Setting the Standard

The global standardisation is the reason why the humble shipping container has done so much to stimulate international trade. Image: DP World, Port Botany. Photo by Sarah Keayes/The Photo Pitch.

The global standardisation is the reason why the humble shipping container has done so much to stimulate international trade. Image: DP World, Port Botany. Photo by Sarah Keayes/The Photo Pitch.

An economy of standards

Imagine that you are a shipper—a company with freight to ship. You’ve won an order to export four hundred ceiling fans to Senegal. You pack each fan into a paperboard carton, load the cartons into a shipping container, and send the container on its way. But when the vessel arrives in West Africa, there’s no way to lift your container off the ship. It seems the Australian container doesn’t fit with Senegalese cranes. The ship sails onward, and your fans remain on board.

Fortunately for the world economy, this story is a fantasy. If you’re a real shipper, you can be confident that the container holding your goods can fit aboard any ship, can be lifted by any crane, and can be transferred seamlessly to any truck or train anywhere in the world. Everything is standard—and standards are why the container has done so much to stimulate international trade.

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Underwater photographers in the field

Photographer Laurent Ballesta in the field in Antarctica. ©Thibault Rauby

Photographer Laurent Ballesta in the field in Antarctica. © Thibault Rauby.

Behind the scenes of Wildlife Photographer of the Year

What does it take to capture life in the water? Three finalists from this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition talked to Paul Teasdale about how to navigate whale pods, ice, underwater jungles and extreme temperatures for that perfect shot. Continue reading

Who was John Watt?

<em>'Daisy, I am sending the basket tomorrow. Bill'.</em> Despite the atmospheric picture, the message on the back of this card from the Watt collection is short. For years 'Daisy' and 'Bill' were strangers to the museum. ANMM Collection ANMS0410[048].

‘Daisy, I am sending the basket tomorrow. Bill’. Despite the atmospheric picture, the message on the back of this postcard from the Watt collection is short. For years ‘Daisy’ and ‘Bill’ were strangers to the museum. ANMM Collection ANMS0410[048].

An enigmatic collector

Over the years, the museum has acquired various collections that have taken the dedicated owner many years (or often a lifetime) to compile. The time, energy and cost required to gather together this type of comprehensive material can be enormous and so part of the unseen value of these collections is the story of the donor themselves.

In 1993, a collection of hundreds of photographs, drawings, postcards, papers and memorabilia featuring and related to ships was donated to the museum. It was clearly a collection that had taken a lifetime to accumulate by a dedicated and passionate individual. We were given the name Mr John Watt of McLean, New South Wales, as the collector.

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Catch the classics up close this weekend

Join us 13-15 April 2018 to celebrate the beauty and diversity of Australia’s heritage vessels and meet their craftspeople at the Classic & Wooden Boat Festival. Image: The 2016 Classic & Wooden Boat Festival / ANMM.

Join us this weekend to celebrate the beauty and diversity of Australia’s heritage vessels and meet their craftspeople at the Classic & Wooden Boat Festival. Image: The 2016 Classic & Wooden Boat Festival / ANMM.

Classic & Wooden Boat Festival 2018

The much anticipated Classic and Wooden Boat Festival is on at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour in just a few days, starting Friday 13th April and winding up on Sunday afternoon, 15th April. It’s a huge display of vessels, along with food and trade stalls as well as family-friendly entertainment, throughout the three days. Some of Australia’s most outstanding and prominent craft are coming once again to show off their style and elegance, while highlighting the craftsmanship that goes into maintaining these vessels.

SY Ena and Hurrica V will be centre stage. Both were built by WM Ford boatbuilders and have undergone multimillion-dollar rebuilding and restoration projects. They exemplify classic Edwardian elegance, reflecting their original status as gentlemen’s yachts, one of steam and one with sails.

