by Fiona Ferbrache
Last August, visitors strolling along Copenhagen’s quayside would have seen a rather unusual sight as 8,000 bottles of French wine were unloaded onto the quay. As “approximately 95% of trade is still carried by ship” (Hasty & Peters 2012:669), you may ask why this should be considered out of the ordinary. The incongruity was the manner in which these bottles had arrived in Copenhagen, for they had been transported by brigantine (a two-masted sailing vessel). The scene was, therefore, more reminiscent of a past way of life (such as Gordon Frickers has painted of The Port of Chester (1863)), than with contemporary trade.
The brigantine transportation of these organic wines offers an eco-friendly alternative to more contemporary forms of maritime trade, which produce between 3% and 5% of global CO2 emissions. Several small companies have been attempting to develop this potential market, in the 21st century, while promising technological developments offer further possibilities for making 19th century transportation methods more realistic today (see BBC article).
Maritime research lies on the margins of human geographical work, relative to geography’s terracentrism. Hasty and Peters (2012) address this directly in a paper that reviews geographies of ships and calls for the centralisation of ships in future geographical research. For example, Hasty and Peters argue that ships have been part of the creation of geographical knowledge, not least through their utility as vehicles of exploration. The authors also argue that ships provide alternative vantage points for innovative approaches to contemporary geographical concerns such as mobilities (ships being moving objects on fluid seas, worked and inhabited by mobile persons); immobilities and more-than-human geographies. Ships, we are encouraged to understand, matter for contemporary geography.
Sailing into the future, BBC News, 28th December 2012
William Hasty, Kimberley Peters, 2012, The Ship in Geography and the Geographies of Ships, Geography Compass 6 660-676
Kimberley Peters, 2010, Future Promises for Contemporary Social and Cultural Geographies of the Sea, Geography Compass 4 1260-1272
Kimberley Peters, 2011, Sinking the radio ‘pirates’: exploring British strategies of governance in the North Sea, 1964–1991, Area 43 281-287