Bringing an exhibition to life: Voyage to the Deep

Constructing exhibitions such as Voyage to the Deep is the work of preparators, or ‘preps’. They are an integral cog in the machine of traditional museums and, as the name implies, are employed to prepare objects, specimens or exhibits. Originally they included embalmers, flensers and taxidermists as well as model makers and tradespeople. The museum has four preps, all of whom have visual arts degrees. Creativity is just as essential as practical skills in a job which requires us to exercise our minds as well as our hands.

Preparator Peter Buckely with the airlock-style door that forms the entry to the exhibition Voyage to the Deep

Peter Buckley with the airlock-style door that forms the entry to the exhibition, Voyage to the Deep.

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Make your own carrot submarine

This month’s hands-on activity is inspired by our new interactive exhibition, Voyage to the Deep, featuring the fantastical steampunk Nautilus submarine. In this activity you’ll get to the root of how submarines work.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 carrot – fairly straight, not too tapered (If you don’t have a carrot; cut down a potato)
  • Baking powder (not baking soda)
  • Toothpicks
  • Deep bowl or pot of water

Materials needed to make a carrot submarine

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Creating an underwater world of fact and fantasy

The other day, a friend said to me, ‘You have an awesome job’, and I guess I do. As a creative producer for the museum, I get to dream up new exhibitions and bring them to life. My friend’s comment was prompted by a photo I posted of the Nautilus, the steampunk submarine star of Voyage to the Deep, an interactive exhibition for families loosely based on Jules Verne’s novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas. It’s about underwater adventure and discovery, and uses the book as a foundation, but then builds on it to contrast the fantasy of the novel with real submarines and modern deep-sea research – the facts behind the fiction. Kids will be able to climb aboard a fantastical deep-sea vessel and take it for a drive (or should that be a dive?), exploring various undersea worlds and discovering what it’s like to live and work under water.

Voyage to the Deep submarine

Construction of the submarine at the museum.

The project started about 18 months ago, when I was given the basic topic and started research. We used the 1998 Oxford World Classics translation by William Butcher for reference, as many of the earlier English editions contained translation errors (Butcher even got the title right: ‘seas’ not ‘sea’). We formed a team of people from different areas of the museum and started brainstorming ideas.

My role was to work out ways to turn these ideas, plus concepts from the book and factual information, into a cohesive interactive exhibition. So, as well as reading the novel, a lot, I had to research all sorts of topics, from the psychological testing of submariners to the size of squid eyeballs.

Installing the submarine, ghost net reef and giant kelp forest.

Installing the submarine, ghost net reef and giant kelp forest.

There was no shortage of inspiration or ideas to include. The tough part was passing these through the necessary practicality filters of what we could afford, what things we could build in such a way that they’d be safe, durable and able to travel (as the exhibition will tour to other venues), and what would appeal to our family audience. The latter was helped by holding focus groups with parents to seek their opinions and suggestions.

Once the content had been worked out, the next challenge was sourcing all the stuff we needed. Fortunately eBay proved excellent for finding weird props; who knew you could buy replica moray eel skulls and stingray spines? We engaged suppliers in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, and had components built all around Australia. By the time it’s all in one place, I suspect the exhibition will have come close to travelling its 20,000 leagues.

We’re also building some key elements in house, including the fantastic entry portal and one of my favourite exhibits – a shark that you have to reach inside to find out what he had for dinner. We even managed to create a forest of giant kelp for children to explore.

Voyage to the Deep airlock

It’s been a challenging project, but a lot of fun too. I can’t wait to see it all assembled and in one place – a stunning steampunk submarine, a coral reef made from ghost nets and other marine debris, a giant kelp forest, a shipwreck and even the fabled lost city of Atlantis – yes, I definitely have an awesome job.

– Em Blamey, Creative Producer

Voyage to the Deep opens on 10 December. This exhibition was made possible by the support of Nine Network, Laissez Faire Catering, 2DayFM, and Douglas Fabian Productions.

Naval traditions continue as HMAS Canberra is commissioned

Last Friday saw the commissioning of the Royal Australian Navy’s newest and largest fleet member – the Landing Helicopter Dock (or LHD for short) HMAS Canberra (III).
In a short space of time and in century-old tradition, she went from being Nuship Canberra to raising the Australian white ensign for the first time as part of her formal commissioning into the Fleet.

