Mercator Runs Under a Freshening Wind, Virginia, 1959

The “Mercator,” named after renowned cartographer Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594) launched in 1932 as a training ship for the Belgian Navy.

Prior to WWII the Mercator was mainly used for scientific observations. Her most notable voyages saw the Mercator bring back two Moai from Easter Island and in 1936 bring home the remains of Father Damien a/k/a Saint Damien of Molokai who after sixteen years' caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of those in the leper colony, Father Damien died of leprosy.

During WW II, the Mercator was taken under custody of the British Admiralty as a “Submarine Depot Ship,” commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Mercator. Years of service in the war and neglect took it’s toll on the once majestic ship. It would be years after the war before Mercator entered back into service as a training ship and completed 41 voyages where it sailed almost all seas.

Today the Mercator is a floating museum, docked in the marina of Ostend, in the heart of the city where people can visit the ship.

Location: Hampton Roads, VA
Photograph Date: 1959
Medium: Chromogenic Print
Edition: 200

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About the Photographer

J. Baylor Roberts

Mild-mannered and self-effacing, Joseph Baylor Roberts (1902-1994) was nevertheless one of the most dependable National Geographic staff photographers of the mid-20th century. He photographed anything and everything anywhere in the world, contributing to nearly 60 stories between 1936 and 1967. Though nearly 60, he was selected to accompany the submarine U.S.S. Triton when it made its historic first submerged voyage around the globe.

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