Elegant stern of HMS Surprise, one of many fascinating ships owned by the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
It’s Christmas. I wasn’t planning to blog today. But this afternoon I became a new member of the Maritime Museum of San Diego! (Having lived for 15 years just a short walk from the museum, it’s about time!)
Naturally, I couldn’t wait to visit several of the amazing ships. The Maritime Museum of San Diego has one of the finest and largest collections of historical ships in the world!
If you’ve ever watched the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, then you’ll probably recognize the HMS Surprise. The beautiful tall ship, upon which many scenes were filmed, is in the museum’s collection. And I took a bunch of photos today!
Becoming a member of the Maritime Museum of San Diego is going to be awesome. Among other great perks, I can visit any of the ships free for an entire year. I can sit in the elegant enclosed passenger deck of the Steam Ferry Berkeley and read and write whenever I please! Right out on beautiful San Diego Bay! How cool is that?
I bet some of you might really enjoy membership, too! I’m told they are looking for volunteers to help sail their new Spanish galleon replica San Salvador!
For more information, please visit the
Maritime Museum of San Diego website.
HMS Surprise in some morning sunlight.
The ship you are about to board was originally built as a replica of the British 24-gun frigate Rose of 1757. HMS Rose played a role in the American Revolution and was sunk in Savanna harbor in 1779.
Detailed model of the HMS Surprise, which is the only operating replica of an 18th century frigate in the world. The ship was used in the filming of Master and Commander, starring Russell Crowe.
Visitor to the San Diego Maritime Museum pretends to steer the tall ship HMS Surprise, which is docked on the Embarcadero near the historic Star of India, in the background.
View of the ship’s main deck and lower rigging from the quarterdeck. A portion of San Diego’s skyline and the County Administration Building are visible.
Cannon projects from hull of HMS Surprise, which is a replica of a 24-gun frigate of the Royal Navy, based on 18th century British Admiralty drawings.
Looking upward at the three masts, furled sails and other complicated rigging.
Photo through ropes of the nearby Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship, also part of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
The ship’s bell. Originally named the HMS Rose, the ship was re-registered as HMS Surprise because of her starring role in the film Master and Commander.
Below deck there are many fascinating exhibits, which show what life was like aboard a frigate. Other displays recall the filming of Master and Commander.
Pick the right kind of shot. The Surprise carried a variety of projectiles, each suited for different purposes.
Artistic depiction of activity below deck during an engagement with the enemy. Operating the cannons was a complicated, dangerous duty.
Feeling seasick? Visit the surgeon. Getting sick at sea was very serious not only for the ill sailor, but also for the entire crew.
Exhibit inside HMS Surprise recalls the ship’s doctor in the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The fictional Dr. Stephen Maturin was also a scientist and naturalist.
Most of the crew slept below the gun deck in hammocks. Tightly-packed swinging hammocks figured memorably in the visuals of the movie Master and Commander.
Ship’s Biscuit, also known as Hard Tack, was easy to make and preserve, and became part of the staple diet for British and Spanish mariners on their long voyages in the Pacific.
Chickens, geese and ducks were carried on board as live food. Officers enjoyed eggs. Fresh meat was reserved for the officers and those sick with scurvy.
A remote station used for steering the ship when she is propelled by her twin diesel engines. In 2007, HMS Surprise was restored to sailing condition.
One of several photos on display from the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Famous actor Russell Crowe played the role of Captain Jack Aubrey.
Distinctive figurehead representing the Greek goddess Athena often seen in the popular movie. It now graces San Diego’s waterfront. UPDATE! I’ve been told it actually represents Boadicea, queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the conquering forces of the Roman Empire.
Photograph of the HMS Surprise as evening approaches. One of many wonderful ships that visitors can board at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
A new exhibit called Man-of-War opened on HMS Surprise in May, 2018. There are many new signs around the ship, and the captain’s great cabin is now open to the public. (I intend to blog about the great cabin separately.)
Here are additional photos. Read the captions for explanations about life aboard British fighting ships from that fascinating era.
A new exhibit called Man-of-War aboard the HMS Surprise features new signs describing life aboard an 18th century British frigate. Prepare for Battle!
The ship was built as replica of the HMS Rose in 1970. It was purchased by Twentieth Century Fox to be used in the movie Master and Commander, starring Russell Crowe, and was subsequently renamed HMS Surprise.
Following maritime tradition, the ship has retained its original bell.
Looking at the newly redecked quarterdeck of the HMS Surprise. The rest of the main deck will be restored as well.
An officer on the quarterdeck would issue commands to the sailor manning the wheel, which controlled the rudder at the ship’s stern.
The Disney Wonder cruise ship is seen docked in San Diego beyond the capstan. HMS Surprise was used in the filming of Disney’s movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Many hands turned the capstan to raise or lower the anchor.
Ordinary sailors relieved themselves at the ship’s bow. Hence the name head.
This was a sailor’s bathroom!
A man-of-war could remain at sea for many months and travel more than 150 miles per day.
On the gun deck of HMS Surprise, replica twenty-four-pound cannons have names like Spit Fire, Beelzebub and Bulldog. Larger than what a frigate would carry, these were used for dramatic effect in the movie.
A display demonstrates aspects of a warship’s gun and its operation.
Diagram depicts how a six-man gun crew would load, aim and fire different types of shot.
Sailors lived in their own specialized world, with familiar customs, rules, routines and expectations.
The complex often stressful operation of a man-of-war required strict discipline. Punishments included flogging and gagging.
The English diet at sea was rather simple and predictable. Lots of biscuit, beer, pease, oatmeal and butter. Pork and cheese, too.
Cooking in the galley was done in calm weather. The Brodie Stove was designed for use on crowded wooden ships where dangerous fire must be avoided at all costs.
A rat has found its way into a ship’s food barrel.
The Royal Navy issued hard biscuits made of flour and water that were stored in sacks for months at a time. Weevils and maggots were a constant problem.
Costume worn by character Midshipman Lord William Blakeney in the movie Master and Commander.
Unlike the captain who in his great cabin as a gentleman lived in comparative luxury, lesser officers, like the crew, made due with cramped quarters.
Midshipmen who sought to become officers learned seamanship and navigation. They had to master many skills required to operate and command a ship.
Instruments used to navigate a ship included the octant and sand glass.
The doctor’s quarters on the HMS Surprise. A photo shows actor Paul Bettany as the film’s character Dr. Stephen Maturin.
Hammocks were often used by sailors to store clothing and personal items.
A suspended mess table where sailors would eat together next to a hammock on the gun deck of museum ship HMS Surprise.
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