How to build a lighthouse

The timber structure of the lighthouse going up. The photograph was taken from aboard the visiting vessel <em>Cape Grafton</em>, 24 March 1994. Image: Deborah Gillespie.

The timber structure of the lighthouse going up. The photograph was taken from aboard the visiting vessel Cape Grafton, 24 March 1994. Image: Deborah Gillespie.

In 1993, the Australian National Maritime Museum was ready the rebuild the Cape Bowling Green Light.  After some discussion, a site near the wharf was selected.  Reconstruction of the lighthouse started in late 1993.  This visual story shows how the lighthouse was rebuilt piece by piece at Darling Harbour.

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Travelling the Maritime Silk Road in Ningbo, China

Chinese junk from the David Waters collection, Royal Museum Greenwich, circa 1930.

Chinese junk from the David Waters collection, Royal Museum Greenwich, circa 1930.

Ningbo is a smallish city near Shanghai of just 7 million people. It was once one of the five ‘Treaty Ports’, when colonial powers were forcing China into trading concessions during the 19th century. Ningbo had always historically been an important juncture of trade networks between China, Korea and Japan – and beyond. Its maritime history was the focus of a conference I recently attended, exploring what is now called the ‘Maritime Silk Road’ – the incredible trade routes that stretched from China to Africa over the past one thousand years or so. The sight of Chinese junks and Sampans in the Indian Ocean is now reasonably well known and forming the basis of a possible World Heritage listing for the maritime silk road. However, there was little knowledge and some interest at the conference in my research paper on the history of Chinese junks and sampans that were built in Australia between 1870 and 1910.

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A Poignant Remnant from the ‘Plucky little Ship Aurora’

20 June 2017 marked 100 years since the famous polar vessel Aurora left Newcastle, Australia with a cargo of coal, never to be seen again.

The museum recently accepted the gift of the ship’s lifebuoy, recovered from the seas six months later.

A powerful emblem, with the ghost lettering of its famous Antarctic expeditions on its rim, it acts as a lifeline to all the sailors, whalers, scientists, workers, expeditioners and sealers whose lives, toils and achievements were entwined with it.

Importantly, the lifebuoy connects all of us to the tragic loss of its captain and 20 officers and crew in 1917. This is the incredible story of a powerful wooden ship and its men.

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BIG IS BETTER: ‘Ovation of the Seas’ comes to Australia.

No help needed. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

No help needed. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

Big is best,
Big wins
Big is like – OMG – gigantic
Big is beautiful!

Look what’s outside my hotel window in Hobart: Ovation of the Seasone of the biggest ocean cruise ships in the world. It’s here, you can’t miss it, it seems longer than the docks, wider than the widest sea, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound – anything goes in this department.

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Re-creating Harrison’s timekeepers…in Australia

H4 replica by Norm Banham showing the aluminium case. Image: Martin Foster.

H4 replica by Norm Banham showing the aluminium case. Image: Martin Foster.

It is said that longevity is improved markedly by keeping your mind challenged and active and keeping hand–eye coordination intact. If that’s the case Norm Banham might last forever. And he has the clocks that will last with him and keep time accurately – an exquisite replica set he made of John Harrison’s four intricate and ground breaking marine timekeepers. Harrison’s work commenced in 1730 and was completed in 1759.

Harrison’s timekeepers are central to the story about longitude brought to life in the exhibition Ships, Clocks & Stars – The Quest for Longitude and as its tenure at the Australian National Maritime Museum draws to a close at the end of October, an Australian connection that deserves more attention has come to light.

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Sir Oswald Brierly: A man for all occasions

'Amateur whaling, or a tale of the Pacific' by Oswald Brierly, 1847. ANMM collection 00005660.

Amateur whaling, or a tale of the Pacific by Oswald Brierly, 1847. ANMM Collection 00005660.

Oswald Brierly is probably known to most Australians for the whaling scenes he painted while at Twofold Bay, near Eden in New South Wales, which perfectly captured the drama and danger of the whaling at that time. He spent five years at Twofold Bay managing a business there for the Scottish-born entrepreneur and pioneer Ben Boyd. However, his time there would end up being just a small part of this versatile man’s truly remarkable life. Continue reading

Artefacts as windows to the past: Answers from #AskAnArchaeologist

Archaeology on the Great Barrier Reef. Image: ANMM.

Archaeology on the Great Barrier Reef. Image: ANMM.

