Flagging a mystery in Canton

The French and United States factories at Canton, c1841. ANMM Collection 00015750. Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds.

The French and United States factories at Canton, c1841. ANMM Collection 00015750. Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds.

History in art

When I visit maritime museums, I am always drawn to the ‘China trade’ paintings of Canton (now Guangzhou), the southern Chinese port to which all foreign trade was restricted from 1757 under the Qing dynasty’s Canton System. There is something about their composition that is so intriguing – the merging of Chinese and European artistic traditions, the bustling river crowded with boats, and the detailed architectural rendering of the Western merchants’ hongs (factories) with their national flags proudly displayed out front.

Recently I have been researching one of the museum’s China trade paintings as part of a broader project on the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Cantonese settler Mak Sai Ying in Sydney in 1818. Our oil painting depicts the French and American hongs on the western side of the Thirteen Factories district along the Pearl River. It has been dated about 1841, or the latter stages of the First Opium War (1839–1842) between Britain and China, which would result in the abolition of the Canton System and the opening of five Chinese treaty ports to foreign trade. What I really wanted to know about our painting was: why would the British Red Ensign be flying in front of the Spanish factory?

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Fibre art and fashion

Acknowledgement to Country

The Australian National Maritime Museum acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora nation as the traditional custodians of the bamal (earth) and badu (waters) on which we work. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the land and waters throughout Australia and pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to elders past and present.

The words bamal and badu are spoken in the Sydney region’s Eora language. Supplied courtesy of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Cultural Warning

The Museum would like to advise visitors that this content may contain the names and artwork, by deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In celebration of NAIDOC Week 2018, explore some of Australia’s most renowned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female artists, leading practitioners in their fields of weaving and shell stringing. ANMM Collection <a href="http://collections.anmm.gov.au/en/objects/details/194327/woven-skirt-from-galiwinku-elcho-island?ctx=d12c6e42-85eb-4b31-a5bd-868c52b51de0&idx=0">00054382</a>. Image: © Rosemary Gamajun Mamuniny/Copyright Agency, 2018.

In celebration of NAIDOC Week 2018, explore some of Australia’s most renowned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female artists, leading practitioners in their fields of weaving and shell stringing. Detail of ANMM Collection 00054382. Image: © Rosemary Gamajun Mamuniny/Copyright Agency, 2018.

Because of her, we can!

This year’s NAIDOC week theme is ‘Because of her, we can!’, which celebrates the invaluable contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have made – and continue to make – to our communities, our families, our rich history and to our nation. For at least 65,000 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have carried our dreaming stories, songlines, languages and knowledge that have kept our culture strong and enriched us as the oldest continuing culture on the planet.

A new exhibition, Unbroken Lines of Resilience: feathers, fibre, shells, brings together some of Australia’s most renowned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female artists, leading practitioners in their fields of weaving and shell stringing. Their innovative works highlight the unbroken practices of our First Nations women and their deep cultural connections and knowledge systems. These practices include harvesting and processing organic and contemporary fibres, feathers and shells to create intricate bodywear for adornment.

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A gesture of kindness, Lord Nelson and the crew of the HMS Cordelia

A donation to the Vaughan Evans Library yielded a mysterious tale from history. Image: Kate Pentecost/ANMM.

A recent donation to the Vaughan Evans Library yielded a mysterious tale from history. Image: Kate Pentecost/ANMM.

A story hidden within a book

Sometimes it is the little things in life that can be the most interesting. A story that recently came across our path at the Vaughan Evans Library reflects this: It is a tale that took place in 1891 and involves Lord Viscount Nelson, a kind lady from Darlinghurst and thirteen wounded crew members from the HMS Cordelia… Continue reading

Sailing over the horizon

Matt Hayes, an Australian Olympic sailing champion, has departed on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure of the World ARC in his trusty <em>Influencer</em>. Image: Gail De Raadt/ANMM.

Matt Hayes, an Australian Olympic sailing champion, has departed on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure of the World ARC in his trusty Influencer. Image: Gail De Raadt/ANMM.

A racing adventure

The World ARC is a bucket list item for many yachting enthusiasts. The sailing rally is a round-the-world adventure, covering 26,000 nautical miles over 15 months. Following the classic trade winds, this circumnavigation event attracts over 200 boats and 1200 participants every year. Not only is it about circling the globe, but also the friendships formed between sailors from around the world.