HMAS canberra

The Royal Australian Navy’s latest helicopter, the MH60R ‘Romeo’ Seahawk, flies past the Navy’s latest ship, NUSHIP Canberra in Sydney, NSW. Courtesy Royal Australian Navy.

It was a significant moment for all those associated with the building and fitting out of the LHD, especially the tri-service ship’s company who have been training for months in preparation for the introduction of the LHD. Navy, Air Force and Army come together to operate this ship.

As well as raising the white ensign another tradition was also observed, that of the youngest member of Canberra’s ship’s company (Seaman Marine Technician Michael Lane) cutting the commissioning cake alongside Canberra’s Commanding Officer (Captain Jonathan Sadleir AM, RAN).

White ensign for HMAS Canberra

LS Stewart Thurlow raises the Australian white ensign for the first time on board the newly commissioned HMAS Canberra. Courtesy Royal Australian Navy.

In the life of a naval ship there are many ceremonial milestones including ship naming, keel laying, christening, commissioning and final decommissioning. The commissioning ceremony completes the cycle from christening and launching to bring the ship into full status as a warship of her nation.

Canberra carries a proud name indeed. The first Canberra was a heavy cruiser sunk in action at the Battle of Savo Island in August 1942. The second Canberra was a guided missile frigate and saw service during the Gulf War; she was sunk off Ocean Grove, Victoria as an artificial reef and dive wreck. In line with naval tradition, Canberra (III) inherits the battle honours from the previous two ships of the same name – East Indies 1940-41, Pacific 1941-42, Guadalcanal 1942, Savo Island 1942 and Persian Gulf 2002.

So what is Canberra going to be doing for the Royal Australian Navy? She is the lead ship of the two Canberra class amphibious assault ships designed by Spanish shipbuilders Navantia. Canberra and her sister-ship Adelaide are prefabricated in Spain and then fitted out in Melbourne. They are capable of conducting large-scale humanitarian missions and will focus on regional military support, including disasters (they can be deployed as floating hospitals and command and control centres); evacuation missions (such as a raid from the sea to recover hostages); and peacekeeping. They will also play a key role in extreme natural disasters at home.

The Canberra Class Amphibious Assault Ship concept.

An internal cross-section of the Canberra class Amphibious Assault Ship puts in perspective her ability to carry an incredible amount of vehicles, vessels and aircraft.

There are many mindboggling and impressive statistics associated with the ship. Here are a few:

  • Construction cost was $A1.5 billion;
  • She’s 230 metres long, the flight deck is eight stories above the water and as big as 24 tennis courts;
  • Canberra could sail under the Sydney Harbour Bridge – with 40 cm to spare!
  • She can embark 1,100 fully-equipped infantry troops and 110 trucks and armoured vehicles;
  • She can carry 18 helicopters (six can operate simultaneously from landing points on the flight deck);
  • Elevators and ramps are used to move vehicles, aircraft and personnel around the ship;
  • Cooks can prepare up to 6,000 meals daily;
  • There are two operating theatres and 56 hospital beds, an eight-bed critical care unit, pathology and radiology services, x-ray, pharmacy and dental facilities.
  • The ship can make 150 tonnes of fresh water per day and generate enough power to power a city the size of Darwin;
  • The heavy vehicle deck covers 1400 square metres;
  • The ship can carry 196 shipping containers;
  • The well dock holds water the equivalent of 1.2 Olympic swimming pools and has access to the open sea through the stern to allow the landing craft and other boats to sail straight in and out.

HMAS Canberra will proceed to sea in the coming weeks for a period of training and assessment for the crew. She will be home ported to Garden Island, Sydney, so take yourself down to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and see for yourself just how impressive this new addition to the Royal Australian Navy really is.

– Lindsey Shaw (@NavyCurator), Australian National Maritime Museum Research Associate

Make your own marine creatures

Since September 2014, museum staff and visitors have been working with Ghost Nets Australia to create a large coral bombora (or ‘bommie’) sculpture out of ghost nets and marine debris. This collaborative art project aims to raise awareness of threats to marine ecosystems from fishing industries, discarded rubbish and marine debris. All the ghost net and marine debris materials being used for this project have been collected by Mapoon Land and Sea Rangers and volunteers from the Mapoon beaches in Cape York, Queensland.

