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HMS Surprise with Dolphins

Dolphins2jumpA trip to San Diego provided an unexpected "surprise" (the ghost of Jack Aubrey must be my muse today) for this Patrick O'Brian fan. The star of Master and Commander, H.M.S Surprise is on display at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. A replica of an 18th Century frigate, she was first launched in 1970 as HMS Rose and used in sail training on the east coast of the United States. Director Peter Weir spotted her in Halifax and in suitably grand Hollywood fashion decided to make HMS Rose a star at the cost of her name... not the first would-be actress to lose her bloom after a trip to tinsel town (Capt.RN J.A collapses)

HMS Surprise (is a Yankee really allowed to call herself HMS I wonder) contains props from the film, fiberglass cannon, costumes, etc. The detail is wonderful, it might all be real. Often film sets look ticky, tacky close-up but everything in the ship might be on loan from a museum. It's a commitment to detail that reflects the great integrity of the movie which remains one of my all-time favourites.

Sadly by that time we had run out of batteries in the digital camera and on my mini-disk recorder. We had spent the day before photographing and recording dolphins (see pic) on a trip with Captain Dave's Dolphin Safari. I console myself that I'm unlikely to take a better shot of the Surprise than Peter Weir. Missing the opportunity to speak with one of the ship's curators was a shame though.

Directly behind H.M.S Surprise is a Soviet B-39 diesel attack submarine. To see it leering over the wheel of the wooden frigate creates a peculiar impression, as though you were looking down a temporal telescope. In an interesting footnote to the obesity crisis before entering the B-39 overweight visitors (and those who have difficulty bending) are encouraged to attempt passage through a mock circular door like those found on the sub. I wonder, for those who get stuck, if the curators rouse out powerful emetics and purgatives from Dr Maturin's supplies on Surprise? The blue pill and the black draught would be just the job to effect a reduction in the circumfrence of those of an Aubrine figure.

January 19, 2006 in Books, Strange Enthusiasms | Permalink


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