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									MARCH/APRIL 2005



Intrepid navigators who took on global challenge
THE triumphant return of Ellen MacArthur to Falmouth in her 75-ft trimaran after the record-breaking circumnavigation which made her the fastest round-the-world sailor, fired the imagination and the admiration of millions.
Not surprisingly in the many pages of tribute to her seafaring skills, her determination and endurance the newspapers devoted much space to those other intrepid navigators who, over the years, had preceded her in undertaking that hazardous global challenge. Yet one name was not mentioned - that of the extraordinary Canadian seafarer Captain John Claus Voss who certainly deserves to be remembered for his astonishing voyage round the world in the most unlikely craft ever to have achieved that dangerous accomplishment. Just over a century ago he chose to challenge the mighty oceans in what was basically a hollowed-out tree trunk, a 50 years-old dug-out canoe he bought from a North American Indian on Vancouver Island. His voyage across the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the in Vancouver Island in May, 1901 er new mate to accompany him. His ultimate shipmate was no Atlantic with many stops on was a Canadian journalist who the way took three years, three knew nothing about sailing boats sailor and prone to seasickness months and 12 days from but turned out to be a good ship- on the voyage to St Helena and Victoria in British Columbia to mate after almost causing a disas- onwards across the South Margate which he reached on ter in their first storm. Atlantic to Pernambuco in September 14, 1904. To avoid the threat from a huge Brazil. It continued as they His unheralded arrival on the wave he climbed into the rigging sailed northwards until they coast of Kent attracted no weland the tiny Tilikum was about to reached the Equator when at last coming crowd though it astoncapsize before Voss hauled him he found his sea legs and develished many curious onlookers. down. After that in more placid oped a voracious appetite. Yet by the time he sailed up the conditions they headed for Fiji They were frustrated by freThames his strange craft which calling at various remote South he had named Tilikum, a Sea Islands on the way. At Fiji he quent calms or adverse winds Chinook Indian word meaning left and his place was taken by a and at one stage Voss logged ‘Friend’, had become a sensayoung Australian anxious to get only 20 miles in a fortnight. tion. to Sydney, Voss’s next port of After begging some bread, the only food that could be spared Moored opposite the Houses call. of Parliament she attracted There were gales ahead and by a passing sailing ship, they large crowds daily and was tragedy when Voss’s new ship- had to put in to the Azores to later exhibited at Earls Court. mate, who had neglected to make replenish their stores. When Tilikum eventually Though the epic voyage his lifeline fast, was washed out brought Voss much fame at the of the cockpit by a heavy sea and sailed up the Thames to be time on both sides of the was drowned. greeted with amazement she Atlantic, it was an age when Without a compass which had had navigated the Pacific, the such publicity was of more also been washed away, Voss Indian Ocean, crossed the fleeting effect than it might reached Australia after being Atlantic twice and the Equator have been today. almost rundown by a steamer three times. There is little doubt that it which narrowly avoided his was inspired by the round-themidget craft when Voss soaked Elected world transit of Captain Joshua one of his socks in paraffin and Voss who was elected a Fellow Slocum in his famous 13-tons set it alight as a flare. yawl Spray in which he had Hard up for cash Voss made a of the Royal Geographical set sail from Boston in April lecture tour exhibiting Tilikum in Society left her in London. She languished for some years 1898 to return there more than various towns, astonishingly three years later, the first lone being allowed to take her on the in a creek at Canvey Island. round-the-world sailor to train as ‘luggage’. She also came Then in 1930 those Canadians accomplish that feat. to grief when she was dropped on who had not forgotten her had one occasion but was successful- her shipped back to Vancouver Enticed ly repaired. After sailing South to Island to eventually take pride Voss and Slocum had much in Adelaide he visited Tasmania and of place in the Maritime common both being experiNew Zealand before sailing north Museum of British Columbia in enced seamen who had comtowards New Guinea and through Victoria. manded sailing ships, yet both the Torres Strait into the Indian Not long ago I had the pleasin later life were enticed by the Ocean. ure of seeing her there faithfully satisfaction and the challenge The loss of wind was sometimes restored to the condition she of ocean sailing in small boats. harder to bear than the storms. was in when she sailed from When, six years later, Voss Becalmed at one stage he and that port with Captain Voss at was told that a newspaper another new shipmate became the helm and the whole world might pay £1,000 for the story desperately short of water until before him. of anyone who could sail heavy rainstorms replenished Gazing at that extraordinary across the Pacific in a smaller their tanks. boat than Slocum’s Spray , he Approaching the South African shallop, that mere eggshell of a was immediately interested. coast hoping to spend a Christmas boat made their achievement He chose the Indian canoe so in port, gales frustratingly drove seem even more incredible. I could well understand why, as to leave no doubt about his them back. achievement should he sucFrom Durban where Tilikum more than once in the long voyceed. was again transported by rail to age they had been given up for That and the fact that the Pretoria and Johannesburg to be lost, and why their names have cedarwood tree, from which it exhibited and then sailed round earned a special place in the had been crafted half-a-century the Cape of Good Hope to annals of circumnavigation. before, was the most durable Capetown where he found anothWCR timber of all, guaranteed to defy the ravages of a long voyage. By raising her sides a few inches, decking her in and constructing a cabin no bigger than a dog kennel, he added to its seaworthiness. He stepped three short masts to carry its small spread of canvas and improved her stability by The club’s facilities include pool. darts, adding a lead keel and some snooker and a gymnasium. Also, if you are inside ballast. He transformed her into a celebrating a birthday, anniversary, miniature schooner yet still christening or any other event and you with her traditional Indian figurehead nothing could disguise would like to invite your friends and colher origins. Though Indian leagues for a private celebration the club’s friends wished him well, nobody believed Tilikum lounge is available for exclusive use. would get very far across the Club prices mean that the prices of a pint Pacific, an ocean notorious for disproving its name. of bitter and spirits are lower than you Voss did not sail alone and will find anywhere else. was to ship various companions on different stages of his For further information ring 01375 845955 voyages no doubt to have with him witnesses to support the authenticity of every stage of the voyage he was confident he could complete. His partner in the enterprise when he set out from Victoria