The ghost nets bommie in progress, including creatures made from discarded thongs, rope, nets and other marine debris.

Close up of the ghost nets bommie in progress, including creatures made from discarded thongs, rope, ghost nets and other marine debris. Photo by Michelle Mortimer.

The sculpture will be on show in our summer exhibition Voyage to the Deep: Underwater Adventures as part of the seafloor environment.

We are continuing to add to the bommie sculpture over the coming months, and encourage our visitors on site and online to contribute their own creative sea creature sculptures to bring the reef to life. All ages are welcome to contribute!

A fish made from recycled fishing nets.

A fish made from ghost nets and marine debris. Photo by Ester Sarkadi-Clarke

Collect your materials

As you can see from the photos of the scupltural ghost net bommie and marine creatures so far, it is made of found materials collected from beaches: nets, rope, bottles, thongs and other discarded objects. We suggest that your creatures are also made of marine debris and recycled materials, or other materials from bushland or parks if you are not near to the coast (remember to clean the recycled materials before using them).

Get inspired

Coral made from rope and fishing debris.

Coral made from rope and fishing debris. Photo by Ester Sarkadi-Clarke.

Think about what types of marine flora or fauna you can create from found objects—there are infinite numbers of creative ideas. Some examples so far include rope-wrapped coral, plastic bottle fish, or starfish made of thongs.

For ideas and downloadable instructions for creating your marine creatures, head to the ‘kids craft’ section of our Voyage to the Deep website.

You can also take a look at our Flickr album to see some of our creatures so far and to follow the progress of the reef as it continues to grow.

Share your work

Share your creation with us to have it added to the sculpture. You can visit the museum in person to bring in what you have made or come along to one of our summer Ghost Nets Weaving Workshops.

If you can’t make it to the museum, you can still contribute! Email a photo of your marine creatures to and we’ll add it to our virtual ghost net reef on Flickr. Please include details of the marine life that you were inspired by, and the found materials you used to make your creations. You can also post creations via mail to the museum:

Australian National Maritime Museum
2 Murray Street
Darling Harbour
Sydney, NSW 2000

We look forward to seeing what you make!

– Ester Sarkadi-Clarke, Ghost Nets Project Intern

You can contribute to the ghost nets bommie before Voyage to the Deep opens on 9 December 2014, and throughout the duration of the exhibition until 27 April 2015.

Read more about ghost nets and this bommie project on the blog post Creating art from ghost nets, and find out more about the important work of Ghost Nets Australia on the Ghost Nets Australia website.

This project is proudly supported by Blackmores.

Corroboree Sydney at the museum

The Corroboree Sydney festival kicked off yesterday and is running until 30 November. The festival celebrates Australia’s rich Indigenous culture, featuring leading artists, writers, dancers and musicians showcasing their creativity and sharing stories in over 100 free and ticketed events around Sydney’s iconic foreshore. For the first time, the museum will take part in the festival, with programs highlighting that for thousands of years prior to European settlement, coastal Aboriginal people fished and hunted in the waters and hinterlands, living a rich and spiritual life harmoniously with the land and environment. The museum will present four days of inspirational events including tours of our Indigenous Gallery, unique vessel tours from an Indigenous perspective and traditional canoe building demonstrations.

making Nawi canoes at the australian national maritime museum

Making bark canoes at the museum. Curator David Payne and Indigenous Programs Manager Donna Carstens constructing a nawi with the help of a student from Lawrence Hargrave School, July 2014.

The museum will showcase our ongoing NAWI project by presenting a fascinating demonstration of the construction of a full-size traditional NSW Aboriginal bark canoe. Traditional community canoe builders from around the country will join museum staff to build a NAWI using traditional methods from Saturday 29 to Sunday 30 November. The demonstration is free and all are welcome to watch.

The Australian National Maritime museum’s Eora and Saltwater gallery.

The museum’s Eora and Saltwater gallery.

Indigenous people have a deep spiritual connection to land and water. Take part in our discussion as canoe communities share their stories of past and current projects about Indigenous watercraft and connections in Canoe Conversations. This free, casual session of discussions and presentations is on the afternoon of the Saturday 29 November and is open to all.

Families inspired by the NAWI canoe building demonstrations can also try their hands at building their own mini versions to take home in free children’s paper canoe workshops for 5–12 year olds and their parents, also running from Saturday 29 to Sunday 30 November.

