The Australian White Ensign and its connection with HMAS Vampire

HMAS <em>Vampire</em> flying the Australian White Ensign in 1967. Image: Navy Historic Archive. HMAS Vampire II.

HMAS Vampire (II) flying the Australian White Ensign in 1967. Image: Navy Historic Archive.

Flags are everywhere. We see them flying from government and corporate buildings, from ships and cars, at sporting events, and during festivals. They all mean something whether it be identifying a country or business, or marking the end of a marathon. This month marked the anniversary of one of Australia’s most significant flags – the Australian White Ensign (AWE), first flown on 1 March 1967.

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Casting the past: How to make cheap, easy moulds and casts

Casts, copies, the real and the replica. Image: Annalice Creighton / ANMM.

Casts, copies, the real and the replica. Image: Annalice creighton / ANMM.

Casting and mould making are simultaneously the stuff of specialised artistic and scientific endeavours and the backbone of mass production. From fountain heads and amulets to the haunting plaster figures that are now synonymous with this ill-fated city, this month’s craft spot is inspired by the use of casting and moulds in ancient times to create the artefacts featured in our new exhibition Escape from Pompeii.

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75 years ago today a queen arrived in Sydney

RMS QUEEN MARY in Sydney Harbour, 1941. ANMM Collection 00045046.

RMS QUEEN MARY in Sydney Harbour, 1941. ANMM Collection 00045046.

On 28th March 1942 the troopship RMS Queen Mary arrived in Sydney with 8,398 Americans on board, destined for the Pacific War. These first American troops to be transported on the ‘Grey Ghost’ (the nickname for the camouflaged giant, yet fast, former liner) had embarked in Boston on the 18th February on what became known as their ’40 days and 40 nights’ voyage.

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Opening ‘Guardians of Sunda Strait’ in Houston

Speeches at the opening reception for Guardians of Sunda Strait. Image: Ashley Patranella.

Speeches at the opening reception for Guardians of Sunda Strait. Image: Ashley Patranella.

It’s been a busy few days here in Houston with museum’s Guardians of Sunda Strait exhibition. All the objects and their labels have been successfully and safely installed in their showcases or on display panels and all the graphics have been applied to the walls. The final graphic caused a few headaches though! Firstly, the paper didn’t arrive at the factory, then the wrong graphic was accidentally printed, then the colours were wrong. But we have it now and it looks great. Exhibition installation always has a contingency of a few days built in just for this kind of last minute problem!

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Applications for MMAPSS 2017-2018 grants now open

The Jetty Train is the perfect way to experience the Busselton Jetty. Image: <a href="http://www.busseltonjetty.com.au">Busselton Jetty</a>.

The Jetty Train is the perfect way to experience Busselton Jetty. Image: Busselton Jetty.

As a national cultural agency, the museum provides support for Maritime Heritage nationally and the importance of supporting local communities, smaller museums and historical societies to care for, conserve, preserve, interpret and display Australia’s maritime heritage is recognised. Several of the avenues for doing this involve funding opportunities and engagement in collaborative travelling exhibition development.

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Lessons from the Arctic: How Roald Amundsen won the race to the South Pole

Roald Amundsen with his dog and ship Fram in the days before leaving for the secret expedition to attempt the South Polenear his home at Svartskog, Norway. Image: Photographer Anders Beer Wilse, June 1910, courtesy Fram Museum.

Roald Amundsen with his dog Pan and ship Fram near his home at Svartskog, Norway in the days before leaving for the secret expedition to attempt the South Pole near his home at Svartskog, Norway. Image: Photographer Anders Beer Wilse, June 1910, courtesy Fram Museum.

