The Last Pirate

船員と犬 A watercolour of a foreign sailor and his dog by Japanese Samurai artist Makita Hamaguchi in 1830. Image courtesy of Tokushima prefectural archive

In the early 19th century Japan had closed its doors to foreign ships in an effort to resist colonisation. One day in January 1830, a British flagged ship appeared off the coast of Mugi, in Shikoku, southern Japan. A low-ranking Samurai official duly recorded information about the ship and its crew before being ordered to send it away by firing cannon at the vessel. The ship, the brig Cyprus, was in fact a pirated vessel with a crew of escaped convicts from Tasmania under the command of the self-styled ‘Captain William Swallow’. Until now, this wonderful record of Australian pirates in Japan has been sitting, unrecognised in a Japanese archive.

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Pieces of Eight and a Parrot Pinata

finsihed piñata

It’s almost unavoidable, if you have small children in your world, at some point they will probably ask for a pirate party. There’s something irresistible about those tricorn wearing terrible thugs that no amount of education on the truly Horrible Histories of Pirates can overcome.

I once made the mistake of festooning a 3 year old’s pirate birthday with my favourite  skull and cross bones cardboard bunting and the adorable Pete the repeat parrot, not anticipating the swashbuckling scoundrel-like behaviour that would ensue once the face paint eye patches and paper pirate hats began to encourage a little too much role play.

Needless to say Pete was minus a head and an arm after being thrown off the “pirate ship” (read cubby house/swing/ nearby tree) a few times. Never to flap his awkward mechanical arms and chirp again.

This month’s craft spot is inspired by our Horrible Histories Pirates exhibition ( after all Golden age Pirates really did have parrots and other exotic animals, stolen ones of course, to fetch a pretty penny) and pirate parties, and pirate-like toddler behaviour perhaps. It’s a parrot piñata- something you beat up to steal all its goodies, sounds like piratical mischief to me. Fringing onto an adhesive base is also a great craft for with older toddlers and young children as it’s easy, glue free and a good opportunity to practice some fine motor skills with layering, tearing, cutting and collage.

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Golden doubloon spice cookies for peckish pirates

10 finished cookies

Yo, yo ho, a pirates life for me! A bottle of rum, a cargo of spice, eat up me hearties yo ho!

This month we’ve been inspired to cook up a little something special for the craft spot to mark the auspicious International Talk Like a Pirate Day and give a nod to historical golden age piracy as we prepare for our summer Pirates exhibition.

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Patch-eyed pirate prints

Ahoy there landlubbers, scurvydogs and sprogs!

We be gettin excited for Pirates Ahoy family fun day this Sunday. So much so that our craft spot this ere month be dedicated to puttin a swashbucklin pirate print on everythin!

A tote, bandanna or flag as well, this ere creative caper be an excellent activity for celebratin pirates any time.

If ye be without the doubloons to get ye a scurvy silkscreen, ye can use a simple sponge roller for your pirate print instead.

final designs

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Summer fun at the Museum

Dashing in and out of multicoloured foam forts, wielding water pistols, squealing and squelching as they dart between pencil fountains and the spray archway. It is yet another lively day in the Museum’s Wetworld aqua play program as kids keep cool in the two fun-filled zones.

Wetworld supersoaker forts

Having fun inside the forts in Wetworld

water cannons wetworld

Firing the water cannons in Wetworld

Devotees of the water pistol gallery enjoy getting soaked until they shiver, lining up again and again and again for another chance to play.

Wetworld and water pistol

Lining up for an other go at the water pistol gallery in Wetworld

And it’s not just Wetworld that is action-packed and well-loved so far this summer. Over in the museum our Kids on Deck activity space is abuzz.

Making Pirate Ships in Kids Deck

Making paper tall ships in Kids on Deck

Rumour has it the paper tall ship is the most desirable souvenir for a day out at the museum, or a close second to our pirate hat perhaps. This summer Kids on Deck is themed around Sailing with Swashbuckers, inspired by romantic ideas of fearless, fearsome and debonair pirates made famous through children’s literature. Kids can create their own version of a siren’s song or a pirate poem in the Mermaid’s cavern, take to the stage for pretend play with dress ups, invent a pirate’s super tool (a treasure detector, compass or magic spyglass perhaps) and make pirate flags and bandannas as well.

