Lecture Series

One of the premiere lecture series in Hampton Roads, The Mariners’ Museum Lecture Series offers Museum members and Hampton Roads residents dynamic and memorable stories of mankind’s relationship with the sea. The Lecture Series has grown and now presents approximately 10 lectures each year designed to enlighten and engage curious minds with thought-provoking topics and meaningful dialogue.


Unless noted, Lecture Series events are held in the Main Lobby of the Mariners’ Museum at 100 Museum Drive, Newport News, VA. Lectures begin at 7:00 P.M. and doors open at 6:15 P.M.

Each lecture features a presentation by the author, a Q&A with the audience and book signing.

All lectures below are free and open to the public. Mariners’ Museum Members can make a seating reservation by calling 757-591-7715 or using the online reservation links below. Reservations are not required, but encouraged. General Admission seating is available for non-Members.

Author’s books are sold in the Museum Shop and will be available the evening of the lecture. For more information, please call the Museum Shop at 757-591-7792.

For general questions regarding the Lecture Series, please call (757) 591-7749.

View the Civil War lecture Series.

Thanks to Lecture Sponsors:
The Mariners' Museum Lecture Series is made possible, in part, by support from:

  • Peninsula Community Foundation of Virginia
  • The Tom & Ann Hunnicutt Lecture Fund
  • PNC Bank
  • Newport News Arts Commission

Peninsula Community Foundation of Virginia logo

The Tom & Ann Hunnicutt Lecture Fund logo

PNC Bank logo

Newport News Arts Commission




Spring 2014 Lecture Dates & Titles:
Date: Title: Author:
Thursday, Jan 23 The Sea & Civilization: A Maritime History of the World Lincoln Paine
Friday, Feb 14 A Forest on the Sea: Environmental Expertise in Renaissance Venice Karl Appuhn
Tuesday, Feb 18 A Storm Too Soon: A True Story of Disaster, Survival and an Incredible Rescue Michael Tougias
Thursday, Mar 20 Surprise! U.S. and Western Intelligence & Warning Failures during the Cold War
--Especially in the Submarine World
Norman Polmar
Saturday, Apr 5
Anatomy of a Collision: The Sinking of the Andrea Doria Robert Meurn
Thursday, Apr 24 Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea Chris Metzler & Jeff Springer
Thursday, May 15 Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea Steven Callahan
Wednesday, Jun 11
Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters William Tsutsui


Thursday, January 23 •  7:00 pm * CANCELLED DUE TO WINTER WEATHER *

The Sea & Civilization: A Maritime History of the World
Lincoln Paine
Book cover for Lincoln Paine's "The Sea & Civilization: A Maritime History of the World"The Sea & Civilization:
A Maritime History of the World
book cover

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
                                                           - Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Nearly three-quarters of the Earth's surface is covered in water yet most written history centers on the movements of armies, the building of cities, and the taming of the land. The sea is relegated, at best, as an incidental part of what we have learned about world history.

Historian Lincoln Paine would like for you to reconsider that history. As Paine writes in his new book, The Sea & Civilization: A Maritime History of the World,
"I want to change the way you see the world map by focusing your attention on the blues that shade 70% of the image before you, and letting the earth tones fade."

For thousands of years, people have been launching themselves onto water to fish, trade, fight, and explore -- and doing so in ways that have profoundly shaped human institutions and the rise and decline of civilizations. Join us on Thursday, January 23, at 7:00 pm, as Paine speaks on the sweeping history of mankind’s relationship with the sea and his assertion that maritime history has been the real driver of world history.

 Members, reserve your seats online for this lecture or call
(757) 591-7715

Photo of Lincoln PaineLincoln Paine
(Photo by Nellie Large)

About the Speaker

Lincoln Paine is the author of four books, including Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia, and more than fifty articles and reviews on various aspects of maritime history.





