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.

Vaterland Departs, 5/26/14
Bain News Service, publisher
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

SANTA ANNA ship sailing, between c. 1910 and c. 1915
Bain News Service, publisher
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

The Steerage, 1907 (negative) / 1915 (photogravure)
Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946)
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Steerage, 1907 (negative) / 1915 (photogravure)
Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946)
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Passenger lying on a deck chair, smoking a pipe, c. 1900
Courtesy of the Australian National Maritime Museum

Arrival OLYMPIC 1911
Bain News Service, publisher
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

~ Barista Uno

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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.

The following sayings were taken from ‘The Analects of Confucius’ by William Edward Soothill, a Methodist missionary to China and a leading British sinologist. The book was pubished in 1910.


The noble man is pained over his own incompetency, he is not pained that others ignore him.
— Confucius: Analects


The nobler type of man is broad-minded and not partisan. The inferior man is partisan and not broad-minded.
— Confucius: Analects

The wise man in his attitudes towards the world has neither predilections nor prejudices. He is on the side of what is right.
— Confucius: Analects


Let the character be formed by the Poets; establshed by the Laws of Decorum; and perfected by Music.
— Confucius: Analects


The man of Virtue puts duty first, however difficult, and makes what he will gain thereby an after consideration, — and this may be called Virtue.
— Confucius: Analects


Ponder untiringly over your plans, and then conscientiously carry them into execution.
— Confucius: Analects


There are three kinds of friends that are beneficial, and three that are harmful. To make friends with the upright, with the faithful, with the well-informed, is beneficial. To make friends with the plausible, with the insinuating, with the glib, is harmful.
— Confucius: Analects


The man of honour thinks of his character, the inferior man of his position. The man of honour desires justice, the inferior man favour.
— Confucius: Analects

A man of honour never disregards Virtue, even for the space of a single meal. In moments of haste, he cleaves to it; in seasons of peril he cleaves to it.
— Confucius: Analects

“The man of Virtue puts duty first, however difficult…”

Confucius at the “Apricot Altar”, mid-17th century
Kano Tanyu (Japanese, 1602–1674)
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Human nature

A man’s faults all conform to his type of mind. Observe his faults and you may know his virtues.
— Confucius: Analects


I will not grieve that men do not know me; I will grieve that I do not know them.
— Confucius: Analects

Knowledge and learning

Learning without thought is useless. Thought without learning is dangerous.
— Confucius: Analects

He who keeps on reviewing his old and acquiring new knowledge may become a teacher of others.
— Confucius: Analects

It is not easy to find a man who has studied for three years without aimng at pay.
— Confucius: Analects


He who governs by his moral excellence may be compared to the Pole-star, which abides in its place, while all the stars bow towards it.
— Confucius: Analects

If you govern the people by laws, and keep them in order by penalties, they will avoid the penalties, yet lose their sense of shame. But if you govern them by your moral excellence, and keep them in order by your decorous conduct, they will retain their sense of shame, and also live up to standard.
— Confucius: Analects

Lead them with dignity and they will be respectful; be filial and kind and they will be loyal; promote those who excell and teach the incompetent, and they will encourage each other.
— Confucius: Analects

Personal conduct

The well-bred are dignified but not pompous. The ill-bred are pompous, but not dignified.
— Confucius: Analects

The nobler man is calm and serene, the inferior man is continually worried and anxious.
— Confucius: Analects

If not right and proper, do not look, if not right and proper do not listen, if not right and proper do not speak, if not right and proper do not move.
— Confucius: Analects

The Wise man has nine points of thoughtful care. In looking, his care is to observe distinctly; in listening, his care is to apprehend clearly; in his appearance, his care is to be kindly; in his manner, his care is to be respectful; in speaking, his care is to be conscientious; in his duties, his care is to be earnest; in doubt, his care is to seek information; in anger, he has care for the consequences; and when he has opportunity for gain, his care is whether it be right?
— Confucius: Analects


The self-retrained seldom err.
— Confucius: Analects

The men of old were reserved in speech out of shame lest they should come short in deed.
— Confucius: Analects


“The nobler man is calm and serene…”

Statue of the Master at the Confucius Temple, Beijing
Photo credit: David Morrow

Social Relations

With respect you will avoid insult, with magnanimity you will win all, with sincerity men will trust you, with earnestness you will have success, and with kindness you will be well fitted to command others.
— Confucius: Analects

He who works for his own interests will arouse much animosity.
— Confucius: Analects

The man of noble mind seeks to perfect the good in others and not their evil. The little minded man is the reverse of this.
— Confucius: Analects

Status and Rank

One should not be concerned at lack of position; but should be concerned about what will fit him to occupy it. One should not be concerned at being unknown; he should seek to be worthy of being known.
— Confucius: Analects

Wealth and Money

With coarse food to eat, water for drnk, and a bent arm for a pillow, — even in such a state I could be happy, for wealth and honour obtained unworthily are to me as a fleeting cloud.
— Confucius: Analects

The Wise man is informed in what is right. The inferior may is informed in what will pay.
— Confucius: Analects

~ Barista Uno

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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.

