Villain or victim? The story of convict Ann Norman

This oil painting by Henry Gritten depicts the settlement of Hobart on the Derwent River in Tasmania, below the impressive shape of Mount Wellington, circa 1856. A number of Hobart landmarks are also recognisable, including Constitution Dock, Victoria Dock, Cowgills windmill and St. Georges church. Convict Ann Norman would have faced a smaller settlement during her years as a convict during the 1830s and 1840s. ANMM Collection <a href="">00018553</a>.

This oil painting by Henry Gritten depicts the settlement of Hobart on the Derwent River in Tasmania, below the impressive shape of Mount Wellington, circa 1856. A number of Hobart landmarks are also recognisable, including Constitution Dock, Victoria Dock, Cowgills windmill and St. Georges church. Convict Ann Norman would have seen a similar view, though of a less developed settlement during her years as a convict, circa 1830-1845. ANMM Collection 00018553.

In this blog post ANMM intern Jonas Groom takes us on a personal journey through convict history via a new museum acquisition

Arriving in Van Diemen’s Land

Clambering up the ladder from her convict quarters, Ann Norman would have come  onto the deck of the transport ship Persian and embraced the warm rays of the sun, the fresh southern air and a vista of Hobart Town nestled under Mount Wellington. Ann’s thoughts about her new home may well have been cut short by the barking voice of Superintendent Patton, ordering the convicts ashore.

Ann’s vista of Hobart Town, crowded with convicts and their overseers and settlers, may have turned to the distance and the unforgiving Australian bush. Looking away from the small settlement, Ann would have seen the ships and harbour waters and beyond, to the great blue expanse that was the Southern Ocean. Possibly, like many convicts, clutching an engraved penny to her chest – a token of love – Ann may have felt the pangs of sorrow and heartache ripple through her, not knowing when or if she was ever going to see her beloved again…

The convict indent of Ann Norman is an exciting new acquisition for the Australian National Maritime Museum. The indent was an official government record kept by the Convict Department of Van Diemen’s land (later known as Tasmania). It is in effect a record of Ann’s life as seen through British authorities, from her sentencing at age twenty in 1826 to the final entry in 1841. This unique object presents a rare and tangible link to Tasmania’s convict past. Furthermore, Ann’s indent offers an intimate insight into the plight of convict women in the British Empire.

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BIG IS BETTER: ‘Ovation of the Seas’ comes to Australia.

No help needed. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

No help needed. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

Big is best,
Big wins
Big is like – OMG – gigantic
Big is beautiful!

Look what’s outside my hotel window in Hobart: Ovation of the Seasone of the biggest ocean cruise ships in the world. It’s here, you can’t miss it, it seems longer than the docks, wider than the widest sea, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound – anything goes in this department.

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HMB Endeavour: Sydney to Hobart Voyage, Day 3

IMG_3119 cropped

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

Reliving Tasmania’s maritime heritage on Endeavour

The museum’s replica of Captain Cook’s HMB Endeavour will soon set sail for Tasmania, exploring the state’s convict past and reliving an era of great maritime exploration in Australia. Endeavour‘s professional crew will be joined by passengers who have signed up either as voyage crew—living, eating and sleeping just as pioneering sailors did almost 250 years ago—or for a more leisurely voyage as a supernumerary. Continue reading

Deferred – In the footsteps of Cook, La Perouse and d’Entrecasteaux

Unfortunately, we’ve continued to have problems finalising the voyage to New Caledonia and reluctantly, we have decided to postpone it. It will occur but probably in April/May next year. In the meantime, we are negotiating with a variety of outside agencies and authorities to cement in the other elements of this year’s program.

It is likely that the ship will sail to Newcastle in September, taking an opportunity to see the coast as Cook did and to understand something of sciences of botany and astronomy. In October/November the ship will sail to Eden on the NSW south coast and participate in the Eden Whale Festival and in January/February next year Endeavour will sail to Hobart for the wooden boat festival. It is also hoped to visit Flinders Island, Maria Island, Port Arthur, Adventure Bay, Port Davey and possibly Macquarie Harbour. The intent is to learn something of the convict history of Tasmania, the hardships of operating square rigged ships in Bass Strait and of course, Cook’s voyage to that part of the world in Resolution.

As soon the details are settled, we will begin posting those voyages on our website.

