Abandon Ship – What would you do?

    The Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, Virginia, USA has opened Abandon Ship: Stories of Survival. This major exhibition explores the aftermath of marine catastrophes through the perspective of those who have been cast adrift on the sea.

    “It is not about shipwrecks, but about the experiences people have after they are taken to lifeboats or life rafts,” said Lyles Forbes, curator for Abandon Ship. “From the outset, I was intrigued about the stories of people who have survived the chaos and horror of a wreck at sea, but then must face survival in a dangerous and hostile environment. This exhibition features a few of the many stories of ordinary humans thrust into extraordinary situations.”

    Using survivors’ own words, the exhibition explores the experiences people go through as they come to grips with the uncertainty of rescue, and the fight to quell panic. Being cast adrift is intensified by fear, hypothermia, thirst, hunger, dread and helplessnessAmong the stories presented are a few from survivors of the wreck of RMS Titanic, the sinking of which marks it centenary on April 14, 1912. Another ordeal represented is the 76-day “drift” of Steven Callahan in 1982. During a solo trans-Atlantic crossing, Callahan’s sailboat Napoleon Solo struck something in the middle of the night and quickly began to sink. For the next 76 days, he drifted across the Atlantic in a tiny raft.

    A central theme in the exhibition is the question: What would you do? In Abandon Ship, visitors can execute practical, hands-on activities that allow them to better relate to the survivors. They can even climb aboard a six-man life raft supplied by Winslow Life Rafts and Landfall Navigation.

    Finally, the exhibition presents compelling rescue stories. Spotlighted is the multiple rescues of yachts caught in a massive storm off New Zealand in June 1994. Over three days, some 35 yachts were subjected to hurricane-force winds and waves between 60 and 100 feet high.

    Whether caused by storms or human error, shipwrecks and people being cast adrift and rescued have been occurring since man has been venturing offshore. Abandon Ship: Stories of Survival aims to capture the drama and intensity of these human experiences.

    The exhibition continues until March 2013.