1868 was a year of firsts in Australia — the first tsunami recorded in Sydney Harbour, the first recorded UFO sighting and the first tour of an Australian cricket team to England. But the arrival of the first royal visitor to Australia eclipsed all these and saw the Australian colonies become a heart-pounding, jostling competition of patriotism and devotion.
The devastating wreck of the Dunbar on Sydney’s South Head on the evening of 20 August 1857, 158 years ago, was a disaster so appalling that it left a lasting emotional scar on the emerging colony of New South Wales.
In the pitch-darkness of that stormy winter’s night, Dunbar – only moments from safety at the end of an 81-day voyage from Plymouth carrying immigrants and well-to-do colonists returning to Sydney – missed the entrance to Port Jackson and crashed into the sheer sandstone cliffs just south of the heads. The heavy seas quickly pounded the ship to pieces, and all but one of at least 122 souls on board perished.
As part of our National Science Week grant (funded by Inspiring Australia) we partnered with Google Australia to trial using hangouts to connect with schools. This is the first time in Australia that an external institution has been invited to use hangouts outside of the school system and, while there were some initial teething problems, the execution and experience that the students are having has been seamless, and fun! So far six schools from around Australia have dialled in to listen to our underwater adventurer in residence, Lloyd Godson, talk about the science of living under the sea (more about Lloyd’s work can be found here).
There are few frontiers left on earth where humans have not left their mark. From the highest mountains to the deepest oceans, humankind has always sought to conquer the most formidable of places. Australia has its fair share of courageous water explorers—from solo-sailors like Kay Cottee AO to long distance swimmers and intrepid adventurers. As part of National Science Week the Australian National Maritime Museum is excited to be hosting one such adventurer: scientist and explorer Lloyd Godson.
August 17 2015 is the 70th anniversary of Indonesia’s declaration of independence. The occupation of Indonesia by the Japanese during World War II had ended with the Japanese surrender on 15 August. A small group of nationalists swiftly chose the moment to proclaim independence.
The Dutch had controlled Indonesia for over 300 years before World War II and when the war ended, they wanted to return to their colony they called the Netherlands East Indies. They had fled to Australia at the advance of the Japanese in 1942 and established a government in exile. In 1945 the Dutch loaded ships with military arms and personnel and readied them to leave from Australian ports.
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.
There’s just something about lighthouses that inspires a good story. Those charming beacons, perched atop cliffs, wrapped in red and white stripes, beaming out into the wild and wonderful wide-open sea for all the ships to see.
It’s nearly International Lighthouse and Lightships weekend and to celebrate we have a day of family fun and a little bit of lighthouse inspired kids craft for you to enjoy.
Shadow puppets are a cinch to make and a whole lot of fun to use. The creative storytelling possibilities are endless. It may be a haunted lighthouse on a lonely hill, an old light keeper on a stormy night, a happy lightship on a merry adventure with his pelican friend or a timeworn tale of sandwich stealing seagulls.
A generation of a family known for their classic wooden boat building in Australia has now come to an end with the passing of Magnus Halvorsen late in July, a month short of his 97th birthday. He was born in Norway, but migrated to Australia (via South Africa) as a child in 1925 with his mother, four brothers and two sisters. His father, Lars Halvorsen had arrived here in 1924, and established a boat building business in Sydney.
Last week I started exploring the fascinating intersection between needlework, craft and maritime history in the museum’s collection, examining an embroidered sampler made by young British migrant Julia Donovan in 1879. Today I will be looking at the sampler’s first cousin – the sailor’s woolwork picture or embroidered ship portrait, affectionately known as a ‘woolie’.
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