Monday, March 15, 2010
Immediately reminded of James Burke's explanation of "a copper-bottomed investment", here. The ship was built of teak and covered with a layer of copper to keep destructive wildlife from consuming the hull.
This visit was a little historical gem, really; I didn't know the Edwin Fox carried not only emigrants to New Zealand and convicts to Australia (!) but was also used during the Crimean War, and later as a freezer ship. All this during a career that spanned the second half of the nineteenth century.
Standing on board the dilapidated ship, I remembered the roll-call of my probable ancestors who had been deported to Australia (though both my parents emigrated to New Zealand from England in the 1970s), most for poaching and petty crime. I also recalled how as late as the 1950s, my mother's family emigrated to Australia by boat (later moving back to England). And the paths of the ship itself, if mapped, form a cat's cradle of lines woven onto the globe along the paths of trade and conflict, communication and migration.
There was something very physical about the connection to history, the experience of standing within the hull of the ship, of feeling that space around you and wondering what it would be like to be trapped on board for months at a time in egregious conditions. It reminded me of the way I felt sitting inside an Anderson Shelter from WWII at the Croydon museum in London.