Matt Hayes, an Australian Olympic sailing champion, is about to depart on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure and gave us a behind the scenes look at what it took to prepare for such an adventure on the high seas.

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The Staging Post

The Staging Post, a film by Jolyon Hoff, 2017. Courtesy The Staging Post/Cisarua Learning.

The Staging Post, a film by Jolyon Hoff, 2017. Courtesy The Staging Post/Cisarua Learning.

To mark Refugee Week last week, the museum was honoured to host the Sydney screening of the 2017 feature documentary The Staging Post in partnership with Settlement Services International. The Staging Post was produced and directed by Jolyon Hoff, an Australian documentary filmmaker who was living in Indonesia in 2013 when the Australian government instigated mandatory detention for all asylum seekers arriving by boat, with no possibility for resettlement in Australia. Jolyon had never met a refugee, so he headed for the village of Cisarua (about an hour south of Jakarta), known as the staging post for boats embarking for the offshore Australian territory of Christmas Island. It was there that he met two young Afghan Hazara refugees, Muzafar Ali and Khadim Dai. ‘We liked each other straight away’, Jolyon later said, ‘and that day we decided to start a project together.’

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Spirituality and the sea

The Mission To Seafarers Collection explores the early provision of welfare to sailors in Sydney ports and the surprising role of charitable religious organisations in maritime history. ANMM Collection.

The Mission to Seafarers Collection explores the early provision of welfare to sailors in Sydney ports and the surprising role of charitable religious organisations in maritime history. ANMM Collection.

The Mission to Seafarers Collection

The museum has acquired an evocative collection of maritime heritage from the Mission to Seafarers, Sydney, which has a history dating back to the early port in 1822. We can now explore the stories of the early provision of welfare to sailors and the surprising role of charitable religious organisations in maritime history.

By the 1820s, the Sydney waterfront was bustling with ships from around the world. Tens of thousands of sailors were temporary residents of the thriving maritime township. While the sailors thronged the many pubs and inns of The Rocks area, near the port, they were not known for their attendance at religious services. In 1822 the rector of St Philip’s Church of England, the Reverend William Cowper, instigated the establishment of an interdenominational society that could minister to sailors from different churches. Lacking a place of worship, Cowper and other volunteer clergymen conducted their early services on board the ships in port.

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Contested waterways – Aboriginal resistance in early colonial Sydney

Acknowledgement to Country

The Australian National Maritime Museum acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora nation as the traditional custodians of the bamal (earth) and badu (waters) on which we work. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the land and waters throughout Australia and pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to elders past and present.

The words bamal and badu are spoken in the Sydney region’s Eora language. Supplied courtesy of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Cultural Warning

The Museum would like to advise visitors that this content may contain the names and artwork, by deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

<em>Black Bastards Are Coming</em> © Gordon Syron, 2013. This work re-imagines European contact from an Indigenous perspective. The artist reverses the roles of first contact by depicting black soldiers in military red coats, approaching shore and firing guns at the white people standing in the shallows. ANMM Collection 00054536, reproduced courtesy Gordon Syron.

Black Bastards Are Coming © Gordon Syron, 2013. This work re-imagines European contact from an Indigenous perspective. The artist reverses the roles of first contact by depicting black soldiers in military red coats, approaching shore and firing guns at the white people standing in the shallows. ANMM Collection 00054536, reproduced courtesy Gordon Syron.

Warning: This article contains some words and terms used in the past by non-Aboriginal people that would be considered inappropriate today.

In the 19th century, Aboriginal people in the Sydney region used rivers, creeks and waterways as places of refuge and survival after the devastation of colonisation. In the first decade of the British colony, waterways were also important in resistance warfare. From 1788 to 1810 there were numerous raids conducted in canoes, as well as attacks by Aboriginal warriors on British vessels. The role of nawi – the Sydney tied-bark canoe – in this conflict has been overlooked by historians.

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Postcards from the sea

Personal mementoes

The Vaughan Evans Library was recently gifted the personal maritime research collection of Roy Fernandez. Roy Fernandez was an Australian diplomat who spent much of his adult life travelling the world. In 1969 he was Australian ambassador to Burma and later Yugoslavia. From 1971- 1974 he was deputy head of mission in Washington with a staff of 350. His last posting was as ambassador to Manilla in 1982.