HMB Endeavour at the museum.

The HMB Endeavour replica at the museum.

We will also be providing special Indigenous interpretation of some of our permanent attractions during the festival. Jump on board the museum’s Endeavour replica and get a glimpse of what it was like for the traditional Aboriginal people living along the foreshores of the harbour. We’ll also host guided tours reflecting on our Indigenous history and encouraging visitors to look at the vessel through different eyes, taking on a dual perspective of the East Coast journey.

–Donna Carstens, Indigenous Programs Manager

Find out more about the museum’s Corroboree Sydney events.

Creating art from ghost nets

When I first heard about Ghost Nets Australia and its work collecting discarded marine and fishing waste and human-made debris, I was intrigued. As I learnt more about the organisation’s inspiring, creative and innovative environmental projects, I began to appreciate the deeper complexity and change-making effect of their work.

Turtle caught in ghost nets

This turtle was found barely alive during patrol by Dhimurru Rangers. Photo by Jane Dermer. Courtesy Ghost Nets Australia.

Ghost Nets Australia is a multi-faceted organisation dedicated to rescuing and protecting marine environments from ghost nets—fishing nets which are lost at sea and collect marine organisms as they float in the oceans and wash onto shores. Working with Indigenous Ranger Groups and volunteers, Ghost Nets Australia collects massive amounts of discarded ghost nets and marine debris from coastal areas, creating art from it, educating people, collaborating with communities, collecting data and bringing about lasting change.

Ranger freeing a turtle from ghost nets

Senior Nanum Wungthim Ranger, Phillip Mango cutting free a juvenile Hawksbill turtle. Photo by Matt Gillis. Courtesy Ghost Nets Australia.

Ghost nets are a major threat to marine fauna and flora. Marine debris such as thongs, plastic bottles and cans are also collected. Most ghost nets come from discarded fishing vessels from the Indonesian region and Arafura Sea, and the majority are from from trawl fisheries and gill nets. The data collected by Ghost Nets Australia shows that most nets are found in the far north of Australia, especially the Gulf of Carpentaria where 90% of the nets are found. The Gulf of Carpentaria is one of the last remaining ecosystems for endangered marine and coastal species such as six of the world’s seven marine turtle species, dugongs and sawfish. Ghost Nets Australia prioritises rescuing turtles, which represent 80% of marine life caught in the nets, with over 300 turtles rescued so far. Since 2004, over 13,000 nets have been removed from Australian beaches and estuaries.

Ghost Nets Australia and the Ghost Nets Art Project aims to transform the destructive ghost nets and marine debris materials into artworks. A major part of this work is community collaboration and community workshops, predominantly held where ghost nets are found. This not only benefits the environment, but has wider positive effects for communities and for educational purposes.

Sue Ryan from Ghost Nets Australia

Sue Ryan, Director of the Ghost Nets Australia Art Project, working on the initial structure of the bommie at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The museum is excited to be working with the Ghost Nets Australia on a collaborative sculpture of a coral reef ‘bommie’, or coral outcrop, which will be part of our upcoming exhibition Voyage to the Deep: Underwater Adventures. In September, we hosted a week-long workshop with visiting artist Karen Hethey and Ghost Nets Art Project Director Sue Ryan, who helped create the structure of the bommie. The sculpture recreates the seafloor environment and coral reef ecosystem, using collected ghost nets and marine debris, all stitched together using fishing line.

Making marine creatures for the bommie sculpture

Artist Karen Hethey working on marine creatures made of thongs and marine debris for the bommie at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The sculpture is an ongoing project. Staff, volunteers and museum visitors have assisted over the past few months, adding coral made of ropes, marine creatures made of thongs, fish made of bottles, ropes and ghost nets. Members of the public are also invited to contribute.

Bommie sculture in progress at the museum

Progress: museum staff and visitors contributing to the bommie sculpture.

Ghost Nets Australia’s projects educate on a wide-reaching scale, and this has ongoing positive impacts on the environment, local communities, and has a significant role in influencing lasting change for present and future generations.

See the bommie at Voyage to the Deep, open from 9 December 2014 to 27 April 2015. Read more about ghost nets on the Ghost Nets Australia website.

To learn how to make your own marine creatures for our ghost net bommie, stay tuned for part two of this blog.