Friday, February 14 • 7:00 pm

A Forest on the Sea: Environmental Expertise in Renaissance Venice
Karl Appuhn

Book cover for Karl Appuhn' "A Forest on the Sea: Environmental Expertise in Renaissance Venice"A Forest on the Sea: Environmental Expertise in Renaissance Venice book cover 

The Republic of Venice was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance and a very important center of commerce and art. However, its location on a group of 118 small, marshy, islands between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers meant acquiring wood was essential to the survival of the Republic. To build its great naval and merchant ships, maintain its extensive levee system, construct buildings, fuel industries, and heat homes, Venice needed access to large quantities of oak and beech timber. The island city itself was devoid of any forests, so the state turned to its mainland holdings for this vital resource.

In conjunction with Christopher Newport University’s Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program and College of Arts and Humanities, please join us as Historian Karl Appuhn discusses his latest book, A Forest on the Sea: Environmental Expertise in Renaissance Venice. Appuhn will recount how Venice went from an isolated city completely dependent on foreign suppliers for wood to a regional state with a sophisticated system of administering and preserving forests. Far ahead of their time, Venice kept many large forests under state protection, some of which still stand today.

This talk is the keynote address for the annual Mid-Atlantic Renaissance and Reformation Seminar (MARRS), hosted this year by Christopher Newport University. The lecture is open to The Mariners’ Museum members and the public.

 Members, reserve your seats online for this lecture or call
(757) 591-7715

Photo of Karl AppuhnKarl Appuhn

About the Speaker

Karl Appuhn is Associate Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University.






Tuesday, February 18 • 7:00 pm

A Storm Too Soon: A True Story of Disaster, Survival and an Incredible Rescue
Michael Tougias

Book cover for Michael Tougias' "A Storm Too Soon: A True Story of Disaster, Survival and an Incredible Rescue"A Storm Too Soon: A True Story of Disaster, Survival and an Incredible Rescue book cover

Well ahead of the bad-weather season, captain J.P. DeLutz and two others departed Florida in a his 45-foot sailboat. Bound for Saint-Tropez, France, the men were ravaged by a fierce storm 250 miles from the nearest land. Capsizing, they frantically took to their damaged life raft to wait for rescue. Unsure if their distress beacon worked, they sailors were lashed by 80-foot waves and hurricane force winds and repeatedly tossed out of their raft.

What would follow is one of the daring rescues in U.S. Coast Guard history. Four Guardsmen battled the storm in their Jayhawk helicopter, eventually making the difficult decision to drop a rescue swimmer into the chaos. Once committed to the rescue, the Coast Guardsmen found themselves in almost as much trouble as the survivors.

On Tuesday, February 18, join master story-teller Michael Tougias as he recounts the ordeal taken from his new book, A Storm Too Soon: A True Story of Disaster, Survival, and an Incredible Rescue.

The story is an emotional roller coaster and allows Tougias to “to transport the audience into the heart of the storm so that they ask themselves, ‘what would I have done?’”

 Members, reserve your seats online for this lecture or call
(757) 591-7715


Photo of Michael J. TougiasMichael J. Tougias

About the Speaker

Michael J. Tougias is an award-winning author of 20 books including the true survival thrillers, Fatal Forecast and Overboard! Disney Studio is currently filming the movie version of his book,
The Finest Hours.




Thursday, March 20 • 7:00 pm

Surprise! U.S. and Western Intelligence & Warning Failures during the Cold War --Especially in the Submarine World
Norman Polmar

Cold War Submarines Book CoverA Cold War Submarines Book Cover
(by Norman Polmar and K.J. Moore)

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union produced more submarines than did all Western nations combined. Between August 1945 and December 1991, the United States and Soviet Union built 936 submarines, 401 of which were nuclear-powered. Of this total, the Soviets built more than 650 --nearly 70 percent. During that time, Western intelligence reports speculated regarding the true capabilities of Soviet submarines.

Information gathered after the collapse of the Soviet Union would disprove much of the Western intelligence estimates. When the Cold War ended, Soviet nuclear-propelled submarines could travel faster and dive deeper than Western submarines, carry more tonnage in weapons, and had reached the quieting levels of Western submarines.


Join us on Thursday, March 20, as award-winning author and military analyst Norman Polmar examines U.S. and Western intelligence and warning failures during the Cold War, especially in the field of Soviet submarine developments.

