Friday, May 26, 2017

Aberdeen: On the Water

Aberdeen lies on Scotland's northeastern coast. From its large free Maritime Museum, Dear Husband and I learned that it was a trading post in the Middle Ages, then became a fishing center, later added shipbuilding, and--since the discovery of oil and gas in the North Sea in 1964--has hosted those energy industries. We happen to have approached the museum from its rear entrance, which is hidden down an alley (below). The displays are an amalgam of traditional maritime objects (parts of ships, models of ships, paintings of ships, photographs of ships, hand-colored photographs of ships, documents about ships, things that used to be on ships) and more contemporary exhibits about the North Sea and the fishing and drilling industries. We piloted a little submersible, watched a 3D video about working on an oil rig, and marveled at the variety of objects pulled out of the mud of what used to be the harbor's edge during an archaeological dig in the 1970s: coins, the sole of a shoe, most of a barrel, a little golden brooch, crockery.

Congrats, you found the museum! One of the first things we saw was this exhibit on the strange and powerful environment of the deep see, the weight of which compressed these styrofoam heads. Below is a model boat constructed in 1829. It was gifted to a church. There were a number of these, but my favorites were probably the half models made for display. We learned that plain half models were used when designing actual ship, with geometric methods of scaling up the hull once the client had approved it. Another thing I learned is that clipper ships were so fast because of their elongated bows' ability to cut through the water; as a side benefit, cargo stored in that compartment fell outside the taxed space of the hull and so was "duty free."

The museum does a good job including the perspectives of both women and men. While men built ships and trawled, women finished the models, mended the nets, and gutted the fish. The men went to war, and the women took their places in the factories. On one floor was a diorama of a fishing family's home. On another floor was an interactive dollhouse whose appliances could be powered by turning cranks to power wave or tidal turbines. We were both intrigued by the short cartoon film nearby from Greenpeace about the necessity of abandoning oil for renewable sources of energy.

I know you won't believe this, but I was silly twice in one day. While at the museum, in the shipbuilder's office, I "explained" to DH the features of the steamship I was designing. Then, after lunch, another museum, and a false start, we walked to the beach so we could wade in the North Sea. The water was, unsurprisingly, very cold. It had been an unseasonably warm day, but by late afternoon, the warmth was rising, and a cooler wind blew in. We wanted to walk on the sand all the way to the end, but the tide was too high. So we put our shoes and socks back on and walked along the esplanade. We looped around and back into town just in time to eat dinner with a friend and colleague at one of Aberdeen's premier Indian restaurants, Nazma Tandoori. We ended the day by visiting the Botanical Gardens (click for separate blog post).

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