Circus Monoxide

Peter Pan , Hook and Tinkerbell in Circus Monoxide’s Pirate Ship Circus

And the Pirate theme doesn’t stop at the doors of Kids on Deck. For 5 days we have special performances of a thrilling Pirate Circus with the crew from Circus Monoxide. Inspired by the mischievous Peter Pan and a cast of familiar characters- Captain Hook and Tinkerbell (or Tinker-smell is it? ) they have captivated audiences with acrobatics and daring circus stunts.

Torchlighttour_Stormy Grey

Stormy Grey the Stowaway will unravel a mysterious message in a bottle to lead us to treasure at next Saturday night’s torchlight tour.

If this all wasn’t enough, today I am on another pirate-like mission, writing a secret message in a bottle that leads to hidden treasure for Stormy Grey the Stowaway to unravel at next Saturday night’s after dark torchlight tour for families. Stormy is very keen on writing rhyming couplets that lead to the different treasures and stories along our tour through the museum galleries and our special exhibition Wrecks and Reefs. I wonder what rhymes with anchor?….

Under 5s tours

“You put your left fin in!” Doing the fishey pokey in our silly sea creatures tour for early learners

Besides Stormy Grey we also have some extra special characters joining us on Tuesdays and Saturdays in tours for our early learners aged 2-5 years. Through three separate themes- Treasure hunting tots, Silly Sea Creatures and Drip Drop Splash!, the under 5s tours are a chance for the museum’s littlest visitors to experience museum displays and ideas through songs, stories and movement.  Polly Puddleboots and the Ice Princess are just rehearsing now for tomorrow’s Drip Drop Splash ! – a journey into the world of water and how we use it everyday. From puddle jumping games and musical storms, to tales of a little duck with a feather on his back and rhymes about a turtle known as Tiny Tim, it all looks to be a very exciting adventure.

With still 2 more action packed weeks of holidays to go, I suspect the fun has just begun!

Find out more about some of our holiday programs at

William Dampier – Buccaneer, Explorer, Hydrographer and sometime Captain

Copper engraving of William Dampier. ANMM Collection 00000846

Copper engraving c 1789 of William Dampier. ANMM Collection 00000846

Buccaneer, Explorer, Hydrographer and sometime Captain of the Ship ROEBUCK in the Royal Navy of King William the Third.

So reads the memorial to Englishman William Dampier in the village of East Coker, Somerset, England, the place of his birth in 1651. The memorial lists only a portion of Dampier’s eclectic career and speaks faintly of his contradictory character. Pioneer and pirate, criminal and captain, explorer, author, travel writer and buccaneer. Ironically Dampier, with his less than angelic past, visited Australian shores in 1688, a full century before the convicts of the first fleet. At its bleakest contrast, Dampier was a felon who created a historic legacy in the hallowed halls of literature, science and exploration.

Here’s how it came about. Continue reading

International Talk Like Pirate Day story – Survivin’ scurvy on the seven seas

Ahoy me hearties!

To celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Wednesday 19 September) we set our Facebook followers a challenge, to write a pirate story that old Black Beard himself would be proud of. And our followers did not disappoint, with an imaginative and hilarious (yo-ho-ho) interpretation of all things pirate (and even some things that are not)!

Read below for the full collection of Facebook posts to see how the story unfolded.

Chapter one: A pirate without a name and the Pink Oyster

Uniformed man on deck of ship

Illustration from sheet music cover ‘The Red Rover’s Song’. Lithographer William Endicott & Co. c 1859. ANMM Collection

It was a blustery day on th’ high seven seas ‘n our protagonist captain told his scurvy crew “set the sails, we have only five days ’til we reach th’ treasure before them scurvy pirate wenches on th’ Pink Oyster! We have to get that treasure first!”.The crew leapt to the ropes and riggings. Captain Albatross was a firm but fair leader and he made sure everything on board the Golden Venture was errr shipshape!

