Lifejackets - safety at sea
However, drowning remained a theme in her life, as In 1912 Orpheus’ other brother drowned while fishing near Dunedin where the family had settled.
In this same year Titanic sank causing the deaths of more than 1,500 people, after which the British Board of Trade issued a competition throughout the Empire for the design of a new flotation device more effective than the cork vests.
Over 6 years, with the feedback of the Board of Trade, Orpheus developed lifejackets she called 'Salvus' ('safe'). They were made of canvas, with the sealed pockets filled with kapok for buoyancy. Kapok is the fluff from inside the seed pods of a kapok tree – moisture resistant and buoyant. The vests she designed were easy to put on over the head, and more cushioning than cork for landing in water from a height.
From 1918 these lifejackets were adopted by the British Navy, English and New Zealand ferries, and the Union Steam Ship Company fleet, and were used worldwide. (newspaper article)
They were superseded however when a lifejacket made of synthetic materials and with head support was designed during World War II.
Since then many different lifejacket designs have been created and they are an essential, and compulsory, part of our lives and leisure on the sea.
On display at the New Zealand Maritime Museum is the Emirates Team New Zealand sailing uniform helmet and lifejacket worn by Richard Meacham on the AC72 in the 34th America's Cup, San Fancisco 2013. (right)