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Tales of maritime derring-do

Pushing oneself to the limits of human endurance on the high seas always makes for a good story.

An exhibition devoted to those brave and hardy souls who battled against all that the sea could throw at them opens tomorrow at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, Cornwall. The 2006 "Endurance Survival"

exhibition captures the incredible-but-true sagas behind the achievements of people such as Ernest Shackleton and Dame Ellen MacArthur, as well as those of less celebrated adventurers.

One of the exhibition's highlights is the great Endurance expedition - Shackleton's 1914-1916 epic survival mission leading 30 men stranded on a deserted and freezing island in the middle of the south Atlantic. After nearly two years of the most unimaginable hardship, Shackleton rescued his men and proved himself as the most natural of born leaders.

Highlighting this leadership, the exhibition features the ill-fated vessel James Caird, and some of Shackleton's personal items, as well as archaeologist meteorologist Leonard Hussey's morale-boosting banjo and the replica costume worn by actor Kenneth Branagh in Channel 4's film Shackleton.

Other major objects include the Ednamair, a 9ft (2.74m) dinghy which, in 1972, saved the Robertson family after their yacht was sunk by killer whales 300 miles (483kms) off the Galapagos Islands. With just a bag of onions and a dead turtle or two, the six members of the family survived by living off the sea for 38 days before being rescued - some 18 months after setting sail from Falmouth, Cornwall, in January 1971, to sail around the world.

The exhibition also tells the heart-stopping story of Tony Bullimore's agonisingly cold and lonely five days in the southern ocean. Using a representation of an upturned hull and rare objects from his 19961997 Vendee Globe challenge, which saved him from fatal exposure, you can relive his incredible story of survival.

Dame Ellen MacArthur's recent non-stop round-the-world record is also highlighted. She has donated her ration pack containing such delights as freeze-dried couscous, fruit salad and trifle. There is consideration of her typical nutritional daily needs - could you survive on what she had to live on for months?

The exhibition also poses a few challenging questions for visitors such as:

"Could you navigate your way around the world as Robin Knox-Johnston did? Or survive on just a few 30-minute naps a day, for 71 days, as did Dame Ellen?"

The exhibition uses objects, stories and rare film footage to tell its amazing stories of maritime derring-do. Few students are likely to come away without being amazed, amused and excited by some of the stories told.

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