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Four ships, one lifeboat

<em>Skaubryn</em> survivors were transferred to Aden in one of <em>Roma</em>’s lifeboats, 1958. ANMM Collection Gift from Barbara Alysen ANMS0214[022]. Reproduced courtesy International Organisation for Migration.

Skaubryn survivors were transferred to Aden in one of Roma’s lifeboats, 1958. ANMM Collection Gift from Barbara Alysen ANMS0214[022]. Reproduced courtesy International Organisation for Migration.

The 60th anniversary of the Skaubryn sinking

The Norwegian liner Skaubryn was the only vessel lost at sea during the era of post-war migration to Australia, when it caught fire in 1958 with 1,288 people on board, including more than 200 children. Two of the survivors, who were both eight years old at the time of their voyage, recently registered for the Welcome Wall and shared their stories with the museum.

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Migration and photography: The Skaubryn archive

Port bow view of the Norwegian liner Skaubryn on fire in the Indian Ocean, 1958. ANMM Collection Gift from Barbara Alysen ANMS0214[002]. Reproduced courtesy International Organisation for Migration.

Port bow view of Skaubryn on fire in the Indian Ocean, 1958. ANMM Collection Gift from Barbara Alysen ANMS0214[002]. Reproduced courtesy International Organisation for Migration.

Photography has always played a critical role in documenting the movement of people across borders. The photographs linked to the vast archive of Certificates of Exemption from the Dictation Test, for instance, put a face to those impacted by the Immigration Restriction Act (White Australia policy) for the first half of the 20th century. In more recent times, the 2015 photograph of the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach brought the horrors of the Syrian refugee crisis to a global audience. Photographs, as material (and now increasingly digital) objects, also cross borders to bear witness to the lived experiences of migration and diaspora.

The museum holds a rich archive of photographs relating to migration (many of which are in the process of being digitised), ranging from informal family snapshots to official portraits promoting government mass migration schemes after World War II. One of our most significant collections documents the fire and rescue on the Norwegian liner Skaubryn in the Indian Ocean in 1958. A selection of these photographs is now displayed in our Tasman Light Gallery to mark the 60th anniversary of the Skaubryn disaster.

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Finding AE1

Part of <em>AE1</em>'s hull, showing extensive corrosion. After 103 years since her loss, <em>AE1</em> was located in waters off the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea in December 2017. Image: Find the Men of <em>AE1</em> Ltd.

Part of AE1‘s hull, showing extensive corrosion. After 103 years since her loss, AE1 was located in waters off the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea in December 2017. Image: Find the Men of AE1 Ltd.

Australia’s greatest naval mystery is solved at last

It is more than a century since Australia’s first submarine, HMAS AE1, disappeared without trace in the waters off Papua New Guinea. Its fate remained a mystery until late last year, when the most recent of many searches finally found its wreck.

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Grand times at Geelong

A view of the 2018 Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong, onshore with some of the couta boats in the foreground. Image: David Payne/ANMM.

A view of the 2018 Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong, onshore with some of the couta boats in the foreground. Image: David Payne/ANMM.

Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong, March 2018

The 9th Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong was held over the Victorian long weekend in mid-March, and it was another very successful event, drawing a big crowd over the three days. It was managed by the Royal Geelong Yacht Club and the GWBF committee, and featured a wide range of activities and displays on and off the water. Geelong is at the end of Corio Bay in the south west of Port Phillip. It has been a strong regional city and the yacht club has held, state, national and world championships over many years.

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Celebrating 20 years of Kids on Deck: More than paper boat makers and glitter shakers

Printmaking fun with the Kids on Deck programs for <em>Ships, Clocks and Stars, </em>2016. Image: Annalice Creighton/ANMM. 

Printmaking fun with the Kids on Deck programs for Ships, Clocks and Stars, 2016. Image: Annalice Creighton/ANMM.

Kids on Deck, our regular Sunday and School Holiday family program for primary school aged children and their carers, celebrates its 20th birthday this year.

