Monsters of the deep: Tall tales of the high seas

St Brendan saying mass on the back of a sea monster, 1621. ANMM Collection 00019658.

St Brendan saying mass on the back of a sea monster, 1621. ANMM Collection 00019658.

Whilst Halloween slowly approaches, its pretence of horror and worn out ghoulish clichés appear again. Pumpkins and cobwebs adorn houses and plastic skeletons dance limply off front fences. No doubt witches and vampires have their earned their scary credentials but the forced spookiness of the season only makes it feel like a poor cousin to where real horror exists. Offshore.

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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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On the whale trail: Voyage to Eden concludes


A humpback whale breaches near Endeavour. Image: Paula Tinney.

A humpback whale breaches near Endeavour. Image: Paula Tinney.

Distance under sail from 1830 Thursday until our arrival in Eden on Friday: 39 nautical miles

We’ve plenty to report since our last blog post from HMB Endeavour. Before the sun set on our last night at sea, three humpback whales were sighted off the port side.

One humpback rolled from side to side, slapping its pectoral fins against the water. Another breached and the cook’s mate, Paula, captured the photo below. We were under sail at the time, about three miles off Merimbula Point, and seeing the whales breach was a magical experience.

When mizzenmast watch came on deck at 0400 the following morning ready for our turn at helm and lookout, the bow wave and the disturbed water along the sides of the ship were glowing with bioluminescence. It’s hard to imagine until you have seen it: sometimes the glow is quite diffuse and soft, but at other times the bioluminescence is in the form of innumerable pinpricks of light that appear on the crests of waves and in any disturbed water.

Endeavour sails into Twofold Bay. Image: Eden Magnet.

Endeavour sails into Twofold Bay. Image: Eden Magnet.

The ship soon sailed into a school of fish, which were easily visible beneath the surface thanks to the glow of the bioluminescence. A pod of dolphins joined us, streaking brightly through the water as they hunted.

I went up to the foredeck to join the lookouts there for a short time and watched the dolphins playing in the ship’s bow wave, their bodies fringed with light as they twisted and turned through the water.

It was a wonderful end to our last night on board for the Sydney to Eden voyage. As the sun rose, the bioluminescence faded and it was not long before we were preparing to head into Twofold Bay.

The local newspaper, Eden Magnet, tweeted the photo above of Endeavour coming through the heads of the bay. There are more photos in an online gallery here.

Once inside the bay, it was all hands on deck to bring in sail, fire the cannons and then come alongside the wharf in Snug Cove. After going aloft to furl sails and check out the view across Eden and Twofold Bay, the voyage crew and supernumeraries went ashore to the opening ceremony of the Eden Whale Festival.

IMG_2532 sm

Endeavour enters Twofold Bay. Image: EAP.

I was sorry to say goodbye to the voyage crew. Geoff Ross’s presence on board for the voyage made us all very attuned to the wildlife around us. Geoff has left a logbook with us that we’ll use to keep records of wildlife that we see – particularly whales, dolphins and seabirds. We will be able to record our whale sightings with the Wild about Whales app and thereby help to contribute data about whale numbers and habits off the east coast.

This morning, we woke to a sunny day and the Whale Festival was soon in full swing. Unfortunately the weather has turned this afternoon with strong winds and rain, but it is warm and dry below decks so Endeavour is a good place to be!

We will remain in Eden for the rest of the weekend and visitors are most welcome on board between 10am and 5pm (last entry 4.30pm). There are more details here.

On Monday, Endeavour will leave Eden for the return trip to Sydney. We’re still within the whale migration season so I hope we’ll see many more cetaceans on the way!

All’s well.

– Suzannah Marshall Macbeth

View of Eden from aloft on Endeavour. Image: SMM.

View of Eden from aloft on Endeavour. Image: SMM.


On the whale trail: Voyage to Eden day 4

Thursday 30 October 2014, 1830 hours

Distance under sail since 1800 yesterday: 31.5 nautical miles

Distance under engine since 1800 yesterday: 31.4 nautical miles

It’s Day 4 of the HMB Endeavour replica’s voyage from Sydney to Eden, and the morning was almost entirely taken up with watching wildlife!

The sightings began at 0930 this morning when a blow was seen off the starboard bow. At first the ‘bushy’ nature of the blow suggested a humpback, but a subsequent blow was at an angle, suggesting another type of whale altogether. Whale spouts vary between species and provide one means of species identification.

Albatross and shearwater from onboard Endeavour. Credit Suzannah Marshall Macbeth

Albatross and shearwater seen from onboard Endeavour. Image SMM.

