90 years since the Greycliffe ferry disaster

The partially submerged remains of the ferry <em>Greycliffe</em>, following the collision with <em>Tahiti</em>. 40 lives were lost in the disaster. ANMM Collection 00036858, Samuel J Hood Studio.

The partially submerged remains of the ferry Greycliffe, following the collision with Tahiti. 40 lives were lost in the disaster. ANMM Collection 00036858, Samuel J Hood Studio.

The sinking of the Greycliffe ferry on 3 November 1927 remains the most significant accident on Sydney Harbour to date. Forty lives were lost when the ferry collided with the Union Steamship Company’s liner Tahiti. The tragedy had a marked impact on the city – many old Sydney families can still recount their personal connections to the disaster, particularly those associated with the suburbs around Vaucluse and Watsons Bay where many of the victims lived.  It inspired significant plot points in the novels Waterways by Eleanor Dark (1938) and Careful, He Might Hear You by Sumner Locke Elliott (1963).

Today, on the 90th anniversary of the disaster, we tell the story of Betty Sharp, the teenage girl who had a haunting impact on the recovery teams at the time of the accident and through subsequent retellings of the disaster.

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Midget submarine attack on Sydney 31 May – 1 June 1942

The wreck of M14 being recovered. Image: <a href="https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C48694">Australian War Memorial</a>, via Wikimedia.

The wreck of M14 being recovered. Image: Australian War Memorial, via Wikimedia.

My mother has often told me this story of the evening of Sunday 31st May 1942:

‘It had been a normal Sunday: Church, followed by lunch, a visit to my grandparents, some radio and then suddenly, while I was taking a bath, sirens split the air, Dad turned off the lights, and I shivered in the dark.’

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Little shipmates: Seafaring pets

Portrait of a baby and a dog on a ship. Image: Samuel Hood / ANMM Collection 00023789.

Portrait of a baby and a dog on a ship. Image: Samuel Hood / ANMM Collection 00023789.

Cats, dogs, monkeys and birds have been cherished on board ships for as long as people have made sea voyages. In a life from which children and families are usually missing, and are often very much missed, pets provide a focus for emotions and affection – although cats and dogs may have been expected to earn their keep catching mice and rats, too.

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Meanderings in the Murk: Diving on the wreck of the Centennial

ANMM Shipwright and diver Lee Graham inspects a collapsed iron frame on the Centennial site that has been colonised by sponges. Image: James Hunter / ANMM.

ANMM Shipwright and diver Lee Graham inspects a collapsed iron frame on the Centennial site that has been colonised by sponges. Image: James Hunter / ANMM.

The museum’s maritime archaeology team recently visited the shipwreck site of the late nineteenth century steamship Centennial. The dive was part of an ongoing initiative to document selected historic shipwreck sites within Sydney Harbour with digital photography and videography. Still images and video footage collected during the project will be used to generate 3D digital photo-mosaics of these sites and test the usefulness of this recording method in a variety of environments.

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Ecuadorian navy training tall ship Guayas arrives at the museum

Guaya enters Sydney Harbour 8 January, 2016 - harbour bridge to the right on a sunny day.

Guayas enters Sydney Harbour, 8 January 2016. Photo Jude Timms/ANMM

The Ecuadorian navy training tall ship Guayas arrived at the Australian National Maritime Museum this morning to an enthusiastic welcome from members of the Ecuadorian community and museum visitors and staff.

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Lord Howe Island by flying boat: a golden age in colour and B&W, c 1951-1959

Lord Howe Island, c1951 ANMM Collection: object number 1404[004] by Gervais Purcell, courtesy of Leigh Purcell.

Lord Howe Island, c1951 ANMM Collection: object number 1404[004] by Gervais Purcell, courtesy of Leigh Purcell.

1950s Australian tourism is the theme of the latest set of historic photographs from the emerging Gervais Purcell archive at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

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Finding HMS Affray – science, industry and defence

Man watching an AWA television on board the ship TAIPING Photo by Gervais Purcell, courtesy Leigh Purcell

Man watching an AWA television on board the ship TAIPING Photo by Gervais Purcell, courtesy Leigh Purcell

Gervais Purcell’s photographs depicting tests for an underwater camera by Amalgamated Wireless Australasia in Sydney have an interesting association with the discovery of the sunken HMS Affray on 14 June 1951 near Hurds Deep in the English Channel.

