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The Gibson Family Archive of Shipwrecks


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“At the very forefront of early photojournalism, John Gibson and his descendants were determined to be first on the scene when these shipwrecks struck. Each and every wreck had its own story to tell with unfolding drama, heroics, tragedies and triumphs to be photographed and recorded – the news of which the Gibsons would disseminate to the British mainland and beyond.”




The archive of dramatic and often haunting images, assembled over 125 years (1872 to 1997) by four generations of the Gibson family, records over 200 wrecks – the ships, heroic rescues, survivors, burials and salvage scenes – off the treacherous coastline of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, was acquired by the RMG at auction in 2013.  The collection includes the following:

  • 585 Glass plate negatives (214: 12 x 10in: 8 x 6in) housed in 16 original wooden boxes and one cardboard box.
  • 407 Glass plate copy negatives (6½ x 4¾ in) in 4 cardboard boxes.
  • 179 Glass plate negatives (4¼ x 3¼in).
  • 198 film negatives (5 x 4in) in three boxes.
  • 335 cut film negatives (various sizes) and 39 (35mm) film negatives.
  • 97 original photographs of shipwrecks (silver prints, 12 x 10in)
  • Manuscript ledger by Alexander and Herbert Gibson on the shipwrecks of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
  • A collection of books by John Fowles, John Arlott, John Le Carré, and Rex Cowan on the Gibsons of Scilly, together with newspaper and magazine articles.



I am not sure if they are on display at the Royal Museums Greenwich or not, but several may be viewed at the link above.



Edited by trippwj


Neither should a ship rely on one small anchor, nor should life rest on a single hope.

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What an interesting collection.  I hope they have the funds and desire to digitize it.


The one of the SS Blue Jacket reminds me of the old tale (or one variation of it) that ends:


- I am an Admiral, change course 20 degrees

- I am a Seaman 2nd class, change course 20 degrees

- I am a Battleship, change course 20 degrees

- I am a Lighthouse, change course 20 degrees


Looks like he was trying to pass, Port to Port, per the rules of the road.








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