take some agency over the space where that individual died.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Well, this is all fascinating stuff. I think I could speak to you for hours. In fact, what I’m going to do, I’m going to suggest that you come back on the podcast and you did mention Nelson being buried under the floor of St. Paul’s. I think we should have another episode and we’ll talk about heroic death and tragic death and St. Paul’s and Nelson we’ll release it around the time of Trafalgar. How about that? Thank you very much for your time Dan. I think it was fascinating and I look forward to speaking to you again.

     

    Dan O’Brien 

    Thank you very much.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Well, I hope you all enjoyed that it’s time to get out and go for a walk and feel the wind in your hair. I suspect. I would recommend you all to follow on Twitter. His feed is absolutely brilliant. He is at Dr. Dan underscore O. I particularly enjoyed his latest quote from an artefact in the British Museum. Many other days of darkness if you’re interested in such creepy things, and also make sure you head over to the mariners mirror podcast YouTube page where you can see a fabulous video we have made using artificial intelligence to recreate Nelson’s face from a plaster cast made not after his death, as you might suspect, but when he was very much alive. You will also find there are many other fabulous things there’s much more on its way I am as we speak about to edit an animation of the patented Wasteney-Smith stockless anchor design and fabulous it is to. I’m also about to speak with the designers, great granddaughter who has quite a bit to say about her fabulous relative. So do expect some detailed geeky anchor tech discussions coming your way on the mariners mirror podcast. Please also remember to tell everyone you know about the podcast. It’s how we grow how we meet the challenge, we’ve set ourselves of teaching the world about the importance of maritime history. The podcast itself is only one part, the bigger part is you, please do all you can to spread the word. Remember also that the podcast comes from both the Society for Nautical Research and the Lloyd’s Register Foundation. Please check out the Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s latest brilliant project ‘maritime innovation in miniature’ just Google it. That’s maritime innovation in miniature, and you will find the world’s best ship models filmed with the very latest camera technology. It’s mind blowing. Please also join the Society for Nautical Research you can do that at snr.org.uk It’s a great way of learning about the maritime past, of meeting like minded people. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Category: | |