RISKING THEIR LIVES TO SAVE YOURS - SEARCH & RESCUE EXHIBITION AT NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM CORNWALL GOES LIVE
Last night (15 March) National Maritime Museum Cornwall officially opened its eagerly anticipated Search and Rescue exhibition with a show stopping air sea rescue demonstration by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and HM Coastguard in front of a crowd of hundreds.
RISKING THEIR LIVES TO SAVE YOURS - SEARCH & RESCUE EXHIBITION AT NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM CORNWALL GOES LIVE
Last night, National Maritime Museum Cornwall officially opened its eagerly anticipated Search and Rescue exhibition with a show stopping air sea rescue demonstration by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and HM Coastguard in front of a crowd of hundreds.
Honouring the work of the heroic men and women who risk their lives at sea and around our coast, the new exhibition, the first of its kind, invites you to be a part of their world, where ordinary people lead extraordinary lives.
As you enter the exhibition you discover you have walked into a central hub for all Search and Rescue operations. A Sea King helicopter dominates your eye line inviting you to climb aboard; to the right an RNLI Atlantic 75 inshore lifeboat rides high above you; in front the interactive Coastguard Operations room asks you to respond to a Mayday while a cliff rescue team descends a wall above you.
Spend some time on the ‘beach’ astride the quad bike and keep the surfers and swimmers safe, relive childhood dreams by dressing up in flight suits, helicopter helmets, RNLI and coastguard clothing and lifesaving equipment. Be entranced by the film footage and audio descriptions of rescues well-known and some untold and take a step back in time to the founding years of the lifesaving charity the RNLI and the Coastguard.
All around you are major objects, artefacts, personal effects, photography and film footage from the past and present sharing the lives of those who come to the rescue when we’re in trouble at sea. Clothing and equipment from the past including rocket lines, horse and cart wagons, wicker helmets and cork lifejackets clearly communicate advances in today’s technology and the impact it now has on numbers of lives saved.
Time influences many things. However there are many elements within the exhibition that show that although decades have passed, the grit and determination of individuals, who are in some cases volunteers, to risk their lives to save others has not changed. The drive then was as passionate as it is today, time does not stand in the way of human perseverance and dedication.
This couldn’t be more evident than when revisiting Cornish rescues from the past. The exhibition looks at the wreck of the Suevic in 1907, the largest rescue operation in the RNLI’s history, saving 524 lives and at the 1981 Penlee disaster when 16 lives were lost including the volunteer RNLI crew from the Solomon Browne and passengers and crew from aboard the Union Star.
The Fastnet disaster on 14 August 1979 saw an emergency response from official coastguards and civilian naval vessels, lifeboats and helicopters and was the largest rescue operation at sea since World War II.
Freelance journalist and photographer Andrew Besley had just started working at RNAS Culdrose and puts the conditions on that day into context when he recalls the rescues: “On a couple of occasions we would go down so low to a boat to effect a rescue that we would be in the trough of two waves and I would look up from the small window on the side of the helicopter and see a wave, often beginning to break, 30 or 40 foot above us. At the time I just numbly accepted it. Looking back it was horrendous.”
Within the exhibition, film footage and accounts from rescues at sea and land, including the Boscastle flooding, highlight the approach to the mammoth rescue effort and the co-ordinated work of all the maritime rescue services.
Jonathan Griffin, Director of National Maritime Museum Cornwall concludes: “Prior to this exhibition I hadn’t fully appreciated the combined work of all the organisations and services around our coast. Their team work, dedication and commitment to each other and the public has to be admired. They have worked together to help fund and develop this exhibition and we can’t thank them enough. Only by working with them have we been able to share their story with our visitors and create further awareness of the work they do.”
Joanna Bellis, RNLI Heritage Curatorial Manager says: “This is the first time the RNLI and RNLI Heritage Trust has worked as a partner with a national museum for an exhibition and this is the most significant 'presence' we, as a charity, have had in the West Country. We’re delighted to be part of it and to be able to present our heritage collections alongside items from the modern day RNLI. We hope our contribution to the exhibition will be a fun and inspiring way to find out about the charity and will go some way to giving back to all those that have supported us over the years by showing what their support and funding has enabled us to achieve.”
Search and Rescue, the new blockbuster exhibition from National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth is now open and invites you to enter the world of the maritime rescue services. Experience the drama of a rescue, climb aboard a Sea King helicopter, meet the crews, explore a lifeboat, revisit rescues from the past and discover what it takes to bring you home safely when the worst happens at sea and around our coast.
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Additional quotes: - Interviews are available
The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea, it takes 40,000 volunteers – on lifeboats, at stations, on beaches and in fundraising to keep it going and the organisation must find £150m per year to keep the lifeboats and lifeguards operating.
The RNLI Heritage Trust is a subsidiary charity established in 2004 to support and promote the RNLI’s heritage.
