In a previous post, I shared with you my recent visit to the merchant seafarers war memorial in London. I’d gone to find the plaque commemorating the Atlantic Conveyor, a Cunard container ship requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence during the 1982 Falklands war for transport duty, and sunk following an Argentine missile attack.
Soon after the war, Cunard commissioned the original builders of the Atlantic Conveyor, Swan Hunter, to construct her replacement. Taking the same name, the second ship was being fitted out at the Tyne shipyard in 1984 when curators at the Science Museum wanted to commisison a model representing the latest container ship technology.
Cunard sent us full details of Atlantic Conveyor. We had the model built, and she’s now part of the reserve collection stored at Wroughton.
The point here, I guess, is that we didn’t just build a model. We captured a bit of history, we collected a memory. Like the war memorial I visited, our model is something tangible to help us remember the past – and to think about our future.
Objects contain all sorts of stories. This is why we keep so much stuff. When we acquired it, we were interested in the technology of container shipping. Now, I know more about life – and death – at sea in the modern merchant navy. It’s the same object, but I see it differently now. They’re powerful things, things.
As for the second Atlantic Conveyor, well, she’s still hard at work. As I write this post, she’s just left Liverpool and is motoring around the south coast of Ireland heading for Halifax, Canada, according to her automatic tracking system. Still shifting boxes around the oceans, quarter of a century on…