Barnacle taken from hull of an Indiaman, CC BY National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Although this little Barnacle doesn't look impressive it tells a very important story in British and World history.
Can you imagine British people without their tea? We at Show Me definitely can't get by without our tea in the mornings. Tea has been a British tradition for over 200 years, and this little barnacle comes from the bottom of a merchant ship that would have been used to transport tea into Britain.
Two hundred years ago, the oceans around the East Indies, India and China were crammed with merchant ships, called ‘Indiaman’ who brought exotic fruit, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, teas and coffee and even silk back to Europe.
The bottoms of these ships (the hull) provided the perfect home for these little crustaceans, and this one grew so big that somebody decided to keep it.
Although the barnacle itself might not seem that important it tells the story of maritime trade throughout the British Empire.
Things to think about:
- In the 19th century, British people got a real taste for things which couldn’t be easily produced in Britain. Have a look around your home. What things can you see that don’t originally come from Britain?
- In the past, sailors had to travel long distances to bring all these things back. Now we use aeroplanes and can buy our tea, coffee and bananas the next day at the supermarket. Is this a good or bad thing?
The story of this barnacle can be used to introduce children to the ideas of international trade and the commodities that came to Britain from the empire.
Many students will be unaware that the tea, coffee, sugar, rice and chocolate in their kitchens were all imports of empire and were unheard of in Britain until the imperial age.
- A single barnacle taken from the hull of an ship with smaller ones growing on it. Barnacles clinging onto ships and weed growing on the hull could severely affect the performance of sailing ships. The date of this one is not known but it is most likely from the 19th century and was perhaps kept due to its unusual size.
- Although this little Barnacle doesn't look impressive it tells a very important story in British and World history.