Doesn’t look much, does it? But this is where Trinity House control all their lighthouses – a quiet, medium-sized room close by Harwich Quay. Here 60 lighthouses, and all the lightships, are monitored 24/7, to make sure they are also doing their job round the clock. We were here for our new commission from ‘TH’ – a film aimed at encouraging young people especially to apply for the cadet scheme run by this most ancient and enduring of organizations – first recognized formally by King Henry VIII. Then, ballast (shingle and gravel) was one of the vital needs of ships, and lucrative ballast rights in the Thames were granted to Trinity House by Henry’s daughter Queen Elizabeth. But there’s nothing ancient about the techniques used here, with on-line monitoring of all the assets from St Bees in Cumbria to St Just in Cornwall.
This is THV (‘Trinity House Vessel’) Galatea, the largest of Trinity House’s dedicated vessels keeping our seaways open. Lucky us – we got to work on board her for three days, making our film about ‘TH’s training scheme. Both ship and crew impress, highly. Galatea is constantly at sea – except on swift crew changeover days – checking that buoy lights are working, that buoys are in position, that their solar panels are charging the lights’ batteries OK, and that they’re free of the marine growth that encrusts them as they silently make the way safe for the thousands of ships operating around our coasts. She also maintains all the lighthouses for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. Light vessels have to be cared for, too. But no keepers – it’s all run online from the Trinity House HQ in Harwich!
This is Captain Nigel Hope, Director of Training for Trinity House. He’s the one who has kindly commissioned us to make a film about the training scheme he runs, which gives young people (and the not-so young, too) a wide range of opportunities to learn how to be a seafarer. Here, he’s observing the vital survival programme offered, through Chiltern Maritime’s Glyn Barker (next to him) to all who take up the offer to get to sea through Trinity House. Nigel has wide experience both in the Royal and Merchant navies – one of his RN jobs was to look after the amphibious landing element of Operation Telic, the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He’s also one of the ‘Elder Brethren’ of Trinity House. So coping with film-makers like us is just a walk in the park for him!
…is where seafarers must be in an emergency. Here, for our film on Trinity House, we’re being shown the survival training to give seafarers their best chance of surviving disaster at sea. We’re at (fortunately not in) the training pool at the Maritime Skills Academy in Dover – being shown how you right a life raft that has, in the way of these things, flipped over when inflating. It’s pull and push, as the raft will come over on you as you pull it right way up – so you push your arms up at the last moment to protect yourself. Other tips include: take seasickness pills early, don’t move from your sinking location so you can be found, and don’t touch a helicopter winchman’s line as he comes to rescue you – because you’ll get one hell of a static electricity shock!
…what seafarers and ships coming to our shores do all the time. Trinity House is the lighthouse and buoys authority for England and Wales (Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own authorities), and the principal reason why that 95% of all trade by volume that we must have can get to us by sea. Why? Because our coastline is fundamentally highly dangerous. Anyone who has seen the jagged fangs of rocks like The Manacles off Cornwall rise hissing out of a dark and turbulent sea, can tell that… just one example of thousands among all coastal approaches to the UK. Trinity House maintain buoys and lighthouses, mark wrecks, offer deep-sea pilotage and much, much more. And have done so for over 500 years! Now, we’re making a film for them about the outstanding training opportunities they offer would-be seafarers.
New Director of CHIRP Maritime Jeff Parfitt definitely got off to a “flying start” when anchoring our film ‘Vision and Decision’ – about sight at sea – for us. Pun intended; he’s doing just that – by presenting from a WWII aircraft cockpit. More than that, he’s sitting – see picture – in this Sunderland (converted post-war for passengers as the Sandringham) – the ace anti-submarine flying boat. The point being made was that for Sunderland aircrews, despite the flying aids they already had, keeping alert and observant was a matter of life and death. As it still is for seafarers. So there he is. (Didn’t get him to don a flying jacket and a silk scarf, but you can’t win them all…) If you want to see this Sandringham – and many other fantastic aircraft – visit Solent Sky Museum in Southampton. A truly great day out.
Rob is a TV producer, reporter and camera operator with 30 years’ experience at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITN, in news, factual and documentary production. He is a four times award winner, whose awards include a coveted Royal Television Society award for his work on Channel 4 News. His association with The Maritime Foundation goes back to 1995, when he won the first Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award for a series of reports that led to a major documentary on the loss of the bulk carrier Derbyshire.
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