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The Wavertree and the Endurance; talk at South Street Seaport Museum, New York

Monday, October 30th 2023 - 17:36 UTC
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Mensun Bound and Captain Jonathan Boulware beneath the bow of the Wavertree Mensun Bound and Captain Jonathan Boulware beneath the bow of the Wavertree

On Tuesday, September 26th, at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York, Falkland Islander, Mensun Bound gave a lecture followed by a book signing of The Ship Beneath the Ice – The Discovery of Shackleton’s Endurance. The event occurred onboard the Wavertree, an old square rigger condemned at Port Stanley in 1910. This gathering was the culmination of a year-long book tour spanning the UK, USA, Canada, and parts of Europe and Scandinavia, during which time the book rose to Number 2 in the UK Best-Seller List.

The evening on the Wavertree, which was held in collaboration with the National Maritime Historical Society, was moderated by the President of the South Street Seaport Museum, Captain Jonathan Boulware. The evening began with a long discussion between Boulware and Bound on the role of the Falklands in the Cape Horn trade. In particular, the dialogue focused on the Wavertree which had taken a beating off the Horn before limping to the Falklands with her main mast down. Once in Port Stanley she was surveyed and then condemned as unseaworthy by Bound’s great great uncle, Vincent Biggs, who was a senior shipwright with the Falkland Islands Company. The Wavertree was later sold on to Punta Arenas, Chile, where it served as a storage hulk.

The Wavertree at South Street Seaport Museum in New York

The Wavertree at South Street Seaport Museum in New York

There was also discussion on the pivotal visit to the Falklands in 1965 by Karl Kortum who was then head of the San Francisco Maritime Museum. At that time Port Stanley harbour contained the remains of no less than ten Cape Horners, making it the finest outdoor museum of 19th century nautical antiquity in the world. The founder of the South Street Seaport Museum, Peter Stanford, later wrote that Kortum’s visit ‘changed the face of the historic ships movement’. It led directly and indirectly to the recovery from the Falklands of the Snow Squall, parts of the St Mary at Whale Point, the S.S. Great Britain at Sparrow Cove and the Fennia which, for several decades, had been the centrepiece of Stanley Harbour. As for the Wavertree, Kortum found her still surviving as a sand barge in the River Plate.

There was also talk about the fate of the Connecticut built Charles Cooper, which put into Stanley in 1856 after a struggle off the Horn. For over one hundred years, she served as a storage hulk in front of the harbour. In the 1970’s Peter Stanford organized the purchase of the Charles Cooper with the intention of returning her to the States. The South Street Seaport Museum and the National Maritime Historical Society sent three expeditions to the Falklands to stabilize her. In the end, despite fund-raising campaigns in the US and UK, they were unable to find the money to recover her and ownership was returned to the Falklands. The carved transom board, which was rescued from the Charles Cooper by the American team, is on display in the Historic Dockyard Museum.

The Wavertree at South Street Seaport Museum in New York

The Wavertree dismasted in Stanley Harbour, 1910.

 

The focus of the evening then moved to the Endurance at which point Bound discussed the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, beginning with his meeting with a friend at a Caffe Nero coffee shop in South Kensington in August 2012. This meeting led directly to the discovery of both Admiral von Spee’s Scharnhorst in 2019 and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance in 2022. Both searches were driven and equipped by Ocean Infinity with Bound as Director of Exploration. The second search was conducted under the auspices of the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust. 

The Wavertree at South Street Seaport Museum in New York

The crew on the weatherdeck of the Wavertree

Bound’s book  The Ship Beneath the Ice about the discovery of the Endurance has done outstandingly well, going through nine editions and receiving consistently excellent reviews with the Times Literary Supplement describing it as ‘gloriously written….with the verve of a thriller’. The paperback, which has just come out, has been named Blackwells ‘Book of the Month’ and Waterstones ‘Paperback of the Year’.

 -Bound will be giving a talk followed by a book-signing at the Historic Dockyard Museum on the 6th December. This will be moderated by Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust trustee, Lewis Clifton. Proceeds to the Museum.

 

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