Every year thousands of people are rescued by RNLI lifeboat crews and lifeguards. RNLI lifeboats are crewed by teams of dedicated professionals and highly trained volunteers who drop whatever they are doing to help others in distress. Co-ordinated by the Coastguard, over 230 lifeboat stations and over 180 beaches form part of a marine rescue network and many successful rescues are the result of joint team action by lifeboats, lifeguards, helicopters and other rescue units.
771 Naval Air Squadron
771 Naval Air Squadron is one of two Royal Navy Search and Rescue units in the UK and has been based at RNAS Culdrose in Helston, Cornwall since 1974. In 2010 they undertook 260 Search and Rescue (SAR) call outs and a further 242 SAR in 2011. 2012 will no doubt be another busy year.
Lt Cdr Chris ‘Damage’ Canning, Commanding Officer 771 Naval Air Squadron says: “We have worked really closely with the Museum team and this excellent exhibition showcases the joint approach to Search and Rescue across the UK and the 200 miles of sea we all cover. At its heart is our Royal Navy helicopter which has its own long and distinguished career and the vast range of information, pieces of equipment, items from the numerous rescues conducted off the Cornish coast and personal recollections from the crews involved will be an inspiration for both the young and the young at heart.”
RAF Search & Rescue Force
The Royal Air Force maintains a 24-hour search and rescue service covering the whole of the United Kingdom and a large surrounding area. Whilst the service exists primarily to assist military aircrew and other personnel in distress, the vast majority of ‘scrambles’ are to assist civilians who find themselves in difficulties, either on land or at sea
Group Captain Frazer Nicholson, UK Search and Rescue Force Commander says: “I was delighted to assist the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in obtaining the Sea King and to assist the museum’s curators in their researches for this ambitious project. During an average year, the RAF Search and Rescue Force can expect to respond to just under two thousand callouts. Like all emergency services, the types of incident vary tremendously. It could be anything from rescuing fallen climbers, sailors in distress through to larger-scale operations such as the floods at Boscastle, Cornwall, in 2004; each day brings a new challenge.
The six RAF Search and Rescue Flights in the UK work hand-in-glove with their four civilian coastguard and two Royal Navy counterparts. Together we provide a unified Search And Rescue service which ensures that SAR helicopter cover is provided across the UK and its surrounding territorial and international sea areas."
Squadron Leader Dave Webster, Officer Commanding RAF SAR Support says: “The Royal Air Force Search And Rescue force consists of six dedicated search and rescue helicopter flights and four mountain rescue teams at strategic locations across the UK. Coordinated by the UK Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre at RAF Kinloss, which also monitors satellite distress beacons worldwide; the RAF provides search and rescue cover all day, every day, across 1.1 million square miles of the UK Search and Rescue Region. This includes all of the UK, far out into the North Atlantic and most of the North Sea oil, gas and fishing areas. The RAF also provides SAR helicopter cover in the Falkland Islands and Cyprus.
MCA and HM Coastguard
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) implements the government's maritime safety policy in the UK and works to prevent the loss of life on the coast and at sea, providing a 24-hour maritime search and rescue service around the UK coast and in the international search and rescue region through HM Coastguard.
The UK has over 10,500 nautical miles of coastline. A network of 362 volunteer teams is on call 24 hours a day, equipped to deal with incidents and rescues in their local area. The Cornish coast is manned by 26 volunteer teams. Volunteer Coastguard Rescue Officers come from many different backgrounds, but are linked by a common desire to serve the community in times of need. Theirs is a demanding job, often involving dangerous situations and adverse weather conditions.
Rod Johnson, Chief Coastguard says: “The UK is fortunate to have a maritime search and rescue organisation that is very highly regarded internationally. I am therefore delighted to welcome the new search and rescue exhibition at National Maritime Museum Cornwall which will showcase the history and the modern achievements of HM Coastguard, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and others.
“This is the first time that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has supported an exhibition of this kind. I hope that as well as learning about how maritime search and rescue operates, visitors will also come away with information about how to become safer whilst at sea and along the coast.”
MOD and AgustaWestland
The MOD through the Sea King Project Team at AgustaWestland have kindly loaned the exhibition a uniquely painted Sea King helicopter to mark the outstanding work and achievements of the Royal Navy and RAF SAR crews in the South West. Never done before, this investment in support has been key to the level of experience the exhibition offers.
Chris Page, Sea King Project Team Manager at AgustaWestland says: “Sponsorship of the exhibition in this way has given us the perfect opportunity to celebrate the work of the RN and RAF crews on Sea Kings. Having served in the Falklands, she was based at Culdrose before serving on multiple bases elsewhere, the Sea King Mk 6 now returns home to Cornwall and we’re delighted that her life and the lives rescued and saved through her are celebrated in this exhibition.”