In the spirit of National Archaeology Week 2016 we took the opportunity to open the floor to you, our audience and community, with the hashtag #AskAnArchaeologist. This was a chance for you to ask your questions about all things archaeology and maritime heritage to our team.

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Death, destruction and the Dunbar: Sydney’s worst maritime disaster

Illustration of the Dunbar in New East Indiaman, 1853

‘The Dunbar New East Indiaman’, Illustrated London News (24 December 1853). ANMM Collection, 00000957

The devastating wreck of the Dunbar on Sydney’s South Head on the evening of 20 August 1857, 158 years ago, was a disaster so appalling that it left a lasting emotional scar on the emerging colony of New South Wales.

In the pitch-darkness of that stormy winter’s night, Dunbar – only moments from safety at the end of an 81-day voyage from Plymouth carrying immigrants and well-to-do colonists returning to Sydney – missed the entrance to Port Jackson and crashed into the sheer sandstone cliffs just south of the heads. The heavy seas quickly pounded the ship to pieces, and all but one of at least 122 souls on board perished.

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Operation: Torpedo

The 1200 kg dummy torpedo class 21" MK9.

The 1200 kg dummy torpedo class 21″ MK9.

Working as a registrar at the museum often requires one to think outside the box, and today was no different. Today’s task was to organise the return of a 1200 kg dummy torpedo class 21″ MK9 to the Naval Heritage Collection – simple, right? The only problem was that the NHC storage facility is located on Spectacle Island…and it’s an island. Solution? Call in the Navy.

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Endeavour: voyaging to Hobart, days 4 – 6

A blog series from on board the Endeavour ship as she sails to Tasmania. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Day four – Saturday 14 February

Supernumerary Bill Morris demonstrating the sextant.

Supernumerary Bill Morris demonstrating the sextant.

Under a clear sky and thousands of stars overnight the sails were handed (clewed up to the yards) as we motored south.

The Main Mast Foremast Crew sat together laughing and chatting on how “hard it is to helm”, when they had been given direction from the Officer of the Watch and the Watch Leader.

Supernumerary Bill gave an interesting talk on sextants in the Great Cabin. Bill explained a little of the history of this navigation instrument and the subtle differences between types. We regularly see Bill out with his own sextant, recording his observations.

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Day 2-3: Voyage from Newcastle to Sydney; sailing to windward

Friday 19 September 2014, 2000 hours

Hours under sail since Thursday 0800: 23

Hours under engines since Thursday 0800: 13

Distance travelled over ground: 100 nautical miles

HMB Endeavour replica left Port Stephens early on Thursday 18 September, weighing anchor at 0530 and motoring out of the heads. On the open ocean, all hands were called to set sail and we headed southeast on a light sou’westerly breeze.

Foremast watch learns about staysails with the aid of Topman Eddie’s chalk diagrams on deck. Photo: Eden Alley-Porter

Foremast watch learns about staysails with the aid of Topman Eddie’s chalk diagrams on deck.
Photo: Eden Alley-Porter

Over the course of the day we tracked around 15 nautical miles south before the wind shifted and we began to lose ground to the north while continuing to head further offshore than planned.

We wore ship at 1800 hours and sailed west, steering as close to the wind as possible in the hope of gaining some ground to the south.

Around 2200 hours, the wind began to back, shifting further into the west as a land breeze influenced the southerlies. Endeavour’s course was soon northwest.

Spritsails set on Endeavour. Photo by SMM.

Endeavour spritsails set. Photo: SMM.

The flukey breezes led the Captain to decide that now would be a good time to hand sail and make some ground to the south under engines.

During 15 hours under sail on day 2 of the voyage, we covered 50 nautical miles, but also lost most of the ground we had gained to the south earlier in the day.

The difficulty of sailing the ship to windward always leads to the inevitable question: how on earth did Captain James Cook manage to sail her to windward?

Cook faced much the same problem sailing to windward as we do on Endeavour today. With more experienced hands and a larger crew, he may have been able to gain a little more ground to windward with careful trimming of the sails, but it would not have been substantial.

Cook’s key advantage was time: if needed, he could beat back and forth across a headwind until the wind shifted enough for him to gain the ground he needed.

Unfortunately the modern day Endeavour does not have this luxury – we have a schedule to stick to and thus engines must sometimes be called on to enable us to reach our destination on time. In this case, the destination is Pittwater to meet Fred Watson at 4pm on Saturday afternoon.

Despite our deadlines, the priority is of course to sail as much as possible, so after a night under engines we set sail again early on Friday morning.

