iconic photos of life at sea


Amy Johnson & Anna Neagle

Getty Images

From the yachting clique of Hollywood's golden era to modern sailing icons, click through to see the stories behind some of the most iconic and glamorous images ever taken of life at sea...

Amy Johnson & Anna Neagle

Beautiful, bold and smiling despite the chilly British weather, Amy Johnson (right) and Anna Neagle represent two opposite but equally admirable ideals of 1930s adventure. This picture was taken at the opening of speedboat season in Hendon, England in March 1931. Though they look at home on the water, it’s the sky and screen respectively for which they are famous. Just a few months later Johnson became a record-breaking aviatrix, while Neagle found fame playing the lead in 1934’s Nell Gwynn.

What these women shared was a fearless spirit and the ability to offer light in the darkest of times. “Clichés like ‘blazing trails’, flying over ‘shark-infested seas’, ‘battling with monsoons’ and ‘forced landings amongst savage tribes’ became a familiar diet for breakfast,” Johnson once said of her unprecedented solo flights to Russia, South Africa and, most famously, Australia in a second-hand de Havilland Gipsy Moth named Jason.

Back in the UK, Neagle had a reputation as the go-to girl for bringing glamour and fun to war-torn London with her light-hearted musicals. But she, too, yearned for new horizons, writing in Woman magazine in 1959: “What, I sometimes wonder, would it be like if I lived in a country where winter is a matter of a few days and a few weeks’ rain; where the sun is never far away, and the flowers bloom all year long?”  

For Johnson, it was her intrepid spirit that would lead to her demise. In January 1941 her plane came down in bad weather over the Thames Estuary. She bailed out but was sucked into the propeller of the HMS Haslemere as the ship’s crew tried to rescue her. Her body was never found but her bravery was rewarded posthumously with an Albert Medal. 

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