The pirating game was a cutthroat business and Albatross had seen many a sloppily run ship fail when things got serious. He knew he had one of the best ships around and his crew agreed.

The sailing was smooth for Albatross and the crew, ’twas soon nightfall and they were developing a thirst for whiskey and wenches. As Albatross got up to call the first mate, a wail bellowed over the decks of the ship, “arrrrrrrgggghhhhhh!” It was Albatross, fallen on the deck. “Me leg, me scurvy dog of a peg leg! It still be on the land. Arrrggghhhh!” The crew fell silent. They had travelled so far on their first day of sailing, dare they turn back for the captains’ leg?

“Aarrrr, Next time, no Pirate ship from Ikea” bellowed one of the crew, who had clearly been on ye ol’ grog since morning!

Just then Billy the cabin boy spoke up. “Arrrr, Captain, I been whittling you a new leg. It was fer yer birthday, see. But as it’s an emergency, you could have it now” He handed over a leg carved with ferocious sea beasties and mer people. “Look, it even flips open to hide stuff in”. It even has a place for your beer and a long straw. Thou u shan’t b drinkin whilst u drivin dis here boat now.

Chapter two: The missing peg leg, a battle at sea and the Allen key

Two ships batte on the rough seas

Photograph by Samuel J Hood of a painting by G. F. Gregory depicting three sailing ships in battle. ANMM collection

“Me leg, me scurvy dog of a peg leg! Me only half a pirate not worthy of the Golden Venture without me leg,” said Captain Albatross of the Golden Venture, hopping on one foot. Billy the cabin boy stepped forward with a gift, “Arrrr, Captain, I been whittling you a new leg. It was fer yer birthday, see. But as it’s an emergency, you could have it now”. Captain Albatross beamed with a pirate’s glee and made use of the peg leg’s hidden compartment to stow away his treasure map and Ikea Allen key. There was a change in the wind which brought an almighty storm and the Pink Oyster, whose pirate wenches were ready for battle ensued a bloody war.The Pink Oyster wenches were led by one Poxy Polly – a buxsom girl of generous portions, with a mass of flaming red hair.

She ruled them with belaying pin in one hand an’ cutlass in the other and was feared by one and all.

There was only one regret in Poxy Polly’s life, that she had once given her heart to a man of the sea only for him to leave her. On that day she swore that there would come a day when she would get even with him. And, as she watched Golden Venture sail into sight, she knew that today was that day.

Albatross looked out on the rising seas lashing the Golden Venture. In the distance, he could see the Pink Oyster steering carefully through the waves. As the sunlight peeked through the clouds, he saw a glimmer of red from the deck of the Pink Oyster. “Shiver me timberrrs…” he grumbled. At this moment, first mate Sjörövare yelled, “out with your Allen keys, maties. Assemble the cannons”.

The Allen keys were whipped out, but a short delay followed while the crew coordinated themselves, deciding which language to use for the task. Albatross, meanwhile, stood stunned on the quarterdeck. Across the waves, drawing ever nearer, Poxy Polly hefted her cutlass. “I’ll cut yer other leg off, ye miserable ladies’ idiot feel sorry for me, an’ give ye something real t’ cry about”, she muttered. Her first mate was passing around chocolate to bolster the courage of the crew of the Oyster.

Chapter three: Eyes of lost lovers locked and an unexpected pit stop

Ship run aground on an island beach

‘Cygnet careened’ Etching by Geoffrey Chapman Ingleton (1908 – 1998). ANMM Collection