Copies of Norman Polmar's latest book "Cold War Submarines" will be available for purchase.

 Members, reserve your seats online for this lecture or call (757) 591-7715

Photo of Norman PolmarNorman Polmar

About the Speaker

Norman Polmar has been a consultant to several senior officials in the United States Navy, Department of Defense, the Director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and several U.S. Senators. Polmar has written or co-authored more than 50 books and numerous articles on naval, intelligence and aviation subjects. He is a columnist for Proceedings and Naval History magazines.



Saturday April 5 1:00 pm • Huntington Room

Anatomy of a Collision: The Sinking of the Andrea Doria
Robert J. Meurn

Anatomy of a Collision Book CoverA Anatomy of a Collision Book Cover
(by Robert Meurn)

Included with Museum admission. Free for members.

In July 1956, following a nine-day transatlantic crossing, the Italian ocean liner Andrea Doria approached the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts on its way to New York City. With heavy fog obscuring visibility, the Swedish liner, MS Stockholm, commenced its voyage east. The collision of the two large passenger ships became one of history's most infamous maritime disasters. It was also one of the greatest sea rescues in history.

Join us on Saturday, April 5 at 1:00 pm as Robert Meurn presents, Anatomy of a Collision: the Sinking of the Andrea Doria. Meurn will focus on the events leading up to the collision and offers his take on what really caused the accident.

Struck in the side, the top-heavy Andrea Doria immediately listed severely to starboard, leaving half of its lifeboats unusable. The shortage of lifeboats might have resulted in significant loss of life, but the efficiency of the ship's technical design, the good behavior of the crew, improvements in communications, and the rapid response of other ships averted a disaster similar in scale to that of the Titanic in 1912. The evacuated luxury liner capsized and sank the following morning.

About the Speaker

Robert J. Meurn, Master Mariner and Captain, USN Ret. is a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and George Washington University. Captain Meurn is Professor Emeritus at the United States Merchant Marine Academy and the author of four books, including his most recent work on the Andrea Doria sinking, Anatomy of A Collision: Are the Passengers Safe?.


Thursday, April 24 • 7:00 pm

Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea
Documentary Film Screening and Talk

with Directors Chris Metzler & Jeff Springer

Once known as the “California Riviera”, the Salton Sea is now called one of America’s worst ecological disasters: a fetid, stagnant, salty lake, coughing up dead fish and birds by the thousands. “Accidentally” created by an engineering error in 1905, the Salton Sea was reworked in the 1950’s as a world class vacation destination for the rich and famous. In its heyday, vacationers mingled with the likes of Frank Sinatra, the Marx Brothers and the Beach Boys. However, following a series of hurricanes, floods, and fish die-offs, the Salton Sea was quickly abandoned

Yet a few hardy eccentrics hang on to hope. The Salton Sea’s shores now play host to a wacky world of interesting characters who struggle to keep a remodeled version of the dream alive. Even Congressman Sonny Bono was once dedicated to saving the lake (until he decided to go skiing one day…). Through these residents’ perceptions – and misperceptions – filmmakers Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer reveal the strange history and unexpected beauty of the Salton Sea.

Join us on Thursday, April 24 for a screening of the award-winning documentary, Plagues & Pleasures of the Salton Sea and a discussion of the film by Metzler and Springer. The film captures the hope, pride, whimsy and complexity of the lakeside community: aging nudists, religious zealots, real estate speculators, mooning immigrants, hard drinkers and people that can no longer afford to move anywhere else.

Narrated by oddball auteur John Waters, the film is hair-raising and hilarious, part history lesson, part cautionary tale and part portrait of one of the strangest communities you’ve ever seen. While a heart-warming tale of individualism, the film offers up a sobering message about the consequences of tampering with nature – those in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed should take note – and the American Dream gone as stinky as a dead carp.

Audience Discretion Advisory: This film contains nudity and language that may be unsuitable for younger or more sensitive viewers.