Our onboard whale expert Geoff Ross then spotted three spouts simultaneously – two large and one small. The whales seemed to be hanging around at the water’s surface for some time and Geoff soon identified them as sperm whales – two adults and a juvenile. As we approached they abruptly sounded – no doubt diving deep into the two kilometres of water under our keel in search of a meal of giant squid.

It sounds like a seafarer’s myth but Geoff assured us that it is true: sperm whales really do dive to depths of up to 3000m in search of giant squid – finding their prey not by sight but, in the darkest reaches of the ocean, using sound. The squid are large enough to fight back, armed with a beak like a parrot and tentacles with suckers that leave large scars on the sperm whale’s hide.

After the sperm whales left us it wasn’t long until we saw dolphins – a pod of at least eight animals passed us half a kilometre away, travelling north as we headed south. Then, in quick succession we saw sunfish (the fin of which was at first confused with a shark), two seals and pygmy sperm whale.

Calm day at sea. Credit Eden Alley-Porter.

Calm day at sea. Credit Eden Alley-Porter.

Around all of these mammals soared the albatross. At first they glided with us for a few minutes, perhaps two or three at any one time, before abruptly disappearing. As the wind dropped almost completely, they began to settle in the water, conserving energy. Geoff told us that a becalmed albatross is very easy to catch, as they are unable to get out of the water and into flight without some wind to give them a lift.

At one stage nine albatross drifted in a group off the starboard bow, binoculars revealing their dark backs and strong beaks. These albatross were black-browed albatross and over the course of the morning we also identified a yellow-nosed albatross.

Floating on the surface of the water at some distance, occasionally disappearing behind a swell, the albatross do not look huge. But once in the air and soaring past us, their size is impressive – and these are not the world’s largest albatross by any means. The most common albatross in this area, the black-browed, has a wingspan of 2.4m. With their large bodies, distinct black, grey and white markings and smooth gliding flight, they are an impressive bird.

While we’ve been kept busy with wildlife this morning and with sail handling this afternoon, the night watches last night were lovely as well. For most of the night, we had a great sail in light airs with four square sails (spritsail, two topsails and the forecourse) and five fore-and-aft sails set. It was a dark night to begin with but the cloud cover cleared shortly before midnight, and without much moon the stars were bright indeed.

Crew working aloft preparing to set sail. Image EAP

Crew working aloft preparing to set sail. Image EAP

One member of mizzenmast watch, Brian, who lives in Eden, said that he loves the night sailing most of all. He’s not a sailor at all – he’s here to experience sailing as Cook might have done. He says that at night, under sail on a calm sea with very few lights on the horizon, it feels that much closer to times long past. On a four hour night watch – which can feel very long indeed when it’s cold and everyone is short on sleep – one’s imagination really can wander.

As day 4 draws to a close, we have just worn ship 1.6 nautical miles off Merimbula Point and are sailing at about four knots. We will be off Twofold Bay around 0930 tomorrow morning, hopefully under sail (wind depending). We expect to go alongside in Snug Cove at 1100 in time for the opening of the Eden Whale Festival.

Endeavour will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday in Eden and we hope to see you there!

All’s well.

– Suzannah Marshall Macbeth

On the whale trail: Voyage to Eden day 2-3

Wednesday 29 October 2014, 1800 hours

Distance under sail since midday yesterday: 25 nautical miles
Distance under engines since midday yesterday: 92 nautical miles

It’s been a very busy 30 hours since our last blog post! At the time of writing we are six miles off Snapper Point, south of Jervis Bay. We’ve passed parts of the coast of particular resonance to HMB Endeavour, have set sails, have covered 117 miles, have seen whales and have held a memorial service for one of Endeavour‘s past engineers who passed away recently.

Tribute to Wally Mounster. Image: Paula Tinney

Tribute to Wally Mounster. Image: Paula Tinney

Tribute to an engineer

Wally Mounster passed away on 22 October 2014. Wally was engineer on Endeavour during her world voyages and continued to be involved with the ship until recently. He was known among Australia’s tall ship fraternity as a much-loved shipmate and mentor to many other tall ship sailors and engineers.

Many of Endeavour‘s current professional crew have fond memories of sailing with him. Wally sailed on many of Australia’s tall ships – Endeavour, Enterprize, Duyfken and Leeuwin to name just a few.

Wally’s funeral was held at 3pm today in Hobart, so we held a memorial service to coincide with the funeral. Our third mate Penny, gave a tribute to Wally before the ship’s cannon was fired and as the smoke cleared across the waves with the distant land hazy in the background, I heard someone who knew Wally say, ‘he would have liked that.’

Wildlife sightings

Our first whale sighting for the voyage came at 1015 this morning – unfortunately right in the middle of a man overboard drill, meaning most of the crew didn’t see the whale!

Luckily, four more whales were sighted before midday. Geoff Ross was able to easily identify the whales as humpbacks by their pectoral fins and breaching behaviour. A sixth whale was sighted at 1600 – possibly a Sei or Minke whale, but it didn’t surface enough for Geoff to positively identify it.

Geoff has now started a whale log, which will be kept next to the helm so that anyone on board can log their sightings of whales during the voyage.

Since leaving Sydney Harbour, we’ve seen big numbers of short-tailed shearwaters (commonly known as muttonbirds) – sometimes gliding by, but often bobbing in the water near the ship, looking at us inquisitively or with heads down watching for fish beneath them.

Today, three albatross have been sighted – two black-browed albatross and one yellow-nosed albatross. Unfortunately no one has been quick enough with a camera to get a shot of any of our sightings so far, but hopefully there will be plenty more opportunities so stay tuned.

Sailing south from Sydney past Botany Bay

One of the interesting parts of the last day and a half has been sailing along the coastline south of Sydney – passing Botany Bay, which was the first place where crew of the original Endeavour landed on the Australian coastline.

We passed Botany Bay around 1700 hours yesterday evening. (Unlike the original Endeavour we were taking full advantage of our engines at this point, as the wind had shifted and after 1630 yesterday we were no longer able to hold a southerly course under sail.)

Looking westwards towards the entrance to Botany Bay.  Image: EAP

Looking westwards towards the entrance to Botany Bay. Image: EAP

I think I had always pictured Botany Bay as a place unchanged by human settlement and existing much as it was when Endeavour visited in 1770. Of course, this imagined place is long gone and Botany is now one of Australia’s largest commercial shipping ports. From our passage a few miles offshore we could see the rows of cranes that line the Port of Botany silhouetted against the afternoon sky.

The north head of Botany Bay is named Cape Banks and the southern head Cape Solander. This voyage we have supernumerary crew occupying the cabins that would have been occupied by the botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander on the original vessel.

Joseph Banks is of course well known for his role in funding Cook’s voyage to the Pacific on Endeavour and for the flora and fauna specimens he collected in the South Pacific and along the east coast of Australia.

Daniel Solander was a Swedish naturalist who had studied under the famous botanist Linnaeus. He became a tutor and friend to Joseph Banks, who at 24 was 11 years Solander’s junior. This friendship led to Solander’s role in Cook’s voyage to the South Pacific and Australia.

All’s well.

Suzannah Marshall Macbeth

Hauling on the main course brace: Setting sail as we begin our journey south. Image: EAP



On the whale trail: Voyage to Eden day 1

Tuesday 28 October 2014 1300

The HMB Endeavour replica is heading back to sea! This time, we’re sailing south from Sydney to Eden, near the Victorian border, where we’ll join the festivities as part of Eden’s Whale Festival this coming weekend.

Voyage crew joined the ship in Darling Harbour yesterday morning. Almost all members of our three watches – including four supernumeraries – climbed the rigging to get their first taste of going aloft on Endeavour. With a strong southerly forecasted we stayed in Darling Harbour overnight to wait for the weather to pass.

Voyage crew go aloft for the first time on Endeavour. Image: Eden Alley-Porter.

Voyage crew go aloft for the first time on Endeavour. Image: Eden Alley-Porter.

At the end of a hot, humid and very busy day, voyage crew, supernumeraries and professional crew gathered on the quarterdeck to hear Geoff Ross, voyage crew member and whale expert from the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, talk to us about whales that we might see on our way to Eden.

It was quite a contrast: we gathered on the aft deck of an 18th century sailing vessel surrounded by Sydney’s skyscrapers as the sky lit up with a beautiful sunset – and we learnt about whales.

Geoff told us about about the whale species that frequent the Australia’s east coast as they travel to and from the Antarctica and about the decline of populations due to whaling in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Whale expert Geoff Ross shares his knowledge with the crew. Image: EAP.

Whale expert Geoff Ross shares his knowledge with the crew. Image: EAP.

Despite having heard about the huge size of blue whales many times before, it was only when Geoff compared the length of a blue whale (25-30m on average) with that of Endeavour (33.3m on deck) that I really grasped for the first time just how immense blue whales are. According to Geoff, the aorta of a blue whale is so large that an adult could stand up inside it. Despite their impressive size and weight, blue whales remain endangered and are not often seen off our coastline.

