My book review of 'Shipwreck' by Carl Douglas and and Bjorn Hagberg and photos by the Gibsons of Scilly

by Carl Douglas and and Bjorn Hagberg and photos by the Gibsons of Scilly
Shipwreck
by Carl Douglas and and Bjorn Hagberg and photos by the Gibsons of Scilly

Over a period of 130 years, five generations of one family documented the shipwrecks which occurred off the coast around Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 

The waters were considered highly treacherous and the area bore the brunt of storms rolling in from the Atlantic so a huge number of shipwrecks occurred. 

The industrial revolution had created a surge in international trade, carried out by ocean-going ships, and new navigation techniques and instruments were being introduced. All these changes were reflected in the Gibsons' pictures.

John Gibson (b.1827) first recognised the importance of documenting the catastrophic events. He was the local editor for a small newspaper and began filing reports from the islands. He, and later his son and subsequent generations, regarded the images as "artfully produced records of dramatic events" and their photographs generated income when shipping companies bought prints to use in support of insurance claims. The Gibsons also sold photographs to the public as souvenirs.

In this large format book, with high quality paper and print, the astonishing images of the wrecks are incredibly powerful and often deeply moving. Each picture is accompanied by a short account explaining what is known of the vessel and her demise. It's a fascinating and mesmerising book.

Review date: August 2022
Publication date: 24th February 2022