The Sea Journal: Seafarers’ Sketchbooks is more than just a glimpse into a few nautical logbooks, it is a fascinating study of the discoveries made by some sixty-odd renowned adventurers over the last 600 years.
The author, Dr. Huw Lewis-Jones (a much-travelled historian with a special interest in maritime exploration and polar voyages), has brought together the writings and drawings of the most intrepid explorers ever to sail the seven seas, from Francis Drake and Vasco da Gama via Horatio Nelson and William Bligh to Robin Knox-Johnston and Francis Chichester.
Their stories reflect the ambitions and expectations of their time. One of the earliest is the little-known Zheng He (1371 – 1435), who sailed from the China Sea around the Indian Ocean with a fleet of hundreds of ships and thousands of men. Little of his discoveries has come down to us, partly because the Chinese Emperor suppressed his writings for fear of encouraging other expensive state-sponsored voyages. But we do know that he brought back a giraffe from Somalia and wrote navigation manuals for a route from the Persian Gulf to Kerala.
Disguised as men
Women may not figure large in the records, but here are two who were so determined to be in the van of global exploration that they disguised themselves as men to get aboard. Soon after leaving Toulon aboard the Uranie, beginning a three-year expedition, the ‘boy’ emerged as Rose de Freycinet, the wife of the Commander. Jeanne Baret, however, remained undiscovered on the Etoile for nearly a year and a half; she eventually became the first woman to circumnavigate the world.
Mariners inevitably have time on their hands when away from home for months or years on end. Some whittle a whale’s tooth; some build a ship in a bottle; others record everything they see in minute detail, by which our understanding of the world is enriched. The hundreds of sketches, maps and character-studies collected here represent the best of scientific discoveries, geographic knowledge, and on-the-spot reportage by some of the great ocean-going observers.
Every entry in The Sea Journal is a delightful story and a revealing history lesson for sailors and armchair voyagers alike.
The Sea Journal: Seafarers’ Sketchbooks
Author: Huw Lewis-Jones
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
ISBN: 978 0 500 021279