We have only scratched the surface of Geoff’s knowledge and he will be sharing much more with us over the next few days.

As we head out of Sydney’s heads and turn south towards Eden, our voyage crew will be working hard on deck and in the rigging, but there’ll always be at least one lookout with their gaze turned seaward, keeping an eye out for those elusive whales.

All’s well.

– Suzannah Marshall Macbeth

Looking back at Sydney Harbour Bridge as we begin our voyage to Eden. Image: SMM.

Looking back at Sydney Harbour Bridge as we begin our voyage to Eden. Image: SMM.

Geoffrey Ross is wild about whales

We recently announced that HMB Endeavour will have a very special guest on board when she sails from Sydney to Eden on 27–31 October.

Whale expert, Geoffrey Ross, from New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, will be joining the HMB Endeavour crew on the special whale-themed voyage. We sat with Geoff to find out what he was most looking forward to on this very special, one-off trip.

Whale expert Geoff Ross

Whale expert Geoff Ross. Credit: New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service.

What you are most looking forward to on your voyage?

I am looking forward to seeing whales and other marine life in its true place and to work with our on-board ‘students of nature’ and crew alike to learn more about these spectacular animals.  

Like Banks and Solander before their epic trip, I too am looking forward to a voyage of discovery sailing on one of the most distinguished and best known sailing ships in the world. [I’d like] to see pods of whales as described by Joseph Banks in his journals and to record their presence in our logs and pass this information onto other scientists and the community.

How do you conduct the whale count and how important is it to conservation?

On the voyage we will be keeping watch for the blows of whales, we will record what species we see, where they are seen, their abundance and their behaviour. We’ll be keeping a special lookout for Sperm Whales and other large whale species.  

We still know very little about what species occur off our shores and in what numbers. This voyage will help us get some understanding of the occurrence of whale species in State and Commonwealth waters off NSW, and provide us with the opportunity to describe their presence and behaviour to the public in real time using our Australian National Maritime Museum and Wild about Whales websites.

At the end of the voyage we will collate the data and send the sightings to the Australian Antarctic Division for inclusion into their national database.

How many species of whales would you expect to see on the voyage?

That’s part of the fascination. Everything we see will be exciting. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working with cetaceans or how close you’ve been to them or how commonly you have seen them, it’s always exciting. You never know, you may see a Blue Whale, the largest creature ever to be seen on this planet, or you might observe dolphins playing in the ship’s wake; whatever we see will be interesting.  

Of the large whales, I’d predict that we’ll see Humpback Whales, which are currently making their way toward the Great Southern Ocean, Minke Whales, maybe a Broodes or Sei whale… perhaps even Orca. Anything’s possible on a voyage such as this!

Humpback whale near Eden

Humpback whale near Eden. Credit: Eden Whale Festival

We still have spots left on the Sydney to Eden voyage as well as the return Eden to Sydney Voyage (3–7 November). You can also join the fun at the Eden Whale Festival (1–2 November) where HMB Endeavour will be a major attraction. No previous sailing experience is needed as you’ll receive hands-on training on how to sail the 44-metre ship.

Voyage crew will be assigned duties and learn how to set and take in sail, steer the ship, keep watch and climb aloft—all under the guidance of the Master and his professional crew of 16. For more information or to book your place, go to Endeavour Voyages.

To learn more about the whale migration, visit Wild About Whales.

HMB Endeavour returning to Sydney after a voyage.

HMB Endeavour returning to Sydney after a voyage. Credit John Vaughan.


Vivid at the Australian National Maritime Museum

In the lead up the the big launch for Vivid 2014 the team have been testing lights, projections and audio systems, getting ready for Friday the 23rd May and beyond. The Australian National Maritime Museum will start its three week programme of live music, spectacular roof projections and lights. Here is a sneak peek of whats to come…

Enjoy the organic pallet seating in our underwater wonderland.

Enjoy the organic pallet seating in our underwater wonderland.

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5 little krill and the hungry whale: How to make a finger puppet play

5 little Krill just swimming in a swarm

Along came a hungry whale (gulp, gulp, gulp) and then there were 4……


This month’s craft blog takes inspiration from our temporary exhibition’s Beautiful Whale and Amazing Whales as we share one of our resources created for toddlers to enjoy as part of our Mini Mariners Wonderful Whales program- a finger puppet play for 5 little Krill and the hungry whale. Continue reading

Lights, Projection, Action!

