Using Twitter to Explore Our Museum

Tour the museum via tweets. Images: ANMM.

Tour the museum via tweets. Images: ANMM.

The Australian National Maritime Museum site on the waterfront here at Darling Harbour is not your usual museum. We have exhibition galleries inside the museum as well as historic vessels which you can come aboard such as the HMB Endeavour Replica, navy destroyer HMAS Vampire and submarine HMAS Onslow.

There is a lot to explore, especially if you are a teacher visiting with a busload of school students. To help teachers become familiar with our site and prepare for school excursions we created an Orientation Tour For Visiting Teachers.

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Warships, storyworlds and the story so far

I’ve walked through our Oberon-class submarine many times. Before the visitors arrive, it’s quiet. You can hear the creaking of the ropes that secure the sub to the wharf, and sometimes the far away voices of people in Darling Harbour. Remnants of life onboard remain – the boardgames in the mess, the roster on the wall and the ingredients in the kitchen – settled and silent. I’ve also been onboard the patrol boat Advance and climbed up and down from the bridge to the kitchen, avoiding its sharp corners and examining the menacing-looking Bofors guns on deck. I’ve walked onboard our destroyer HMAS Vampire many times before too. It smells like the 70s. There’s linoleum throughout, a faint scent of oil and what might be the remaining tendrils of thousands of cooked dinners served in the mess. There’s a sense of chasing someone else’s long-forgotten memories down the lengthy corridors and through the maze of tunnels and ladders.

In the past nine months, in the course of researching these three vessels, I’ve also spent many hours speaking with naval personnel about their time serving on HMAS Onslow, Advance and Vampire. Through their stories, photographs and records, I got glimpses of three very alive, very dangerous and very exciting worlds. One submariner described to me the sounds that the ocean makes when it wakes in the morning, how you can hear the animals stir and react to the sun the same way that birds do at dawn. Another described the feeling, through your feet, of the submarine dashing away from the surface and diving beneath the waves. It sounded to me like the feeling of taking off in a small airplane – just going in the other direction. One ex-submarine commander talked sparingly of his involvement in covert operations onboard Oberon submarines, responding to our questions with silence and a smile.

HMAS VAMPIRE at sea, image courtesy of the Sea Power Centre Australia

HMAS VAMPIRE at sea, image courtesy of the Sea Power Centre Australia

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Aboard the TINGIRA : Our Navy’s Nursery

HMAS TINGIRA, Rose Bay c 1920. Photographer William Hall. ANMM Collection ANMS1092[083]

HMAS TINGIRA, Rose Bay c 1920. Photographer William Hall. ANMM Collection ANMS1092[083]

On 25 April 1912 the fledgling Royal Australian Navy commissioned its very first naval training ship, HMAS Tingira. Three years to the day before the historic landings at Anzac Cove, the white ensign was hoisted onboard HMAS Tingira and marked the beginning of a new era for both the navy and the vessel. Continue reading

100 years: The first fleet of the Royal Australian Navy

On this day, 100 years ago, the Royal Australian Navy’s first fleet of warships entered Sydney Heads ‘from out the morning mist’, as The Sydney Morning Herald dramatically described it. Headed by our first naval flagship, the aptly named Indefatigable class battlecruiser HMAS Australia, HMA Ships Sydney, Encounter, Melbourne, Warrego, Parramatta and Yarra comprised our first Fleet Unit. Sydney’s shores were lined with thousands of people, dressed in their Edwardian best, with their waistcoats and feathered hats. Over the next few days, Sydney Harbour will come alive once more, this time without the Edwardian garb, for International Fleet Review and what will be the largest gathering of navy ships most of us has ever seen.