In the stormy battle between the mighty Golden Venture and the Pink Oyster, Ikea Allen keys a plenty assembling Swedish made cannons, time stood still as Captain Albatross and Poxy Polly locked eyes mid cutlass swing. “Avast! It cannot be…” Captain Albatross gasped. Visions rushed before his sunburnt eyes of a time long gone that were full of love shanties and a beautiful woman named Polly. “That’s right you miserable scurvy dog! It is I Poxy Polly, here to seek my revenge and take back what’s rightfully mine. Hand over the treasure map and the golden Allen key!” And with that, caught unaware, both ships ran aground, busted on reef and rocks surrounding an uncharted tropical island…Polly shoved Albatross off her and jumped up from the sand, where they’d been flung by the impact of the hulls on the rocks. She frowned at the unfamiliar island then levelled her cutlass at Albatross, only to find a pistol pointing to her nose. “Arrrgh,” she growled. Her cutlass dropped to the ground…but in a flash she ducked, wrenched the gun from Albatross and retrieved her weapon. She swung back to face him just in time to avoid his wooden leg…

On the deck of the Venture, the Poxy’s first mate was trying to plunder the Captain’s cabin. “ye’ll need an allen key for that,” Sjorovare smirked. “If ye get that map,” growled the first mate, Toebiter Tanless, “we can have the treasure without those two and take the ships for ourselves…”

And then ….. they heard a man cry “WILLLSSOONNNNNN!”

“WILLLSSOONNNNNN, WILLLSSOONNNNNN” called Ratus the Bilage Rat. Grumbling to himself he looked for his friend Willson th’ parrot. Willson had seen what was about to happen and taken safely to the air just in time. Ratus had never really wanted to be a Bilage Rat but it had been a family tradition passed on down from father to son. He had always dreamed of being a Rock star singing sea shanty’s in the Local Tavern.

Chapter four: A rat-parrot bromance, a mysterious survivor, a love (Bermuda) triangle and a fight to the finish for the island’s treasure!

Man with cane posing

Image of David Ashworth, survivor of the shipwrecked General Grant. ANMM Collection

Seeing a mutiny on their hands, Wilson signalled to Ratus that Captain Albatross’ ship was about to be ransacked by the crew. Little did Sjorovare and Toebiter Tanless know that the Allen key and treasure map was safely stowed in the Captain’s pegleg. Suddenly leaping forth from the island’s thick jungle, came a man dressed all in skins! Polly and the Captain froze in recognition, at the old rival for Polly’s love – a pirate thought long lost and gone in a doomed expedition for gold!Galloping Godfrey froze, as he took in the spectacle before him. In a voice cracking and squeaking from disuse he asked “what in blazing cannons is going on here?” Polly and Albatross both answered simultaneously “we’re looking for your treasure”. Godfrey leant over wheezing with laughter.

“Arrrh! And ye all be fools to seek for Treasure. For seven years I sailed the seven seas and of treasure I did seek. But the only treasure I ever did find was the love of a good woman here before me which I lost to the arms of another man”.

Wilson and Ratus caught sight of the old man and, as one, launched themselves at his toothless face, at the one who stole their most prized possessions. Still laughing, Godfrey toppled to the sand, something shining falling from his pocket. “He’s nuts” exclaimed Albatross. “No – the nuts….where’s that golden Allen key???” said Polly.


Portrait photo of a lady

Untitled (Portrait of a woman). James Hall (1877-1951). ANMM Collection

A stiff breeze in the sails and a stiff drink in leg! Before too long Captain Albatross, his crew of miscreants and the jolly wenches of the Pink Oyster had decided to hunt for treasure together and start their new joint venture with a party. The swing of the party matched the pitch and toss of the surf. All was going swimmingly until Cap Albatross repeated a commonly used motif and stumbled into the arms of a buxom Pink Oyster Wench. Looking up with wiley gratitude in his eyes he asked “what’s your name….?” So the moral to our story be, should you ever go to sea, kiss goodbye the love of your life and don’t forget to pack a spare Allen Key!Thanks to our contributors: Natasha Coster, Vanessa Hill, Brendan O’Neill, Karen Charge, Jenny Baker, Nicholas Brocklebank, Rebecca Hackett and Jenny Drenkhahn.

For all those little pirates out there, you too can get into the pirate spirit at our Pirates! Children’s Adventure Land that opens on 22 September! Cut loose your cutlass and start practicing ya’ arrrrs!

Arr pirate writin’ story challenge for you!

