Caring for collections at ‘Maat’ Lighthouse

"We care about the island. Even if we never go there we want to know that the historic buildings are being conserved, the Aboriginal heritage is acknowledged and respected, and the Islands animals, plants and marine environment are protected for future generations" - Friends of Maatsuyker Island (FOMI). Image: James Stone

“We care about the island. Even if we never go there we want to know that the historic buildings are being conserved, the Aboriginal heritage is acknowledged and respected, and the Islands animals, plants and marine environment are protected for future generations” – Friends of Maatsuyker Island (FOMI). Image: James Stone

Ailsa Fergusson is a committee member of Friends of Maatsuyker Island. In 2012, Friends of Maatsuyker Island received funds as part of Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme (MMAPSS) to complete the first stage of cataloguing the heritage objects of the Maatsuyker Lightstation, light tower and from the island. Last year, another grant helped finish the catalogue*.

What does it take to the care for a historic light station?

Maatsuyker Island, or ‘Maat’ as friends know it, lies 10 kilometres off Tasmania’s South coast. This remarkable light station opened in June 1891 and was run as a manned station until 1997, when the light was automated. Following this, management of the Island was handed to the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service and a volunteer caretaker program commenced.

Maatsuyker Lighthouse is Australia’s southernmost lighthouse and it is acknowledged on the Tasmanian Heritage Register for its “historic heritage significance because it represents the principal characteristics of a group of Late Victorian Lightstation Buildings, including the remains of a rare supply haulage system and unusually intact lighthouse.”

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A tale of two watches

This experimental Rolex watch was attached to the bathyscaphe <em>Trieste </em>when it reached the ocean floor in the Challenger Deep, on 23 January 1960. Image: ANMM. On loan from the Smithsonian Institution.

This experimental Rolex watch was attached to the bathyscaphe Trieste when it reached the ocean floor in the Challenger Deep, on 23 January 1960. Image: ANMM. On loan from the Smithsonian Institution.

Timekeepers of curiosity

Peering through the small porthole, Lt Don Walsh USN saw a cloud of floating silt. It had been kicked up by the bathyscaphe’s less than gentle landing, 10,916 metres below the surface of the ocean. Walsh and fellow pilot Jacques Piccard hoped the milky white soup would clear quickly so they could take photos of what lay beyond.

Outside the porthole, the experimental Rolex ‘Deep Sea Special’ wristwatch was attached to the outside of the bathyscaphe. The unusual high glass dome of the timepiece protected the face of the watch as it continued to tick away, keeping time even under immense pressure.

Twenty minutes later, the thick fog persisted, drifting in slow motion. Reluctantly, Don and Jacques decided to begin their ascent. It took three hours for the Trieste to return to the surface, completing a record-breaking journey: Don and Jacques were the first humans to reach the deepest part of the ocean, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.

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Operation diorama

One of two dioramas created by volunteers Geoff Barnes and Roger Scott to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Jaywick and the restoration of Krait. Image: Geoff Barnes.  

One of two dioramas created by volunteers Geoff Barnes and Roger Scott to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Jaywick and the restoration of Krait. Image: Geoff Barnes.

Volunteers Geoff Barnes and Roger Scott have once again used their impressive model making skills to create a unique diorama for the Museum, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Operation Jaywick and the restoration of Krait.

Building Operation Jaywick in miniature

As a volunteer guide at the Museum, I noticed that Krait would be absent from display for quite some time due it’s extensive restorations. Luckily, an Australian model ship company, Modellers Central, released a laser-cut wooden 1:35 scale model to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the raid. Roger Scott and I proposed an exhibit of Krait in miniature so the Museum could have a ‘Krait’ display in Action Stations even when the real ship was in slip.

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Three ways to embrace your inner sea scientist

in 2012, Cameron would piloted his own single person submersible, <em>DEEPSEA CHALLENGER</em>, to the deepest point of the ocean, the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench. Image: Mark Thiessen, National Geographic Creative.

In 2012, Cameron piloted his own single person submersible, DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, to the deepest point of the ocean, the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench. He is one of only three people who have been the deepest part of the ocean. Image: Mark Thiessen, National Geographic Creative.

Science shouldn’t be kept to the realm of fiction

Four times as many people have walked on the moon than have successfully ventured to the deepest part of our own world. Humanity might be on the cusp of a second space age but we have yet to fully explore our oceans. So here are three ways to embrace your inner science nerd, from someone who has been to the alien world beneath the waves: James Cameron.

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60 years since the end of the dictation test

Shocked survivors from the wrecked ship Clan Ranald sitting amongst rocks at Troubridge Hill on the Yorke Peninsula. Some are wrapped in blankets and a policeman stands with them. Courtesy State Library of South Australia.

Shocked survivors from the wrecked ship Clan Ranald sitting amongst rocks at Troubridge Hill on the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, 1909. Some are wrapped in blankets and a policeman stands with them. Courtesy State Library of South Australia PRG 280/1/43/84.