Over the last 20 years, close to 500,000 visitors have participated in Kids on Deck activities, creating well over one million handcrafted souvenirs of their visit to the museum in paper, clay, string, glitter, plaster, beads, fabric, paint, sewn badges, worn temporary tattoos and much, much more… They have dressed up in costumes, enacted all manner of theatre of imaginary play, climbed on replica vessels, mastered the art of puppetry and lounged in inflated igloos. They have engaged in creative play and discovery learning, inspired by hundreds of different exhibitions on history, science, art, design and popular culture.

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A long lost message in a bottle

An old bottle found recently on a West Australian beach contained a message from 1886. Image: ©<a href="www.kymillman.com">Kym Ilman</a>. 

An old bottle found recently on a West Australian beach contained a message from 1886. Image: © Kym Ilman.

On the 12th of June 1886, a crew member of the German barque Paula performed what was a routine task on voyages around the world at the time – he dropped a tightly sealed glass bottle, containing a piece of paper, overboard. The paper was a printed form letter that was filled out with hand-written details of the ship and its location. It included instructions for anyone who might find the bottle washed ashore: they were requested to send the note to the Deutsche Seewarte (German Maritime Meteorology Institute) in Hamburg, or to their local German Consulate.

In early 2018, 132 years after the Paula’s note had been dropped in the ocean, a Western Australian woman Tonya Illman was strolling along the sand dunes on a beach near Wedge Island, 180 kilometres north of Perth. She noticed something sticking out of the sand, it was the Paula‘s message in a bottle, still with the paper inside and with some hand-writing still faintly legible. Tonya had stumbled across the longest known unfound message in a bottle in the world.

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The sad fate of HMAS Perth (I)

The shipwreck of HMAS <em>Perth</em> (I) lies in waters between Java and Sumatra, a victim of the Battle of Sunda Strait in 1942. A joint survey project between the museum and Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional (Indonesia) has recorded the devastation caused by extensive illegal salvage. Image James Hunter, ANMM/Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional.

The shipwreck of HMAS Perth (I) lies in waters between Java and Sumatra, a victim of the Battle of Sunda Strait in 1942. A joint survey project between the museum and Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional (Indonesia) has recorded the devastation caused by extensive illegal salvage. Image: James Hunter, ANMM/Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional.

[Perth] has been hammered and the once impressive six-inch A1 and A2 turrets are gone, the bow is flat and … the wreck is more hazardous than before – even for general swimming around, with lots of live ordnance, wire and overhanging metal.1

Death by a thousand cuts

The shipwreck of HMAS Perth (I) lies in waters between Java and Sumatra, a victim of the Battle of Sunda Strait in 1942. A joint survey project between the museum and Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional (Indonesia) has recorded the devastation caused by extensive illegal salvage.

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Search and survival: Abraham Leeman and the Vergulde Draeck

The power of nature wrought wild on the high seas. Ships in a storm on a rocky coast, Jan Porcellis, 1614–18. Courtesy Hallwyl Museum, Stockholm.

The power of nature wrought wild on the high seas. Ships in a storm on a rocky coast, Jan Porcellis, 1614–18. Courtesy Hallwyl Museum, Stockholm.

Bad luck and bravery

Dutch explorers and traders in the 17th century knew to their cost the dangers of sailing near the Great South Land. A humble and tenacious sailor named Abraham Leeman experienced the worst that these treacherous coasts had to offer – not once but twice.

In the hours before dawn on 28 April 1656, a Dutch East India (VOC) ship called the Vergulde Draeck struck an uncharted reef on her way to Batavia (now Jakarta) and sank off the coast of what is now called Western Australia, but was then an enigmatic landmass scarcely known to Europeans – the fabled Great South Land. In an era when the calculation of longitude was fraught with difficulty and error, this was a tragic event yet not a shocking one. The VOC had lost some 168 ships in the previous decade to various misfortunes, and this latest wreck was further proof of the occupational hazards for those who made their living by the sea.