Image of

Johnny Grognose our resident pirate

Avast me maties! It’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day once again! And our scurvy pirate mate Grognose Johnny is up to no good! He’s got a cunning plan to commendeer our Facebook page… but he’s setting you all a challenge! A pirate writing story challenge with pirate booty to be won, including tickets to the museum, DVDs of The Pirates Band of Misfits and Signals magazines!

During Talk Like Pirate Day (Wednesday 19 September) Grognose will be asking our Facebook fans to put pen to paper (or hook to keyoard) in the attempt to write the most adventurous, disasturous and hilarious pirate story ever to be written.

Kicking off at 10 am tomorrow morning, Johnny will provide the first line of the story, then it’s up to you to fill in the rest!

And for a little pirates, we have games and activities, including a pirate dictionary, and pirate hat and eye patch pattern on our Pirates! Children’s adventure land website. Just in time for the opening of the adventure land this Saturday!


Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

Apart from a parrot and a peg-leg, no self-respecting pirate would ever be without treasure!Carefully deposited in an iron-bound chest and buried on some convenient island, treasure made the world go round and was the reason for the hard work of all pirates. ‘Pieces of eight’ – those funny-shaped silver coins of Spain’s empire in the Americas – were produced in such abundance over the 200 years that piracy flourished along the world’s great seaways that they are just what you might expect a savvy pirate to collect.

Pieces of eight

Pile of pieces of eight. Photo: Andrew Frollows

One reason for the enormous number of these coins is thanks to the discovery of a mountain of silver at Potosi in Bolivia which throughout the 16th and 17th centuries produced thousands of tons of silver for Spain. ‘Pieces of eight’ (officially known as 8 Reales) were sliced like salami from a bar of silver, to produce coins of similar weight (27 grams) before being stamped with insignia.  The process was quick but crude, and unfortunately, open to fraud as the rough coins were frequently ‘shaved’ of some of their silver.  Despite this drawback, ‘Pieces of eight’ were produced up until the 1730s when regular-shaped and milled coins were introduced.

Centurion attacking the Manila galleon

Centurion attacking the Manila galleon. Australian National Maritime Museum collection.

The immense wealth of the Spanish Empire was both attractive and vulnerable to pirates, as the great galleons sailed along well-defined tracks and at particular seasons towards the narrow passage separating central and south America.  Packed on mules, the treasure was then carried through the tropical jungle to the Caribbean coast where Spanish ships waited to carry it home. Also waiting were the hordes of pirates, who like tourists today, haunted the balmy islands and convenient anchorages of the west indies. ‘ARRRR captain Blackbeard – what about another mojito while we’re waiting?’ 

Portobello Road Markets

Portobello Road Markets. Photo: Nigel Erskine

Strictly speaking, piracy involves the unlawful seizure of a ship, but things change completely when war is declared.  London’s famous Portobello Road was renamed (previously Green’s Lane) in honour of Admiral Vernon’s  capture of the Spanish Panamanian port – Puerto Bello in 1739 during the War of Jenkin’s Ear (so named for the English captain Jenkin’s ear which was cut off by a Spanish coast guard). Four years later commodore George Anson became a legend when his ship HMS Centurion  successfully ambushed and took the Manila galleon carrying over 1,300,000 ‘pieces of eight’.

Which brings us back to the picture of ‘pieces of eight’ in the museum’s collection. The coins were recovered by archaeologists from the 1656 wreck of the Dutch ship Vergulde Draeck lost off the coast of Western Australia while enroute to Batavia.  Silver was readily accepted by Asian merchants and all ships trading to the east indies carried silver in some form.

The discovery of the wreck in 1963 led to unauthorised attempts to salvage the silver using explosives, ultimately prompting new laws which continue to protect our underwater cultural heritage.  So you see – you may talk like a pirate, but you don’t need to be one to get up close and personal with this ‘treasure’ from our past.

Nigel Erskine, Curator Exploration & European Settlement
Australian National Maritime Museum

This post was shared to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Talk Like a Pirate Day – Hat and Eye Patch Pattern

International Talk Like a Pirate Day is almost here…

Monday 19 SeptembARrrrr be th’ day!

