Scrimshaw: A Whaler’s Pastime

The other day, I was walking through the Museum’s stores, when a strange object caught my eye: a neatly framed pair of odd looking dolls with very puffed up hair, which reminded me of the very elaborate 1980s hairstyles like the one Joan Collins wore on her Dynasty days.

Whale bone and human hair dolls. ANMM collection 00018316

Whale bone and human hair dolls.  ANMM collection 000018316

These dolls are part of the Museum’s scrimshaw collection. Scrimshaw are objects created by whalers from the by-product of the whale, such as bones, teeth, baleen and bones. It was first done by sailors working on whaling ships out of the coast of New England between 1745 and 1759 until the moratorium of commercial whaling in 1986.

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Endeavour: Geelong to Adelaide Voyage, day 2

HMB Endeavour on the way to Cape Otway

A blog series by Steward Bill Ellemor from on board the Australian National Maritime Museum’s HMB Endeavour replica as it sails from Geelong to Adelaide. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Day Two, Wednesday 10 February 2016

As dawn broke we could see the Airey’s Inlet lighthouse and nearby Lorne. A little later evidence of the recent Otway bushfire could also be seen along the Great Ocean Road coast. As lunchtime approached, the Cape Otway lighthouse came into view; we passed it at about 1230. It seemed a lazy sort of afternoon—sunny and pleasant, gently pitching over a long swell—with no sail handling to do so light duties all round. Many caught up on some sleep. Finally, however, at around 1930 the engines were powered down and by 2000 we were at last under sail. Everyone breathed a sigh. Ahhh!

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Would you have survived being sick on the high seas?

A trip to the ship's surgeon was a dangerous one on the high seas.

The Ship’s Surgeon was a vital crew member, tasked with looking after the health of all aboard the cramped sailing ships.

Being sea sick was a dire matter in the golden age of sail. Rough Medicine: Life and Death in the Age of Sail explores the world of the ship’s surgeon and his grizzly tools of the trade. From a queasy stomach to amputated limbs and spoiled food, life aboard a 17th century sailing ship was far from pleasant.

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Endeavour: Geelong to Adelaide, day 1

Farewell Geelong

Farewell Geelong

A blog series by Steward Bill Ellemor from on board the Australian National Maritime Museum’s HMB Endeavour replica as it sails from Sydney to Geelong. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Day One, Tuesday 9 February 2016

Once again, to sea! Our new voyage crew and supernumeraries came on board at 0800, stowed their gear and a new round of briefing and training began. Shortly before 1000 the first of our pilots came aboard. His task was soon finished as we travelled a short distance off the pier and anchored again—in pretty much the same place where we spent last Thursday night.

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A Brighter Future: The Second Annual Women and Science Symposium

In celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March 2016, the Australian National Maritime Museum will host our second annual Women and Science Symposium for high school students.

Women in Science Symposium 2015

Women in Science Symposium 2015

It all started with a discussion with my daughter, about the number of girls opting out of studying science because of negative stereotypes. She said it was such a shame that girls were not considering science as a worthwhile option to study. As an environmental scientist, she knows that those girls are locking themselves out of some amazing careers.

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Pieces of Eight and a Parrot Pinata

finsihed piñata

It’s almost unavoidable, if you have small children in your world, at some point they will probably ask for a pirate party. There’s something irresistible about those tricorn wearing terrible thugs that no amount of education on the truly Horrible Histories of Pirates can overcome.

I once made the mistake of festooning a 3 year old’s pirate birthday with my favourite  skull and cross bones cardboard bunting and the adorable Pete the repeat parrot, not anticipating the swashbuckling scoundrel-like behaviour that would ensue once the face paint eye patches and paper pirate hats began to encourage a little too much role play.

Needless to say Pete was minus a head and an arm after being thrown off the “pirate ship” (read cubby house/swing/ nearby tree) a few times. Never to flap his awkward mechanical arms and chirp again.

This month’s craft spot is inspired by our Horrible Histories Pirates exhibition ( after all Golden age Pirates really did have parrots and other exotic animals, stolen ones of course, to fetch a pretty penny) and pirate parties, and pirate-like toddler behaviour perhaps. It’s a parrot piñata- something you beat up to steal all its goodies, sounds like piratical mischief to me. Fringing onto an adhesive base is also a great craft for with older toddlers and young children as it’s easy, glue free and a good opportunity to practice some fine motor skills with layering, tearing, cutting and collage.