IMG_2101 sunset sm

Calm seas and colourful skies: day 3 draws to a close. Photo by EAP.

In light breezes, more sail was loosed – the topgallants on both masts and the sprit topsail were shaken out of their furls and set. With a little more west in the wind we were able to sail southeast for most of the day.

By early evening the wind had dropped dramatically and once again Endeavour was unable to make ground to the south, so sails were handed and the ship settled in for another night under engines.

The hope is that we’ll gain substantial ground to the south overnight, enabling some good sailing on Saturday towards Broken Bay.

All’s well.

– Suzannah Marshall Macbeth

Raiders and Reindeers- How to make Viking gingerbread

finished gingerbread scene

We may have gone a little bit nuts on all things Vikings and all things Christmas here but we are hoping you are as a much a fan of craft that’s equal parts beautiful and edible as we are.

If you’ve ever tried to make a gingerbread 3 dimensional anything ( house, boat, tree) as an activity with small children you will remember how difficult it can be to accomplish said 3 dimensional object with little hands whose strength are not quite up to the challenge of icing cement and building with easily breakable biscuit walls.

So here we’ve crafted our very own spin on this festive and fun activity in a more kid friendly and conveniently thematic design. These stand-up gingerbread forms are great for a holiday activity or can even be wrapped up to give as a gift.

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Ferguson Reef archaeology expedition – Just following up on a few leads…

In April the Silentworld Foundation and the Australian National Maritime Museum returned from Ferguson Reef with a whole heap of information from the wreck-site of the Indian-built troopship Fergusson lost on Ferguson Reef in 1841 whilst on a passage to India from Sydney.

The team also brought back stacks of remote sensing data associated with our search for two other elusive shipwrecks associated with that early trade. The Indian built opium trader Morning Star lost south of Forbes Island in 1814 and the Javanese built trading ship Frederick wrecked of Stanley Island in 1818.

Kieran Hosty inspecting anchor chain during the Ferguson Reef expedition in March 2013

Kieran Hosty inspecting anchor chain during the Ferguson Reef expedition in March 2013

The Morning Star was a two masted, teak hulled, possible copper sheathed and fastened brig of 135 tons built by J. Scott and Company of Fort Gloster, India in 1813 for Lackersteen and Co and registered in Calcutta, India. (Parsons, 2003) Additional information, supplied from the Report of ships and vessels cleared outwards from Port Jackson in His Majesty’s Colony of New Wales 1/07/1814 – 30/09/1814 indicates the small vessel carried at least 8 cannon and a relatively large crew of 36 – hall marks of either a privateer or a vessel involved in the shipment of a valuable cargo – such as tea or opium.

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Adventures of an education officer

Photo of Anne the education officer

Anne is the Education Officer at the museum.

A wise person once told me that the day you stop learning is the day you stop breathing. Never a truer statement could be made since I joined the museum as an education officer nearly eight months ago.

I have learnt a variety of amazing things from the small incidental knowledge such as wearing a skirt when visiting the submarine is not really advised, to the difference between a boat and a ship (when in doubt you can call them a vessel). The lee-side is not next to Lee, but a quieter area of the ocean out of the wind. I think I have nearly nailed port and starboard. I have also had training to plan and program lessons for schools also the many timetables and rosters for the on-site school visits as well as dressing up as a pirate. You could say my day is as interesting as it is educational.

Scuba diver searching the ocean floor during a reconnaissance trip to Frederick Reef October 2009

Photo from a reconnaissance trip to Frederick Reef October 2009. Copyright: Xanthe Rivett

This brings me to my next lesson. The education team is entering the world of video conferencing, which is a huge and exciting undertaking in its self. Imagine being able to share the museum with kids from all over Australia and potentially even the world. Our first video conference into schools has an extra degree of difficulty – we will be broadcasting from our maritime archaeology expedition at Ferguson Reef, off the coast of far north Queensland. So suddenly my learning curve has tilted to a near 90 angle.

However, all is not lost!

The best part of working in an organisation like this is that I have access to professional and generous people to help me on my learning journey. So over the next few weeks in particular I will be documenting my journey from learning about maritime archaeology, blogging and social media, and of course, understanding and working the video conferencing equipment.

Oh, the most exciting part – I will be going on the expedition as well so I will be on the scene to tell you what is happening up there.

Education Officer

International Talk Like Pirate Day story – Survivin’ scurvy on the seven seas

Ahoy me hearties!

To celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Wednesday 19 September) we set our Facebook followers a challenge, to write a pirate story that old Black Beard himself would be proud of. And our followers did not disappoint, with an imaginative and hilarious (yo-ho-ho) interpretation of all things pirate (and even some things that are not)!

Read below for the full collection of Facebook posts to see how the story unfolded.

Chapter one: A pirate without a name and the Pink Oyster

Uniformed man on deck of ship

Illustration from sheet music cover ‘The Red Rover’s Song’. Lithographer William Endicott & Co. c 1859. ANMM Collection

It was a blustery day on th’ high seven seas ‘n our protagonist captain told his scurvy crew “set the sails, we have only five days ’til we reach th’ treasure before them scurvy pirate wenches on th’ Pink Oyster! We have to get that treasure first!”.The crew leapt to the ropes and riggings. Captain Albatross was a firm but fair leader and he made sure everything on board the Golden Venture was errr shipshape!

The pirating game was a cutthroat business and Albatross had seen many a sloppily run ship fail when things got serious. He knew he had one of the best ships around and his crew agreed.

The sailing was smooth for Albatross and the crew, ’twas soon nightfall and they were developing a thirst for whiskey and wenches. As Albatross got up to call the first mate, a wail bellowed over the decks of the ship, “arrrrrrrgggghhhhhh!” It was Albatross, fallen on the deck. “Me leg, me scurvy dog of a peg leg! It still be on the land. Arrrggghhhh!” The crew fell silent. They had travelled so far on their first day of sailing, dare they turn back for the captains’ leg?

“Aarrrr, Next time, no Pirate ship from Ikea” bellowed one of the crew, who had clearly been on ye ol’ grog since morning!

Just then Billy the cabin boy spoke up. “Arrrr, Captain, I been whittling you a new leg. It was fer yer birthday, see. But as it’s an emergency, you could have it now” He handed over a leg carved with ferocious sea beasties and mer people. “Look, it even flips open to hide stuff in”. It even has a place for your beer and a long straw. Thou u shan’t b drinkin whilst u drivin dis here boat now.

Chapter two: The missing peg leg, a battle at sea and the Allen key

Two ships batte on the rough seas

Photograph by Samuel J Hood of a painting by G. F. Gregory depicting three sailing ships in battle. ANMM collection

“Me leg, me scurvy dog of a peg leg! Me only half a pirate not worthy of the Golden Venture without me leg,” said Captain Albatross of the Golden Venture, hopping on one foot. Billy the cabin boy stepped forward with a gift, “Arrrr, Captain, I been whittling you a new leg. It was fer yer birthday, see. But as it’s an emergency, you could have it now”. Captain Albatross beamed with a pirate’s glee and made use of the peg leg’s hidden compartment to stow away his treasure map and Ikea Allen key. There was a change in the wind which brought an almighty storm and the Pink Oyster, whose pirate wenches were ready for battle ensued a bloody war.The Pink Oyster wenches were led by one Poxy Polly – a buxsom girl of generous portions, with a mass of flaming red hair.

She ruled them with belaying pin in one hand an’ cutlass in the other and was feared by one and all.

There was only one regret in Poxy Polly’s life, that she had once given her heart to a man of the sea only for him to leave her. On that day she swore that there would come a day when she would get even with him. And, as she watched Golden Venture sail into sight, she knew that today was that day.

Albatross looked out on the rising seas lashing the Golden Venture. In the distance, he could see the Pink Oyster steering carefully through the waves. As the sunlight peeked through the clouds, he saw a glimmer of red from the deck of the Pink Oyster. “Shiver me timberrrs…” he grumbled. At this moment, first mate Sjörövare yelled, “out with your Allen keys, maties. Assemble the cannons”.

The Allen keys were whipped out, but a short delay followed while the crew coordinated themselves, deciding which language to use for the task. Albatross, meanwhile, stood stunned on the quarterdeck. Across the waves, drawing ever nearer, Poxy Polly hefted her cutlass. “I’ll cut yer other leg off, ye miserable ladies’ idiot feel sorry for me, an’ give ye something real t’ cry about”, she muttered. Her first mate was passing around chocolate to bolster the courage of the crew of the Oyster.

