I saw the Razzle Dazzle Ferry on postcards, screens and posters before I saw it in reality. A hippie-looking boat taking locals and tourists across the River Mersey every day. How could something so colourful be a part of my commuting?
River Mersey is one strange river. Some say it’s not even a river, but the sea coming into the land. It smells like the Danube but it flows towards the Irish Sea. It gives the name of the whole region – Merseyside, and Liverpool is at the heart of it.
I live on the other side of the river from Liverpool, in an area called Birkenhead. One can cross from one side to the other underneath the river, by train, bus or car. Or over the river, with the ferry. There may be other ways to cross the water but I haven’t heard of them.
The Beatles feel alive in Liverpool. Streets are full of John Lennon hairdos and girls with their tied up in 60’s style bun. Buskers say it’s alright because “Here Comes the Sun”.
The Razzle Dazzle ferry is part of that feel. It’s got stripes and stars, targets and pink. The pop artist that designed the patterns is Peter Blake, the same man that did the album cover for Sergeant Pepper Lonely Heart’s club band (my favorite Beatles album):
But the inspiration for the Razzle Dazzle Ferry comes from the First World War, when German submarines (called U-boats) were torpedoing the ships bringing supplies to the UK from over the Atlantic Ocean. The merchant ships had no chance of escaping the submarines, so instead they tried to dazzle them with disruptive patterns that had been painted on their hulls.
The idea was explained by a British zoologist called John Graham Kerr to Winston Churchill, who was in charge of the navy at the time: “a giraffe or zebra or jaguar looks extraordinarily conspicuous in a museum but in nature, especially when moving, is wonderfully difficult to pick up.”
The patterns were meant to confuse the enemy about the shape, speed and direction of the commercial boats. They were designed by British artists (Norman Wilkinson is the most famous one) and they were painted on ships by women art students.
Back to Liverpool’s Razzle Dazzle Ferry (called the Snowdrop). It will be crossing the Mersey every day until December 2016. So watch this timelapse of how it was made and start planning your trip to Liverpool: