D’Urville and his navy of discovery

Astrolabe and Zelee in a gale, in the Antarctic Circle in January 1840. ANMM collection 00032388.

Astrolabe and Zelee in a gale, in the Antarctic Circle in January 1840. ANMM collection 00032388.

It is easy, when reading accounts of early European explorers, to see only the official version they leave behind. The naval reports, detailed charts and an imposing portrait of a confident man in an impressive uniform.

But often, dig just a little deeper and a different man emerges. A man with individual oddities, unsuspected sympathies, personal tragedies and constant worries. Such is the case with the French explorer Durmont d’Urville.

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National Science Week Wrap-Up

The bright yellow habitat that has been a fixture at the museum during National Science Week 2015 has demonstrated the potential of collaborative projects to inspire younger generations to consider a career in science.

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HMB Endeavour: Sydney to Hobart Voyage, Day 3

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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.

Friday 30 January 2015

With the wind now at our back, we have cut the engines and are enjoying ‘champagne sailing’ back to Sydney. Everyone is appreciating the sunshine and the much calmer seas.

Back in Sydney Harbour, people take advantage of the glorious clear sky to indulge in some photography. We are also finally able to undertake our climbing training: up the shrouds and futtocks of the foremast, onto the fighting top and down the other side. It’s exhilarating to succeed in what many people experience as a significant challenge.  Then up the masts again, this time to lay on the yard and furl sails. Continue reading

HMB Endeavour: Sydney to Hobart Voyage, Day 2

IMG_3096A 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.

Thursday 29 January 2015

The crew are in good spirits even though most are feeling some effects of the big waves.  More than one person has remarked that they would have felt ‘disappointed’ to come on this trip and not experience some challenging weather!

Man lines have been strung around the ship and we make our way carefully, clipped on for safety. There have been sightings of albatross, dolphins, flying fish and shearwaters, and a magic moment when a Caspian Tern kept with the shipwright beside the staysail. Continue reading

HMB Endeavour: Sydney to Hobart Voyage, Day 1


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.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

A raining start to our grand adventure. By 12.30pm all voyage crew had completed their safety induction and necessary paperwork and after a delicious first lunch aboard of soup and salads, we were ready to depart.

The crews consists of 16 professional crew, 36 voyage crew and 4 supernumeries (for more information on crew types, see our Sail the Endeavour page).  There are a number of family groups aboard, including a group making up most of Foremast Watch, who are helping their father achieve a lifetime dream of sailing to Tasmania. Continue reading

Eden to Sydney voyage, day 1-2

Tuesday 4 November 2014, 1800 hours

Hours under sail since 1200 Monday: 17
Hours under engine since 1200 Monday: 11
Distance covered: 99 nautical miles

The HMB Endeavour replica is sailing on a starboard tack in a brisk 25 knot breeze, about 33 nautical miles southeast of Montague Island, off the New South Wales coast. With the wind from the northeast, we’re steering a course of west by north, hoping to gain a little ground to the north before we reach the coast.

We’re having a great sail, although the ship is rolling a bit in the light swell and some of our voyage crew are feeling a little green, but most are in high spirits and enjoying the experience. It’s the end of the second day of our voyage from Eden to Sydney.

Sunset on our last day in Eden. Image: Eden Alley-Porter

Sunset on our last day in Eden. Image: Eden Alley-Porter

We had a busy weekend in Eden, with more than 1300 visitors to the ship during our two days in town. Many of the visitors remembered seeing and, in some cases, coming aboard Endeavour last time she visited, towards the end of her circumnavigation of Australia in 2012.

A highlight of the weekend was the capstan competition, in which five competitors had to work a capstan to haul a car adapted to look like a whale up the boat ramp at Snug Cove.

Endeavour crew in action during the capstan competition at the Eden Whale Festival.  Image: Paula Tinney

Endeavour crew in action during the capstan competition at the Eden Whale Festival. Image: Paula Tinney

Our five team members – Captain Dikkenberg, first mate Anthony, bosun Matt, shipwright Cody and topman Eddie easily outpaced the competition!

