As I was examining the letters, journals, photographs and reports of Oskar Speck, as though they were parts of a giant jigsaw puzzle, I started piecing together the life and the incredible voyage of this intrepid German, who spent seven years and four months paddling a collapsible kayak from his native town of Altona in Hamburg all the way to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait.
It is so often the way that in the name of progress, much of what once was is now lost. So it was with great fortune that in 1988 Australian National Maritime Museum staff were able to work together with developers to salvage part of Sydney’s rich maritime history. As part of a renovation of the Orient Line Building in Sydney, the interiors were to be gutted and the fixtures and decorations removed. These included maritime themed murals, glass panels and floor mosaics. The glass panels designed by Lynton Lamb, 20 in all, were carefully extracted and taken to the museum.
Hōkūleʻa is a traditional voyaging canoe carrying with it a rich traditional culture from a point where it had almost been lost. Now, as it sails across the Tasman Sea to Australia, where it will berth at the Australian National Maritime Museum from 18 May, it is testing itself and building new strength by taking its crew and their culture into waters it has not travelled before.
Down in Antarctica there are penguins, bergs and impasto blue skies; ice white shores, swirling winds and wondrous wilderness. This month we’ve been inspired by the sublime land and seascapes of the polar South in our beautiful Painting for Antarctica exhibition—works by Wendy Sharpe and Bernard Ollis—to create some painted polar pillow crafts of our very own.
Last week was the 245th anniversary of the arrival of Captain James Cook and HMB Endeavour at Botany Bay, just south of Sydney. Cook and his crew spent 8 days here from 29 April 1770, their first landfall on the Australian coast.
The moment of Cook’s landing took on a great consequence for Australians ever since. For non-Indigenous Australians, from the 1820s Cook was seen as a far better set of origins than Captain Phillip and his boatloads of convicts in the First Fleet. Indeed it was Cook’s landing at Kurnell on the southern headland of Botany Bay that was the preferred moment of commemoration right through the 19th and well into the 20th century.
Between 17 and 25 April, I travelled to Turkey to participate in a closing conference and commemoration ceremony associated with the submarine AE2. AE2 was one of two Australian submarines to participate in World War I. It gained notoriety for penetrating the Dardanelles, a narrow and well-defended Turkish waterway that became a graveyard for a number of British and French warships — including two submarines — during an ill-fated naval campaign in March 1915.
Off the Old Head of Kinsale, within sight of the green Irish coast, Cunard’s Queen Victoria will soon pause on her Lusitania memorial cruise to mark the centenary of Lusitania‘s sinking — a maritime tragedy inextricably tangled, then as now, in the horrors and controversy of war. Ashore in Cobh, where the Irish fishermen of so long ago landed row upon row of bodies, commemorative wreaths will be laid at the feet of the sorrowing angel of the Lusitania memorial, a monument to these causalities of a war that claimed so many lives.
The clouds parted as the voyage crew gathered to join the HMB Endeavour replica on Tuesday morning for a three-day return voyage to Botany Bay. The voyage was timed to coincide with the 245th Anniversary Ceremony of the landing of Captain Cook and the Endeavour crew at Kurnell in Botany Bay. The voyage crew included some new crew and some ‘repeat offenders’, as the returning voyage crew have been affectionately dubbed.
A few weeks ago we installed a series of murals in the museum that were painted by David Henry Souter for the Bondi Surf Bathers’ Lifesaving Club (BSBLC). In January 1921 a ceremony was held to unveil an honour roll listing the names of the club members who had served during World War I and died far from their beloved Bondi. Also unveiled that day was this series of murals. The local sporting gazette The Arrow reported on the unveiling and made brief mention of the paintings:
The interior of the clubhouse is now distinctly attractive. The walls are panelled and Bulletin artist Souter has supplied a series of friezes done in his own inimitable style. (21 January 1921, p.6)
Souter (BSBLC President, 1920–21 season) completed the series in 1934 when he painted an additional two works.