Life on the ocean wave

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As befits a nation of salty seafarers, some of the world's finest explorers have set sail from these very shores and, as a mark of respect to those plundering pirates of yesteryear, the 400th anniversary of the death of Sir Francis Drake will be celebrated with an exhibition dedicated to three of Blighty's finest. The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich has put together "Blood, Sea and Ice" - an exhibition charting the lives of Sir Francis Drake, Captain James Cook and Sir John Franklin, three of the finest sailors this side of the Channel.

"Blood" considers Drake's three-year circumnavigation of the world, sponsored by Elizabeth I, and his hand in the defeat of the Spanish Armada; "Sea" explores Cook's epic Pacific voyages, which mapped the whole ocean from New Zealand to the Arctic; while "Ice" charts Sir John Franklin's Arctic expeditions and his tragic attempt to find the North-West passage in 1845.

Among the 200 artefacts in the exhibition are Drake's Drum, painted with his coat of arms and carried on his final voyage to the West Indies (legend has it that the drum gives a drumbeat whenever England is in danger of invasion from the sea), a chair made from the timbers of Drake's Golden Hind, many of Cook's intricate charts and a fragment of the rock on which he fell to his death at the hands of Tahitian natives, and the final message from the Franklin expedition which gave news of Sir John's icy fate. All in all, a rum old tale indeed.


'Blood, Sea and Ice', National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London SE10 (0181-858 4422) 28 Jan to 31 Jun