Climbing aloft training in Twofold Bay on day 1.  Image: EAP

Climbing aloft training in Twofold Bay on day 1. Image: EAP

The new voyage crew for the Eden to Sydney trip were on the wharf bright and early Monday morning ready to go. After a wet and windy weekend, Monday was sunny and mostly calm.

Voyage crew training got underway immediately, both while alongside and later in the morning when at anchor in Twofold Bay.There was some urgency with the crew training as Captain John Dikkenberg hoped to get the ship to sea that afternoon to take advantage of the southerly breeze before a northerly change that was expected – correctly – to come through today.

We were not in Twofold Bay for long – after lunch the anchor was recovered and we left the bay, loosing and setting sail as we went. The southerly allowed us to set a course slightly east of north – heading back towards Sydney while staying well clear of the coast.

Just outside Twofold Bay, we saw two humpback whales off our starboard bow – one waving its enormous tail flukes at intervals for several minutes as we drew closer, passing with two or three hundred metres of the whales.

Australian sea lion checking out Endeavour!  Image: EAP

Australian sea lion checking out Endeavour! Image: EAP

Around dinnertime, we reefed the topsails in preparation for some expected strong winds overnight. While the main topsail was being reefed during the second dog watch (1800-2000 hours), the wind was light and the ship was travelling very slowly.  A juvenile Australian sea lion popped up alongside the ship and took a good look at us! We were moving slowly enough that it had time to lazily swim back and forth along the port side, popping up regularly to look at people on the deck.



The strong winds we’d prepared for didn’t eventuate but the wind did shift so the square sails were handed and engines started at 2000 hours on Monday night.

After motoring north into light winds overnight, a slight wind shift and the approaching day allowed us to set square sails again on Tuesday morning. We headed offshore, slightly north of east, until mid-afternoon.

At 1400 hours, we wore ship onto our current starboard tack and turned towards land. We may not make a great deal of ground to the north but hopefully won’t lose much to the south either. If the wind shifts to the south as predicted tomorrow, we should be in a good position to sail north for Sydney. That’s the plan – weather dependent as always!

There was one other rather unusual element to our day today. As most Australians will know, the first Tuesday in November is the day of the horserace that stops a nation: the Melbourne Cup. While it couldn’t stop Endeavour, it did manage to stop our crew.

Gathering on the quarterdeck to listen to the Melbourne Cup.  Image: EAP

Gathering on the quarterdeck to listen to the Melbourne Cup. Image: EAP

Despite being fifty nautical miles off the coast, we were able to get radio reception on deck and most of the crew gathered to hear the race. Our steward Eden organised a sweepstakes and most people had one or two tickets. In the end we had one winner from each of the three watches.

It was quite a sight, seeing most of the crew of a 19th century replica tall ship gathered around to hear a horse race on the radio, with no land in sight.

All’s well.

Suzannah Marshall Macbeth


After 82 years, still cruising the Southern Oceans

Going through the museum’s archives I came across an old photo album featuring a yacht and two men photographed during the 1930s – nothing unexpected for a maritime museum’s collection. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the boat’s story.


Maluka sitting high and dry on the Victorian coast ANMM collection

It all started in 1932 when George and William (Willy) Clark (the ‘Lucky Clarks’ as they became known), two brothers from Sydney who were also wealthy foresters, decided to build the 9 metre gaff-rigged cutter Maluka of Kermandie following the design in Huon pine by Cliff Gale.

In 1933, the brothers took Maluka on a five month cruise off Far North Queensland, followed by a trip to Lord Howe Island the following year. The album documents these trips with numerous photos of Maluka at sea and the adventurous, care-free life of the brothers, fishing, going for picnics in remote places and mixing with the locals, reinforcing the romantic ideas of escape and private travel that have fascinated people and contributed to the characterisation of cruising sailors as bohemians and eccentrics. 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

A tale of love and adventure between two teakwood panels

The journal of the Loch Bredan

The teakwood cover of the journal of the Loch Bredan made by the ship’s carpenter from the panels of the ship’s charthouse door. The journal was written and illustrated by Chief Officer Robert Robertson Smythe, 1902.
ANMM Collection, photographs by Sabina Escobar, ANMM

The museum recently acquired the journal of the Liverpool barque Loch Bredan, by Chief Officer Robert Robertson Smythe. This wonderful logbook/journal was written and beautifully illustrated by Smythe during his 123-day voyage from Sydney to Liverpool via Cape Horn from the 25 July 1902 to 24 November 1902.