Video: Reproduced courtesy of Sea Power Centre – Australia, via 1913 Fleet Entry Continue reading

Fashions on the harbour: Fox furs and cloche hats

Woman posing on board HNLMS Java
Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

Object of the week has taken a different direction this week – it’s all about vintage fashion. The museum’s Samuel J Hood collection has been a pleasure to investigate and research. So I found myself mesmerised when I came across these beautiful photographs, shot during the Japanese, Dutch and Chilean naval visits to Sydney Harbour in 1924, 1930 and 1931. Placed within the context of newspaper reports, these stylish ladies symbolise the excitement and attraction that surrounded foreign visits to Australia. They form a part of the vibrant social and cultural fabric of 1920s and 1930s Sydney and display the elements that made the harbour the tourist destination it is today.

Tennis party at Victoria Barracks
Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

In 1924, Sydneysiders flocked to the harbour to welcome three armoured cruisers of the Imperial Japanese Naval Squadron, IJN Iwate, Asama and Yakumo. Led by Admiral Makoto Saito, Japanese sailors visited an array of local attractions including Taronga Zoo and the University of Sydney. A Japanese naval officer and two unidentified women are pictured here at a tennis party, which was held on the morning of 26 January at Victoria Barracks in Paddington. Other social events were held at Government House and historic Rowe Street, the bohemian, avant-garde centre of Sydney. The Sydney Morning Herald provided detailed fashion reports, of a ‘three-piece suit of beige silk crepe’, the ‘frock of mole cashmere de soie’ and ‘golden brown lace…embroidered with tortoise-shell beads’.

The visit of the Royal Netherlands Navy in 1930 attracted similar public interest. The light cruisers HNLMS Java, Eversten and De Ruyter moored at West Circular Quay amidst the excitement of the nearly completed Sydney Harbour Bridge. Officers and ratings were granted free transport on Sydney trams and ferries and free entry to theatres. Luncheons and dinners were hosted in their honour, again in Rowe Street’s trendy clubs and function rooms. As with the Japanese navy, Hood was where the action was and often focussed on the social elements of the visit. He shot a series of photographs of women posing on board the Dutch vessels and took spectacular night views of the ships moored at the wharf.

Mrs Elsa Evans on the deck of HNLMS Java
Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

In July 1931, the Armada de Chile visited Sydney in its corvette, General Baquedano. Commanded by Captain Luis Alvarez, his crew consisted of seventeen officers, three sub-officers and 292 men. The ship moored at East Circular Quay and, like the Japanese and Dutch visits, the Chileans attracted significant public interest and their daily activities were reported in the SMH. The crew placed a wreath at the Martin Place cenotaph and opened their vessel to the public. The squadron’s eventual departure from Sydney Harbour two weeks later was quite a dramatic event, with one rating attempting to desert ship and swim ashore! He was eventually returned to the vessel in a rowing boat before it left Sydney for New Zealand.

On board General Baquedano at Circular Quay
Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

These photographs, and the newspaper reports of the time, highlight the attention and excitement that surrounded foreign naval visits to Sydney’s shores. They also demonstrate how Hood’s status as a brilliant photojournalist rested in his aesthetic sensibility and artistic vision. He clearly had an eye for detail, but these images are more than just pretty snapshots of fashion-savvy ladies. They inspire the viewer with a sense of nostalgic wonder; and though it’s a romantic view, they encourage us to contemplate the stories behind these faces. These images visually express how Sydney society was shaped by these visits and defined by its irresistible harbourside charm.

Next week, my colleague Penny Hyde will bring you another fashion-focussed post, so watch this space.

Nicole Cama
Curatorial assistant

Operation Rimau, the tragic sequel to the success of MV Krait

At the wharves of the Australian National Maritime Museum sits a small unassuming Japanese fishing vessel. Next to the destroyer HMAS Vampire and the submarine HMAS Onslow, the craft looks even less impressive. However it certainly deserves its place as a historic vessel, as a symbol of one of Australia’s most daring wartime undercover operations and as a reminder of an ill-fated and tragic sequel.

MV KRAIT holds a special place in Australia’s history through its involvement with the Z Special Unit in World War II

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