A stunning image of a funnel being replaced in the 1930s.

Exhibition spans 100 years of Thames life
VISITORS to the Museum in Docklands are being given a fascinating insight into the life of the River in a new exhibition spanning 100 years.

The museum, which was opened in May 2003, has chosen the working lives of those in the capital as the first special exhibition at the museum which quite apart from its location has a close affinity with the docks and the PLA. “Londoners at Work” is an exhibition of more than 80 pictures which chart the working life of Londoners for the past century. It is a rare chance to see some of the images which have never been shown in public before and they range from works by famous photographers to unknown gems. Included are pictures of how life for dockworkers has changed down the years. The stunning image of hundreds of dockworkers Report by at the gates to Baltic Wharf in 1919 waiting to wore to work, and the danbe “called in”, contrasts gers they faced in carrying with the smiling faces of out their jobs. It has already been the first six female members of the PLA police acclaimed by art critics pictured at the Royal and the local media and the museum’s curator, Albert Docks in 1954. Tom Wareham told Port of London News that the aim Exhibition The exhibition is split was to show the “companinto a number of themes ionship, exploitation, and including, how Londoners emancipation, poverty and got to work, what they pride in the lives of ordi-

Dockers enjoy a mug of tea and a chat.

nary people”. What make the link between the docks and the museum is that the museum is also home to some of the PLA’s most treasured possessions. Mr Wareham said: “We look after the PLA’s archives which stretches back to the mid eighteenth century and includes the record of the private dock


companies. “We also look after the PLA’s picture library which contains not only the pictures taken for the various PLA publications but also the images taken during the construction of new wharves and development in the docks from the mid-1800s to more recently.” The museum is at West India Quay in a warehouse built in 1802 to house imported goods from the West Indies. The exhibition will be on show until June 5.

Mr Wareham said: “We have 60,000 images in our archives. We decided we wanted to make the first special exhibition something which gave a view of how Londoners lived and worked. “Life in the docks is a significant part of this.” The museum is open seven days a week from 10am until 6pm and the standard entry ticket of £5 allows unlimited entry for the holder for a year. Concessions are also available.


Five day course


Fully equipped training centre

01375 850773
Tilbury Resource Centre, (Old Fire Station) Civic Square, Tilbury, Essex RM18 8DA

Athlone House, Dock Road, Tilbury, Essex
Telephone (01375) 845955

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