Photos inside the great cabin of HMS Surprise.

The stern of HMS Surprise, the beautiful ship used in the filming of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, starring Russell Crowe.
The stern of HMS Surprise, the beautiful ship used in the filming of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, starring Russell Crowe.

If you’ve watched the memorable movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, you might recall the fictional British warship HMS Surprise was center stage for most of the film, which was set during the Napoleonic Wars.

The Maritime Museum of San Diego is now home to the working ship that was used in the filming of Master and Commander. Originally built in 1970 as a replica of the HMS Rose, a British 24-gun frigate from 1757, the ship was purchased by 20th Century Fox in 2001 and modified to appear in scenes in the 2003 film. Because of its starring role in Master and Commander, the ship was subsequently re-registered as HMS Surprise.

The critically acclaimed movie, starring Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany as Dr. Stephen Maturin, was based on a series of popular novels written by Patrick O’Brien. Russell Crowe has been lobbying for a sequel for over a decade now. According to what I’ve heard, there’s a possibility the sequel might finally be made.

The museum recently debuted a new exhibit aboard HMS Surprise called Man-of-War, and along with many new signs on the main deck and gun deck, the captain’s great cabin is now open to the public. (You can see other aspects of the new Man-of-War exhibit here. Clicking the link will take you to a past blog post concerning HMS Surprise, where I’ve added updated photographs.)

Several memorable scenes in the movie take place inside the great cabin. Among others, you might recall scenes of officers dining and strategizing as they pursue the French privateer Acheron around Cape Horn to the Galapagos Islands, and of Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin playing the violin and cello.

While I’ve been told much of the filming of Master and Commander was done on movie sets, the great cabin visitors see on the working ship HMS Surprise is much like the one portrayed in the movie.

The great cabin of HMS Surprise is now open to the public. Several displays provide interesting information.
The great cabin of HMS Surprise is now open to the public. Several displays provide interesting information.
Sign reads the Great Cabin in the stern of the Surprise was reserved for the captain's use. Here he slept, held council with his officers, and entertained his invited guests.
Sign reads the Great Cabin in the stern of the Surprise was reserved for the captain’s use. Here he slept, held council with his officers, and entertained his invited guests.
Photo inside the great cabin of HMS Surprise. In real life the space feels cramped and the table is small. The large stern windows are a familiar sight in the movie.
Photo inside the great cabin of HMS Surprise. In real life the space feels cramped and the table is small. The large stern windows are a familiar sight in the movie.
Unlike most of the crew, the captain enjoyed wine and ate in style.
Unlike most of the crew, the captain enjoyed wine and ate in style.
Historically, guns were deployed in the great cabin during battles at sea. To make room, furniture was removed and placed in a longboat which was then towed behind the ship!
Historically, guns were deployed in the great cabin during battles at sea. To make room for the gunners, the furniture was removed and placed in a longboat which was then towed behind the ship!
Another photo inside the great cabin of HMS Surprise.
Another photo inside the great cabin of HMS Surprise.
Photo on wall recalls a scene in Master and Commander. Captain Jack Aubrey shares a toast with ship's doctor and officers.
Photo on wall recalls a scene in Master and Commander. Captain Jack Aubrey shares a toast with ship’s doctor and officers.
A display in the great cabin concerns prize money and medals. After a victorious battle, captains and crews were rewarded by the British government.
A display in the great cabin concerns prize money and medals. After a victorious battle, captains and crews were rewarded by the British government.
Gun on the starboard side of the great cabin, next to a chest and swords hung at the ready in case the ship was boarded by the enemy, or sailors mutiny.
Gun on the starboard side of the great cabin, next to a chest and swords hung at the ready in case the ship was boarded by the enemy, or sailors mutiny.
A violin on a stand. The favorite musical instrument of the fictional Captain Jack Aubrey.
A violin on a stand. The favorite musical instrument of the fictional Captain Jack Aubrey.

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Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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