Fernandez had a keen interest in researching details of immigrant and shipping to Australia and New Zealand, convict transports as well as the transports of both world wars. It is this research that has been generously donated to the Vaughan Evans Library for everyone to access. As a part of this collection, there are several volumes of postcards beautifully illustrating shipping vessels from around the world. Some of these postcards still have their original messages. It is through these short, hand-written messages that we can catch a glimpse of into the sender’s life as they send quick messages to loved ones back home.

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Introducing the Seabin project

The Seabin Project develops upstream solutions for waterways adjacent to high population areas, such as marinas, ports and public waterways. This is a front-line approach: if you can capture the debris deposited into the water at its most common source (near land), less garbage will work its way out into the oceans. Image: Seabin Project.

The Seabin Project develops upstream solutions for waterways adjacent to high population areas, such as marinas, ports and public waterways. This is a front-line approach: if you can capture the debris deposited into the water at its most common source (near land), less garbage will work its way out into the oceans. Image: Seabin Project.

Bin it to win it

Once upon a time, two surfers got sick of swimming in garbage. Unlike most of us, they decided to do something about it. In 2015, Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski quit their jobs and sourced seed funding from Shark Mitigation Systems to design a prototype ocean garbage collecting ‘Seabin’. This began a journey of research and product development that would take them around the world. Today, they are finally bringing their invention home to Australia.

The Seabin Project develops upstream solutions for waterways adjacent to high population areas, such as marinas, ports and public waterways. This is a front-line approach: if you can capture the debris deposited into the water at its most common source (near land), less garbage will work its way out into the oceans.

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Identifying the cannons from HMS Bounty

The fourth cannon from HMS Bounty?

A few days ago a Scottish newspaper ran a story about an upcoming auction of a cannon from HMS Bounty set to make £500,000. According to the article, the cannon was gifted by JR McCoy (the Pitcairn Island President) to a British sea captain who stopped at Pitcairn Island in 1898 and it subsequently made its way to Scotland. The article included three pictures showing a badly corroded gun missing its trunnions and cascable but with some surviving details of reinforce rings and the touch hole.

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RV Investigator: A science lab goes to sea

RV <em>Investigator</em> at sea. Image: Ben Arthur, CSIRO/Marine National Facility.

RV Investigator at sea. Image: Ben Arthur, CSIRO/Marine National Facility.

Investigating Australia’s oceans

Commander Matthew Flinders and the crew of HMS Investigator spent three years circumnavigating Australia. From 1801-1803 a team of British sailors, soldiers, artists and scientists and an Aboriginal man, Bungaree, from the Guringai area around Broken Bay, just north of Sydney, charted the coastline and analysed marine and terrestrial flora and fauna. To support scientific observations the ship was outfitted with a greenhouse, microscopes, and a library. The cartographic and hydrographic work conducted by HMS Investigator stands as a meticulous record of the natural composition of our coastal nation and its surrounding waters.

215 years later, at the behest of the Australian public, CSIRO Marine National Facility (MNF) blue-water research vessel RV Investigator, is rewriting history as it pieces together the most complete modern map of our territorial waters. It is capable of hosting 40 scientists on sea voyages up to 60 days over a 10,000 nautical mile radius from the icy waters of Macquarie Island to the Coral Sea. A modern version of its historic predecessor, RV Investigator is outfitted with laboratory spaces, acoustics and scientific winches to accommodate all aspects of atmospheric, oceanographic, biological and geosciences research. Plus, onboard cameras beam back live images from its current voyage every 10 minutes.

Here at the museum, we also have a keen interest in exploring the oceans; scientific and environmental issues and actions as well as cultural understandings of the ocean sphere. Luckily for me, I’ve recently started at the museum as the inaugural Curator of Ocean Science and Technology, just in time to score a berth on board the vessel for last week’s eight-day transit voyage (14-21 May 2018) from Brisbane to Hobart.

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New Ideas on Old Wars – The Archaeology of War

Maritime archaeologists and technicians study the shipboard computer screens during the 3D photographic survey of submarine HMAS <em>AE1</em>, in early 2018. Image courtesy Navigea Ltd.

Maritime archaeologists and technicians study the shipboard computer screens during the 3D photographic survey of submarine HMAS AE1, in early 2018. Image courtesy Navigea Ltd.

