Shipwreck Survivors

June 2024

We hear about an exciting project to save and record accounts of shipwreck survivors. The project’s goal is to raise awareness and understanding of the experiences of those who have been unfortunate enough to experience shipwreck. This is crucially important at a time when familiarity with life at sea is diminishing and there is a noticeable absence of empathy for seafarers in distress – and yet, as a maritime nation, seafaring remains a huge part of our history and shipping is a growing industry that brings us ever more of our worldly needs. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Daniel Jamieson who is running the research project at the University of Plymouth. They discuss the long and fascinating history of shipwreck survivors’ accounts before discussing the many interviewees who have already contributed to the project, providing eyewitness insights into a variety of contemporary and well known maritime disasters as well as far more personal stories of maritime disaster. The stories include Helen Cawley, who survived the sinking of the liner Lakonia in 1963 as a 14-year old; Sheelagh Lowes, stranded on Suwarrow of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific 1996 for 6 months, her yacht Short Time having been thrown on a reef; a number of survivors of the sinking of the liner Andrea Doria in 1956; Sara Hedrenius, who survived the sinking of the ferry Estonia in 1994 in the Baltic; and Ben “Skippy” Cummings who’s vessel capsized and sank on a reef off Antigua, four miles from the finish of his trans-Atlantic race.

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