Sea Change: The Cruel and Bountiful Sea exhibition opens

From an epic 1,200-mile modern kayak expedition travelling in the wake of the mysterious Finnmen, to the unlikely tale of the ‘Flying Hutchinson Family’, a new exhibition at Aberdeen Maritime Museum explores both the destructive and the creative nature of the sea.

Sea Change – The Cruel and Bountiful Sea opens on Saturday 1 July and is inspired by the painting Tidelines by Nine by Robert Callender (1932-2011), which shows the way the tidelines change the land by eroding and restructuring the shore. Shipwrecks are sadly all too common, as are storms which cause devastating damage to coastal communities. Events under the surface of the planet can lead to significant destruction coming from the sea in the form of Tsunami, or giant tidal waves. The sea can also be dangerous to those who fly above it.

The exhibition brings together an unexpected collection of seemingly unconnected objects – all of which have the sea in common – to explore how the sea leaves its trace on material objects left behind, and to tell the remarkable stories of extraordinary human endeavour connected to these objects.

Highlights include:

  • Kayak used in the 2016 Greenland-Scotland Challenge by Olly Hicks and George Bullard. The pair wanted to establish whether stories of Finnmen crossing in sealskin boats from Greenland to Scotland could be true – in the early 1700s an Inuk man paddling a traditional Greenland kayak landed on a beach near Aberdeen alone and exhausted. He died three days later. The modern expedition covered 1,200 miles and took six weeks.

  • Material telling the story of the Flying Hutchinson Family, world-famous pioneering American aviators who crashed landed off the cost of Greenland in 1932, feared dead after a three day search, until an Aberdeen trawler, The Lord Talbot, discovered them on an ice floe and took them safely back to the Granite City.

  • Wedding dress belonging to Miss Margaret Violet Grant. While travelling to Trinidad aboard the SS Hildebrand in September 1957 to marry her fiancé, the ship hit rocks off Lisbon. Miss Grant lost all her possessions, including the wedding dress her mother had made for her. With the aid of pictures from magazines, a local dressmaker in Trinidad made her this new gown and she and Mr Stuart were married two weeks later.

  • Roman pot. Made in the Rhineland or Southern Britain in the second or third century AD, it was pulled up by a fishing boat about 15 miles off the coast of Aberdeen in the 1960s. Remarkably intact, its surface now covered with tubes made by sea worms, the pot might have been part of a shipwreck, or perhaps it was washed over the side of a Roman trading vessel.

  • Star foram, 2015, by Anne Bevan. Anne’s work explores invisible or hidden structures that are part of everyday life. Star forams are single cell organisms from the deep sea. These tiny creatures are indicators of changes in our seas - acidification and rising temperatures. Animation made in collaboration with Dr Ian Butler, University of Edinburgh, with sound by Dr Pete Stollery, poem by Alan Spence.

  • Model ships. With their extraordinary detail, these models bring to life the types of boats that Scottish sailors have used every day in recent centuries and show the model makers’ passion and patience.


Just as the sea might take things and scatter them, the exhibition is not confined one room, but extends to objects on display around the Museum, highlighting Aberdeen’s exceptional collection of maritime history.

Councillor John Wheeler, Convenor of Education and Children’s Services said, “The sea has a special place in the life and imagination of our island nation – and nowhere more so than in Aberdeen, the ‘Silver City by the Golden Sands’.

“The sea has fed the city, kept Aberdonians employed and allowed them to explore the world. Aberdeen’s history as a port and centre of ship building, as well as a hub for the North Sea Energy Industries, means its character and nature are tied to the maritime environment.

“Visitors to the exhibition will be absolutely enthralled by this fascinating exploration of the cruel and bountiful sea.”