Acts of the White Australia policy

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the abolition of the controversial dictation test, which was a central feature of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901. This was one of three pieces of legislation, together with the Pacific Island Labourers Act and the Post and Telegraph Act, which were passed after Federation in 1901 and colloquially known as the White Australia policy. Together these acts placed restrictions on immigration and sought to remove prohibited immigrants, namely those from Asia and the Pacific Islands, from the new Commonwealth. On 8 October 1958, the Immigration Restriction Act was replaced by the Migration Act 1958, which introduced a simpler system of entry permits.

The dictation test required non-European immigrants to write out a passage of 50 words in any European language (later any prescribed language) as dictated by the immigration officer. Since the choice of language was at the discretion of the officer, undesirable immigrants were destined to fail the test. They could then be declared prohibited immigrants and deported. One of the most infamous cases of the application of the dictation test dates to 1909 and involved the Scottish cargo ship SS Clan Ranald, its Asian and Indian crew (known as lascars), and one of South Australia’s worst maritime disasters.

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Restoring Krait

<em>Krait</em> on 25 September 2018, with the last few details being worked on ready for the event to mark 75 years since Operation Jaywick. Image: Kate Pentecost/ANMM.

Krait on 25 September 2018, with the last few details being worked on ready for the event to mark 75 years since Operation Jaywick. Image: Kate Pentecost/ANMM.

Commemorating Operation Jaywick

Today marks the 75th anniversary of Operation Jaywick, a joint Australian and British raid on Singapore Harbour — one of the most audacious and successful commando operations deep inside enemy territory during World War II. Krait, a former Japanese fishing boat, took three teams of Commandos and their folding canoes to Singapore Harbour. They attached magnetic limpet mines to the hulls of seven ships and fled the anchorage undetected. Early the next morning, six explosions shattered the darkness and six Japanese ships – 35,000 tonnes – were sunk or severely damaged. It was a significant blow to Japanese confidence and morale.

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Welcome Wall

The unveiling of panels 80 and 81 on the Welcome Wall. From left: Kevin Sumption PSM, Director and CEO of ANMM, Melissa Oujani, Sonia Gandhi, Eva Rossen (Szwarcberg), Dr Ish Sharma and Donna Ingram. Image: Andrew Frolows/ANMM.

Unveiling of panels 80 and 81 on the Welcome Wall. From left: Kevin Sumption PSM, Director and CEO of ANMM, Melissa Oujani, Sonia Gandhi, Eva Rossen (Szwarcberg), Dr Ish Sharma and Donna Ingram. Image: Andrew Frolows/ANMM.

Welcome Wall unveiling 23 September 2018

The 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.

503 names were added to the Welcome Wall during Sunday’s ceremony including families from Albania, Argentina, Austria, Burma, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Morocco, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, Rhodesia, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Syria The Netherlands, The Philippines, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, USA, USSR, Vietnam, Yugoslavia and Zimbabwe. There are now a total of 29 957 names on the Welcome Wall.

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What percentage of goods do you think travel by sea?

What percentage of goods do you think travel by sea? DP World Australia container terminal, Port Botany, photo Glenn Duffus, 2015. Reproduced courtesy DP World Australia.

What percentage of goods do you think travel by sea? DP World Australia container terminal, Port Botany, photo Glenn Duffus, 2015. Reproduced courtesy DP World Australia.

By the numbers

Shipping accounts for over 99% of Australia’s total merchandise trade by mass. A staggering 7.8 million containers move through Australian ports each year. In today’s global world you may have had coffee from Brazil or a smoothie containing frozen fruit from China. You could be wearing clothes made in India, watching a TV made in Japan while sitting on a sofa containing wood from Argentina on a laminate floor manufactured in Sweden. All of this has been made possible by a rectangular steel box – the humble shipping container.

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Seeking the lost Browne boys: Spiritualism and grief

The spiritualist movement of the late 19th century believed life and death included an in-between realm where spirits were able to exist and communicate with the living. In the case of the missing Browne brothers, their family believed the brother’s spirits could provide some startlingly detailed information about their deaths. Images: National Library of Australia.

The spiritualist movement of the late 19th century believed life and death included an in between realm where spirits were able to exist and communicate with the living. In the case of the missing Browne brothers, their family believed the brother’s spirits could provide some startlingly detailed information about their deaths. Images: National Library of Australia.

Communing with the dead

In tasteful parlour rooms across the world, the mood was set. Accompanied by soft lighting and gentle music, people quietly gathered, waiting not for romance but in the hope of receiving messages from the dead. The appearance of a well-known historical figure would cause a stir but generally, it was messages from loved ones who had passed on which audiences waited breathlessly for.

The spiritualist movement of the late 19th century believed life and death included an in between realm where spirits were able to exist and communicate with the living. In the case of the missing Browne brothers, their family believed the brother’s spirits could provide some startlingly detailed information about their deaths.

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Saving a life at the beach

Surf Life Saving Handbooks from 1940 to 1946 at the Vaughan Evans Library. Vaughn Evans Library Collection.

Surf Life Saving Handbooks, from 1940 to 1946, at the Vaughan Evans Library. Vaughn Evans Library Collection.

