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Illustrated Sea Charts

A lockdown project by Hannah Lawson



Hannah Lawson

Hannah joined the Noble Caledonia team for the first time in 1999 and now spends half of each year working aboard expedition cruise ships and the rest of the year at home in West Yorkshire, where she produces artwork in her studio. 

Hannah studied zoology at the University of Liverpool, England, and then began work as a wildlife artist and mural painter at Chester Zoo and then lived and worked in East Africa for a year and a half. In Uganda she illustrated a guidebook to Kibale Forest National Park and did numerous murals. On return to the UK she gained a Masters in Natural History Illustration from the Royal College of Art in London.

Hannah has worked as a wildlife guide, Zodiac driver and expedition leader in remote regions for many years, visiting the Antarctic peninsula and South Georgia annually in the Austral summer and then heading north to cruise the shoreline of the UK, Norway and the Arctic, swapping penguin sightings for polar bears, and sketching, photographing and learning about the lives of the creatures she sees along the way.



If like me, you are missing the wild places then you might like to immerse yourself in my recent lockdown project of illustrated sea charts which can be viewed in the above slideshow.

I have been working aboard Expedition Cruise ships for more than twenty one years; Noble Caledonia gave me my first chance to share my passion for wildlife aboard the Caledonian Star back in 1999! I have always united my interest, knowledge and love of birds, marine mammals and driving Zodiacs with time spent at home in my studio. I have a first degree in zoology, and a masters in Natural History Illustration from the Royal College of Art. In a normal year I spend six to seven months of the year aboard ships, and the rest of the time in West Yorkshire working as a printmaker and wildlife artist. Of course 2020, and now 2021 have not been normal. Like almost everyone I have been at home since last March. Lockdown and time at home has allowed me to do a lot of gardening, house renovation, walking the dog, and some new artwork.

For every one of the 95 Antarctic voyages I have been on I have painted the wildlife seen with watercolours onto Admiralty Sea Charts and these unique artworks have been raffled or auctioned on board. Over the years the charts have helped raise thousands of pounds for the South Georgia Heritage Trust, and its rat eradication project; the Antarctic Heritage Trust, that manages and restores historic buildings; Birdlife International for the save the albatross campaign and other charities that support conservation and habitat restoration in the Southern Ocean. Often, I am painting the charts in the crew mess as we head north across the Drake Passage – with quite a bit of rock and roll!  I decided that a nice lockdown project would be to take the time to do illustrations on a sea chart in the comfort of my studio, using my own photographs as reference and based on my years of observation of the fabulous wildlife of Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falklands. I found a fantastic printer who could perfectly reproduce the finished work so that it could be available for sale on my website. The original was sent to a friend who lives in Stanley in the Falkland Islands (she commissioned one of my charts about ten years ago!).

Once I had finished the wildlife of the Southern Ocean I realised how much I had missed seeing polar bears and walrus during my usual summer season in the Arctic. I have been annually to Svalbard since 2002!  So I settled down to immerse myself in painting a sea chart of Arctic wildlife. I have also been lucky enough to spend spring of each year voyaging around the West Coast of Scotland – so it was great fun thinking of all the special birds and mammals to be seen in the isles.

I still have a chart of the complete coastline of the British Isles to do, and I have a folder full of paper charts that are no longer needed aboard vessels as the electronic charts have taken over. I’ll be getting my watercolours out again soon!


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