A colorful addition to the Maritime Museum of San Diego's collection of historic ships is H.M.S. Surprise. The ship was used in the making of the Academy Award winning film "Master and Commander."
The vessel is a replica of the H.M.S. Rose and has enjoyed a colorful history. The Rose was an English frigate that played a significant part during the Revolutionary War causing the Colonists a good deal of mischief. It was among His Majesty Ships that forced General Washington from New York.
A new H.M.S. Rose was built in Nova Scotia in 1970 and was used in historical events as well as training for future seamen. Fox Studios purchased the ship for the filming of Master & Commander making suitable changes to aid in filming.
Inspecting H.M.S. Surprise from bowhead to stern was a must for this Writer who had read both Jack O'Brian books on which the film was based. Signs posted on the bulkheads tell the story of what life was like on sailing ships during the 18th century especially Navy ships which required over twice the usual number of crewmen. Also on display is the clothing worn by seamen and officers as well as mess utensils.
Besides the H.M.S. Surprise three other historic vessels are afloat at the Museum: the 1898 Ferryboat 'Berkeley'; the 1863 sailing ship 'Star of India' and the 1904 Steam Yacht, 'Medea'.
The 'Star of India' is a full rigged Bark that made some 21 voyages around the globe. In its long career the ship, one of the earliest iron-hulled ships to be built, was a merchantman with voyages between Britain and India. Later it took emigrants from Britain to New Zealand. Some 400 at a time. Then she hauled cargoes of timber, coal and sugar in the trans-Pacific trade.
Now the 'Star of India' is in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest vessel in the world, still sea worthy and regularly, on a yearly bases, puts out to sea once again.
From Captain's Cabin astern to the seamen's "fo'c'sle" at the bow a friendly Docent took this writer on a personal tour of the vessel that started service in 1863 as 'Enterpe', named for the Greek goddess of music. Only later when the vessel was used in the Alaskan salmon fishery was it renamed the 'Star of India'.
The Ferryboat 'Berkeley' is ideal for a museum with its wide decks and includes a fine exhibition of oil paintings depicting maritime history in war and peace. And its steam driven engines and boilers are there to see close-up. The Steam Yacht 'Medea' also has a unique history both as a pleasure craft and being used for naval work in both World Wars.
It is moored next to the 'Berkeley' and again invites inspection and retrospection of another age. All four ships are moored at the Harbor next to the new Cruise Ship terminal. And when one of the modern cruise ships is in port a chance to compare then and now. The Maritime Museum is open daily with a modest admission fee.
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