John Dikkenberg

On the move with Indigenous watercraft – ANMM visits Vincentia NSW and Triabunna Tasmania

 In May 2012, the museum will host a two day conference called nawi- Exploring Australia’s Indigenous watercraft.  While planning for this event we have connected with many people across Australia who have provided some fantastic opportunities for outreach to the wider community.

Recently I visited two regions to give talks about the craft, show some of my own models and demonstrate materials, and discuss participation in the conference.

Yellow Stringy Bark Canoe

Yellow stringy bark canoe model. Approx 600mm long. Photo: David Payne

My first visit was in late August to the South Coast of NSW, at the invitation of teacher Jonathon Hall from Vincentia High School, where he teaches the local Dhurga language and other aspects of Indigenous culture. The school and Jervis Bay area have a strong Indigenous community and welcomed the chance to learn more. 

It was a long day! Starting at 8.15am with over 170 students involved. The students gathered around a 3.5 metre long tied bark canoe or nawi, and were surrounded by  models, bits of bark and drawings that were there to look at and touch as well. The presentation covered the diverse range of craft, how they were built and used, and how the museum is researching their story. The students eagerly asked questions, passed around the models and bark samples, and everyone wanted to touch the canoe.

The real highlight was the fact the canoe has now stayed at the school. The canoe was given to the school, to hold on behalf of the south coast communities, and will now be available for them to look at and perhaps even use. The canoe was built in Sydney in 2009 by NSW teacher James Dodd, and given to me earlier in 2011. Back in 2010 James and I launched the canoe on Sydney Harbour to the amazement of the early risers at the local Mosman park, and although it had some leaks, it worked very well for short paddles and poling along close to shore.

Meluka rolled bark canoe

Rolled bark canoe model, made from meluka. Approx 600mm long. Photo: David Payne

During my visit to the South Coast, I met with Ulladulla Land Council member and NSW State Forests Cultural Heritage Officer Paul Carriage to discuss plans for a workshop on the South Coast. The workshop would see elders meet over two or three days to build bark canoes, then take the skills they have learnt back to their communities and build more with the younger members.  The aim is to reinvigorate the community and bring back a missing tradition and vital part of their culture.

My next visit was to the Spring Bay Maritime and Discovery Centre in early September – with dolphins in the bay, a new canoe and a community celebrating its past. This was another excellent exchange between the museum and regional Australia.  The centre sits on the coast of Tasmanian in Triabunna, just north of Hobart, and the presence of Maria Island offshore is one of the dominant features. There is thought to have been almost 40,000 years of Indigenous occupation of sites on the island, which in more recent times was only accessible by water.  The rolled bark canoes that were used to cross over to the island are unique to Tasmania and were made by the local community from reeds and bark.

Maria Island and Spring Bay

Maria Island and Spring Bay. Photo: David Payne

The Spring Bay Centre has only recently opened, and ANMM assisted with advice on one of their exhibits featuring parts of an early wooden craft found in a riverbed, which probably came from the first decades of European settlement in the bay.  However, the centre realised that the true origins of local vessels were the Indigenous canoes. So, consultant and vice president Sue Atkinson formed a plan to build a canoe that would be the centerpiece for a display on the Indigenous community and their stories for Spring Bay and Maria Island.  Colony47 assisted with the project that saw Indigenous mentors working with younger community members to build a canoe from local materials. It was a huge success; they even took it to a field day further north and launched it in a lake where they paddled it around. The canoe is now housed inside the centre.

Canoe at Spring Bay Centre

Canoe at Spring Bay Maritime and Discovery Centre. Photo: David Payne

At the kind invitation of the centre, I officially opened the exhibit. I also made two presentations on the bigger picture of Indigenous watercraft to over 100 visitors A highlight was to show my model of a rolled bark canoe, made using melaluca bark. Watch out for more models being made by some of those present!

While in Tasmania, I also caught up with TMAG Indigenous Collections curator Tony Brown, and his brother Buck who was a mentor in the Spring Bay canoe building project. I’d first met Tony and Buck when building a canoe in 2009, so it was good to talk about how the craft had developed as they made more, and how they and others could contribute to the forthcoming conference with a presentation on their various projects, and even a demonstration of techniques.

What a great experience… Two visits, over two weeks, with two communities showing a wide appreciation of their own watercraft and where they fit in the big picture of Australia’s wonderful range of original Indigenous watercraft.

David Payne, Curator, Australian Register of Historic Vessels
Australian National Maritime Museum

For more information about the nawi conference, please visit our website. Call for conference papers, presentations and demonstrations now open, until 31 October.