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Barnacle taken from hull of an Indiaman

Very large barnacle with large whole in the 'neck' and wider base.

Barnacle taken from hull of an Indiaman, © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

  • Intro
    Museum's Description
    Teacher notes
    • 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?
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