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Endeavour: Sydney to Geelong Voyage, days 8–9

Aloft on HMB Endeavour

A blog series by Steward Bill Ellemor from on board the Australian National Maritime Museum’s HMB Endeavour replica as it sails from Sydney to Geelong. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Day Eight, Thursday 4 February 2016

Our final night in open sea was a somewhat bouncy one as we ambled around south of Port Phillip Heads keeping away from other vessels, but generally making sure we were in position to advance to pilot meeting area on time in the morning. As we approached, the local population of dolphins turned out in force for a friendly welcome. The sea was a little too rough for boarding so the pilot boat escorted us until we were inside the Heads. Our pilot, Neil, boarded between Point Lonsdale and Queenscliff and remained with us all the way to Geelong. He thoroughly enjoyed the experience of piloting a vessel so different from those of his daily round.

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Book review – In All Respects Ready: Australia’s Navy in World War One

ANMM curator Dr Stephen Gapps reviews In All Respects ready: Australia’s Navy in World War One by Dr David Stevensthe winner of the 2015 Frank Broeze Memorial Maritime History Book Prize. 

TIn all respects ready 9780195578584[1]he title of In all Respects Ready is taken from a 1919 assessment by the British Admiralty of the record of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in World War I:

Their Lordships state that Australia may well feel pride in the record of its navy newly created in the years prior to 1914, but shown by the test of war to be in all respects ready to render invaluable service to the Empire in the hour of need.

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Endeavour: Sydney to Geelong Voyage, day 7

On board Endeavour on its way to Geelong, 2016

A blog series by Steward Bill Ellemor from on board the Australian National Maritime Museum’s HMB Endeavour replica as it sails from Sydney to Geelong. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Day seven, Wednesday 3 February 2016

The south westerly change came through at around 0500, and everyone had to adjust clothing to varying degrees to cope with the much cooler conditions. During the morning the wind went southerly and strengthened, increasing the effect. Wet weather gear was common on deck, not so much to keep rain off—there was very little—but to keep out the cold. Victorians shrugged their shoulders; those from north of the border grumbled about Victorian weather. Why wouldn’t they? These conditions made the Captain’s morning briefing a more challenging experience. By nightfall we could see Cape Schank as we tossed around in an increasing swell. Maybe an uncomfortable night ahead.

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Endeavour: Sydney to Geelong Voyage, days 1–6

HMB Endeavour on the first day of its voyage to Geelong.

HMB Endeavour on the first day of its voyage to Geelong.

A blog series by Steward Bill Ellemor from on board the Australian National Maritime Museum’s HMB Endeavour replica as it sails from Sydney to Geelong. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Day one, Thursday 28 January 2016

We are underway, under sail and heading south at 5 knots. We’ve had our first “All Hands” call to set sail—and all is well!

For the record, voyage crew came on board at 0800 and got quickly into safety briefing training drills and a full scale fire drill. Then around 1600 the engines grumbled to life and we knew departure was imminent. Finally we slipped off the pier at 1630 and turned for the main harbour. At almost exactly 1800 we passed through the heads into the open sea and at 1830 the PA crackled out the order: “All hands on deck to set some sail.” Before long the engines were powered down and finally cut completely. At last we were doing what we all came for and smiles were getting broader. As if to emphasise the point, we watched a large, modern cruise liner emerge from the Heads astern of us and pass us off the the port side. She will reach Melbourne faster than us—but we’ll have a lot more fun.

Lastly, as we are sailing in a replica of James Cook’s famous ship, a bit of learning about that voyage of discovery. Each blog we will post a question for readers to ponder, answer to follow. Day One question is an easy one: Who or what was the Earl of Pembroke?

Day two, Friday 29 January 2016

Shipboard life is starting to take shape as voyage crew and supernumeraries woke to their first morning at sea—wake up calls on the PA; two sittings for each meal; morning briefing from the Captain; happy hour (housekeeping time, not the other sort!). We were shadowed all morning by shearwaters and there was the occasional dolphin sighting, we set more sail until we had ten up fighting for what wind we could catch to drive us south. Averaging 4 knots our skipper was more or less happy with the state of our world.