'Aquatic Nights' teaser! Come watch the museum's rooftops transform into an underwater wonderland from 23 May - 9 June 2014

‘Aquatic Nights’ teaser! Come watch the museum’s rooftops transform into an underwater wonderland from 23 May – 9 June 2014

Vivid Sydney will be on our doorstep sooner than we can say ‘We love Whales!’ This year, the museum’s Vivid team have been working to create ‘Aquatic Nights’, a celebration of lights and performances to craft an experience people everywhere will remember. Recently, for a brief moment, you might have seen on our lighthouse light up; it was a taste of what’s to come, as our lovely precinct will be transformed into a wonderland of oceanic colours from 23 May to 9 June 2014. Continue reading

Meet Migaloo, our Wild! Rhino

The museum's painted Rhino, Migaloo. Painted by artist Alejandra Diaz, it celebrates the famous all-white humpback whale, one of only two in the world.

The museum’s painted Rhino, Migaloo. Painted by artist Alejandra Diaz, it celebrates the famous all-white humpback whale, one of only two in the world.

This Sunday 2 February 2014, you might notice something rather unexpected standing on Pyrmont Bridge. Migaloo is one of 125 painted rhino sculptures that will form a sculpture trail across Sydney from February to April to help raise awareness and funds for Taronga’s world leading Black Rhino breeding program. Painted by artist Alejandra Diaz, the museum’s rhino depicts Australia’s famous white humpback whale, one of only two ever sighted.

Named after an Indigenous Australian word meaning ‘white fella’, Migaloo is regularly sighted migrating up Australia’s east coast from Antarctica to the waters of Tropical North Queensland. The inspiration for Migaloo the Wild! Rhino came from two exciting upcoming exhibitions here at the museum – Amazing whales – Evolution and survival (from 20 March 2014) and Beautiful Whale – Photographs by Bryant Austin (from 11 April 2014).

The museum is proud to sponsor this exciting program supporting Taronga’s Black Rhino breeding program and other wildlife conservation projects.

Download the Wild!Rhinos App to learn the whereabouts of all 125 Wild! Rhinos.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram and share your photo with Migaloo the Wild! Rhino using the hashtag #whaleseason

Jackson Pellow

Voyage Log: Port Macquarie – Newcastle Day 6

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Noon position Lat 33°35.94’S Long 151°14.18’E
Broken Bay, at anchor off Hallet’s Beach
Day’s run  

The smell of mouth-watering steak sandwiches has been wafting up to the deck, and those in the 2nd sitting of lunch look forward to going down to the galley. At 1230 a trumpet sounds and starts blowing different tunes – it looks to be a music filled sods opera tomorrow night. The 2nd sitting of lunch is called down, and as they take their seats – plates laden – an announcement comes over the PA declaring a whale sighting. The diners look at one another, “Hmm… whales? Or steak sandwich?” No one opts for the whales! Matt the boatswain’s mate sets a lunchtime record, seconds, thirds, fourths! Four massive steak sandwiches, written on the menu as “Chippy’s Store Flame Grilled Steaks” in homage to the morning’s fire drill – which was hypothetically caused by Matt in the chippy’s store. All downed before the first end-of-lunch warning. Abi – the catering officer – gives him a knowing smile and nod as he takes his fourth helping.

As they finish lunch one of the voyage crew asks “what are we going to do now?” Someone mentions sods night and that they should prepare, but the first replies “I would love to hitch my hammock!” But they know there’s not much hope of that. For the rest of the afternoon any voyage crew with some idle time work on their sods ideas and routines. It is raining properly now and all on deck are in their wet weather gear. At 1300 we hand the main course followed by the fore course at 1400, handing the sails in preparation for our entrance into Broken Bay to anchor. At 1420 there are many sea buckets being handled on deck – but seem to be tossed back over the side; the biodegradable refuse (the “slops”) have been thrown over the side – and much has been left on the ship’s hull, the sea buckets are being used to wash it off.

At 1430 Captain Ross announces we will be entering Broken Bay – last opportunity for showers! And there is a mad dash of voyage crew down below – who had obviously forgotten that there is close control of the grey water tanks while we are close to shore or in port. We wear ship for our final approach into Broken Bay. At 1450 there is another whale sighting, a pair very close by. At 1500 hours the supernumeraries – the voyage crew housed in the gentleman’s quarters on the after-fall deck near the captain’s cabin – are treated to afternoon tea with the captain in the great cabin. The main engines are started and both the fore and main topsails are handed. All hands are employed to furl sails as we enter Broken Bay at 1640 hours, many voyage crew aloft – out on the yards – as we come in. At 1720 we lay anchor off Hallet’s Beach, amongst pristine national park bushland. For dinner Abi and Darbey, the cook’s mate, serve creamy mushroom pasta, with sumptuous honey-glazed sweet potato, pork fillets, and for desert bananas cooked in rum and brown sugar – to die for. The captain scampers in while the second sitting finishes, looking sheepish and humble as he looks at Abi with the best puppy-dog eyes he can muster – and is granted a plate of food.

