The Royal Geographical Society acquires historic images

02 November 2018

Industry news

A collection newly acquired by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) includes photographs taken by one of the world’s first travel writers, Eric Newby, who set sail just aged 18 from Belfast on 18 October 1938 for one of the last grain races to Australia. 

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The images show scenes captured by Newby, most famous for his book A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, while he was on board the Moshulu which set sail from Belfast for Australia 80 years ago. 

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Newby had set his sights on sailing after hearing tales from a family friend called Mr Mountstewart. When the advertising agency he was working for lost a lucrative cereal contract, the young Newby seized the opportunity to see if there was space for him on the next voyage leaving Belfast.

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He was successful, and embarked on the long journey via the Cape of Good Hope on 18 October 1938. In the face of difficult weather – the Moshulu was struck by a tornado during the voyage – and dorms so plagued with bed bugs the crew slept on hammocks on deck.

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Newby’s photographs give insights in to what life on the ship was like, and the toll the voyage had on his fellow sailors.


The photographs are part of a wider collection that was recently bequeathed to the Society from Eric Newby’s daughter, Sonia Ashmore. 



Picture copyright: The Royal Geographical Society.