The plywood yuki project – Gumleaf

The traditional Indigenous watercraft for the Murray River and the Ngarrindjeri community in South Australia  is called a  yuki’. It is made from a single sheet of red gum, taken from the side of a tree so that it already has much of the canoe’s curved shape already in place.  Heat from a fire is often used to help refine the shape a little more, and two or three branches are used as beams to give it some additional support. It’s a delightfully simple shape and construction which is used throughout the Murray Darling River systems.

Yuki, drawn D Payne 2012

Gumleaf is my concept of creating a simple plywood version; one that captures the basic elements, but interprets them in a modern way, guided by what the plywood is comfortable doing.

I designed Gumleaf last year after I had met ‘Trapper’ and others from the Ngarrindjeri community at the Goolwa Boat Festival in late February 2011. As well as showing them my watercraft research, I talked about the possibilities of building plywood yuki.  Jessie Wagner, a Goolwa shipwright who has built other craft I have designed, volunteered to make one (if I could draw it up) with his manager supplying the materials.  I drew up the plan and sent it off but Jessie could not get onto it until late August this year.  He then built it in three days with a high school work experience student who loved the project.



I like the idea of mixing the old with the new, so the design is a blend of the traditional craft built with modern materials following how best these materials want to form shapes. I chose a single chine cross-section shape as this is easy to form out of three panels. The sides are identical, so it’s easy to cut and join together.

The three panels ready to join

The three panels ready to join

Plywood likes to bend around gentle curves in an even line. This suited the bottom profile of a yuki quite well, but the sides are curved throughout, whereas a yuki often has straight, almost parallel sides through the main part of the hull. The top edge or gunwale has a wavy line to it, which is a bit higher at the front, and  this replicates how a yuki’ s edge  makes its own form which is never straight either.My profile is a simple flowing line with a combination of concave and convex curves, fitted with a small stiffening piece of timber to firm up the edge. Two neat beams with brackets are put in place as supports, reflecting modern construction, but gently curved to sit comfortably with the organic shape of the hull.

Gumleaf  came out to be  just over 4 metres long, 700mm wide and was made from two sheets of 6mm thick marine grade plywood. There are some small timber sections used at the edges and it has been varnished.  It is big enough to take two people and wide enough to have good stability. In fact you can stand up in it and pole it along. So who said stand-up paddling was invented in the Pacific? It’s been practised on the Murray for centuries.

Jessie and Dusty

Jessie and Dusty

Jessie launched the canoe with Dusty Gray on a windy Saturday in late August, and it was a big success. Jessie and Dusty were the ones who gave it the name saying it looked like a gumleaf as it sat on the grass waiting to try the water out for the first time.

Gumleaf  is now down at Camp Coorong, waiting for warmer weather to try it out, and I am hoping to hear from Major Sumner (Uncle Moogy)too, having discussed this idea with him as well.  Uncle Moogy likes it’s modern interpretation but is intrigued by the higher sides as a derivation of a flatter yuki style. He is also keen to get back to working with his beloved red gum in canoes and blue gum for shields, again to get young people involved in traditional tools, canoes and ceremony.

I think there is potential to do things like this along with many of the other Indigenous  craft as well and I have already made a ‘gumung derrka’ or ‘nardan’, the type made famous in Ten Canoes. Meanwhile I have drawn up a curved cross-section shaped yuki for Dusty to build, this time using the strip plank method of construction.

Plywood gumung derrka or nardan , designed and built by David Payne 2010

Plywood gumung derrka or nardan , designed and built by David Payne 2010

Images of Gumleaf  taken by Charles Irwin, Alongshore Marina, Goolwa  South Australia, who kindly donated the materials.

Nardan image by David Payne ANMM

Author David Payne

Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey – Day 3

Friday, 6 Jan 2012


We arrived at Frederick Reef about 3 am… announced by the rattling of the anchor chain through the boat.  Most people were up about 6 am to catch their first glimpse of the reef and sand cay. After breakfast at 7 am we started preparing for check-out dives. Before the dives Kieran gave a general historical briefing and a dive safety briefing about the diving procedures we will be using.  The first dives were done between 11.30 am and 1.30 pm in teams of three or four.  We had a late lunch and went straight back for a second check-out as a boat dive.  Final divers were up at 4.30 pm.  One of the teams located a timber that appears to be from the wreck!