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Whale watching in Sydney Harbour

Whale watching in Sydney harbour

Whale watching in Sydney Harbour. Photo: David Payne.

In late July swimmers and paddlers (including my son) exercising at Balmoral Beach in Sydney Harbour found themselves sharing their early Saturday morning with a 14 metre long southern right whale (Eubaelena australis) only 50 metres from the shoreline and happily diving under them. The next day we watched from a distance in our kayaks as it spent hours in the deep-water trench just off nearby Chinaman’s Beach before heading west and into upper Middle Harbour, beyond the Spit Bridge.

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Shark attack in Sydney Harbour

Australian surfer Mick Fanning is in the news after surviving an attack by a Great White Shark during a surfing competition in South Africa. The incident reminded the Museum’s USA Programs Manager Richard Wood of a family tragedy involving a shark attack in Sydney Harbour.

Marcia’s been taken by a shark

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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 1

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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.

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 5

Friday 7 November 2014, 1500 hours

Distance over ground since 1800 Thursday: 60 nautical miles

The HMB Endeavour replica is now back alongside her usual berth at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, concluding the Eden voyages.

Both voyages involved some exciting sailing, some stunning days at sea and the chance to see wildlife including whales and seabirds.

Endeavour sails. Image: EAP.

Endeavour under sail. Image: EAP.

As with the last time we returned to the Museum at the end of a period of voyaging, I’d like to end this series of blog posts with a mention of the family groups on board this trip.

As topman of mizzenmast watch this voyage, there were no less than three family groups in my watch. Couple John and Lesley Rowe were both supernumeraries, while Emily Devine and father Michael were voyage crew in mizzenmast watch. Michael has been on Endeavour before and came back for another voyage with Emily as a present for Emily’s birthday.

My father Jim Macbeth came along as voyage crew, making us the third family group in mizzenmast watch. Several other voyage crew wondered how a parent would go ‘taking orders’ from a daughter, but we managed remarkably well and had a good time!

Father and daughter team Michael and Emily Devine. Image EAP.

Father and daughter team Michael and Emily Devine. Image EAP.

As I mentioned in the blog last time we had a number of family groups on board, it can be a very special experience not only for the families themselves but for others in the watch and on the voyage.

As Jim said: ‘The camaraderie is growing every day as the crew get to know each other and through sharing good, but often challenging, experiences. Sharing an adventure does bring people together, giving us all a sense of friendship and good will.’

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Cannon fire on our last night at sea. Image: EAP.

This camaraderie was certainly in evidence during our last night at sea on the Eden to Sydney voyage. Everyone was in high spirits and keen to make the most of the experience. This voyage has been a little unusual in that we’ve been at sea every night – there were no nights at anchor.

At 2000 hours, the portside cannon was fired. It was just after dark and, as always, the explosion created by lighting the charge was a spectacular sight.

Mizzenmast watch had the morning watch (0400-0800) and we emerged on deck at 0400 into brilliant moonlight – so bright it seemed that dawn had arrived early. When dawn really did come, it was with a soft orange in the eastern sky, opposite the final light of the moon setting in the west.

Meanwhile, to our northwest the loom of Sydney had been visible for some time, and with the dawn we were able to see Botany Bay as we passed.

A large cargo ship emerged from the port of Botany as we approached, passing around 1.5 nautical miles ahead of us. 1.5 nautical miles sounds like a long way, but at sea it seems extremely close to a ship of that size!

Image: EAP.

Furling sails  in preparation for arriving in Sydney. Image: EAP.

This morning was busy as the whole crew got to work furling the remaining sails (furling involves rolling the sail up tightly and lashing it firmly with lines called gaskets so that the sail cannot flog in the wind or fill up with rainwater). Some sails had been furled the previous evening but the bulk of the work still remained.

On the calm seas and in the bright sunshine, most of the voyage crew were keen to go aloft and it was a good opportunity to put ‘harbour furls’ in all the sails. ‘Harbour furls’ refer to furls that are neat and tidy, ready for the ship to look presentable alongside the wharf – in contrast to storm furls, when the aim is to get the sail in as quickly as possible, with no time for presentation!

