Monsters of the deep

Sea monsters. Not too far off the mark this engraving, from 1621, had the right idea of what was really lurking beneath the world’s oceans. ANMM Collection <a href="http://collections.anmm.gov.au/objects/29824/engraving-depicting-saint-brendan-saying-mass-on-the-back-of?ctx=d19a5c20-8539-4f29-a049-977fb903bcd9&idx=0">00019658</a>.

Sea monsters. Not too far off the mark this engraving, from 1621, had the right idea of what was really lurking beneath the world’s oceans. ANMM Collection 00019658.

What is lurking in the water?

Living life as an adult means shedding many childhood ‘truths’. Christmas elves, Easter bunnies and the tooth fairy don’t stand up to hard questioning, so our belief in them falls away. We lose our concept of another world filled with wonder and mystery as every phenomenon is explained by science instead. But, for some reason, this logic does not apply to the things that scare us…

No, horror stories hang around so much longer. The terror of ghosts, creeping creatures of the night and otherworldly happenings can last into adulthood. Even if it’s just a shiver down your spine before logic returns to its guard post.

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Governor Bligh, Loyalists and Usurpers

Signatures to a petition to Lieutenant Governor Paterson 'disapproving of the present measures', April 1808. <a href="https://search.sl.nsw.gov.au/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=ADLIB110579470&amp;context=L&amp;vid=SLNSW&amp;search_scope=EEA&amp;tab=default_tab&amp;lang=en_US" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Banks Papers/Series 40.114</a>, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Signatures to a petition to Lieutenant Governor Paterson ‘disapproving of the present measures’, April 1808. Banks Papers/Series 40.114, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

A long history of petitions

When then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked his parliamentary colleagues to sign a petition over his leadership in August 2018, the connection may have been lost on many, but petitions have some long historical parallels in the Turnbull family, going back to the so-called ‘Usurpation’ of Governor Bligh in 1808.

Among a list of signatures from Hawkesbury settlers in support of Governor Bligh, who was deposed in the ‘Rum Rebellion’ of January that year, there is one John Turnbull. So dear to his heart was the deposed Bligh that John and his wife began a tradition of giving the middle-name ‘Bligh’ to their children — a tradition that went on through the family including Australia’s 29th Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull.

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Searching for junks and sampans

‘<a href="http://bishop.slq.qld.gov.au/view/action/singleViewer.do?dvs=1540263437073~326&amp;locale=en_AU&amp;metadata_object_ratio=14&amp;show_metadata=true&amp;VIEWER_URL=/view/action/singleViewer.do?&amp;DELIVERY_RULE_ID=10&amp;frameId=1&amp;usePid1=true&amp;usePid2=true" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Sailing from Goondi to Geraldton</a>’, circa 1902. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Sailing from Goondi to Geraldton’, circa 1902. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Volunteer researcher Aliza Chin shares her investigations of late 19th-century Chinese vessels built in Australia.

A research adventure

For the past two months, I have been a volunteer researcher at the Museum. I have become an explorer who conducts archival deep dives, a decipherer and editor of Trove auto-text, an appraiser of photographs stored away in digital collections, swinging between feelings of elation and frustration, in between clicks and scrolls. If you don’t know Trove, it is an Australian online library database aggregator; a free faceted-search engine hosted by the National Library of Australia,[1] in partnership with content providers including members of the National & State Libraries Australasia.[2] It is one of the most well-respected[3] and accessed GLAM services in Australia, with over 70,000 daily users.

To say that the experience has equipped me with new skills in my field would be an understatement, but this blog entry is not about me. Rather, it is about the issues and new sources encountered and uncovered in the little-studied area of Chinese shipbuilding; specifically, vessels that were made here in Australia between the 1870s and early 1900s. Dr Stephen Gapps has been researching sampans and junks for a while and invited me to help with this project.

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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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