Very close by was an iron staple knee.  A reinforcing structure that may have supported two deck beams.

Photo of a piece of timber on sea floor and iron knee staple

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

After completing dive logs, washing gear and writing up notes we finally finished off at 6 pm.  A 12-hour day and the crew were a bit weary!  Dinner was served at 7.30 pm, followed by a debrief of the day’s activities.  Xanthe Rivett, our expedition photographer, put on a slideshow of the day’s photos.  Here are just a few…

Kanimbla boat at sea

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Beautiful beach

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Detail of sea creature on sand

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Cheers Paul Hundley
(Sr. Curator and archaeologist)

Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey – Day 2

Most of the crew were up by 7 am.  The seas were up and the Kanimbla was rolling and pitching.  Some of the crew chose to pass on breakfast and stay in their bunks.

After breakfast a group of us set up the safety bags containing a strobe light, emergency whistle and safety sausage or tall position marker that can be seen at quite a distance.  We are very remote and very conscious of safety procedures.

A bit later on we pulled out copies of our historical records and scoured over them for additional clues to where we might find the Royal Charlotte.  We took a break at lunchtime and afterward downloaded our report from the 2010 reconnaissance with the chart of mag hits, their strength and location.   The last task for the day was to make up our decent lines and marker buoys.  The team from Flinders took charge of this under the capable teaching of Lee Graham from ANMM.

 Lee Graham from ANMM teaching the team from Flinders on the make up our decent lines and marker buoys.

We wrapped up work for the day about 6 pm and had dinner at 7 pm in the lee of Saumarez Reef.  This gave us a bit of protection and cut down the rolling of the boat a bit.  Everyone was very tired from fighting the seas today and there wasn’t anyone up past 9 pm.

Early tomorrow morning we will arrive and anchor up at Frederick Reef.

Paul Hundley

Hopefully in the next instalment I will be able to introduce the crew and post photos of most of us.  Stay tuned!

Cheers Paul Hundley  (Sr. Curator and archaeologist)

Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey – Day 1 Part 2

Back again… It’s actually the morning of Day 2, but I thought I’d catch you up with what went on after leaving Brisbane airport.  There were other crew members on our flight- John Jackie and Jenn Mullen and Gordon.  We were all working together on the Mermaid project back in 2009.  Our blog from that expedition is still archived on our website.

We arrived in Gladstone at about 1.30 pm.  A bit delayed, but at least all of our equipment made it with us!

We took a taxi to the marina and met the crew of the Kanimbla.  Carl and Jesse had picked up all the gear we had shipped up from Sydney the week before and it was already on the boat.  Kieran and I did a quick check and found that one parcel had been left behind.  And a pretty important one at that… the cable that attaches the magnetometer tow fish to the computer!  The magnetometer, or mag, is a piece of electronic survey equipment.  Basically it is a very sensitive metal detector, but if you can’t connect the sensor to the computer it’s not going to work.

We got Carl to take us to the TNT depot where we spotted it right away.  The depot thought it was for Telstra because it was a big blue cable!  With that problem solved we picked up a few other supplies that we knew we might need and headed back to the marina.  Kieran had a couple of interviews scheduled for 3 pm.

We got back spot on 3 pm and one film crew was just unpacking and another reporter and photographer were already on board Kanimbla.  That took about an hour to provide the story, photos and film.  There should be a news piece on Channel 7 evening news on Thursday.  But we won’t be able to get this blog out until after that.  Sorry…

Kieran and I took advantage in the break in activity to unpack our personal gear and settle into a four bunk berth.  It has enough room to store some of the camera and video equipment.  After that we got stuck into unpacking and reorganising some of the 19 assorted bins and boxes of dive gear and survey equipment.

The doctor for the project arrived at about 5.30 pm.  Frederick Reef is so remote that we felt it was a good idea to have a diving doctor on board the Kanimbla.  At 6 pm the rest of the ANMM staff arrived along with the staff and students from Flinders Uni.  Everyone had arrived on our boat.