Once the sails were furled and the ship neat and tidy, we proceeded through the heads into Sydney Harbour just after lunch. Once again, I was sad to say goodbye to the voyage crew in Darling Harbour – it has been a wonderful few days.

As always, the ship herself attracts many people to come and sail – but it is these same people who give life to the experience of sailing a 19th century replica.

Captain Dikkenberg brings Endeavour into Sydney Harbour this afternoon. Image: EAP.

Captain Dikkenberg brings Endeavour into Sydney Harbour this afternoon. Image: EAP.

Endeavour’s next adventure on the high seas will be a series of three voyages, beginning in late January 2015. We will be sailing from Sydney to Hobart for the Wooden Boat Festival in early February, then undertaking a ten-day convict history voyage departing from and returning to Hobart, before the return voyage from Hobart to Sydney. The ship will be away from Sydney for six weeks and there are places available for voyage crew and supernumeraries.

Until next time Endeavour goes to sea, fair winds!

Suzannah Marshall Macbeth           

SY Ena at the museum

For years it’s been under covers, almost out of sight, and seemed untouchable on the rare occasions it was out on the water – but now the harbour’s princess SY Ena has begun to shed her mystique- and the museum is lucky enough to provide a venue for her coming out.

The classic lines, clipper bow and counter stern, raked spars and funnel, an intricate, beautifully engineered steam engine in immaculate condition, and an unbelievable varnish finish, SY Ena stops everyone in their tracks, and has them lost for words when they go aboard.

SY Ena at the museum- Photographer Andrew Frolows ANMM

SY Ena at the museum- Photographer Andrew Frolows ANMM

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MYRA TOO goes sailing

Myra Too, the replica of the champion 18-Foot skiff built by Billy Barnett in 1951 has been sailing for the first time early this month. The background, research and building progress have been highlighted on earlier blogs by the museum’s Digital Outreach Curator Penny Edwell.

But things have been quiet for a little while since the finished hull left boat builder Bob MacLeod’s Mona Vale shed in Spring 2013. Members of the Australian Open Skiff Trust have been diligently fitting it out while spars and sails were put together by Goldspar and Herrick Sails respectively.

Myra Too Working to windward off Bradleys head.

Myra Too Working to windward off Bradleys head.

Final details were completed over the Christmas and New Year’s break, and on the 4th of January Myra Too touched water at John Winning’s Vaucluse waterfront and was then towed across to the Sydney Flying Squadron where it will race when the season gets underway again. A nice east-nor-east breeze was blowing, so they put on the no. 2 mainsail, no. 3 jib, borrowed a spinnaker and ballooner, and took Myra Too for a first sail.  The test was a big success; Myra Too sat to her lines on its nice buoyant hull, felt balanced on the helm, accelerated well in the gusts and barely took any water- just how Billy Barnett said it should go. The longstanding sailing enthusiasts website Sailing Anarchy posted a report a few days later, complete with video footage, including Gopro camera images from on-board the boat, and references and links to the  museums role in helping with extensive research material for this replica project. Continue reading

Goat Island – Conservation Kayaking

‘Conservation kayaking’, by former conservator Julie O’Connor. From Signals 103 (June-August 2013).

Centrally located in Sydney Harbour, Goat Island is managed by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). As part of the recent Sydney Harbour National Parks Management Plan, NPWS plans to encourage greater use of the island.

NPWS officers are working with volunteer organisations to preserve the botanical and biological environment surrounding the island’s buildings. During August, September and October 2012, I made three visits to historic Goat Island with a group of conservation kayakers, which offered an insight into the island’s maritime history.

Preparing for the trip.

Preparing for the trip.

On each visit to the island, we launched our kayaks from Birchgrove Park, and then circumnavigated the island from east to west. Approaching from the south-east, we passed an Aboriginal shell midden, a pile of discarded shells on the shore. This is the last dietary remnant of the Sydney Aboriginal people who used Goat Island before its colonial occupation from the 1820s. It later became a source of lime for mortar during the construction of buildings on the island.

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