Shipwrecks in century-old photographs: A never-ending story?
An act of God or the acts of men. Whatever the cause of the accident, a shipwreck is always a doleful sight. The following photographs from more than a century ago evoke images of fallen soldiers on a battlefield or bones of some ancient animal in a museum. They are all reminders of the heartless power of the sea, the dangers of seafaring, and the fragility of life. For all this, the world of shipping never stops. Young men and women continue to dream of becoming sailors. And disasters at sea still unfold.
“The sea — this truth must be confessed — has no generosity. No display of manly qualities — courage, hardihood, endurance, faithfulness — has ever been known to touch its irresponsible consciousness of power.”
— Joseph Conrad, from The Mirror of the Sea (1906)
“Ah Heaven!—behold her crashing ribs divide!
She loosens, parts, and spreads in ruin o’er the tide.”
— William Falconer, from Shipwreck (1762)
“A rotten carcass of a boat, not rigged,
Nor tackle, sail, nor mast; the very rats
Instinctively have quit it.”
— William Shakespeare, from The Tempest (1610–1611)