The last person was Xanthe Rivett our project photographer and videographer.  Everyone stopped work and took some time to get to know each other.

At 8.30 pm we had our safety briefing from the captain of Kanimbla, as required of all charter boats in preparation for departure.  We had dinner at 9 pm and pulled away from the wharf at 10 pm. We’re on our way to Frederick Reef!!  I’ll let you know how we stay busy for the next 30 hours…

Cheers Paul Hundley  (Sr. Curator and archaeologist)

Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey – Day 1

Hey everyone.  If you’ve found this you might have heard an interview with Kieran Hosty our team leader.  Or maybe saw an article in the newspaper.  Welcome to our project.  This is actually the second trip to Frederick Reef for the ANMM.  Nigel Erskine and I did a reconnaissance trip in October 2010 with Silentworld Foundation.  Here are a couple of images from that trip.

Images from the scouting trip in 2010. Paul and Nigel

Paul and Nigel at work. Looking for remains.

We found a number of areas that had ship material scattered on the reef.  This project will go back to those areas for a closer look, as well as do a magnetometer survey around the entire southern reef system.

We are looking for the remains of the Royal Charlotte, convict ship that wrecked in 1825.  Here is an image of the Borrowdale, another convict transport. It is a bit smaller and older than the Royal Charlotte, but it will give an idea of what it looked like.  You can read a brief history here.

We are currently sitting in Brisbane airport waiting for our flight to Gladstone where we are meeting the rest of the team and the two boats.  We will be on the Kanimbla.  The other part of the team will be on Silentworld II, which is part of the Silentworld Foundation.

I know this is short, but I wanted to get something out to you quickly….  and we need to board our flight now!

We will write again tonight once we know when we will be leaving port. Stay tuned!  We will be sending posts back regularly…. with images and video clips too!!

Cheers Paul Hundley  (Sr. Curator and archaeologist)

From the desk of the Fleet Manager

Pictures of the re-rigging of HMB Endeavour mizzen rig being undertaken by our senior rigger Anthony Longhurst.

Senior rigger Anthony Longhurst

Senior rigger Anthony Longhurst

The mizzen rig is being changed over during the layup in Fremantle. Anthony and the fleet team prepared the ropes whilst at Garden Island in january this year. The ropes were taken onboard Endeavour where Anthony prepared the rig for installation whilst in Fremantle. This will be completed before the ships ISAF committments. This now completes the re-rigging of the ship with new ropes.

The ropes receive another coat of tar.


Phil Mckendrick

Fleet Manager

Insights from a Library Intern

Margaret Library Intern
Margaret, Library Intern

Let me introduce myself, I’m Margaret a third year undergraduate student in Information Studies. In order to graduate at the end of this year (fingers and toes crossed that I will) I’m required to do a three week library placement. After much consideration I thought it would be worthwhile for me to work in a research library in order to gain skills and experiences in a library very different to my current position working in a school.

After contacting Frances Prentice at the Vaughan Evans Library I was pleased to hear that I’d been accepted. During my three weeks I was given a number of wonderful opportunities to enhance my skills and experiences by performing a number of tasks. These have included original cataloguing, indexing and abstracting journal articles, writing a detailed summary of an oral history and my favourite researching enquires from family historians who had contacted the library to find information on voyages taken by particular vessels or passengers who had emigrated from the United Kingdom.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the staff of the Museum for giving their time in order to help me understand how the Museum functions and uses the library’s resources and services. Finally I’m very grateful to the staff of Vaughan Evan’s Library for mentoring and supporting me to further develop my skills and experience in a research library.

Rare atlases – a conservator’s perspective, Part 2

The ‘papermaker’s tear’
Sometimes during the handmade papermaking process a droplet of water would fall onto a newly made sheet, causing the wet pulp to thin and form a lighter spot, known as a ‘papermaker’s tear’. Cloudy formations could also happen, due to the pulp being spread unevenly (perhaps the fibre hadn’t been beaten long enough, or the pulp wasn’t sufficiently agitated in the vat).

Metal specks
You’ll often see metal specks in handmade paper. They can sink from the wire mesh into the wet pulp during production. These unsightly brown inclusions are prone to rust when exposed to damp over time, resulting in dark-brown spots surrounded by paler-brown haloes. This corrosion is typical of the degradation that can impact works on paper. Storing works on paper in a stable, dry environment is standard preventive conservation practice to ensure the best long-term preservation of objects like the ANMM’s atlases.