“Weird and wonderful!” - The New Times

"Fascinating! An alarming yet highly entertaining documentary." - Hollywood Reporter

“A brilliant, riveting must-see film that captures the mythology of the American dream.” -- GreenMuze

The film has garnered over 35 “best documentary” awards around the world, including HBO Producer’s Award and Best Documentary and Prix Special du Jury (Jury’s Choice Award), Festival International du Film d’Environment, France.

 Members, reserve your seats online for this lecture or call (757) 591-7715

Photo of chris-metzler.jpgChris Metzler

About the Speaker

After graduating from USC with a degree in business and cinema, Chris Metzler’s film career has taken him from the depths of agency work, to coordinating post-production for awful American movies seen late at night in Belgium. His film directing and producing work has resulted in frequent cross the country with the aid of caffeinated beverages and made their way in the Nashville country and Christian music video industries, before finally forsaking their souls to commercial LA rock n’ roll. These misadventures eventually culminated in them winning a Billboard Magazine Music Video Award. Chris is currently working on a documentary about large aquatic rodents.


Photo of Jeff SpringerJeff Springer

About the Speaker

Jeff Springer was born in an abandoned town in the California desert, raised in Hawaii, and educated at USC Film School. After working at a dilapidated film studio in Russia, he returned to LA and began editing cheesy (but action packed) promos for record companies and TV networks like NBC, Paramount, Warner Bros., and Capitol Records. Eventually he found himself on Lucasfilm's Skywalker Ranch, editing behind-the-scenes documentaries for a not-very-well received science fiction prequel.

After working on random bits of video in London and Berlin, Springer has gone on to edit and photograph several feature documentaries, including Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone about the legendary rock-ska-funk band. The film was narrated by actor Laurence Fishburne, premiered on PBS, and is somehow listed on RottenTomatoes.com as the 10th Best Documentary of All Time. He also recently went to Afghanistan to edit the feature documentary IN-JUSTICE, about Afghan women in prison for moral crimes. One day he dreams of getting the chance to go to North Korea, but realizes this might take some time.


Thursday, May 15 • 7:00 pm

Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea
Steven Callahan

Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea book coverAdrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea

Robert Redford’s latest survival film, All is Lost, won critical and public acclaim for its stark portrayal of a man lost at sea. Yet, it is often said that “truth is stranger than fiction.” And before Redford’s fictionalized adaptation, there was Steven Callahan.

Callahan’s lifelong love affair with boats started at an early age and by his twenties he was designing and building sailboats. At the age of 29, on a return solo voyage across the Atlantic, something – probably a whale – struck his 21-foot sailboat. Creating a gash that filled his boat with sea water, Callahan had to quickly pack his liferaft. Diving into the water-filled cabin to retrieve essential survival items “felt like entering a watery tomb.” However, those few items – water, food, flares, a spear-gun and sleeping bag – would prove to be the difference in what would end up as a 76-day struggle for survival.

Join us on Thursday, May 15, as Steven Callahan recounts his incredible story as depicted in The Mariners’ Museum’s Abandon Ship exhibition and told in his New York Times bestseller, Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea.

While the raft, named the Rubber Ducky III by Callahan, was advertised as a “six-man” model, it did not provide enough room for him to lay down flat. Through nearly 11 weeks at sea, Callahan survived storms, sharks, holes in the raft, cramped space, sores, pain, hunger, thirst and the uncertainty of the unknown. His diet would consist of a few dozen fish, birds, a few pounds of barnacles, and other oceanic items. Yet, his story of survival was not one of simple endurance through physical pain. The psychological burden was enormous: desperation, isolation, and fear challenged Callahan’s grip with sanity. Callahan notes, “I had a lot of time to think, and I regretted every mistake I’d ever made. I desperately wanted to get through it so I could make a better job of my life.”

Nine ships failed to see his raft and by the seventy-sixth day, his make-shift water still had stopped working. Callahan remembers, “I figured this must be the end. I had three cans of water left. My body and mind were shutting down; it was as if I could feel all the people who had ever been lost at sea around me. I had no more to give.” Rescued by fishermen off Guadeloupe, Callahan had lost a third of his body weight and it would be six weeks before he could walk properly again.


