Secret views and maritime history in Greenwich

Secret views and maritime history in Greenwich

Three weeks in London has given us the luxury of time — time to just wander around and see what we find. On our first visit to Greenwich, I was intrigued by the narrow, hilly streets, cute rowhouses, and little shops that I spotted from the main drag. I declared the view from the Royal Observatory one of the best in London, but everybody knows that already. On our second visit to Greenwich, we found an even better view of London from a quiet, overgrown, forgotten little park called Point Hill or The Point. I can’t tell you how to get there because most of the fun is in stumbling on it yourself. Just walk uphill.

I figured the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich would be filled with old guys looking at boat models, and it was, but it was also really, really cool. Really. It’s a fun place for anyone with a vivid imagination. It’s one thing to read about Shackleton’s ill-fated Antarctic trip and the desperation that forced him to lead three tiny lifeboats across the freezing, stormy southern Atlantic Ocean, searching for rescue. It’s another thing entirely to stand next to a copy of the James Caird (the original is just a few miles away at Dulwich College in South London), and see why the successful trip across the ocean in this tiny boat filled with six men, freezing water, and rotting reindeer skin sleeping bags was truly amazing. It’s a tiny boat.

Then there’s the globe made from a map from the 1400s. As it slowly rotates, you might miss, at first, the fact that a few huge chunks of land aren’t there…namely North and South America. Without those two continents in the way, the trip to India doesn’t look so daunting after all. There’s a whole wall of ship figureheads, some looking startled at the waves that are to come, others continuing to fiercely gaze out to sea. There are neck irons used on slave ships…neck irons.

But nothing blew my mind more than the hundred-year-old biscuit recovered from the tent where the frozen bodies of Robert Scott and his companions were found after their race to the South Pole. The biscuit gets to live forever.

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