The printing process
To print images such as the amazing illustrations in our atlases, the printer would first reproduce a drawing by etching it onto a metal plate. Then he’d place a damp sheet of paper onto the etched metal plate and feed it into a printing press. The press’s compression and deformation of paper fibres at the edges of the plate created weak areas in the paper matrix. This weakness, plus a reader turning a page repeatedly over time could crease the paper, or worse, tear it along these lines.

Brown staining is another type of degradation caused by the offsetting and migration of oil-based printing ink (linseed oil and carbon pigment) onto an adjacent page or through the back of a sheet. Although this staining isn’t easily reversed, it can be controlled by interleaving pages with acid-free tissue. Repeated page-turning can also soil the pages. Oils, moisture and grime from bare fingers can impregnate the paper over time, causing discoloration and general wear-and-tear.

Both laid and wove paper can be watermarked during production. A watermark is a design formed by fine wire attached to the surface mesh of the mould. This creates a raised surface, so when the sheet is formed the pulp is thinner, showing the watermark.

Initially, watermarks were simple geometric shapes. They evolved to include logos, trademarks, signatures and customs declarations. They could also show the maker’s details, the paper grade and where and when the paper was made.

We’ve found several interesting watermarks in our collection of atlases. For example, when we examined Atlas du Voyage de La Pérouse under transmitted light, the ‘chain and laid’ lines were clearly visible, together with the words ‘F. Johannot’ and ‘Annonay’ across many of the pages. The Johannots were a family of papermakers in Annonay, France. They were second only in prominence to the Montgolfier brothers, who were famous paper-mill owners (and best known for the first demonstrated flight of a hot-air – paper – balloon over Annonay in 1783).

Other watermarks discovered in our atlases include a tower, a dovecote, and an ornate insignia of the letter ‘A’.

Online access
All the atlases in our collection are outstanding publications. We’re currently digitising these works so they’ll be available to the widest possible audience, with online access likely in the near future.

Caroline Whitley, ANMM senior conservator

Scott’s last expedition – now open

Everyone here at the museum is extremely excited about our new winter exhibition Scott’s last expedition. This amazing exhibition takes over 600 square metres of our galleries and is filled to the brim with photographs, artefacts and specimens that document Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s famous expedition to the South Pole, where tragically he and four of his men lost their lives almost 100 years ago.

Scotts last expedition preview
Image: Peter Dexter, Chairman, ANMM at the opening of Scott’s Last Expedition.

This unique exhibition goes beyond the fatal tale of the expedition to celebrate the achievements and scientific discoveries made by the expedition team.  Among some of the impressive objects on display you will find specimens such as sea sponge (Haliciona (Gellius) rudis) collected during the expedition, still green over 100 years on; and Brittle Star (Astrotoma agassizii), a star fish that sports long flexible arms to capture prey, a species found throughout Antarctica and the Antarctic peninsula.

At the centre of the exhibition is a representation of Scott’s base camp at Cape Evans. Visitors can walk inside the life-size hut and get a sense of the everyday realities for the 25 expedition members, from the cramped conditions and homeliness of the hut, to the wealth of specimens collected and experiments conducted.

This comprehensive exhibition follows the journey of Scott and his men from start to finish, and displays original artefacts, equipment, clothes and personal effects for the first time in Australia.

Scotts last expedition (detail)
Image: Inside the representation of Cape Evans Hut (detail).
Scotts last expedition (detail)
Image: Inside the representation of Cape Evans Hut (detail).

To commemorate the centenary of the expedition and celebrate its achievements the Natural History Museum, London, the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand and the Antarctic Heritage Trust, New Zealand, have collaborated to create this international travelling exhibition. Australian National Maritime Museum is the premier venue for the exhibition.

Join Lindsey Shaw, ANMM senior curator, for a talk about this outstanding exhibition on Friday 12 August. For booking information, visit our website.

Win a trip of a lifetime to the Antarctic with Orion Expeditions! You can enter the competition on our website or at the museum.