The Loch Bredan, built in 1882, was a steel-hulled barque of the ‘Loch’ ships of Liverpool owned by D&J Sproat & Co. She traded between England, Australia and New Zealand, arriving for the first time in Australia at Watsons Bay on November 1891 after a three-month journey from Antwerp, Belgium. In 1902, the Loch Bredan was forced to return to port within a fortnight of leaving Sydney on the return journey to Liverpool. During this trip, the ship ran into such severe weather that three life boats were smashed along with the charthouse’s doors.

She left Adelaide in September 1903 having picked up crew and cargo and disappeared with no scrap of wreckage ever found. Chief Officer Smythe was not on board, as he had signed off after arriving in Liverpool in November 1902. During this voyage, (the last one before its disappearance) the ship’s carpenter used the teakwood of these doors to make the covers for Smythe’s journal. These covers and the memories written on its pages are the only remaining pieces of the Loch Bredan today. Continue reading

The sport of turtle riding and ‘the Greatest Liar on Earth’

Louis de Rougemont died a long way from Australia, the place that made his name. He died a long way from Switzerland, the place in which he was born. In fact when he died, penniless and forgotten in London in June 1921, Louis de Rougemont was no longer his name at all. It was just a name that had once been famous.

It was also a name that came to be synonymous with a very strange and short-lived sport; turtle riding:

'De Rougemont's Lie', Western Mail, Thursday 12 March 1931, page 19

‘De Rougemont’s Lie’, Western Mail, Thursday 12 March 1931, page 19

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Sailing, Spacemen and underpants

Alex Whitworth on board Berrimilla II, June 2013 Photographer: Nicole Cama, ANMM

Alex Whitworth on board Berrimilla II, June 2013
Photographer: Nicole Cama, ANMM Instagram

It was a warm evening at the Courthouse Hotel in the Sydney suburb of Newtown where, by sheer coincidence, I met Eleanor Whitworth. We were “drinking about museums” when she bashfully explained a family joke about how her Dad’s underwear is held at the Australian National Maritime Museum, and they’d chuckle about it every time they passed by the museum.* Perplexed and somewhat embarrassed, I realised this was yet another part of the collection I was yet to stumble across. This is where her father comes into the story. Meet sailor, adventurer and lover of all things Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Alex Whitworth. Continue reading

Ferguson Reef archaeology expedition – 26 and 27 March

Tuesday 26 March

This morning the weather conditions appeared to be improving on yesterday’s so we sent off four teams to work on the Ferguson site.

Team One consisting of Frits and John dove on a series of magnetic anomalies off the south western side of Ferguson Reef, Gil and Greg in Team Two measured up an anchor at the northern part of the site, Peter and Jacqui in Team Three measured a ‘flat’ anchor and Grant and Andrew in Team Four measured an anchor in the surf zone. Whilst all this was going on Xanthe took photographs of the work in progress and I monitored the work from the surface whilst taking part in an open classroom discussion via telephone through the DART virtual excursion program of the NSW Department of Education.

As the teams returned from the wrecksite the whole area was struck by a series of rain squalls drenching everyone – well at least it saved us the job of washing the dive gear.

After lunch, sea conditions appeared to have quietened down once again and in almost perfect conditions we set off to dive on the site. Gil, Greg and I went to measure the length of a stud link anchor chain that was attached to a ‘picked in’ anchor. Peter and Jacqui jumped in to measure up the various iron knees, assisted by Andrew, John and Frits armed with metal detectors they commenced a non-disturbance metal detector survey of the site to find out ‘what lies beneath’. Continue reading

Ferguson Reef archaeology expedition – the lead up

Our maritime archaeology team were set for a three week expedition to Ferguson Reef, off the coast of north Queensland to locate and survey shipwrecks Ferguson and Morning Star until the forces of nature threw some obstacles in their way – a couple of cyclones to be exact! Here, Kieran Hosty our maritime archaeology manager brings us up to speed with the expedition, the cyclones and the new plan.