At 1800 hours, with two and a half shackles of anchor cable out, there is 3.2 metres of depth under the keel. And it’s movie night! The captain, with assistance from the crew, sets up a screen on the weather deck, and projects incredible footage of Bark Endeavour ripping along under full sail, and rolling like anyone aboard knows she can, then plays a movie of a massive 7-storey high tallship sailing the wrong way around the horn. Everyone thoroughly enjoys the respite, the popcorn, and the chocolate. Afterwards there is a full night’s sleep for the crew (except for some brief anchor watches), and a sleep in, with brunch served at 1000 hours. At 1030, just as the crew prepares for a visit ashore for some more R&R, a nearby boat and sightseer fouls up our anchor buoy, very embarrassing for the boat’s helmsman. Ant the sailing master and boatswain, and Tom the mainmast topman, jump in the fizz boat and go out and untangle the cable from the propeller, luckily done without entering the water (just – Ant was almost down to his underwear to jump in and sort it out).

At about 1100 hours the first shore party is away, landing on the nearby beach, and the fizz boat begins ferrying back and fourth with boatloads of five voyage crew at a time. It is overcast but the rain seems to have abated, and it’s lovely to see the ship from the shore in this unspoilt, natural setting.

All is well.

Contributed by the ship’s steward Mischa Chaleyer-Kynaston

Voyage Log: Coffs Harbour – Port Macquarie day 6

Tuesday, 23rd September 2008

Noon position: Lat 31°36.6´S Long 153°04.8´E
Day’s run: 65 nm

A quick rearranged lunch and the crew is ready to attempt the bar crossing into Port Macquarie. There’s a 1.5 metre swell and winds around 20 knots, several yachts form a welcoming party to greet Bark Endeavour. The ship bounds in the swell, from bow to stern, some exhilarating bow waves showering those lucky enough to be working on the foredeck – preparing lines or laying out anchor cable. The winds strengthen and the ship goes a little south of the channel, kissing the sandbar softly. At 1320 life jackets are brought up, one for every crew member – 56 bright orange vests – required for the bar crossing.

The winds are up, between 25 and 30 knots, and Endeavour is bouncing near the mouth of the river with trepidation. A few moments pass, the last preparations are made with the berthing lines at the ready, and everyone waits on deck with baited breath. At 1335 the mates collect the life jackets, Ross, the captain, has decided to call off the entry. We are not going in today. He calls an immediate meeting with the voyage crew to explain the decision. The swell is ok for crossing the bar, but the winds are too strong for berthing the ship. Our entry is very much dependent on the tide, and today the tidal window has been blocked by high winds.


1400 hours and numerous people can be seen on the 18th-century mess deck with mobile phones out. Ally, the foremast topman and an experienced tallship sailor, says he’s “never seen so many phones on an 18th-century tallship!” But with the attempted bar crossing averted, and the possibility of a few more days at sea, there are travel plans to be renegotiated. At 1415 Ross calls the voyage crew down to the galley for a talk about weather forecasting and synoptic patterns, something he has been promising to do for a few days. Afterwards the voyage crew have a thorough understanding of the weather front behind us and why there are gale force winds on shore.

To end the weather briefing there is a call over the PA: “Whales breaching of the port bow!” Within moments Ross has lost his audience: “that’s one way to end a meeting !” After a moment of whale watching, Ben, the second mate comes over the PA: “Ah, now that you’re all on deck…” the voyage crew know what’s coming, “let’s have watches aloft to reef sails!” And everyone is hard at work again, Bark Endeavour needs to get out to sea before the weather front stirs up the coast. At 1515 whales are spotted again, crew aloft have a spectacular view. The sail handling continues for the next two hours, it’s a bit of a shock for the voyage crew after being within sight of land and in reach of relaxation.

For dinner there is sumptuous fish cooked with love by Abi and Darbey, it’s delicious, and an enormous comfort to the worn out crew. Everyone is a little giddy and hyperactive, people are joking and being silly with each other, as we head back out to sea together for who knows how long. Following dinner it is an absolutely stunning night on deck, pitch black interrupted by bolts of lightning, travelling every which way through the clouds on the horizon. Occasional dull thunder rumbles and rolls overhead, but the worst of the storm seems to be clinging to the coastline behind us and there is little rain to speak of.