Grognose JohnnyDon’t just talk like a pirate, look like a pirate too! To help you get in the swashbuckling spirit,  here’s a pirate hat and eye patch pattern to download and make.

With your attire now sorted and best pirate slang at the ready, join us online for a day of pirate speak with resident pirate Grognose Johnny. We hear he has plans to commandeer our Facebook page and Twitter feed

For the wee buccaneers, there’s plenty of events happening at the museum.

Sunday 18 September

Kids on Deck: Pirates!
Decorate a pirate hat, and make a bandanna, a treasure chest or a mermaid shadow puppet.
Hourly sessions, 11.00 am – 3.00 pm. Ages 5-12 yrs. $7 per child.

Monday 19 September

Puppet theatre show about Captain William Dampier.
11am, 12.15pm, 1.30pm. Ages 5 and above. All tickets $7.

Afterhours at the museum for kids
Swashbuckled! Duyfken and treasure hunt
5.15 pm – 7.30 pm. Ages 5-12 yrs. $35/$25 Members.

How do you plan to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day? We’d love to hear about it.

Talk Like a Pirate Day – 19 September 2011

 Avast! Me Maties!

To celebrate International Talk like a Pirate Day on Monday, 19 September, we thought we’d share some pirate related objects from our collection and also let you know how you can get involved on the day.

Pirate hat used by Poncho and Bubbles.

Pirate hat used by Poncho and Bubbles. Maker: Marcelle Rosa Tanner OAM and Harold Tanner.

This pirate hat was worn by Harold Tanner and Marcelle Rose as part of their stage show performance as Poncho and Bubbles the clowns. Poncho and Bubbles were clowns who worked on cruise ships for almost 20 years. From the 1970s cruise lines such as Sitmar and P&O pitched their cruises as affordable family fun. Professional staff, activities and entertainers were provided for children, leaving parents free to relax. Poncho and Bubbles are one of the longest running clown shows in Australia (1976-1995).

‘Blow on, Blow on, The Pirates Glee’ was written for and dedicated to the Salem Glee Club, a men’s choir. The cover features a black and white lithograph by Benjamin W Thayer, titled ‘Storm at Sea in a Schooner’ depicting six pirates on the stern of a vessel as it encounters rough seas. The piece was written to be sung by four male voices.

Blow on Blow on and Dead Mans Isle

Left: Sheet music, Blow On! Blow On! The Pirate's Glee. Composer: Arthur Morrill. Right: Dead Man's Isle by Scott Hedley. 1933.

Dead Man’s Isle was first published in 1932 in The Ranger. This blood-stirring tale of the Spanish Main by Hedley Scott was then published in The Boys’ Friend Librarythe following year. The issue is conveniently pocket-sized and in 95 pages follows the hero, Langley Morgensen, on his adventures as he seeks a lonely, uncharted speck in tropical seas – an isle that holds the secret of a buccaneer’s treasure.

Be a part of Talk Like a Pirate Day! Come along to the museum or join us online.

Sunday 18 September

Kids on Deck: Pirates!

Decorate a pirate hat, and make a bandanna, a treasure chest or a mermaid shadow puppet.
Hourly sessions, 11.00 am – 3.00 pm. Ages 5-12 yrs. $7 per child.

Monday 19 September


Puppet theatre show about Captain William Dampier.
11am, 12.15pm, 1.30pm. Ages 5 and above. All tickets $7.

Afterhours at the museum for kids
Swashbuckled! Duyfken and treasure hunt
5.15 pm – 7.30 pm. Ages 5-12 yrs. $35/$25 Members.

Get your pirate speak ready for a day of online chatter with resident pirate Grognose Johnny! Join us on Facebook and Twitter, use #Talklikeapirateday

Learn all you need to know about  International Talk Like a Pirate Day on the official website.

Talk like a pirate day

Grog-nose Johnny and the motley crew from Claremont Public School on the lookout for treasure!

Grog-nose Johnny and the motley crew from Claremont Public School on the lookout for treasure!