Ester Sarkadi-Clarke, Ghost Nets Project Intern

4 x 18 = 72

Simple stuff: 4 x 18 feet = 72 feet.

72 feet x 1/3.281 = about 22 metres (in French).

But if you put the four 18-foot skiffs currently on display at the museum in a line, their long bowsprits and booms make the line closer to 120 feet or 37 metres long. Imagine this impressive sight as their big rigs tower over the 5.5-metre long hulls.

Enough maths! In a rare opportunity, the museum has four classic 18s on display at once. Britannia, Yendys and Taipan have been visited by the replica of Myra Too, the quartet covering a wide section of the 18-foot skiffs’ colourful class history.

Britannia on Sydney Harbour during the1920s

Britannia – William Hall Collection – ANMM

Britannia makes a terrific starting point. It has a big eight-foot (2.45-metre) wide hull, seam batten planked in Queensland cedar, strong thwarts and tabernacle—everything that these mighty craft began with in the 1890s as open boats racing with Mark Foy’s Sydney Flying Squadron. It was built in 1919 by the legendary ‘Wee Georgie’ Robinson. ‘Wee Georgie’ and his team from Balmain raced Britannia hard and its career spanned the next few generations of gradual developments until it retired after World War II. In that time it carried one of the largest rigs ever put on an 18. That rig was rebuilt when the vessel was restored in the late 1980s and is how it is displayed in the Watermarks exhibition at the museum.

As we walk into the Wharf 7 foyer, on our right is Sydney Heritage Fleet’s Yendys. A rival of Britannia, Yendys was built in 1925 by Charlie Hayes for Norm Blackman. This big hull is also built in the traditional heavy scantlings, but it illustrates an early piece of innovation, its transom bow. Hayes had another legend working for him at the time, Charlie Peel, who had been successful with transom bows on 14-foot skiffs in Victoria. As well, the 1920s was the time when the Restricted 21s showed how fast a lighter-keel boat could go, and Hayes and Peel were in the thick of this class too. Out comes Yendys, with its sawn-off profile and veed bow shapes, a sort of restricted-class yacht crossed with a skiff and with the bow overhang squared off. Despite the odd mix it went pretty well too, but although another two snub-nosers were built in that time, the idea did not catch on. It did show there was room to move in the rules, though, and the Queenslanders took on both innovation and the establishment at the same time.

Yendys with all sails set

Yendys – William Hall Collection – ANMM

The 1930s ‘galloping ghost’ from Queensland, Aberdare, was a narrow seven-foot (2.15 metre) beamer that won many races and championships. It was so unpopular with traditional sailors that two new clubs were set up that allowed seven-foot beamers to race – the New South Wales 18-Foot Sailing League and the Brisbane 18-Foot Sailing Club – and the politics spawned by that divide raged on for decades.

Six feet (1.83 metres) became the new seven feet in the 1940s. Sailing in the 1951 season, Billy Barnett and Myra Too from the Sydney Flying Squadron won everything – states, nationals, worlds – the lot. The Myra Too replica, sitting on its rigging cradle on the Wharf 7 floor, and built a little differently from the original, is still a showcase of how the lighter construction had taken hold of the class post-war, finally shutting the door to the big-boat era of Britannia and Yendys.

The new boats were planing, the crew were swinging out on trapezes, and just when they thought they were the bees’ knees of skiff and dinghy sailing, along came Bob Miller and the plywood Taipan in 1959. This was another Queensland revolution that caused heartache and resistance in New South Wales but became the origins of today’s flyers. Here it is, elevated for all to see the end plates and fences on the appendages – the things that led Bob Miller, who had by then changed his name to Ben Lexcen, to the controversial features on Australia II that ultimately helped snare yachting’s greatest trophy, the America’s Cup, in 1983. Taipan was rebuilt in 2007 to its 1959 configuration that caused as much local stir in its own time, even though it only won a few races and had many gear failures. When it worked, it often won with big margins. Taipan had the speed and performance that the crews wanted, and they never looked back.