At 1900 the wind is boxing the compass (going round and round without settling or maintaining turn to it’s direction). At 2000 we wear ship and set a new course north-west. By midnight the lightning squall has diminished and the wind is almost non-existent. At 0200 hours the winds increase to force 3 and are blowing northerly, at 0415 we wear ship again. The really troublesome thunderstorm activity expected to develop hasn’t arrived yet. At 0800 we wear ship. At the morning meeting Ross announces that we will be trying to cross the bar into Port Macquarie again. Will it be a groundhog day? It’s uncertain, conditions appear to be favourable, but no one can be sure whether the expected storm activity will blow in proper.

At 0945 all hands are called on deck, watches head aloft with surprising vigour to furl, their topman and yardies have kept them in good working order despite the to-ing and fro-ing of the ship’s schedule. The motors go on and we power back towards Port Macquarie with our “fingers and toes crossed”, as the captain puts it. At 1100 hours dolphins come alongside and say hello to the ship which doesn’t know if it’s coming or going. A good omen for the voyage crew perhaps? Happy hour says otherwise, cleaning stations! Suddenly the crew are not so vigourous.

After a fairly lazy but nonetheless thorough happy hour it’s lunchtime, then preparations are made for going to shore. After midday we come up to the bar, the swell is light, and the winds die down as if preparing for us. The skipper jumps aboard a local rescue boat and does a quick reccie of the entrance. All appears well, Ross announces that we will be going in!

Everyone reports to their muster stations and don life jackets efficiently after their practice the day before. The Port Macquarie breakwater is lined with a massive crowd of locals come to greet Endeavour and her crew. There is much waving and cheering, and invitations to the local tavern thrown across the water. Bark Endeavour is a 400 tonne ship, and she is in a narrow channel, the final manoeuvre to berth her is done slowly and carefully with the assistance of Port Macquarie Volunteer Sea Rescue. Once berthed securely the crew go about the final ceremonies of disembarkation. The captain dishes out the wages (a drop of rum for each crew member), and hands out track charts and certificates. Afterwards everyone packs their luggage, then are called up on deck – where the rains have finally arrived – for a last bit of heavy work. The rescue boat is heaved ashore and the gangway and shore staging are constructed.


Farewells are made, there are many handshakes and pats on the back, and a voyage crew member speaks of his envy of the professional crew who are to keep sailing Bark Endeavour – “enjoy it” he says, “before you have a spouse and six kids.”

Thank you, I wish you fair winds and farewell.

All is well.

Contributed by ship’s steward Mischa Chaleyer-Kynaston

Voyage Log: Coffs Harbour – Port Macquarie day 4

Sunday, 21st September 2008

Noon position: Lat 31°19.9’S Long 154°03.5’E
Day’s run: 82.8nm

After lunch and it is a glary day on deck, the clouds have been scorched away and we are sailing into an infinite grey haze. The sky is a strange purple and cobalt, with the grey reaching up from the horizon in a long gradient. There’s a moderate north-easterly swell and Endeavour is sailing easy, west-south-west back towards land. At 1400 hours the captain, Ross, continues his talk about sailing, people clamber up from different parts of the ship – having been there for the first instalment they don’t want to miss the conclusion.

Afternoon smoko sees a birthday celebration for one of the voyage crew, Abi and Darbey in the galley have baked him a cake! Everyone on board gets a slice. The seasickness is beginning to abate, with some who have rested for most of the day coming up to the deck for fresh air – lifting their confidence; however a handful are still afflicted. At 1630 hours Ally and foremast watch head up the mainmast to put a second reef in the main topsail.

1900 hours and the lookouts see occasional lightning to the south, at 2000 it is closer, coming up to midnight and the sea and sky are alight. Mizzenmast watch under Tegan and Amy are on duty and are joined by the idlers (the professional crew who are not part of the regular watch rotation), we clew the courses in smart fashion to keep Endeavour under control in the storm. Tegan remarks about a bolt of lightning and a roar of thunder unlike any she’s ever seen or heard – earth shattering in magnitude. The bow and aft lookouts both have a similar experience of some voltage: the bow lookout feels a shock in his elbow a moment before a lightning strike directly ahead about 2 miles off, and the aft lookout describes a sensation similar to touching an electric fence – a mild shock giving a thud to the heart. As well as the lightning there is beautiful phosphorescence moving in the wash of the ship.