Exhibition now open until 16 October 2011.

Join the conversation on Twitter, use #Scott2011

Learn more about the exhibition at

Rare atlases – a conservator’s perspective, Part 1

Working with the ANMM’s outstanding collection of rare early atlases means our conservators can examine first-hand the materials and techniques used in traditional high-quality European bookbinding in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Voyage atlases of this era were made in limited numbers and at great expense. They were typically published for a government or monarchy, to record for posterity the glorious achievements of their country’s explorers, surveyors and scientists. Our collection includes navigational charts, coastal views, portraits of Indigenous peoples and ethnographic, botanical and zoological studies. All were produced from intricately engraved or etched metal plates, using the finest quality papers, inks and bindings.

The ANMM atlases were published during the Industrial Revolution, when new technology was transforming traditional manufacturing such as paper production. Cheap, poor quality wood-pulp papers were first introduced for mass market consumption in the mid-19th century. Publishers used it to make newspapers, inexpensive books and throwaway wrappings.

But papermakers also continued to produce best quality paper. It was handmade from cotton or linen rags – traditionally sourced from old clothing and even worn-out sails, softened by wind and rain and bleached to a soft white by the sun. Part of the bookmaker’s craft was matching the right paper to a publication’s quality and purpose. For grand atlases, it was vital to choose top-quality handmade paper.

Let’s take a closer look now at some of the elements involved in producing beautiful handmade paper, starting with the two types of traditional handmade paper – ‘laid’ and ‘wove’ – used in the ANMM’s atlases.

‘Laid’ paper
Dating back to the 12th century, laid paper was made on a wire sieve held in a rectangular wooden mould (frame), producing single sheets. The ‘laid’ pattern was caused by the sieve’s close parallel lines of fine wire (20–40 per inch) bound together by ‘chain’ lines running at right angles (usually about 1 inch apart). See our detail picture of a laid screen with a watermark design from Tumba Mill, near Stockholm, Sweden (the beehive is the mill’s symbol).

A vatman would dip the mould into a vat of diluted linen or cotton pulp, then lift the mould out and tilt it to spread the pulp evenly. As the water drained away, he’d shake the mould in four directions to lock the fibres together, so it would have little or no grain (fibre direction). During this process, the slightly textured ‘laid and chain’ pattern of the wires was imprinted on the sheet. Laid paper also had uneven deckled edges.

‘Wove’ paper
Wove paper was a mid-18th century development. The wove mould was a fine brass-wire screen, which had been woven on a loom, like cloth. See the close-up of a wove screen and watermark (courtesy of Simon Barcham Green). Wove paper was much smoother than laid paper, and the new wove technique was universally acclaimed.
laid and wove screen watermarks

Examples of laid and wove screen watermarks


In our next instalment, we’ll look at some of the unpredictable elements of making paper by hand, and at the printing process.

Caroline Whitley, ANMM senior conservator

The Tampa crisis – 10 years on

It is hard to believe that this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Tampa crisis of August 2001 – a defining moment in Australia’s maritime and immigration history. To acknowledge the anniversary we are displaying a life jacket and lifebuoy that were on board the Norwegian cargo ship when its crew rescued 433 asylum seekers from their stricken fishing boat, Palapa 1, in the Indian Ocean.

The life jacket and lifebuoy were part of the standard safety equipment on Tampa. It is not known whether they were used by the asylum seekers. Regardless they represent the tension between international obligations for safety of life at sea (SOLAS) and Australia’s domestic policy on refugees and asylum seekers. At the time of the rescue Tampa had a crew of 27 and was not licensed to carry more than 50 people. Despite this it shifted course to help the asylum seekers, who were mainly from Afghanistan.

Under pressure from some of the desperate asylum seekers Tampa’s Captain, Arne Rinnan, headed for the offshore Australian territory of Christmas Island. Tampa was denied permission to enter Australian waters. When some passengers became unconscious Captain Rinnan issued a mayday signal and sailed toward Christmas Island. Tampa was boarded by Australian special forces who ordered the ship to turn around.