The disappearance of the Vergulde Draeck could have remained an unsolved mystery for Joan Maetsuycker, the newly appointed Governor General of Batavia, and yet another loss for him to explain to the company council back in Amsterdam. But on 7 June 1656 a small boat carrying seven starving, dehydrated and exhausted men arrived to tell an incredible tale. The leader of this bedraggled group is believed to have been Abraham Leeman, who had been the Vergulde Draeck’s under-steersman, or second officer.*

Leeman explained how the ship had been wrecked upon a reef and that he and his men had managed to sail a small open boat to Batavia, spending over a month at sea. What was more, they were not the only survivors. They had left 68 other men and women, including the ship’s captain, alive on a shore on the Southland.

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Preserving the Dart: a piece of working history from the Murray River

A very clear image of DART with its pile driving machinery set up for work, and moored beside the shoreline at Waikere on the Murray River in South Australia, in 1930. ARHV <a href"http://arhv.anmm.gov.au/en/objects/details/149688/dart?ctx=b346e9c3-7f7a-4113-98fe-e838cd2c5c95&idx=0">HV000221</a>.

A very clear image of Dart with its pile driving machinery set up for work, and moored beside the shoreline at Waikere on the Murray River in South Australia, in 1930. ARHV HV000221.

The traffic on the Murray River owes a big debt to the simple working vessels that serviced the infrastructure that made commercial operations possible. One of these crafts, the barge Dart, lies onshore at Goolwa, shaded and partially protected by the big Hindmarsh Bridge that spans the passage between the port of Goolwa and Hindmarsh Island. Dart is out of the water for a much-needed restoration. Recently I visited the Dart as in-kind support to inspect the Australian Register of Historic Vessels (ARHV) listed barge and write up a Vessel Management Plan (VMP), thanks to a  Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme (MMAPSS) grant.

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Two centuries of Chinese migration

John Shying on the Welcome Wall at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Image: ANMM.

John Shying on the Welcome Wall at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Image: ANMM.

It’s coming up to Lunar New Year and the so-called world’s largest annual human migration, as hundreds of millions of people (particularly China’s urban-based migrant workers) head home to spend the holiday with their families. It’s also coming up to a special milestone in Australia’s immigration history as it is 200 years since one of the first documented Chinese-born free settlers arrived in New South Wales.

Mak Sai Ying (later anglicised to John Pong Shying) arrived in Sydney on 27 February 1818, just 30 years after the First Fleet and several decades before the 1850s gold rushes, which would bring thousands of Chinese fortune seekers to Australia. John Shying has the distinction of being the first Chinese landowner and publican in Sydney, and also the grandfather of the first Chinese-Australian serviceman.

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A sailor’s heart

Photographer Samuel J Hood capturing the love of a sailor. ANMM collection <a href="http://collections.anmm.gov.au/en/objects/details/13305/man-and-woman-kissing-across-two-vessels?ctx=4531e83e-6228-4760-a471-0f1bf8c24f31&idx=0">00035634</a>.

Photographer Samuel J Hood capturing the love of a sailor. ANMM collection 00035634.

Valentine’s Day is not usually a day associated with sailors. Roses and chocolates are hard to find at sea and some would say romantic prose has no place on the decks of ships – particularly ships which do not come equipped with a cocktail bar and a pool.

For centuries, mothers warned their daughters about falling in love with a sailor. Tales of seafaring rogues and cads abound. As recorded countless times in songs and ballads, heartbreak was the only outcome for someone who caught the eye of a roving sailor. He was bound to desert the fair maiden, who would then usually die a tragic death caused by loneliness, grief or shame. Not really the stuff to make the heart swoon on Valentine’s Day. But do sailors really deserve this bad reputation? Is it true that no one can anyone really ever compete with a sailor’s real and greatest love, the sea?

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