Between midnight and 0100 hours, the storm spins the ship in a pirouette and knocks her around a little, and she is braced for a port tack. At 0300 hours the main topmast staysail is set. At 0500 hours, wearing ship is finished in very light conditions. It is a beautiful, clear, calm morning, with the ship all but becalmed. At 0700 hours the sextants are on deck, both the captain and chief officer, Toby, taking readings to get our position 18th-century style. And the recovery from seasickness is evident by a large turnout to brekkie.

At 0800 hours, whales are spotted to starboard, at first the crew suspect a ruse by the chief officer to get everyone on deck quickly, but then the whales are seen: five are counted all up, swimming and surfacing together. At 0830 an albatross joins the ship, circling from afar but keeping her company. As the morning carries on, the stories of the night’s storm are getting bigger and bigger: “It was a force 5 hurricane!” “We had to nail the captain’s feet to the deck!”

It’s a glorious day for sail handling, working aloft, and on deck. At 0930 the fore and main topsails are set with single reefs, then the main topgallant, the spritsail, followed at 1000 by the mizzen topsail and fore topgallant. Wally, our engineer, is “hunky dory” doing some painting.

1130 hours sees all of mainmast watch on deck peeling potatoes, the task doesn’t usually inspire the enthusiasm of such numbers, but they have turned it into a competition between themselves (with the greater purpose of increasing their competitive nature with the other watches). There are two competitions running, the first is who can peel the most spuds, and the more conclusive and glamorous is the competition for the longest intact piece of peel.


All is well.

Contributed by ship’s steward Mischa Chaleyer-Kynaston

Voyage Log: Brisbane-Coffs Harbour day 7

10th September 2008 – Wednesday
Noon position Lat 30°18.4’S Long 153°08.8’E
Day’s run: 103nm

Coming into the afternoon sees all the ship’s company busy on deck, with much furling to be done. Voyagers scramble over one another – could be the last opportunity to get out on a yard and handle some sail. But it becomes clear that there is plenty to go around, with all the courses and topsails to furl, and they return to deck very pleased and satisfied with themselves – having put their full effort in. One of the upperyardies calls to their topman: “Oi! Can you take a look at this furl?” The topman comes along and stares for a moment from below, the yardie reconsiders: “Ay don’t look too hard!”
Whales are seen breaching in different positions around the ship, one breaches, then about five minutes later it comes up again. Everyone is still vying for the bottle of rum put up by the skipper, and they try to get a handle on the timing so that their camera is in the right spot. I (Mischa, the ship’s steward) get a shot with the portside anchor and some ropes in the foreground, the stipulated requirement of some Bark Endeavour, there is some umming and ahhing, but it is official, a bottle of rum for me! Suddenly I find myself a lot more popular with my shipmates, many reminders: “just remember who your friends are!”
While the whales are still around, an enormous pod of dolphins also appear alongside, with a spare moment aloft Tegan the mizzen topman counts over 50. There are numerous infants among them, and they are leaping and somersaulting all round, Abi the catering officer gets clucky – they are undeniably cute. The dolphins stay alongside for about an hour, and whales are around for most of the afternoon – giving others the opportunity to catch a competing photo. Meanwhile the ship motors on with only the staysails up to keep her as stable as possible, but it is a rolly night like those the crew have become accustomed to.

After nightfall we are treated to a moonlight cinema under the stars, a projector is setup on the waist onto a piece of canvas, and we watch some footage of Bark Endeavour moving under full sail in ideal conditions, followed by some incredible footage of a huge square-rigger going the wrong way around The Horn. Everyone is in awe of the days when seaman shimmied down the edge of sails from the tops of masts 17 storeys high.

At 0300 hours, not to be outdone by his shipmates, one of the voyagers from mizzenmast watch takes a proper tumble from his hammock, settling any arguments about the best battle damage achieved on the voyage. Navigator Dirk, also the designated medical officer, attends to him and he spends the rest of the night in the pleasant company of the mainmast watch’s topman and yardie, Tom and Amanda, who keep him chatting. Ross, our captain, brings the ship into Coffs’ outer harbour and we anchor at about 1015. We launch our rescue boat and our injured voyager, still cheerful as the day he boarded, gets a VIP ride into shore, taken by Amy the mizzenmast upperyardie, for some medical attention on shore.

It’s a quiet morning at anchorage, the day perfect and clear with a cool breeze blowing and a light swell. The watches get together in groups and start planning their acts for the Sods Opera and 18th-century mess dinner to be held tonight – all are looking forward to it.

All is well.