Following an intense political stand-off the asylum seekers were transferred to HMAS Manoora. They were taken to the Pacific island of Nauru as part of Australia’s Pacific Solution, and also New Zealand, where most were later granted asylum. The Pacific Solution aimed to prevent refugees from reaching Australian territory, where they could legally claim asylum, to detain them in cooperating foreign countries while their status was assessed. A small number of asylum seekers from Tampa were eventually granted refugee status and resettled in Australia.

The Tampa crisis sparked fervent political and public debate about refugees, border protection and safety of life at sea, which continues to this day. The Tampa life jacket and lifebuoy, evocative symbols of this debate, will be on display in the museum’s New Acquisitions Case until the end of September.
Kim Tao
Curator, Post-Federation Immigration

New acquisition records Baudin’s expedition to Australia – Part three

The British and the French meet

Flinders had arrived off the southwest corner of Australia four months earlier. By the time he encountered Baudin, he had completed surveys of the coast from King George’s Sound along the Great Australian Bight to Spencer Gulf and the Gulf St Vincent. Baudin continued his survey, but had to stop to replenish Géographe at Port Jackson, where he again rendezvoused with Naturaliste.

The two ships spent five months in Sydney Cove. Governor King was a gracious host, arranging for repairs to the ships and medical treatment for the numerous sick. Baudin purchased the small schooner Casuarina, to use for inshore survey work in place of Naturaliste (later sent home). Louis de Freycinet was put in command of Casuarina.  

Governor King was acutely aware that Baudin’s expedition could lay the foundation for a French settlement in Australia. When Baudin left for Bass Strait, King sent Lieutenant Robbins in Cumberland to shadow him and show a British presence (leading to a series of semi-farcical flag-raising events). Whatever colonial ambitions the French might have had, Géographe and Casuarina were soon sailing west, continuing their survey of the south coast. The following year, the British established a permanent settlement in Van Diemen’s Land.

In May 1803, after completing further surveys along the west coast, Géographe and Casuarina anchored again at Timor. Many of the men were sick, and the expedition was exhausted. After a brief attempt to continue working, Baudin gave the order to return to France. He was in poor health as well, and died in Mauritius in late 1803.

Publishing the Voyage de Découvertes aux Terres Australes

When Baudin’s men finally returned to France in March 1804, they brought with them rich scientific collections and observations, detailed surveys of the areas they’d explored, notes on Indigenous culture and the state of the Sydney settlement, and over 70 live animals and birds!

At any other time, the return of a major French scientific expedition would have been widely celebrated. But Baudin was dead and France was poised to invade England. Baudin’s reputation had also been tarnished by unfavourable reports from many of his former officers, and Napoleon’s support had waned. Therefore, collating the many facets of the voyage’s achievements seemed less than pressing.

The task finally fell to zoologist François Péron. The first volume of the account was published in 1807. Péron continued writing, but died in 1810. The responsibility for completing the publication passed to Louis de Freycinet. And so the complete five-volume account of the expedition – with all mention of Baudin himself clinically removed – was progressively published between 1807 and 1812. The final publication included two atlases with exquisitely engraved portraits of Indigenous people, depictions of Australian animals, views of Sydney Cove and charts of the Australian coast. Voyage de Découvertes aux Terres Australes is a testament to French interest in Australia in the early period of European settlement, and tells of a parallel achievement to the work of Matthew Flinders.

Dr Nigel Erskine,

ANMM curator of exploration and European settlement

New acquisition records Baudin’s expedition to Australia – Part two

France’s fortunes changed enormously in the final years of the 18th century. The French fleet suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of Nelson at the Battle of the Nile, and Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign and designs on British India subsequently collapsed. In 1799, Napoleon was made First Consul, strengthening his grip on power in France. It was not the ideal time to send an expensive expedition around the world.

But many parts of the Australian coast still hadn’t been charted in detail (despite D’Entrecasteaux’s surveying achievements). And the discovery of Bass Strait in 1798 added further urgency, as it underlined the possibility of further European settlements in Australia.