Chapter three: Eyes of lost lovers locked and an unexpected pit stop

Ship run aground on an island beach

‘Cygnet careened’ Etching by Geoffrey Chapman Ingleton (1908 – 1998). ANMM Collection

In the stormy battle between the mighty Golden Venture and the Pink Oyster, Ikea Allen keys a plenty assembling Swedish made cannons, time stood still as Captain Albatross and Poxy Polly locked eyes mid cutlass swing. “Avast! It cannot be…” Captain Albatross gasped. Visions rushed before his sunburnt eyes of a time long gone that were full of love shanties and a beautiful woman named Polly. “That’s right you miserable scurvy dog! It is I Poxy Polly, here to seek my revenge and take back what’s rightfully mine. Hand over the treasure map and the golden Allen key!” And with that, caught unaware, both ships ran aground, busted on reef and rocks surrounding an uncharted tropical island…Polly shoved Albatross off her and jumped up from the sand, where they’d been flung by the impact of the hulls on the rocks. She frowned at the unfamiliar island then levelled her cutlass at Albatross, only to find a pistol pointing to her nose. “Arrrgh,” she growled. Her cutlass dropped to the ground…but in a flash she ducked, wrenched the gun from Albatross and retrieved her weapon. She swung back to face him just in time to avoid his wooden leg…

On the deck of the Venture, the Poxy’s first mate was trying to plunder the Captain’s cabin. “ye’ll need an allen key for that,” Sjorovare smirked. “If ye get that map,” growled the first mate, Toebiter Tanless, “we can have the treasure without those two and take the ships for ourselves…”

And then ….. they heard a man cry “WILLLSSOONNNNNN!”

“WILLLSSOONNNNNN, WILLLSSOONNNNNN” called Ratus the Bilage Rat. Grumbling to himself he looked for his friend Willson th’ parrot. Willson had seen what was about to happen and taken safely to the air just in time. Ratus had never really wanted to be a Bilage Rat but it had been a family tradition passed on down from father to son. He had always dreamed of being a Rock star singing sea shanty’s in the Local Tavern.

Chapter four: A rat-parrot bromance, a mysterious survivor, a love (Bermuda) triangle and a fight to the finish for the island’s treasure!

Man with cane posing

Image of David Ashworth, survivor of the shipwrecked General Grant. ANMM Collection

Seeing a mutiny on their hands, Wilson signalled to Ratus that Captain Albatross’ ship was about to be ransacked by the crew. Little did Sjorovare and Toebiter Tanless know that the Allen key and treasure map was safely stowed in the Captain’s pegleg. Suddenly leaping forth from the island’s thick jungle, came a man dressed all in skins! Polly and the Captain froze in recognition, at the old rival for Polly’s love – a pirate thought long lost and gone in a doomed expedition for gold!Galloping Godfrey froze, as he took in the spectacle before him. In a voice cracking and squeaking from disuse he asked “what in blazing cannons is going on here?” Polly and Albatross both answered simultaneously “we’re looking for your treasure”. Godfrey leant over wheezing with laughter.

“Arrrh! And ye all be fools to seek for Treasure. For seven years I sailed the seven seas and of treasure I did seek. But the only treasure I ever did find was the love of a good woman here before me which I lost to the arms of another man”.

Wilson and Ratus caught sight of the old man and, as one, launched themselves at his toothless face, at the one who stole their most prized possessions. Still laughing, Godfrey toppled to the sand, something shining falling from his pocket. “He’s nuts” exclaimed Albatross. “No – the nuts….where’s that golden Allen key???” said Polly.


Portrait photo of a lady

Untitled (Portrait of a woman). James Hall (1877-1951). ANMM Collection

A stiff breeze in the sails and a stiff drink in leg! Before too long Captain Albatross, his crew of miscreants and the jolly wenches of the Pink Oyster had decided to hunt for treasure together and start their new joint venture with a party. The swing of the party matched the pitch and toss of the surf. All was going swimmingly until Cap Albatross repeated a commonly used motif and stumbled into the arms of a buxom Pink Oyster Wench. Looking up with wiley gratitude in his eyes he asked “what’s your name….?” So the moral to our story be, should you ever go to sea, kiss goodbye the love of your life and don’t forget to pack a spare Allen Key!Thanks to our contributors: Natasha Coster, Vanessa Hill, Brendan O’Neill, Karen Charge, Jenny Baker, Nicholas Brocklebank, Rebecca Hackett and Jenny Drenkhahn.

For all those little pirates out there, you too can get into the pirate spirit at our Pirates! Children’s Adventure Land that opens on 22 September! Cut loose your cutlass and start practicing ya’ arrrrs!