Pirates of the Gulf of Aden

As I mentioned last week, I went to the London Boat Show at the weekend.

ExCel exhibition centre, London (David Rooney)

ExCel exhibition centre, London (David Rooney)

The venue sits right beside the Royal Victoria Dock in east London, one of three built in the second half of the nineteenth century to keep pace with the capital’s expanding maritime trade. They’re quite majestic.

It was my first visit to the Boat Show. Essentially, it’s one vast exhibition centre stuffed to the gunwales with pretty much everything you’ll ever need to enjoy a life of leisure on the water. A few hardy souls braved the rain for some yachting demonstrations outside in the dock.

Royal Victoria Dock at London Boat Show, 2010 (David Rooney)

Royal Victoria Dock at London Boat Show, 2010 (David Rooney)

But amidst the recreation, three things caught my eye. First was the sheer scale of the dock. Those white yachts are enormous, yet they’re dwarfed by their surroundings. In their past life these docks were teeming with ships keeping Britain’s economy afloat.

That thought was reinforced by a new sculpture on the dockside, called ‘Landed’, a tribute to the workers of the Royal Docks. It’s a beautifully detailed piece (photographed badly).

Landed sculpture, Royal Victoria Dock (David Rooney)

'Landed' sculpture, Royal Victoria Dock (David Rooney)

That was our maritime past, but what about today? I chatted to a couple of Royal Navy officers involved in counter-piracy work off the east coast of Africa. Each year countless pirate attacks take place on commercial ships off the Somalia coast and in the Gulf of Aden. Navies around the world are fighting back, but it’s a tough job.

Modern piracy is one area where I want to expand the Science Museum’s collections. Any ideas or leads would be very welcome…

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