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A different kind of guide on seafarers’ rights
Steamships and steamboats: A lost age reclaimed in art

Steamships and steamboats: A lost age reclaimed in art

In mid-June of 1819, the SS Savannah sounded the death knell for the Age of Sail when it completed the first steam-powered voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. True, the historic hybrid vessel relied on its sails for most of the journey. But this was the start of something big. Steamships and steamboats would eventually become ubiquitous — making passenger sea travel easier, expanding commerce and even changing the nature of naval warfare. The maritime Age of Steam would also fade away but not completely, thanks to the artists who drew inspiration from it.

A litany of sins against seafarers, on land and at sea

A litany of sins against seafarers, on land and at sea

There is never a dearth of news reports about seafarers being cheated, abused or otherwise mistreated. The whole thing goes on and on, in spite of the many bleeding hearts in shipping. The following is a list of the myriad ways in which the rights of mariners are violated, both on land and at sea. Ironically, some are being overlooked or ignored by the maritime press and by those who profess love and compassion for seafarers.

What’s wrong with the campaigns vs. depression at sea?

What’s wrong with the campaigns vs. depression at sea?

After several posts about the subject, I thought I would not have to write again about depression at sea. But some maritime charities continue to beat the war drums. They try to paint depression as a scourge on today’s seafarers, something that has to be defeated like ISIL or Al-Qaeda. Promoting mental health amongst those who work at sea is commendable. So what’s wrong with these well-intentioned efforts to combat seafarer depression?

Recent Posts

The irony of time revealed in maritime photos

The irony of time revealed in maritime photos

Time, it is often said, changes everything.. This is not exactly true. As the following pairs of maritime photographs show, some things change dramatically after the lapse of many years and others, little or not at all. The American-British poet T.S. Eliot was right. “Time the destroyer is time the preserver.” he wrote in The Dry Salvages, the third poem of his famous Four Quartets.

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Shell fantasy: Six camera and mind compositions

Shell fantasy: Six camera and mind compositions

As any avid shell collector knows, seashells are the hard exoskeletons (external coverngs) of marine molluscs which serve both as their home and their armour. They are the remnants of creatures that have long passed away. As a photographer, my aim in this set of pictures was to try to give seashells a new kind of life and vitality. These are actual photographs, not manipulated digital images. I hope you enjoy viewing each one.

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Leontine (Leo) von Littrow: A gifted woman and her seascapes

Leontine (Leo) von Littrow: A gifted woman and her seascapes

When it comes to art, it is talent — not gender — that matters. However, the fact that Leontine von Littrow was a woman is worth mentioning. This gifted Austrian painter lived at a time when the world of art was dominated by men, often to the prejudice of women. In fact, early in her career, Littrow began signing her works “Leo von Littrow” just so they would be included in art exhibitions.

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The ageless charm of lighthouses in old drawings and prints

The ageless charm of lighthouses in old drawings and prints

We have been so spoiled by colours that many of us may overlook the power of monochrome art. The following drawings, etchings, engravings and lithographs of lighthouses lack the usual colours that mesmerise the eye. Yet, they all bring out the beauty and splendour of lighthouses. They are a testament as well to the skill of the artists who were fascinated by these structures.

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Remembering how it was to travel by sea in old photos

Remembering how it was to travel by sea in old photos

Before the advent of passenger air travel in 1914, there were only ships to carry people across the ocean. Voyages were long, and they could be dull and dreary. But they had a sensory and emotional dimension that made them quite unforgettable. The blare of the ship’s horn before it departed… the multitude of hands waving farewell on the wharf… the sound of undulating waves… and, yes, the heady smell of salt water as one stood on the deck. The following photographs are a reminder of what it was like to travel by sea back in the day.

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Cool lessons from Confucius for today’s ship officers

Cool lessons from Confucius for today’s ship officers

My dream project has always been to write a new code of conduct for seafarers — a credo that would lay down for them a path to self-realisation and a way of life, something similar to the Bushido of the samurai warriors. I am slowly working on it. This undertaking will take some time to finish. Meanwhile, let me share some words of wisdom from Confucius. Although the latter lived more than 2,000 years ago, his teachings should resonate with today’s ship officers and other merchant marine professionals.

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A salute to seagulls in poetry, music and art

A salute to seagulls in poetry, music and art

Seagulls can be quite pesky. The loud, harsh sounds they make are no music to the ear. An Encyclopedia Britannica article describes seagulls as “adaptable opportunists” that feed on whatever food they can find. “Some of the larger gulls,” it notes, “prey on the eggs and the young of other birds, including their own kind.” Despite their notoriety, these birds continue to captivate many people with their beauty, resilience and freedom.

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Worst of times for seafarers but not due to COVID-19

Worst of times for seafarers but not due to COVID-19

It’s certainly not the best of times — what with the COVID-19 pandemic killing more than 2.4 million people worldwide thus far; wrecking entire economies; and sowing fear and despair all around. But for many seafarers, it has never been the best of times (see my post, ‘35 things that make life more difficult for seafarers’). Indeed, for those who work at sea, the worst of times is always just around the corner and it can pop up as when…

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A cupful of Chilean marine art à la espresso

A cupful of Chilean marine art à la espresso

Like other Latin American countries, Chile has produced some brutal military dictators such as Augusto Pinochet. But it also a country of poets and painters. Two Chilean poets were awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature: Gabriela Mistral (in 1945) and Pablo Neruda (in 1971). There is no dearth of gifted painters either. The following is a small serving of marine paintings by Chilean artists. I hope you enjoy them as you would a cup of delicious coffee.

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Lovers by the sea: A timeless celebration in art

Lovers by the sea: A timeless celebration in art

So much for the pandemic, declarations of seafarers as ‘key workers’, and all that nonsense about mental health training. To hijack a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of by people in the shipping business. The following are some works of art that celebrate romantic love against the backdrop of the sea. Love and the sea — are they not more enduring than the things maritime folks like to blabber about?

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