“Utterly absorbing” -- Newsweek
“100 Best Adventure Books” -- National Geographic Adventure

 Members, reserve your seats online for this lecture or call (757) 591-7715

Photo of Steven CallahanSteven Callahan

About the Speaker

Steven Callahan is the author of Adrift, Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea, which chronicles his life-raft drift across half the Atlantic in 1982. Adrift became a New York Times Bestseller and has been translated into 15 languages. He also wrote Capsized for survivor Jim Nalepka who spent four months with four other men on an overturned, half-flooded boat. Callahan has contributed writings, illustrations, and photos to more than a dozen other books, many about seamanship or survival, and has authored hundreds of articles for the marine press worldwide. He’s served as contributing editor to Sailor and Sail magazines, and as senior editor at Cruising World, for which he continues to do special projects such as testing new boats and lifesaving equipment. He also speaks publicly and consults, most recently for director Ang Lee on the film adaptation of the novel Life of Pi.

Wednesday, June 11 • 7:00 pm

Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters
William Tsutsui

Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters book coverGodzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters book cover

He picks up a bus and he throws it back down 
As he wades through the buildings toward the center of town 
Oh, no, they say he's got to go 
Go go Godzilla 

Oh, no, there goes Tokyo 
Go go Godzilla 

Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult

On March 1, 1954 – eight months before Godzilla (or Gojira in Japan) premiered on movie screens in Japan – the United States set off the world’s first Hydrogen bomb. The bomb was detonated on the Marshall Islands, which had been forcibly taken by American forces during World War II. One thousand times the force of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, the Japanese public was told to stay away from the islands, but not given an explanation why.

On that day, the crew of the Japanese fishing vessel, Lucky Dragon #5, thought themselves extra clever by heading out to trawl in the forbidden zone. A sudden bright flash in the sky and it was clear they had made a mistake. They quickly pulled their nets and stowed their catch and returned to the mainland. Horribly irradiated by the fallout, the crew eventually died from the exposure: the irony that the first to die from a Hydrogen bomb was a Japanese man was not lost on the Japanese. Nor was the opening scene of the new monster film that opened in November: a fishing boat known as #5 is afflicted by a mysterious and unexpected flash of light. Godzilla was an instant success in Japan. Following a re-edit which added footage of Raymond Burr as a journalist, it debuted in the United States two years later and would go on to spawn a decades-long industry.

Join us on Wednesday, June 11, as William Tsutsui presents an entertaining and affectionate look at one of film’s most cherished characters, based on his book, Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters. Tsutsui follows the romping, stomping path of the big, green radioactive lizard across global popular culture: from Japanese film making in the 1950s, to rap lyrics in the present day; from issues of nuclear disarmament to the character of science fiction fandom; from wind-up toys to advertisements for Nike, Taco Bell, and Dr. Pepper.

Yet, because the movie seeded a franchise of increasing silliness that has been a drive-in mainstay for over fifty years, there is a certain tendency to dismiss the film. However, at its core, Godzilla is far more than a man in a rubber suit thrashing about on a set of miniature buildings. Tsutsui explores the cultural differences between what Godzilla "means" in Japan, as well as in America and across the world.


"a fresh, original, and appealing look at one of our more intriguing pop culture icons. Although informed by careful scholarship, the book is highly accessible. It's funny, stimulating, and an overall pleasure to read. I'll never look at Godzilla the same way again!"
           --Susan Napier, author

Winner -- William Rockhill Nelson Award for Non-Fiction

 Members, reserve your seats online for this lecture or call (757) 591-7715

Photo of William TsutsuiWilliam Tsutsui

About the Speaker

William Tsutsui is currently the Dean of Dedman College at Southern Methodist University. On June 1, he will begin as President of Hendrix College in Arkansas. Tsutsui has published seven books and written extensively on Japanese economics, culture and history.




Find additional resources on these subjects and more at The Mariners’ Museum Library at Christopher Newport University. Information on the Museum Library – the largest maritime library in the Western Hemisphere – can be found at www.marinersmuseum.org/library