Text: Jouko Moisala
Translation: Ralf Strandell
Anyone interested in spending a weekend visiting maritime museums and diving museums should head to Portshnmouth, England. It is an old port and a British naval base and there is plenty to see besides the museums.
Maritime monuments are present everywhere. In the picture above we can see a figurehead and the Emrates Spinnaker Tower in the background. Visiting is easy. A bus runs from Gatwick straight to the museum zone. Affordable accommodation can be found within a 100m radius. Hotel Keppell’s Head, founded in the 17th century, is closest to the museum. We mention it because of its location. There are several pubs in the region too, offering accommodation. Staying overnight in a pub is an interesting experience.
The Keppel’s Head hotel was named after Admiral Keppel. The cab driver however did not appreciate my choice of hotel.
A small hotel and pub next to the museums and close to the shore. Pretty nice and a very special experience.
Museums of Portsmouth
Portsmouth offers lots to see. Admiral Nelsons HSM Victory and the Nelson museum are located in the same area. The National Museum of the Royal Navy carries a lovely collection of figureheads, and in the Mary Rose museum an interesting ship (or parth thereof) can be seen. HMS Warrior on the other hand is a complete square-rigged (finnish: raakatakiloitu) warship equipped with a steam engine. It is of made of steel.
Admiral Nelsons flagship HMS Victory is worth a visit. Unfortunately there are guided tours only.
A miniature of an aircraft carrier in the Royal Navy Museum.
A room full of figureheads could serve as an inspiration for a photographic collection.
In HMS Warrior one can roam without beeing led by a guide on a schedule. There is plenty to photograph, too.
The Mary Rose museum is architecturally interesting.
Finding, lifting and conserving Mary Rose is a long story involving both diving and the same tehniques as were applied to the Swedish Vasa ship.
Gosport is opposite to Portshmouth. The submarine in Gosport is visible from the sea and on shore there is a museum of diving history.
The museum building is to the left and a WWII submarine, HMS Alliance, can be seen to the right.
One of the more interesting displays in the museum is a miniature submarine. Only a short section is on display, though. This miniature sub was launched from a full-size submarine or from a surface vessel (a warship, that is). If the crew was lucky, they could return from a successful mission, but not all came back.
A picture from the bow of HMS Alliance. The torpedo tubes are visible.
Our guide had served on the submarine during World War II. A very thorough and knowledgeable guiding.
There are items of interest outside the museum too, so do not head straigh back but walk around a little!
These machines are worth seeing with ones own eyes. Photographs cannot convey the full experience.
The museum of The Historical Diving Society, HDS, is the most interesting museum of Gosport. It is not quite near the submarine museum, though. The HDS, founded in 1990, claims on its web page to be the oldest of its kind in the world, but actually the Swedish society is older by 11 years (founded in 1979). The HDS is the most respected one, though. The HDS is preserving british diving heritage and history that is both long and varied.
If the whole of Britain clings to old traditions as keenly as The HDS, it is no wonder they will not give up the royalty, the pound of sterling, and the royal mile as a measure of distance.
The HDS publishes both a historical diving magazine and a scientific journal.
The annual general meeting is held in Poole in south-eastern England on the premises of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, RNLI. It is the oldest known society of its kind and its operations cover the whole of Britain and it is the first responder in emergencies. It’s faster than public rescue service. The general meeting is an experience indeed! The banquet is a black tie event and it starts with a toast to the queen.
The museum of The Historical Diving Society
The Gosport side shore, just like the Portsmouth side, is one big fortification. The diving museum resides in this fort.
In the photograph above: The entrance of The Diving Museum. John Bevan, the mainstay of the musem, is opening the doors for a private visit.
John Bevans collection of deep diving equipment can be admired in the yard. The equipment is weatherproof indeed and can take a lot of abuse!
John Bevan is showing the compression chamber, which can reach a 45 times overpressure, or a “diving depth” of 450 meters (~1476 feet).
The interior of the chamber is not designed for comfort.
This is but one of several similar displays. There is plenty to see!
John Bevan next to a modern saturation divers gear.