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Cornwall Marine Directory

National Maritime Museum Cornwall opens new ?Endurance & Survival? exhibition

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When was the last time you pushed yourself to the absolute max, tested your strength of will to carry on, persevered in the face of adversity and battled against all the odds?

National Maritime Museum Cornwall logoSir Ernest Shackleton, Dame Ellen MacArthur, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Tony Bullimore are famous for showing their strength of character and the Maritime Museum’s new 2006 ‘Endurance & Survival’ exhibition captures the incredible stories behind their achievements and those of less well known adventurers. All have endured and survived in personal challenges to achieve their goals; often in the face of extreme danger.

The new exhibition focuses on the key elements of survival: food, water, warmth and the emotional strength of endurance, taking the visitor on a journey through the very physical and mental challenges of survival at sea.

One of the highlights of the exhibition tells one of the greatest stories of survival against overwhelming odds. In August 1914, Ernest Shackleton and his 27 crew left England in Endurance on a Transantarctic Expedition to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent on foot. What followed was one of the most admired stories of leadership and survival.

After being locked in the ice for 281 days, Shackleton gave the order to abandon ship and reach land. However, the nearest land with food and shelter was 374 miles away.

Lifeboats, rations and personal effects were removed from Endurance and dragged across the ice until conditions forced them to establish a new base. Six months later they launched the three lifeboats as they spotted land 60 miles away. After a week at sea, with little sleep or food and punishing weather, the crew landed on Elephant Island.

Shackleton knew that he had to get help to save the men and on April 24 1916, he and five men set out for South Georgia in the 23ft boat the James Caird on a journey of 800 miles that would cross the most ‘tempestuous storm-swept area of water in the world.’

Worsley navigated a successful landing at South Georgia and, after an incredible journey, Shackleton and two companions made their way, enormously ill-equipped, through un-charted mountains towards Stromness and rescue.

After nearly two years of the most unimaginable hardship, Shackleton rescued his men and proved himself as the most natural of born leaders, idolised for his power to lead in the positions of most danger, difficulty and responsibility.

The new exhibition highlights this leadership and features the James Caird, and some of Shackleton’s personal items as well as Leonard Hussey’s morale boosting banjo.

Other major objects include the Ednamair, a 9ft dinghy which, in 1972, saved the Robertson family after their yacht was sunk by killer whales. With just a bag of onions all six members of the family survived by living off the sea for 38 days before being rescued.

The Museum also has Britannia, the very first boat rowed solo, by John Fairfax, across the Atlantic Ocean in 1969. Fairfax completed his challenge on the same day that the first man landed on the moon. Amazingly, the crew of Apollo 11 heard of Fairfax’s achievement and sent him a message from space.

Tony Bullimore’s agonisingly cold and lonely five days in the southern ocean is also featured. Using a representation of an upturned hull and rare objects from his 96/97 Vendée Globe challenge, which saved him from fatal exposure, you can re-live his incredible story of survival.

The physical strengths behind Dame Ellen MacArthur’s and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s solo non-stop round the world records are also highlighted and the advancement in their navigation and communication equipment explored. The exhibit asks “could you navigate your way around the world as Knox-Johnston did or sleep for just a few 30 minute naps a day, for 71 days as Ellen did?”

Along with a number of other never before seen, objects, stories and film, this new show, which opened on February 11, is an adrenalin adventure and showcases British determination and creativity. Even the most hardened of explorers will admire the feats achieved by these extraordinary people.

For further information, please contact:
Tamsin Loveless, Head of Communications or Jenna Palmer, Communications Assistant on T: 01326 214536/558 M: 07855 798536 E:;

Notes to editors:

Funding for National Maritime Museum Cornwall has come from the South West Regional Development Agency, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Regional Development Fund under the 5b funding programme and National Maritime Museum Greenwich, with additional support from individuals and corporate sponsors.

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