Our ANMM Members visited Spectacle Island on 22 July for their annual tour of the island with the Director Naval Heritage Collection, Commander Shane Moore, CSM, RAN.
Spectacle Island lies in the main channel of the western harbour off Drummoyne and is significant as Australia’s oldest naval explosives manufacturing and storage complex.
The Royal Navy Australian Squadron selected Spectacle Island in 1860 as a storage site for the colonial government’s gunpowder. The buildings were mainly built of sandstone and had slate roofs. The shape of the island began changing as well, the area of the island had been increased by about a hectare through reclamation works utilising spoil from the old Balmain coalmine.
In 1884 Spectacle Island became the naval armament depot and the colonial government’s explosives were removed. Existing buildings were altered and new ones were constructed to suit the new military needs, and the completed installations were at the forefront of munitions handling and storage technology at the time.
The RAN took over Spectacle from the Royal Navy in 1913 and in its more recent years was used as a repository for naval objects and archival material.
Today you explore the remnants of this industrial and naval history as you wander around the island and see some of the remaining relics, artifacts, archival material and naval memorabilia housed in the buildings and the grounds. It is a treasure trove for a maritime and naval enthusiast and members were lucky enough to see some extraordinarily rare objects – a huge array of ships models, collections of ships bells, a salvaged life boat from the HMAS Voyager disaster, Nelsons Nights Orders written the day preceding the battle of Trafalgar, signal mast from HMAS Sydney I, rare book collection and much much more…
Spectacle Island is not open for public visitation as it is still an operational navy base, so be sure you don’t miss the next annual tour next year. Special thanks to the Navy and to Commander Moore for allowing the Museum Members to tour the island.
For more photos from the annual Members tour of Spectacle Island, click here to see our Members Flickr Page.
If you’re interested in taking part in future exclusive events, see our Members page on the ANMM website (or drop into the museum) for more information on how you can become a valuable member of the National Maritime Museum.