Unlike La Pérouse and D’Entrecasteaux, Nicolas Baudin’s nautical experience wasn’t purely naval. He’d worked in the merchant marine, the French East India Company and the Austrian navy, and served with the French navy during the American War of Independence. Because he’d led several botanical collecting expeditions for the Emperor of Austria, he was known to influential elements of the French scientific community. When Baudin applied for a post in the French navy in 1798, he was successful. He then lobbied to lead a French scientific expedition around the world. The Institut National recommended this to Napoleon, who supported it on the condition that the expedition focused only on Australia. Baudin was given command of the expedition, the ships Géographe and Naturaliste and 256 men. They sailed from France in October 1800.     

Despite his experience at sea, Baudin appears to have lacked the leadership skills so essential to the expedition’s success. When they reached Mauritius (Isle de France) in March 1801, 10 scientific staff, four officers, six midshipmen and 40 seamen all abandoned the voyage. While the loss of senior scientists and officers seriously compromised the expedition, it also opened up opportunities for those still on board. Among them were zoologist François Péron and a young sub-lieutenant, Louis de Freycinet (who both later shared responsibility for publishing the official account of the voyage).

In New Holland

Baudin had planned to start by surveying the south coast of New Holland. But by the time the ships reached Cape Leeuwin it was winter. He turned north instead, and began investigating the west coast. Baudin was on Géographe and Jacques Hamelin captained Naturaliste. They gathered collections and surveyed various points along the coast, particularly around Geographe Bay, Rottnest Island, Swan River and Shark Bay, as well as parts of the northwest coast. During these months the vessels were separated for long stretches – poor coordination that became a hallmark of the expedition. They eventually rendezvoused at Timor.

In November 1801 Géographe and Naturaliste sailed south, heading for Van Diemen’s Land. They explored parts of Storm Bay and the east coast before becoming separated again. By late March 1802 Baudin had entered Bass Strait. He began a westward survey of the south coast from Wilson’s Promontory, when he made the unwelcome discovery of Matthew Flinders’ HMS Investigator on 8 April.

Dr Nigel Erskine,

ANMM curator of exploration and European settlement

Rerigging Endeavour – Part 2

In preparation for a circumnavigation of Australia, the Endeavour replica’s standing rigging is being completely renewed for the first time since the ship was launched in 1993.

In the last blog we looked at the nature of the ropes that make up Endeavour’s rigging, how it’s made and how it gets its strength. Then we looked at pre-stretching all these ropes and what we did to preserve them. Once these preparatory measures have been completed, we can start turning the ropes into ship’s rigging.

All the ropes that are to become standing rigging are stretched out firmly between strong posts. The centres of the eyes that sit over the mastheads are marked along with the areas that are to be served; these areas are then wormed. A few definitions will help here:

Worming: Winding a rope close along the groove between the strands, to strengthen it, and make a fair surface for parcelling and serving.
Parcelling: Wrapping worn canvas around ropes, to prepare them for serving.
Serving: Encircling a rope with small rope, line or spun yarn, for all or part of its length, to preserve it from being chafed.
Seizing: The joining together of two ropes, or the two ends of one rope, by taking several close turns of small rope, line, or spun yarn round them.

After worming the rope is stretched out tight again, under loads similar to those that the rigging will encounter upon the ship. This allows us to accurately place all the required seizings at the lower ends.

The rope then acquires another coat of tar before a layer of parcelling is wound spirally with the lay of the rope, from the lower end up toward the eye that will fit over the masthead. The parcelling then receives another coating of tar.

The serving is then applied against the lay of the rope and in the opposite direction to the parcelling. Hence the age-old sailor’s expression, ‘Worm and parcel with the lay, turn and serve the other way’.

Once the ropes are served, the eyes are either seized or spliced into the ropes where they sit over the mastheads.

Next, the lower ends of stays and shrouds are marked and are turned and seized ready for the placement of the deadeyes. These are round blocks with three holes, fitted at the ends of standing rigging. Lanyards threaded through the holes of a pair of deadeyes allow for adjusting and tensioning the rigging once it is on the ship.

In the standing rigging alone, there are almost 500 seizings and approximately 400 metres of serving. If we then add the seizings of ratlines and all the other components, the number of seizings comes closer to 1,000. If all of the blocks and components employed in the running rigging are included, this figure can easily be doubled again.

The lower ends of standing rigging are always seized around a deadeye or block rather than spliced. This allows adjustments to be made to the length of the rigging, if required over time, as well as maintaining the strength of the rope. A splice weakens the rope, whereas seizings do not.