Preparing the gallant

Day two: Preparing the gallant

The afternoon was a different story. The horizon to the south west showed darker and darker, split by the odd flash of distant lightning. Would it stay over the land? Before long we had our answer. From 1500 to 1600 hours the thunderstorm passed directly over us. The winds were not especially strong—20 to 25 knots—but oh, the rain! At times the lightning seemed directly overhead as the thunder crashed all around. But, Endeavour weathered it all beautifully, and like all storms, eventually it passed.

The storm did have one positive—our speed increased to around 8 knots in more or less our intended direction. Afterwards this advantage was soon lost as the wind shifted to the wrong quarter before dying almost completely and reluctantly the noisy iron staysails were ordered into action to help us get back on track. And there on the horizon was Pigeon House Mountain. But hang on, said a few observant souls, wasn’t that there two hours ago? Ahh, such is life at sea.

Yesterday’s question concerned the Earl of Pembroke. This was the name of the Whitby collier purchased by the Admiralty in 1768 and renamed. As Endeavour she was repurposed and refitted according to a new set of Admiralty plans, to take a scientific party to the south Pacific—specifically the newly discovered Tahiti—to take part in a worldwide project to observe the transit of Venus from several separate locations across the globe, combine the results and so accurately determine the distance between the Earth and the Sun. And how fortunate are we? Those refit plans still exist, so when a decisions was taken to build a replica the plans were dusted off and used again. Hence we are currently aboard the most authentic replica tall ship in the world.

Now today’s question: What is a fearnought? (Hint: we needed these today.)

Day three, Saturday 30 January 2016

After a night of “rock ’n roll”, day three began with a fire alarm—which turned out to be false. For professional crew it was an opportunity to test their fire response. In time the all clear was given and normality gradually took over once more.

It was a mixed day of steady progress down the south coast of NSW. Mixed because the winds were changeable, so we had some good sailing, but also a lot of hard slog under power. Despite that, we covered 125 miles in a 24 hour period. Remarks like, “she seems to roll more when there’s no sails up” indicate the voyage crew are starting to get to know the ship.

View from Endeavour, day three.

Bow and wave. Day three on HMB Endeavour’s voyage to Geelong.

On the social side, people are getting to know one another and discover things of common interest and all are enjoying themselves—even the few who are recovering from sea sickness, though for them the smile is through gritted teeth! There are some pre-existing groupings of course—friends from way back; a husband and wife; even a father a son, where the father is voyage crew and the son a supernumerary—which one drew the short straw? One happy young group on board comprises three 17 year old school friends from St Luke’s in Dee Why who are missing the first week of their final year at school to take this voyage. We say, Well Done! to Callum, Emma and Todd. What you miss in the classroom you will more than make up for in life experience.

Emma, Callum and Todd on board HMB Endeavour

Emma, Callum and Todd on board HMB Endeavour

Meanwhile up on deck, at one stage we had a clear, starry sky on the port side and continuous lightning to starboard—a portent of things to come.

To answer yesterday’s question, fearnought was the name given to a particular variety of weatherproof jacket common in James Cook’s day.

And today’s question: where is, or was, Cape Everard?

Day four, Sunday 31 January 2016

The lightning last night was indeed a portent. On two occasions overnight, extra professional crew were summoned to help the watch on deck, first to brace up then to take in sails. The first of these calls was under threatening skies, the second in pitch dark and heavy rain; it all adds to the experience of those involved. Eddy and Rachael did a magnificent job co-ordinating it all.

Day four. The view from HMB Endeavour. Image: Andy Berry

Day four. The view from HMB Endeavour. Image: Andy Berry

Early this morning we passed around Cape Hicks and entered Victorian waters in Bass Strait. The day brought sunshine and moderating seas, but unfortunately winds in the wrong direction—in our face. So we have had no option but to motor pretty much all day, and the prospect for more favourable conditions for sailing is not great. Still, at least everyone gets some respite after a hectic couple of days and nights.

HMB Endeavour fairlead

Day four. Through the fairlead. Image: Andy Berry

Interestingly, today we passed Point Hicks on the East Gippsland coast. This is significant as it was the first point of mainland Australia sighted from Cook’s Endeavour in 1770. It was easy to imagine sailors on that Endeavour looking in wonder at the obvious high mountains stretching along the horizon. Cook named the feature after his Second Lieutenant, Zachary Hicks, who was the first to spot it. Cook and his crew assumed that the stretch of water to the south of here was a wide bay, and part of Tasmania, the southern part of which had already been seen and mapped, and didn’t attempt to explore in that direction—their aim was to follow this coast northwards mapping as they went, assuming it would eventually lead them to Batavia (now Djakarta) in what was then the Dutch East Indies.

