Wives and Sweethearts: the Sailor’s Farewell


Behind every ship sent exploring to the Pacific were all the wives and sweethearts left ashore.

How did Elizabeth Cook, Elizabeth Bligh ('my darling Betsy') and the wives of other officers and seamen cope with the long absence of their husbands or promised sweethearts?


What were sailors favourite love tokens? How did women with children manage on their own? Our exhibition explores these questions with some rarely seen relics of Elizabeth Cook and other women. They shine a light on the varied lives and loves of voyagers’ wives, their pastimes and networks, as well as some of their personal tragedies.


And then there were some whose ‘Returning Hopes’ of their promised sweethearts were dashed by broken promises, one example being Sir Joseph Banks. And there were always a few of the crew who hoped to stay in the South Seas and live a life with their Polynesian sweethearts!