By Wayne Fortune & Maxim Wilson
Project Undaunted's two new team members; Wayne Fortune and Maxim Wilson, write about their first impressions of the archive collection.
I am Wayne Fortune and I recently started work as an Archives & Collections Assistant, cataloguing Project Undaunted material as part of the LRF Heritage & Education Centre team. My previous job was Archives Assistant in the archives of an academic library, dealing with a large number of varied collections, so the switch to operating with a specialist archive has been an interesting challenge. I have enjoyed getting to know the material and expanding my hitherto unremarkable knowledge of maritime history.
Thus far my time has been split between cataloguing early 20th Century Wreck Reports at Fenchurch Street and 19th Century survey reports from the Clyde Ports (having previously lived in Glasgow this seemed like an obvious place to start!). The Wreck Reports contain many interesting stories of the demise of ships such as the Marcato, which struck the sunken steamer Maitland (herself sunk due to collisions with Bazalgette and Brockley) and then collided with Corness – effectively a five ship pile-up! The 19th Century survey reports paint a picture of a different era of shipbuilding, and highlight the great variety of woods and different rigs used.
When turning the page in a Wreck Book or opening a new box of survey reports I never know quite what I will find, and I look forward to discovering many more interesting documents and stories over the coming months.
My name is Maxim Wilson and I am an Archives & Collections Assistant for the LRF Heritage and Education Centre. Cataloguing as part of the Project Undaunted team has proven to be an exciting task; and I have enjoyed getting to grips with this unique and expansive archive. My previous work experience in the heritage and museum sector was at a local level; as such it has been a refreshing challenge to deal with a collection of global significance.
Presently my time has been spent examining 20th century Wreck Reports at Fenchurch Street and early 19th century Leith survey reports at Woolwich. It has been especially interesting to note innovations in shipbuilding and chart the changes from wood to iron and steel, and from sail to steam. Cataloguing entries for ports like Leith provides a valuable insight into the developments in maritime engineering but also crucially into how coastal regions contributed to a bustling and vibrant merchant trade. Working through the survey reports I am constantly surprised at what I find - like the ship William & Ann. Built in 1759 she was surveyed at Leith, bound for the icy waters of the Arctic Circle to find her fortune in the whaling industry. The last record of her is in 1857 - just shy of one hundred years of age! Another interesting mystery is the former Royal Naval gun brigantine Fort Augustus. Built in 1804, after active service during the Napoleonic Wars she was sold into private hands and renamed Fort Augustus. Sadly little record was made of naval purchases and many of these former fighting ships were renamed and slipped into anonymity. The task of reinstating the identities of these ships will be challenging and fascinating, but not impossible.
In the short space of time I have worked on the project I have gained valuable knowledge of maritime history and the pivotal role that Lloyd’s Register has played in ensuring safety of life and property at sea. As this vast digitisation project unfolds, I look forward to the next exciting find.