Maritime Disasters: HMS Guardian

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Our Maritime Disasters mini series continues with the shocking, and scarcely believable tale, of HMS Guardian. In 1789 this 44-gun 2-decked ship of the Royal Navy was sent to the British colony in Australia under the guidance of the brilliant Captain Edward Riou. She was chock-full of convicts, livestock and provisions for the colony when she left England, and then re-stocked with provisions when the half-way point was safely reached at the Cape of Good Hope. Water was always a problem on such long journeys and any captain took advantage of a source of fresh water whenever it was discovered. Icebergs were such a source of fresh water, but approaching them was always fraught with danger, especially in the Atlantic hundreds of miles off the coast of South Africa when the weather could suddenly change....what happened next has been described as 'almost without parallel' in all of maritime history.


To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Dr Margaret Schotte, professor of Early Modern History in York's Department of History whose book Sailing School: Navigating Science and Skill, 1550-1800 investigates how early modern sailors developed mathematical and technical expertise in the age of exploration and the print revolution - expertise that helped people like Edward Riou cope if it just so happened that their ship was horrendously damaged by an iceberg miles from home....


This episode includes a rendition of the song "The Forecastle Sailor, Or The Guardian Frigate" by the historian Seb Falk, most likely the first ever recording of the song.



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