Sketch of a storm off Le Havre by Théodore Géricault, 1818, as he worked towards the composition of his masterpiece The Raft of the Medusa © J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Louis Apol’s sketches from the 1880 voyage to Novaya Zemlya include studies of ice and skies which formed the basis of later finished paintings © Collection Het Scheepvaartmuseum, Amsterdam

The Isla de los Estados, off Tierra del Fuego by Sigismund Bacstrom, 1792 © Western Americana Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven

A flying fish found in tropical seas, nicknamed ‘sea swallow’, in Adriaen Coenen’s Visboek (The Book of Fish, 1577­–80) © National Library of the Netherlands, The Hague

A deck scene in high seas by mariner-artist John Everett (1876–1949), who crossed the Atlantic countless times in the 1920s in trading barques © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

‘Becalmed near the Line – Hands to Bathe’, sketch by Owen Stanley of his crew enjoying a wash in the ocean during his survey voyage on Rattlesnake in 1848 © Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

‘Informal pose in the Wheelhouse’ by John Kingsley Cooke, 1941 © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Giant octopus from the journals of Paul-Émile Pajot (1873–1929) © Collection musée de l’Abbaye Sainte-Croix, Les Sables-d’Olonne

The Venetian lagoon by Ottoman seafarer and cartographer Piri Reis (1465–1554) © Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

The sea has been an endless source of fascination, at once both alluring and mysterious, a place of wonder and terror. The Sea Journal contains first-hand records by a great range of travellers of their encounters with strange creatures and new lands, full of dangers and delights, pleasures and perils.

This remarkable gathering of private journals, logbooks, letters and diaries follows the voyages of intrepid sailors from the frozen polar wastes to South Seas paradise islands, as they set down their immediate impressions of all they saw. They capture their experiences while at sea, giving us a precious view of the oceans and the creatures that live in them as they were when they were scarcely known and right up to the present day. In a series of biographical portraits, we meet officers and ordinary sailors, cooks and whalers, surgeons and artists, explorers and adventurers. A handful of contemporary mariners provide their thoughts on how keeping a journal remains integral to their voyaging lives.

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Often still bearing the traces of their nautical past, the intriguing and enchanting sketches and drawings brilliantly capture the spirit of the oceans and the magic of the sea.

The seafarers include Jeanne Baret, William Bligh, Francis Chichester, Vasco da Gama, Francis Drake, Zheng He, Horatio Nelson, Antonio Pigafetta, Piri Reis, Georg Steller, Bartholomew Sharp, Tupaia and Susan Veeder.


Huw Lewis-Jones is a historian of exploration with a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He was formerly Curator at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, and the National Maritime Museum, London. His books include The Conquest of Everest (winner of the History Award at the Banff Mountain Festival), The Crossing of Antarctica and Across the Arctic Ocean. He is the author, with Kari Herbert, of the bestseller Explorers’ Sketchbooks. The Sea Journal: Seafarers’ Sketchbooks is published in hardback by Thames & Hudson.
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