Taipan during the 1960 world championships in Auckland

Taipan – Courtesy Robin Elliot

To complete this, but not on display, the ANMM collection also has a 1970s Bruce Farr design, KB, the type that bedded down the three-hander, and then Colorbond, from 1985/86, a showcase of where it all went ballistic. Getting back to numbers here, the 18-foot skiffs sported bowsprits and extensions that made them around 40 feet (12 metres) long and more than 20 feet (six metres) wide and enabled them to do powerboat speeds on the harbour—and the cost of all this yearly high-tech building spree finally blew the lid on development in the class.

The skiffs on display are three survivors rebuilt to their former glory and a fourth built as a replica to race on and carry the heritage of the class into the future. Did the four skiffs on display ever sail on the harbour together? Not likely, but in a lovely moment captured on film, we have the original Myra Too running downwind to eventually pass the seven-foot beamer Jantzen Girl that’s just in front, and there off to the side is a little motor launch with a mast­—it looks like it could be Britannia which was converted by ‘Wee Georgie’ to be the club’s starting boat—and it’s trying hard on one cylinder to keep up with progress.

Myra Too at sea

Myra Too – Bill Barnett Collection – ANMM

 – David Payne

Curator, Historic Vessels

Echoes of Anzac at Lemnos

Cheryl Ward’s play Through These Lines tells the moving story of Australia’s WWI army nurses. The 2014 production, directed by Mary-Anne Gifford, has its Sydney season at the Museum, 25-28 September and 3-5 October.

As part of the research for the play, Cheryl travelled to Lemnos to walk in the nurses’ footsteps. Using period photographs and diaries crammed full of invaluable eyewitness accounts, Cheryl was able to turn back the clock 100 years.

No. 3 Australian General Hospital, Lemnos, then and now. Photo A. W. Savage, C. Ward & B. de Broglio.

No. 3 Australian General Hospital, Lemnos, then and now. Photo A. W. Savage, C. Ward & B. de Broglio.

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The Monuments Men

The first week of September sees the Blu-ray release of The Monuments Men. Imbued with an all-star cast, including George Clooney, Cate Blanchett & Matt Damon, this isn’t just another wartime drama, but the true story of the greatest art heist in history.

Julian Bickersteth of International Conservation Services tells part of that story here.

It is not often that a conservator appears in a movie – we are one of those professions that tend to operate under the radar, hidden away in the back of museums. But when we do hit the limelight we like to do it in style, so it is great to see a conservator taking a lead role in The Monuments Men, played by none other than George Clooney.

George plays the central character of George Stout (called Frank Stokes in the film) who was a key player in the Monuments Men, or to give them their full title, the Monuments, Fine Art and Archives (MFA&A) section. Set up by the Allied Forces in World War II, they were entrusted with the mission of locating and protecting works taken by the Nazi Regime. The film is based on the book of the same name by Robert Esdel, and tells their remarkable story, based around a simple job description: to save as much of the culture of Europe as they could during combat.

Stout packing Michelangelo's Madonna of Bruges in the mines at Altaussee, Austria, July 1945

Stout packing Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges in the mines at Altaussee, Austria, July 1945

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The Maritime Museum tour : ‘Celebes Sailors, Ships and Spice’

You haven’t seen Indonesia until you have been to South Sulawesi.

Our group of 14 intrepid ANMM members set off on 2nd June with our leader Jeffrey Mellefont, five Indonesian guides and a driver for a two week adventure tracking the history of the Makassan/Bugi forays to Northern Australia in search of the Trepang, the building of the pinisi wooden boats and the magic culture of South Sulawesi.

Photo courtesy of fellow traveller Robert Osmond

Photo courtesy of fellow traveller Robert Osmond

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What is it about deep water?

If you’re a swimmer, even though you know you’ll be fine, just the idea of being suspended above something tens, let alone thousands of metres dark and deep can cause that weird tingling combination of excitement and fear.

As part of the USA Gallery program, we’ve been negotiating with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts to bring Deepsea Challenger to the museum. This is the submersible vessel piloted by James Cameron 11kms down to the bottom of Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. It’s a bit like having the lunar lander from Apollo 11 on display, only in reverse!

DeepSea Challenger at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, photo: A Tarantino WHOI

DeepSea Challenger at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, photo: A Tarantino WHOI

What makes it extra special is that Deepsea Challenger was built (in secret) in Sydney. Continue reading

Ancestral pursuits aboard a historic American whaler

Charles W Morgan in dock

The Charles W Morgan alongside the shiplift dock. The shiplift was installed in 2007 and used to lift the whaleship, carefully cradled in blocks and braces, out of the water. A computer controls the lift, monitors and distributes loads and protects the vessel from damage. A horizontal track system moves the vessel ashore and a concrete platform under the rails collects all waste from the work on the ship. This protects the Mystic River’s water quality and marine habitat. Photos courtesy of Lesley Walker.