We’ll be posting more of Kieran’s updates as the expedition continues, so keep an eye out.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Over the last week or so a number of factors have come into play which forced the Silentworld Foundation and the Australian National Maritime Museum to cancel or at best postpone the proposed Ferguson Reef Project.

Towards the end of last week a tropical low developed in the Gulf of Carpentaria and over last weekend formed into Severe Tropical Cyclone Sandra. Whilst TC Sandra has not caused any damage to the Queensland coast the formation of the cyclone in the Coral Sea has prevented one of the expedition vessel’s Nimrod Explorer from reaching Cairns from the Solomon Islands where it had been engaged in charter work. Cyclone Sandra has also whipped up the seas between Sydney and Cairns delaying the arrival of the second expedition vessel Silentworld II. Continue reading

An epic Antarctic inspiration

I have always been an avid reader, the type of kid that disappeared at Christmas to read the books left by Santa or being told turn off the light and sneaking a torch under the covers just to read just a little bit more.

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Tim Jarvis (middle) at the museum with our director Kevin Sumpton (L) and Michael Harvey, head Audience, Outreach and Exhibitions (R).

As I have gotten older my love of a good story hasn’t waned, just adjusted to my busier life so it takes an extraordinary tale to keep me turning the pages late into the night. It really doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me that I work in a museum surrounded by thousands of stories.

One adventure that has recently kept me up to the wee small hours is Shackleton’s boat journey written by a New Zealand ship’s captain FA Worsley, originally published in 1940. The most incredible thing about this book was that it was a factual account of the Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to Antarctica, and the journey undertaken to save the lives of his men after the ship Endurance became stuck and crushed in the ice in the Wendell Sea on his way to Antarctica.

If I had been given the narrative without knowing a little of the background, I would have thought it was an amazing story full of heroism, determination and leadership. However, as part of my research the book provided a compelling and valuable insight as to conditions the men endured. Written today, editors would have labelled it not believable and a work of fantasy, nobody could survive in the conditions they endured (certainly not me, give me a tropical island any day). But of course, just to prove my thinking wrong, Australian environmental scientist and adventurer Tim Jarvis and his team have just recreated the sea and land crossing Shackleton undertook in his traditional gear.

I came across the Ernest Shackleton expedition and polar explorers late last year when I was asked to write some educational resources to support Tim’s re-creation of  Shackleton’s expedition. You could say that was a fascinating process for me to explore the history of the original expedition, collaborate with Tim’s Shackleton Epic team and to have access to some of their amazing images of Antarctica. (Antarctica is now moving up on my list of places to travel to one day if I can just get around the, it’s freezing issue).

I’m conscious of not spoiling the whole story to those uninitiated with the tale and to always leave your audience wanting more, I will finish here with a link to Shackleton Epic webpage. For teachers interested in the education resources they can be found on the museum’s teacher resources webpage.

Education officer

Sail with Endeavour during the International Fleet Review

On 4 October it will be 100 years since the first Royal Australian Navy fleet arrived in Sydney. To mark the occasion, nine days of events are being planned called the International Fleet Review and best of all HMB Endeavour is taking part!

Endeavour on Sydney Harbour wth Sydney Opera House in background

HMB Endeavour, replica looks majestic on Sydney Harbour

We will be one of the 11 Australian and 10 international tall ships sailing in company with about 40 warships from around the world as part of the celebrations. With the waters off Jervis Bay the final mustering point, the flotilla will enter Sydney Harbour on 3 October to kick off the International Fleet Review. What a magnificent sight it’s going to be, especially from the decks and the rigging of Endeavour.

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Crew furling the sails

If you’re keen to be part of Endeavour’s paying voyage crew, head to our website to register your interest. Final details of the 10 or 12 day voyage are being confirmed, so we’ll keep you posted with all of the exciting developments.

We’ve also received word that tall ships Oosterschelde, Europa and Tecla from the Netherlands are already on their way to Australia, arriving in Fremantle from July 2013. Other ships coming are STS Lord Nelson from UK and Spirit of New Zealand.

I can almost see the sails filling and hear her cannon roar as Endeavour comes into with fleet, wouldn’t miss it for anything!

Vicki Northey
Endeavour project manager