About Will Mather

Will Mather is the Managing Registrar of Collection Operations and Exhibitions at the Australian National Maritime Museum

Eruption day at Pompeii 79 AD

An illustration of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. Image: ANMM.

An illustration of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. Image: ANMM.

The date the eruption which consumed Pompeii is normally given as 24th August, as this is the date that appears in the standard classical text of Pliny the Younger’s Letters. It is written down as nonum kalends Septembres – the ninth day before the first (kalends) of September[1] – which, to the modern reader seems an awkward way of recording a date.

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Finds from the Fields of Fire: The other volcano on the Bay of Naples

Installing the statue of Hermanubis with the assistance of a forklift. Image: Will Mather / ANMM.

Installing the statue of Hermanubis with the assistance of a forklift. Image: Will Mather / ANMM.

Several of the most unusual and interesting items in Escape from Pompeii are from the Museum of the Parco Archeologico dei Campi Flegrei housed in the Castle at Baia on the Bay of Naples. The Archaeological park covers the ancient sites of Cumae, Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli) and Baiae which were a lot more famous to ancient Romans than Pompeii and Herculaneum. The sites are on northern side of the Bay as it stretches past Mount Vesuvius and Naples.

All three sites are situated in or around the Campi Flegrei, which translates as the fields of fire. The Campi Flegrei is one very large ground level volcano with gaseous fumeroles, boiling mud pools, and numerous smaller craters – about 24 of them – some of them flooded like Lake Avernus. The caldera of the volcano continues underwater into the Bay of Naples. If it were erupt it would be catastrophic.

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A Roman rostrum

The rostrum in Escape from Pompeii. Image: Andrew Frolows / ANMM.

The rostrum in Escape from Pompeii. Image: Andrew Frolows / ANMM.

One of the most amazing objects in Escape from Pompeii: The Untold Roman Rescue is a rostrum from a Roman warship. A rostrum is a bronze ram attached to the bow of an ancient warship. It was used to punch holes into the hull of enemy ships to disable or sink them. The Roman historian Livy gives a description of their use at the Battle of Side in 190 BC:

Whenever a ship encountered an enemy vessel head on, it either shattered its prow, or sheared off its oars; or else it sailed through the open space in the line and rammed it in the stern[1]

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Shackleton’s lifeboat replica arrives in Australia

Shackleton Epic expedition vessel Alexandra Shackleton splashed down near Arctowski Base, King George Island.

Shackleton Epic expedition vessel Alexandra Shackleton splashed down near Arctowski Base, King George Island. © Alex Kumar, Shackleton Epic Expedition Pty Ltd.

Shackleton: Escape from Antarctica opens on 2 April, and loan objects have been arriving steadily over the past few months.

Alexandra Shackleton is a special addition to the exhibition. The 7.6-metre boat is a replica of the James Caird, the lifeboat Sir Ernest Shackleton used to seek the rescue of his stranded expedition members after the expedition’s ship Endurance sank, crushed by ice in Antarctica.

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