Call for Abstracts: Sea Lines of Communication 2016

Theme: Discovery
Location: Hartley Suite, Highfield Campus, University of Southampton
Date: 17 November 2016
Abstract Submission Deadline (NOW EXTENDED): 13th May 2016

The Southampton Marine and Maritime Postgraduate Group (SMMPG) would like to invite abstracts for a multidisciplinary conference. SMMPG is a collaboration between the University of Southampton’s postgraduate academics, the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI), and Lloyd’s Register. The group aims to encourage multidisciplinary  research by fostering discourse between many disciplines, from shipbuilding to archaeology and oceanography to literature.

The theme of the conference is Discovery, which is meant to be taken in a broad sense. As such, ideas for papers include (but are not limited to):

  • how do you rediscover centuries-old maritime history?
  • the discovery of new technologies to address current problems
  • new ways of improving mariners’ physical and mental health
  • how do new and novel technologies affect the interpretation of the law?
  • how does our understanding of maritime geography influence literature?
  • how do we adapt to the effects of global climate change?

The event builds on the highly successful conferences of the last two years, where papers from diverse disciplines were presented to audiences of scholars and professionals from various maritime fields; and published in a monograph of the day’s papers. As befits the theme of Discovery, we hope to engage researchers from many diverse fields to inspire a new approach to maritime research.

We are accepting abstracts from postgraduate and early-career researchers in any discipline, for papers which resonate with the theme of Discovery and relate to any four of the SMMI’s broad themes:

Society & Government ● Trade & Transport ● Energy & Resources ● Climate & Environment

Papers will each last 15 minutes and will be organised into four panels based on the categories above. Each panel will be introduced by an established academic and followed by a period of discussion. Additionally on the day we will be having poster presentations. Therefore, we will be accepting abstracts for these as well. While Discovery is the broad theme we have chosen to work within, the conference’s focus is firmly on the concept of multidisciplinary communication. The ultimate aim of the conference is to forge connections between academics with different fields of expertise as well as engage with the wider public, including representatives from business and industry. As such, the presentations should be delivered with the aim of communicating the paper’s central themes and proceedings will be published in a book, which aims to develop a set of tools that can be used to further multidisciplinary research and develop our understanding of the maritime world.

Please send your proposal (250-300 words) to by Friday 13th May, 2016. Abstracts should be formatted in a Word file and attached to the email. Please include your full name, the name of your university, and a brief bio. Themes are open to interpretation. Please indicate if your abstract is for a presentation or a poster. Please direct any questions to the conference organisers at the above email address.


Ghost Ships (Minke Jonk)

This week, Minke also presented a practice run of her First Year Presentation. We discussed her research surrounding hauntings at sea – the ocean can be seen as a liminal space, but at the same time it is central as a stage for these maritime ghost stories. Haunting takes on an aspect of the unnatural – opposed to the supernatural – as the ghost ships disregard the laws of nature, emphasising the perceived lack of control of nature in the age of sail. At the same time, these narratives evoke a sense of nostalgia for these days of sail and empire, and the sublime possibility of being haunted at sea.

Dinner and Conversation with Philip Hoare

For our first meeting back after the holidays, we met at Duke of Wellington pub, where we had dinner and sat down with Visiting Fellow, Philip Hoare. Philip is author of books such as The Sea Inside and Leviathan, as well as many articles for The Guardian. We discussed our own projects and general maritime conversation.

Philip mentioned different aspects of his own work. For example, the biography on Netley Hospital (Spike Island: Memory of a Military Hospital) that he wrote towards the beginning of his career was how he started inserting himself into the narrative, as a way of giving the book ‘bones’. Netley Hospital, we learned was a military hospital primarily used during World War I, and is the focus of controversy. Philip put himself into the narrative because there were only 11 surviving records on the building and so much of his biography came from first- and second-hand accounts.

Philip also mentioned that one of the bigger influences on the type of literature he writes has been The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald. Amazon describes the book as: “The Rings of Saturn begins as the record of a journey on foot through coastal East Anglia. From Lowestoft to Bungay, Sebald’s own story becomes the conductor of evocations of people and cultures past and present: of Chateaubriand, Thomas Browne, Swinburne and Conrad, of fishing fleets, skulls and silkworms. The result is an intricately patterned and haunting book on the transience of all things human.” Philip described Sebald as the ‘grandfather of

Naturally, since Leviathan we were discussing Leviathan, conversation turned to Moby Dick and whales in general. Philip mentioned he was a part of a project called ‘Moby Dick Big Read’ that encouraged people to read the book by having famous and not-so-famous people read a chapter and give their interpretations of
that chapter.

As an exciting bonus, the first copy of the paperback edition of The Sea Inside had arrived at Philip’s house that day. Not only did we get to flip through the copy, but he did a drawing and Peter was the lucky recipient of it!

Sea Monsters (Minke Jonk)

Minke looked at the importance of sea monsters both in past culture and in our modern culture. Monsters occupy a liminal space that is alien and scary, but at
the same time occasionally benevolent. For example, in Olaus Magnus’ Carta Marina (1539), many different types of monsters are depicted: the Sea Orm is shown as a red serpent and represented approaching change (such as an assassination), while the Rockas is shown saving sailors who are drowning. One interesting point that was made is that the whirlpool that is depicted is a “real” danger still today, as that area of the sea is still today known for whirlpools. Minke showed the group different examples of sea monsters through time, such as a drawing of a fourteenth-century siren. She gave the group modern-day examples, such as the images conjured by Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem “The Kraken”, the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and even Japanese Noodle commericials. She also gave examples of how descriptions of sea monsters can easily lead to the creation of terrifying images, especially during a time that science has not discovered the “real” animal (i.e., a description from 1673 of a squid). The question, “why do we want to believe in sea monsters?”, lead to an interesting discussion on the romance of the unknown.

‘From Sail to Steam: How Ship Technology Changed English Romaticism (Joel Found)

Joel’s presentation, gave examples of how Romanticism dealt with evolving naval technology. He took us through “Rime of the Ancyent Marinere” (1798) by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, where we saw evidence of the Romantic Sublime and Coleridge’s ideas of humans’ place in nature. Coleridge depicts the transition from ships powered through the use of sails to the new ship technology that was being developed (such as steam powered ships). Coleridge depicted this transition as the demise of naval culture as he knew it. Created at a later date than “Rime of the Ancyent Marinere,” J.M.W. Turner’s paintings “The Fighting Temeraire” (1839) and “Snow Storm: Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth” (1842) are both in their own way an interesting contrast of beauty and utilitarianism. “The Fighting Temeraire” asks of its viewer some interesting questions about the feelings held by Turner towards this new technology, while “Snow Storm” debunks the idea that the new technology is stronger than nature. Finally, Joel brought us through a selection of shorter poems by Herman Melville: “The Portent” (1859), “The Temeraire” (1883), and “A Utilitarian View of the Monitor’s Fight” (1866). These poems show Melville’s mixed feelings towards the shift from sail to steam.