Surf Life Saving handbooks of yesteryear

The first week of September is history week and the theme for 2018 is ‘Life and Death’.

Each weekend, many Australians flock to the sea for fun, sport and recreation. It is part of the Australian way of life – a place of work and play. At the same time, the sea can be harsh, unpredictable and deadly. A true symbol of life and death at sea is the Australian Surf Life Saving movement, a group who work tirelessly to prevent death at sea and ensure Australians can safely enjoy all that a coastal lifestyle has to offer.

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Life and death in paradise

Pitcairn Island from the sea. Image: Nigel Erskine/ANMM.

Pitcairn Island from the sea. Image: Nigel Erskine/ANMM.

The Bounty mutineers and their descendants on Pitcairn Island

Pitcairn is a small volcanic island rising abruptly out of the deep waters of the eastern South Pacific Ocean. The nearest inhabited centres are Easter Island 1,770 km to the east, and the Gambier Islands 480 km to the northwest.  The island is cliff-bound and open to full ocean swell, limiting access to the island to small boats capable of negotiating the surf.  There is no safe anchorage and little flat land, indeed the island lacks almost every convenience conducive to settlement.

But in January 1790 a small British naval vessel arrived at Pitcairn carrying 28 people aboard – His Majesty’s Armed Vessel Bounty.

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Science and secrets of Sydney Harbour

Thanks to National Science Week and our partners, our day of sea-sational<em>Secrets of Sydney Harbour</em> spread the word about ocean science. Image: ANMM.

Thanks to National Science Week and our partners, our day of sea-sational Secrets of Sydney Harbour spread the word of ocean science. Image: ANMM.

National Science Week at the Museum

What a weekend! The waterfront was full of visitors looking to explore the underwater world of Sydney Harbour. Over 1200 people came through the door and we hope every one of them left with a greater understanding of the harbour’s diversity of life and work that is being done by organisations across NSW to protect and engage with this underwater world.

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Chinese junks and Australian sampans

A section from a panorama of Hong Kong, circa 1940. Courtesy of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum.

A section from a panorama of Hong Kong, circa 1940. Courtesy of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum.

Celebrating maritime connections between China and Australia

On July 11 in the year 1405 Admiral Zheng He’s Grand Fleet of over 300 ships with 28,000 crew departed China on the first of several expeditions through Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. The expeditions were aimed at establishing Chinese influence over long established trade routes, now often referred to as the ‘Maritime Silk Road’.  The 600th anniversary of the date of the commencement of the first of these massive expeditions – July 11 – was chosen in 2005 as the annual China National Maritime Day. The Institute of Ancient Chinese Ships has led a conference on Chinese maritime history on this day for the last ten years, with a different international focus each year. Last year was the UK, and this year it was Australia’s turn. The Australian National Maritime Museum’s director Kevin Sumption was invited to deliver a keynote presentation on ‘Chinese Connections at the Australian National Maritime Museum’ and I was invited to give a paper on my research into Chinese watercraft built in Australia between 1870 and 1910.

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Nationwide support for Maritime Heritage

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– National Trust of Australia (Queensland) James Cook Museum

MMAPSS grants 2018-2019

The museum is very pleased to announce the 2018-2019 awards made of grants and internships through the Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme (MMAPSS), supporting not-for-profit organisations to care for Australia’s maritime heritage. MMAPSS has been offering support since 1995, awarding more than $1.7 million to support over 400 projects. Over 55 internships have been awarded since they were introduced to the scheme in 2000.

Australia’s maritime heritage is located all over the country and so the MMAPSS grants provide support to the regional and often remote organisations that are looking after and telling the stories of this heritage. The types of projects that MMAPSS focuses on are in the areas of collection management, conservation, presentation, education and museological training.

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Beyond a book’s cover

Lucilla Ronai is the Paper Conservator at the Museum. She ensures the many books in the collection are physically and chemically stable. A Paper Conservator also considers the condition of collection items, methods of display during exhibition and loan as well as their safe storage when not in use. Image: Kate Pentecost/ANMM.

Lucilla Ronai is the Paper Conservator at the Museum. She ensures the many books in the collection are physically and chemically stable. A Paper Conservator also considers the condition of collection items, methods of display during exhibition and loan as well as their safe storage when not in use. Image: Kate Pentecost/ANMM.

A booklovers guide to bookbinding and conservation

You might be surprised to discover that over 50% of the Museum’s collection is paper, photographic material and bound items – also known simply as ‘books’. Where else would those swashbuckling adventurers record their travels than in their trusty but often weathered journals?

Our collection includes over 2,000 bound volumes. This ranges from printed books (such as dictionaries), manuscripts (such as logbooks, journals, diaries and sketchbooks), atlases and magazines. The earliest book is an account of the first journey of the Dutch to the East Indes and dates from 1617. The most recently printed book is the Year Book of HMAS Toowoomba, from 2009.

What are the main differences between these books you ask? The materials and techniques used to string words, images, paper and covers together to create the functional item you know and handle as a book. Continue reading