This all leads to Cape Everard. At some stage in Victoria’s history this name was assigned to this same point of land, supplanting the name given it by Cook. Around the time of the Cook Bicentennial year, 1970, the name Hicks was restored.

The Day Four question: Cook and his crew celebrated Christmas Day inside the Antarctic Circle in which year: 1769, 1770, 1773 or 1776?

Day five, Monday 1 February 2016

In the late afternoon and evening Sunday many of the Bass Strait oil rigs were visible to the north of us as we motored on into that head wind. Then in the early hours the dawn watch and anyone else who cared to take the deck at that hour had a lovely view of five planets stretching in a line across the sky.

Soon after breakfast our Captain decided to alter course to use the available wind to sail for most of the day. And what a beautiful day it was—calm sea, sunshine, the quiet of sailing, 360-degree horizon, the occasional ship passing in the distance but much of the time in our own magnificent isolation. A good portion of the morning was taken up for all hands on deck setting sail. Our initial course put us on a heading towards Flinders Island; around 1600 we braced around to start heading back towards Victoria again. It was noticeable that more off-duty crew were taking to the deck to relax, obviously enjoying themselves.

During the afternoon the first lecture took place. The ship was left in the hands of the professional crew as voyage crew and supers retired to the Great Cabin to learn about the night sky and navigation. Later, Eden gave a further lecture to her own watch on points of the compass.

Around tea time the Captain decided to bring in sails and motor again so that we could make some good westing overnight, as we have to be in position outside Port Phillip on Thursday morning where a pilot will board and take us through The Rip at slack water.

We are now sailing in waters Captain Cook never saw, as noted yesterday, and yesterday’s question concerns an event that did not involve Endeavour. Christmas Day at 67° south took place in 1773 during Cook’s second voyage. Although the Endeavour voyage had done enough to satisfy Cook himself that the “great southern land” was a myth, he nevertheless recognised that there were still vast areas in the southern Pacific unvisited, and the mystery of the Antarctic to unravel. His second voyage was intent on addressing these matters. Again Cook was equipped with Whitby coal cats—two of them this time—Resolution, larger but otherwise very similar to Endeavour, and Adventure, somewhat smaller. The story goes that a young sailor named Vancouver, when he heard the order to brace around to retreat from the ice, raced out to the very tip of the bowsprit so that he could brag forever more that he had been “further south than any other man alive”.

And now the Day Five question: who was Alexander Dalrymple, and what part did he play in the Endeavour expedition?

Day six, Tuesday 2 February 2016

This morning our Captain John announced his decision to head in close to Refuge Cove on the east coast of Wilson’s Promontory, then move slowly along the coast to round the light station on South East Point before setting sail and heading away from the coast once more. This plan was greeted with approval all round and lead to all on board having a lovely morning watching one of the prettiest coasts you would find anywhere, then a very pleasant sail in light winds for the rest of the day. By evening we had changed course to the west and shortened sail in readiness to meet an expected south westerly change overnight.

Learning the sextant

Learning the sextant

Yesterday’s lecture was followed by a practical session with sextants for those interested, giving them some insight into the art and science of navigation.

As people are getting to know one another voyage crew stories are coming out; one interesting one is our husband and wife team, Marie and Mark. They have flown across the world just for this trip, Marie from their home in England and Mark from his current post with UK’s diplomatic service in Kabul. And today we were all able to celebrate with them Mark’s birthday. He had to share the honours with Emma, whose birthday was on the first day of the voyage. Their cake made a lovely dessert for the evening meal—thanks Alan and Paula.

Birthday cake on Endeavour

Mark and Emma’s birthday cake.

Yesterday’s question concerned Alexander Dalrymple. He had fashioned himself into THE expert in Britain on the riddle the Endeavour expedition was aiming to solve, once it’s primary astronomical project was completed—Terra Australis Incognita. Dalrymple had studied every report by every visitor to the south Pacific and made it known that he KNEW there was a great south land, and he KNEW where to look. His claims appeared to make him the obvious choice to lead the expedition, and he certainly expected to. However, wiser heads prevailed; his lack of other skills regarded as essential to such a project lead to the decision to appoint Lieutenant James Cook instead.

Day Six question: why did Cook have charcoal fires lit in buckets down in the hold of his ships?

Bill Ellemor, Steward