Boats in Sulawesi: An illustrated journey

Fishing port, Ampana. Image: Richard Gregory.

Fishing port, Ampana. Image: Richard Gregory.

A glimpse of some traditional boats: Fifty-six days in Sulawesi, Indonesia, 2015 

This visit began in Manado at the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and included a ferry journey from Gorontalo to Ampana via the Togean Islands, a week’s stay in Tentena on the shores of Lake Poso, three weeks in the Toraja highlands, a few days in Makassar and four days at Bira Beach on the southern tip of Sulawesi.

Throughout much of the journey I rendered many drawings directly from life and they include a number of studies of traditional boats. It’s these images that I wish to share along with these notes, visuals and maps about boatbuilding in Sulawesi, and its wider context.

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Where on earth are you? A beginners guide to longitude

'Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude' traces the history of finding reliable methods for determining your longitude at sea. Image: ANMM.

‘Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude’ traces the history of finding reliable methods for determining your longitude at sea. Image: ANMM.

For as long as humans have been exploring, we have sought reliable methods to navigate our way across the Earth. Until the invention of an accurate sea clock by carpenter and clockmaker John Harrison in the 18th century, there was no dependable technique to measure a ship’s longitude – its east or west position at sea – especially when the ship’s navigator could not sight landmarks or celestial markers due to the weather.

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Ferguson Reef archaeology expedition – 29 November

Back to where it all started and a mystery…

After an exciting trip back down from the Great Detached Reef – Silentworld II and its full time crew headed up by Captain Michael Gooding responded to a Mayday call on late Thursday evening and rescued two professional fishermen from their sinking fishing vessel north of Cooktown – the team arrived off Flora Reef, south of Cairns on Friday morning.

Flora Reef is the location of HMCS Mermaid, the former surveying vessel of Phillip Park King, which was wrecked whilst on voyage from Sydney (New South Wales) to Port Raffles (now in the Northern Territory) in 1829. After several searches the wreck site of the Mermaid was located and surveyed by the Silentworld Foundation and the Australian National Maritime Museum in 2009 in the first, of what has turned out to be many, successful underwater archaeological research projects.

Blue water on the surface. PHOTO: Xanthe Rivett, Silentworld Foundation.

Blue water on the surface. PHOTO: Xanthe Rivett, Silentworld Foundation.

Flora Reef is also close to the site of, an as yet unresolved mystery, dating back to 1943.In February 1943 the Royal Australian Air-force Catalina A24-25 from 11 Squadron RAAF – went missing off Cairns whilst returning from an anti-submarine patrol – the last garbled message from the aircraft – which was received at Townsville contained the words ‘Force land’. Because the message was received at Townsville rather than Cairns and because of eyewitness accounts from soldiers at a military installation on one of the islands south of Cairns the aircraft was presumed to have crashed near the Frankland Islands. Despite an extensive search the aircraft was not located and the crew of 11 presumed lost – missing in action.

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Queen Anne’s Revenge

Archaeologists have recently raised five large cannons from the wreck of Queen Anne’s Revenge, off the coast of North Carolina.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Smilax worked with personnel from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources to recover five cannons and multiple barrel hoops from the Queen Anne's Revenge in Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina: Coast Guard News

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Smilax worked with personnel from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources to recover five cannons and multiple barrel hoops from the Queen Anne’s Revenge in Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina: Coast Guard News

The vessel was originally named Concord, and belonged to the famous pirate Blackbeard. She started as an English frigate, and after being captured by the French and used in the slave trade, she was again captured, this time by the pirate Captain Benjamin Hornigold. Hornigold gave the vessel to a member of his crew, Edward Teach, later known as Blackbeard, who added cannons and renamed her Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Blackbeard sailed the ship from West Africa and throughout the Caribbean, attacking British, Dutch and Portuguese merchant ships along the way. He eventually ran the ship aground in 1718. Whether he did this intentionally or not is the subject of much debate, but it is thought that he may have done so in an effort to disperse his crew hence increasing his share of the spoils on board.

Blackbeard, from the second edition of Charles Johnson's General Historie, 1724

Blackbeard, from the second edition of Charles Johnson’s General Historie, 1724

Blackbeard was eventually killed later the same year during a dramatic battle aboard a Royal Navy vessel, the HMS Pearl. After the battle, in order to collect the bounty on Blackbeard, his head was hung from the bowsprit of the Pearl.

Meanwhile, the Queen Anne’s Revenge remained in shallow waters off the coast of North Carolina for more than 270 years, until it was rediscovered in November 1996.  Whatever the reason it was abandoned, there is a noticeable lack of treasure on board – the ship’s crew appears to have had ample time to remove any plunder. Nevertheless, the vessel has proved a treasure trove of artefacts. So far, around 25 cannons, from reports of 40, have been discovered along with more than 280,000 artefacts, including a small amount of gold dust, as well as turtle bones, scientific instruments, lead shot, ornate glass and sword hilts.

Four of the five cannons raised last week weigh between 900 and 1360 each and measure over eight feet long with the capability to fire six pound cannon balls.

Excavations on the Queen Anne’s Revenge continue, with archaeologists moving to have all artefacts removed before the next cyclone season, as previous bad weather damaged parts of the wreck.

ANMM archaeologist, Keiran Hosty, team leader of the Mermaid Project

ANMM archaeologist, Keiran Hosty, team leader of the Mermaid Project

If you are interested in maritime archaeology, you can read about the museum’s current maritime archaeology program HERE and find our current and previous projects, along with links to the National Shipwreck database and our archaeology blogs HERE.

The The ANMM Mermaid Project: Recording the details of HM Mermaids kedge anchor

The ANMM Mermaid Project: Recording the details of HM Mermaids kedge anchor

Siobhan McKenna

Further reading / references

qaronline.org: The Queen Anne’s Revenge Shipwreck Project – Archaeological Investigations of Blackbeard’s Flagship.

Konstam Angus, Blackbeard: America’s Most Notorious Pirate, John Wiley & Sons: USA, 2007.