Here’s a poignant poem inspired by seagulls:


by Gerald Gould (English, 1885–1936)

Two seagulls flying
Alone and away,
Gold in the dying
Gold of the day,
Soon will turn silver, soon
Pass out of sight:
Silvered they’ll be in the moon,
And sped in the night.

But never I hear
Music cry from the strings,
And never my dear
Sits by me and sings,
But I shut my eyes,
And the soul looks far,
And there, lost gold in golden skies,
My seagulls are.

How beauty, wondering, wakes,
Who knows, who knows?
For beauty the heart breaks
At the song’s close.
Flashing, sailing, turning,
From all but themselves apart,
My gulls are flames burning
At beauty’s heart.

Text of poem courtesy of the University of Toronto Libraries. Originally published in ‘The Augustan Books of English Poetry: Gerald Gould’ edited by Humbert Wolfe (London: Ernest Benn Ltd, 1928)

The following New Age song is one of the tracks in Devoured by the Comfort Zone, debut album of The Mind Orchestra headed by Nick Gent and made up of over 25 musicians from around the world:

And finally, three beautiful artworks that pay tribute to seagulls:

Bonapartian Gull, 1836
Hand-colored engraving and aquatint
Robert Havell (English, 1793–1878) after John James Audubon
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Five seagulls over stormy sea,1900–1930
Colour woodcut
Ohara Koson (Japanese, 1877–1945)
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Seagulls, c. 1880
Félix Bracquemond (French, 1833–1914)
Courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art

~ Barista Uno

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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…

the parties concerned don’t carry out their responsibilities for bringing home stranded seafarers as mandated by ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (holding summits and signing declarations on crew change are much easier, it seems).

 shipowners abandon their crews, leaving them hungry and desperate at sea.

dishonest manning agents short-change seafarers on their remittances.

 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) introduces more training requirements, unmindful of the high cost in time and money for seafarers.

seafarers are subjected to racial profiling and even harassment at international airports

unions play footsie with manning agents and the maritime establishment to preserve their power and influence.

 maritime charities pontifcate about depression at sea with the intent of earning from mental health training courses.

I am sure that my readers can add more items to the list. Just fill in the blank: The worst of times for seafarers is when _____. Your responses will be greatly appreciated.

~ Barista Uno

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A cupful of Chilean marine art à la espresso

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.

Es el libertador. Es el océano,
lejos, allá, en mi patria, que me espera.

 It is the liberator. It is the ocean,
far, there, in my homeland, that awaits me.

~ Pablo Neruda, from ‘Llama el océano‘ (The ocean calls)

La Primera Escuadra Nacional de Chile (1928)
Álvaro Casanova Zenteno (Chilean, 1857–1939)
Photo credit: Museo Histórico Nacional de Chile via Wikimedia Commons

This resplendent work by Álvaro Casanova Zenteno — painter, diplomat and sailor — pays tribute to the glory of the Chilean navy. Zenteno must have felt a great sense of patriotic pride when he made this painting. What Chilean artist wouldn’t be? The First Chilean Navy Squadron had played a pivotal role in Chile’s war of independence against Spain. Read more about the Squadron here.

The Naval battle of Iquique, 19th century
Thomas Jacques Somerscales (English but also considered a Chilean artist, 1842-1927)
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Jacques Somerscales was an English teacher, sailor, and landscape and marine painter. But according to the British art institution Tate: “He is also considered a Chilean painter as he began his career as an artist there. Many of his landscapes evoke the region and many of his marine paintings feature notable events in Chilean naval history and have become patriotic national icons in that country.” This stunning painting of a sea battle in Iquique in northern Chile is a testimony to Somerscales’ Chilean spirit.

Puntilla de Cartagena, no date
Eugenio Cruz Vargas (Chilean, 1923–2014)
Photo credit: Liliana Fuentes via Flickr (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence)

Beautiful. Breathtaking. What else is there to say except that Eugenio Cruz Vargas was a poet aside from being a painter?

Diques de Valparaíso (1884)
Ramón Subercaseaux Vicuña (Chilean, 1854–1937)
Photo credit: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes via Wikimedia Commons

This realist painting by Chilean painter, politician and diplomat Ramón Vicuña will pique the viewer’s curiosity. The two ships are laid on floating repair docks. But the docks are painted white and look like giant styrofoam boxes. It is as though the vessels were being unboxed to partially reveal their hulls and superstructures.

Tormenta, detalle
Enrique Swinburn Kirk (Chilean, 1859–1929)
Photo credit: Rodrigo Fernández (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence)

By painting this stormy scene at eye level, the artist has reinforced the height and might of the wave as it crashes against the rocks. The white spume rises as if rushing to merge with the clouds and be one with them.

Marina de Valparaíso, before 1925
Alberto Valenzuela Llanos (Chilean, 1869-1925)
Photo credit: Rodrigo Fernández (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence)

One of Chile’s greatest artists, Alberto Valenzuela Llanos shows his artistic gift in the way he renders the rocks and cliffs in so many shades of muted brown, grey and green. The craggy shore occupies most of the canvas and contrasts beautifully with the greyish blue sea in the background. It is a relaxing scene overall.