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, in partnership with content providers including members of the National & State Libraries Australasia. It is one of the most well-respected 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.
“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
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.”
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.
The Australian National Maritime Museum acknowledges the Yolngu people as the traditional custodians of the lands and waters of North-East Arnhem Land. We pay our respects to them and their elders both past and present.
The Museum would like to advise visitors that this content may contain the names and artwork, by deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Members of the Northern Land Council flew into the homeland centre of Yilpara to commence the Blue Mud Bay legal case hearing. Image courtesy Northern Land Council.
A tireless fight
30 July 2018 marks ten years since the landmark High Court decision that granted sea country legal rights to the Yolŋu people of the Northern Territory. The exhibition Gapu-Monuk Saltwater: Journey to Sea Countrycentres around 40 Yirrkala bark paintings from the Saltwater Collection, created by the Yolŋu artists who petitioned for sea rights by painting their Saltwater Countries onto bark and revealed sacred patterns or designs, known as Miny’tji, as evidence of their connection to Blue Mud Bay. This legal fight was just one small part of a much richer Indigenous history and relationship to the sea.
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.
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 →
Irene and her brothers Fred and Harry sailing Zephyr. Despite her highly impractical attire, Irene survived two capsizes in one season. Image William James Hall, ANMM Collection 00002619 Gift from Bruce Stannard.
‘This venturesome young lady’
On Christmas Eve 1898, Irene Pritchard became the first woman to race a sailing boat on Sydney Harbour. Skippering the tiny 8-footer (2.4 metre) Zephyr, she took to the front early and won her first race with two minutes to spare.
The Sunday Times reported the day of the race was ‘scarcely an ideal one for a trip on the water, the wind blowing strong and cold from the southward, while it rained pretty continuously throughout the afternoon.’ It said the 8-footers race ‘formed an exciting part of yesterday’s programme owing to the fact that one of the small racers was in charge of a lady, Miss Irene Pritchard. That victory fell to this venturesome young lady, is perhaps not so much to be wondered at as that she would risk a wetting and the possibility of a capsize on such a day as yesterday proved.’ 1
The next month Irene became the first woman to sail a winner in a Sydney regatta – the Anniversary (now Australia Day) Regatta. She only sailed for one season, but in that time her fame spread as far as Britain.
Old Man’s Hat, where the 1940 inscription marking the detention of Pierre Loti was carved, offers spectacular views over South Head, the Tasman Sea and hundreds of historic inscriptions left by sailors, passengers and Sydney residents. Image: Ursula K Frederick, Sydney Harbour National Park.
Saigon bristled with terror in April 1975. As shelling and small-arms fire sounded out an ever-shrinking cordon around the South Vietnamese capital, wails of a different kind split the airspace above the city. On board a Royal Australian Air Force Hercules aircraft, over 200 traumatised children and infants – primarily orphans – were being tended by nurses, doctors and military personnel. Leaving Ton Son Nhat airport on 3 April, these bewildered passengers were then transferred to a Qantas flight bound for Sydney. Numbering among the 2500 children scooped up by ‘Operation Babylift’, they arrived at North Head Quarantine Station just weeks ahead of the final collapse of South Vietnam.
Oddly enough, the Babylift children were not the first displaced Vietnamese to be held at North Head. It would be another year before the earliest refugee boats – the vanguard of a rickety flotilla escaping the humanitarian crisis afflicting Southeast Asia – landed on northern Australian shores. Although two small groups of these arrivals were briefly accommodated at Sydney’s Quarantine Station in 1977, in April 1975 only the Babylift evacuees were being tended by nurses and community volunteers at this hilly headland near Manly.
Much of David Mearns work as a shipwreck hunter is the analysis of images and sonar scans. Image: David Mearns.
“People think ‘That was it, the deep oceans became accessible to man with Titanic in 1985’. Well, that’s completely false.”
David Mearns is one of the world’s pre-eminent shipwreck hunters. His company, Blue Water Recoveries, has an 88% recovery rate. He discovered the HMAS Sydney, and the Kormoran, the HMS Hood, the Royal Navy flagship sunk by the Bismarck, Vasco da Gama’s Esmerelda (which sunk in 1503), the Lucona a cargo ship sunk by a time bomb that murdered its crew and the Rio Grande, the deepest shipwreck ever found – at 5,762 metres.
How to Become a Shipwreck Hunter
But Mearns wasn’t interested in history at University. He actively avoided it, instead, he concentrated on getting degrees in marine biology and later, marine geology. He found work in the offshore industry, helping search and recovery for the US Navy. This is what sparked his now lifelong obsession as a shipwreck hunter: part detective, part archaeologist, part deep ocean adventurer – and historian.
His passion for the stories of the past drives him thousands of metres below the waves.
Behind the scenes at the ANMM – a conservation perspective
In late May, the Conservation Department at the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) welcomed me for three weeks as an intern to learn about the role of conservation within the museum, as well as further my understanding of the role a conservator has in caring for a collection. I spent my time at the ANMM constantly shadowing the various members of the conservation team.
Misenum in miniature. An up close look at the diorama created by Geoff Barnes and Roger Scott for Escape from Pompeii. Image: Andrew Frolows / ANMM.
In 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted, sealing nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum into time capsules that would not be reopened for many centuries, and which have been incredibly rich historical and romantic resources for today’s world.
The eruption was clearly visible from the Roman navy’s major port-city of Misenum, along the coast at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples. In response, the admiral of the fleet, Pliny the Elder, ordered his ships to go to the rescue. It is one of the first recorded attempted rescues of civilians by sea by a military force.
Alison Stillwell receiving Margaret Brock relics via scissor-lift, for incorporation into the developing Margaret Brock Room. (Photo: May McIntosh)
Alison Stillwell is a volunteer and Secretary of the Kingston SE Branch, National Trust SA. She has recently coordinated a project, partially funded by Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme (MMAPSS), called the ‘Margaret Brock Room Development’ within the Cape Jaffa Lighthouse. She shares with us her experience of managing the project and the significant events that their organisation celebrated last November.
The museum visitor app, available for iOS and Android. Image: ANMM.
Enrich your visit to the museum with our new Visitor App. Built for iOS and Android, the App features seven themed self-guided audio tours, six highlight tours as well as great photos, event and exhibition info, maps and amenities.
This memorial to British children evacuated to Australia in 1940 also commemorates the local women who looked after them at Sydney’s Quarantine Station. Image: Ursula K Frederick, Sydney Harbour National Park.
The Polish passenger liner MV Batory seems an odd ship to be commemorated at Sydney’s North Head Quarantine Station, as it never moored there. Yet its presence is captured in concrete: ‘BRITISH EVACUEE / CHILDREN / ARRIVED 16TH OCTOBER / 1940. M.S. BATORY / VA + DS’, followed by 37 names etched into four neat panels.
In fact, despite outbreaks of influenza, measles and ‘school sores’, the Batory was never quarantined. Rather, for the British children it rushed to Sydney in 1940, North Head represented a safe haven from German bombers and invasion scares.
HMAS Waterhen in Sydney Harbour, c1925–33. ANMM Collection 00021576.
The 9th of December 2016 is the 75th anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Tobruk, the port on the north coast of Libya that proved such a thorn in the side of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel during the eight months that the siege lasted. The Australian War Memorial describes it as one of the longest sieges in British military history.
Whenever the siege of Tobruk is remembered, the Australian soldiers, who formed the greater part of the garrison for most of the time, are quite rightly afforded pride of place.