Once the rigging is completed and placed into service upon the ship, the focus changes to full-time preservation. The number-one enemy is chafe, held at bay by the addition of leather, rope mats and additional lengths of serving. The rig requires regular retensioning until it settles in, and tarring is constant.

Add to this the oiling and upkeep of nearly 700 blocks, eight kilometres of running rigging, 30 spars (masts, yards and booms) and 10,000 square feet (930 m2) of canvas that make up Endeavour’s sails. It is little wonder that the original Endeavour carried a sailing crew of 60 seamen.

Anthony Longhurst, ANMM leading-hand rigger and shipwright

Rerigging Endeavour – Part 1

In preparation for a circumnavigation of Australia, the Endeavour replica’s standing rigging is being completely renewed for the first time since the ship was launched in 1993. It all began with a visit to the 17th-century ropewalk at England’s Chatham Dockyard, to watch the ship’s new ropes being manufactured.

Endeavour has sailed twice around the world since her commissioning in 1994. Her rigging has been exposed to dust from a Sahara sandstorm blown out to sea, snow in Europe, hot and humid conditions in the tropics, storm-force winds and the strains of breasting huge seas. Now the time has come to replace the entire standing rigging.

The original Endeavour carried standing rigging constructed of hemp. For the Endeavour replica’s standing rigging, manila was chosen instead of hemp because it was more readily available than hemp and was cheaper. It also has a higher natural resistance to mildew.

A synthetic rig had been ruled out because of its tendency to continue stretching and thus to give inadequate support to the masts.

Manila fibre is obtained from the leaves of a species of banana native to the Philippines locally known as abacá. The fibres are exceptionally strong and durable and are generally 1.5–3.5 metres long.

It takes 17 km of rope to re-rig Endeavour

It takes 17 km of rope to re-rig Endeavour

At the ropewalk at England’s Chatham Dockyard, the fibre is separated and cut to lengths of no more than 1.5 metres. It is progressively combed and knit together and treated with an emulsion called batching oil to help it comb out easier, and as a waterproofing agent. Then it is sent to the spinner to be spun into yarns.

The spinners were regarded as the most skilled tradesmen employed in the ropewalk. They walked backwards down the length of the walk uniformly feeding in the combed fibre as the yarn was spun by a hook on a spinning wheel that was operated by a young boy. An experienced spinner was capable of spinning 1,000 feet (305 metres) in 12 minutes.

Today the spinning is performed by a machine. The spinning machine used for Endeavour’s yarn is able to produce over 20 kilometres of spun yarn in 20 minutes.

A rope holds its form and gains its strength by applying opposing twists during the different stages of construction. Yarns are is spun clockwise or right-handed. Then they are spun in the opposite direction to form a strand. Strands are then twisted together clockwise or right-handed to ‘close’ the rope.

The forming machine that was used for Endeavour’s rope is known as Maud, and dates from 1811. It is the oldest machine employed in the ropewalk.

Seventeen kilometres of rope were ordered for the replacement of the Endeavour replica’s standing rigging, but only four and a half kilometres are made of manila. We do use polyester but only for the seizings, servings and worming. These are components that require strength and are applied very tight, so there is very little concern about them stretching.

Once our new manila rope was delivery from England, the coils of rope were opened, the required lengths were cut and the rope ends were whipped.

The lengths of rope were pre-stretched for a minimum of 24 hours by attaching a weight equivalent to their working-load limit, to let the fibre reach its maximum stretch and then relax and settle. Once manila has been pre-stretched, it has similar stretch characteristics to wire.

If the standing rigging is not sufficiently pre-stretched, it will continue stretching in operation and provide insufficient support for the masts. The stays and shrouds will need regular re-seizing around the deadeyes at their lower ends.

The next step is to preserve the manila rope. This is done by soaking it in raw and natural Stockholm tar, a residue left after distilling a gum that is extracted from pine and fir trees.

Once these preparatory measures have been completed, we can start turning the ropes into ship’s rigging.

That’s a huge job, and if you’re interested I will make it the subject of another blog.

Anthony Longhurst, ANMM leading-hand rigger and shipwright