In April this year I climbed aboard the Charles W Morgan at her dock at Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, United States for the first time. With a sailing date of 17 May fast approaching, riggers and shipwrights, painters and crew, electricians and carpenters, plumbers and deckhands were swarming about the ship in a frenzy of activity, patiently side stepping the curious and fascinated public who came to marvel and to question.

First Mate’s Cabin showing the writing slope and lamp for keeping the log.

First Mate’s Cabin showing the writing slope and lamp for keeping the log.

I sat for a while at the captain and mates’ table beside the cabins which Norfolk Islander George Parkins Christian occupied for 20 years, reflecting and writing, and exploring the crew cabins, the blubber room, the between decks areas. I felt the ship move heavily at the dock as she responded to the 45mph winds, listened to the creaking of the hull and the sound of the wind singing through the rigging. Almost as if she sensed her imminent freedom. I talked to Tim, a crew member painting thick tar on the dead eyes and rigging and Paul, a shipwright busy with woodwork below. Their excitement and passion for the project was infectious. Behind the roped off area, Paul showed me the gimballed and carved captain’s bed made for Lydia Landers when she joined her husband in 1863, the first of five captains’ wives who sailed on the Charles W Morgan. Quite comfy! Continue reading

Volunteer Week 2014!

Frank and Ross on HMB Endeavour gangway

Frank and Ross on HMB Endeavour replica gangway today
Photo: Renae Sarantis, ANMM

The Australian National Maritime Museum has one of the biggest volunteer programs in Australia with almost 500 volunteers and up to 35 each day! Our Volunteers do a wide range of jobs from guiding the public on the vessels HMAS Vampire, HMB Endeavour replica and submarine HMAS Onslow to helping our conservation team with objects, being in the members lounge and maintaining our historic fleet.

Ron greeting visitors at the Cape Bowling Green Light house

Ron greeting visitors at the Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse today
Photo: Renae Sarantis, ANMM

The volunteer program at the museum offers training, the chance to meet like-minded people and help connect not only with local community but the world has we have many overseas visitors that come to the museum. The museum’s volunteers enjoy many benefits with eligibility which include discount at the Store and Yots café, volunteer outings and attendance at the annual volunteer party.

We couldn’t run the museum without their help and we are so lucky to have a group of amazing and dedicated volunteers. We are currently seeking volunteers and more information can be found here.

Peter at the Quarter Masters Desk on HMAS Vampire

Peter at the Quarter Masters Desk on HMAS Vampire today
Photo: Renae Sarantis, ANMM

So to all the volunteers THANK YOU for all that you do and a happy Volunteers Week! 🙂

Renae Sarantis
Public Programs and Events

Possible discovery of Columbus’s flag ship SANTA MARIA (1492)

1892 replica of Santa Maria photographed in 1904 possibly by Edward H Hart. Source: United States Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

1892 replica of Santa Maria photographed in 1904 possibly by Edward H Hart.
Source: United States Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

Many years ago when I was attending primary school we were taught The Columbus Day poem in order to remember the momentous events of 1492. The opening stanzas of the poem went something like:

In fourteen hundred and ninety two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue

He had three ships and left from Spain
He sailed through sunshine and he sailed through rain

These three vessels, sponsored by Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I Queen of Castile and Leon – made up a great voyage of exploration lead by Christopher Columbus – also known Cristofora Colombo in his native Genoa and as Christobal Colon in Spain – who had managed to convince the joint sovereigns of Spain that he had found a short cut to the famous spice islands of the Orient.

These famous ships were, of course, the caravels Pinta and Nina and the larger Galician nao (ship) Santa Maria and with them Columbus discovered, although the Native Americans would have been a bit bemused by the term, not the Orient but in fact the Bahamas, Cuba and Haiti – before returning to Spain with the Pinta and the Nina – the Santa Maria having been wrecked in Caracol Bay, Haiti in on Christmas Day, 1492. Columbus lead several other voyages of discovery to what became known as the Americas and the rest as they say is history. Continue reading