Expanding the Archaeologist’s toolkit

Once upon a time, the archaeologist’s toolkit was likely to consist of a shovel, trowel, bucket, brush, stakes and string. Today it includes a multitude of technological tools such as magnetometers, drones, ground-penetrating radar, 3D imaging and all sorts of acronyms including DGPS, LIDAR, ROVs, AUVs and many more. In the past, archaeologists were digging trenches in the ground or diving in shallow waters. These days even the roughest terrain and deepest of waters can be part of the archaeologists working environment. What was once thought impossible is increasingly possible – for example, the search for Australia’s first submarine AE1, lost in 1914 and thought one of the greatest unsolved Australian maritime mysteries, is now complete.

Today, an archaeologist can ‘look’ below the ground without even digging, they can send remote operating vehicles to incredible depths under water, and some are even investigating the potential for an ‘archaeology of the air’. And now with DNA analysis archaeologists can construct very human pictures from old bones.

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The saga of Skaubryn

The Camenzuli family in Paola, Malta, a few days before their departure for Australia on <em>Skaubryn</em>, 1958. From left: Lucy, Lina, Georgina, Zaren, Mary and Joyce. Reproduced courtesy Camenzuli family.

The Camenzuli family in Paola, Malta, a few days before their departure for Australia on Skaubryn, 1958. From left: Lucy, Lina, Georgina, Zaren, Mary and Joyce. Reproduced courtesy Camenzuli family.

It’s International Museum Day, an annual event that raises awareness about the role of museums in cultural exchange and the development of mutual understanding. This year’s theme of ‘hyperconnected museums’ focuses on how museums can make their collections accessible and connect with local communities. It’s a theme that is pertinent to our Remembering Skaubryn: 60 years on exhibition, which is drawn from an important collection of photographs documenting the fire and rescue on the Norwegian migrant liner Skaubryn in 1958. Skaubryn was carrying 1,080 passengers, mostly German and Maltese migrants, and was the only vessel lost at sea during the era of post-war migration to Australia.

We have been amazed by the public response to Remembering Skaubryn, with offers of material for our collection, oral history interviews, and visits from survivors, their families and descendants, as well as local community groups such as the Australian-German Welfare Society. It has been wonderful to hear from visitors who have found a personal connection to the exhibition, reminding us that immigration is lived history but also living history, where the impacts of life-changing migrant voyages resonate right down through the generations. Continue reading

Remembering the marvelous maritime mothers

Making it look easy, Ethel May Sterling and her daughter Margaret aboard her husband's ship, <em>ER Sterling</em>. ANMM Collection 00035539.

Making it look easy, Ethel May Sterling and her daughter Margaret aboard her husband’s ship, ER Sterling. ANMM Collection 00035539.

Mothering on the high seas

As Mother’s Day approaches a maritime museum is not usually a place one would look for motherly sentiment. Yet here at the museum and the Vaughan Evans Library, there are small yet extraordinary reminders of what motherhood can mean. And how hard it can be for some.

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Welcome Wall May 2018

358 names were added to the Welcome Wall during a ceremony on Sunday 6 May 2018. It is the 79th bronze panel added to the Wall and there are now almost 30,000 names on the Wall, which celebrates Australia's waves of migration. Image: Andrew Frolows/ANMM.

358 names were added to the Welcome Wall during a ceremony on Sunday 6 May 2018. It is the 79th bronze panel added to the Wall and there are now almost 30,000 names on the Wall, which celebrates Australia’s waves of migration. Image: Andrew Frolows/ANMM.

Last weekend the much-loved sports journalist and soccer broadcaster, Les Murray, was honoured by his family to have his name unveiled on the museum’s Welcome WallThe Welcome Wall pays tribute to the migrants who have travelled the world to call Australia home. More than 200 countries are represented on the Welcome Wall, which faces Darling Harbour and Pyrmont Bay, where many migrants arrived in Australia. 

358 names were added to the Welcome Wall during Sunday’s ceremony including families from the United Kingdom, Italy, Greece, Germany, Malta, Hungary, Ireland, South Africa, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Poland, The Netherlands, China, India, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Latvia, Slovenia, Turkey, Argentina, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, France, Indonesia, Lebanon, Macedonia, New Zealand, Portugal, USA, Austria, Denmark, Fiji, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Namibia, Russia, Spain and Zambia. It is the 79th bronze panel added to the Wall and there are now almost 30,000 names on the Wall.

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