‘Race to the Pole – Captain Scott successful’ claimed The Age’s headline writer on 8 March 1912, the day after Norwegian adventurer Captain Roald Amundsen slipped quietly into Hobart in his polar ship Fram. The headline was in hindsight tragically way off the mark but it was not a deliberate ‘alternative fact’ of its day splashed across the established masthead. It was more an excited assumption based on expectation in the former British colonies of Australia and a misreading of Amundsen’s Nordic reserve on his arrival there after 16 months in Antarctica in his well-publicised contest with British naval Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

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The many survivals of Barbara Crawford

The reality of travelling steerage where diseases found the perfect conditions. ANMM collection 00005627

The reality of travelling steerage, where diseases found the perfect conditions. ANMM Collection 00005627

The year 1837 was a busy one for the colony of New South Wales. Busiest of all was Sydney Harbour, which saw thousands of convicts arriving and a growing number of immigrants. In addition to the free single men and women, whole families were travelling from Britain to try their luck with a new life.

On 5 November 1836 the immigrant ship Lady McNaughton left Ireland for Australia. On board was the largest number of children ever to immigrate to Australia at that time. Passenger lists show 196 of the passengers of the ship were under the age of 14. However, by the time the ship was about 300 kilometres from Sydney, 54 of the passengers had died – 44 of those being children. Even in the age of dangerous sea travel, this was an extraordinarily high death rate. The typhus fever on board showed no signs of abating, with some 90 passengers still afflicted.

Sydney harbour in 1837. Not the most prepared location for a typhus fever outbreak. 'View of Sydney Cove and Fort Macquarie' by Conrad Martens, courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

Sydney Harbour in 1837 – not the best-prepared location for a typhus fever outbreak. View of Sydney Cove and Fort Macquarie by Conrad Martens, courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

But at this stage the ship met HMS Rattlesnake, on its way down to Port Phillip with Governor Bourke aboard. Upon hearing of the terrible state of the Lady McNaughton, it was decided that the Rattlesnake‘s assistant surgeon would go with the Lady McNaughton back to Sydney, as their surgeon had taken ill himself. Bourke sent instructions on the quarantine arrangements to be carried out in Sydney, where the colony was unaware that it was about to face its biggest medical challenge to date.

By the time Rattlesnake and Governor Bourke returned to Sydney on 8 April, the Lady McNaughton had quarantined its surviving passengers at Manly, on the northern entrance to the harbour. A further four adults and 10 children had died. Conditions at the isolated location were basic and life in makeshift tents in 37°C February heat did little to restore the passengers’ health or stamina. Bourke proposed a more suitable and permanent solution, which proved to be timely, as only three months later the colony would be tested again.

The Quarantine Station, at Manly, in its early years. ANMM collection 00005538.

The Quarantine Station at Manly in its early years. ANMM Collection 00005538.

When the John Barry limped into Sydney on 13 July 1837, the horrors experienced on board could only have been imagined by those who had managed to survive on the Lady McNaughton. Three adults and 22 children had died. In an attempt to dampen local fear, papers played down the episode:

‘We are happy in being enabled to state, from an authentic source, that the alarming reports current in town relative to a violent and dangerous fever raging on board the John Barry, are very nearly without foundation. A medical board went to the quarantine ground yesterday, where the John Barry is lying, and the Executive Council has been summoned to meet this morning to receive their report, which is of the most favourable description. The following is a correct account of the deaths on board since her departure from Scotland; three adults, two men and one woman, and twenty-two infants, whose deaths are attributed to their mothers living upon salt provisions; one of the infants died since the vessel has been in the harbour.’

Whatever the paper proclaimed, it had been very clear to those on board that it was a fever and sickness that had claimed lives.The Rattlesnake was back in Sydney at that time and it is interesting to think of her moored on the harbour with the John Barry close by, after being released from quarantine. After seeing firsthand the despair aboard the Lady McNaughton just three months before, the crew of the Rattlesnake must have been happy to keep well clear of the John Barry.

Aboard the John Barry when it arrived in Sydney was the Crawford family from Dundee. With eight children, and living in steerage where the fever had raged, the parents had done well to get all of them to Sydney alive. One of their children was six-year-old Barbara Crawford. We can never know if Barbara had noticed the Rattlesnake moored nearby in July 1837, but we can say for sure that in 1849 the sight of that same Royal Navy vessel would cause her to sit down and cry.

Extract of the passenger list of the John Barry, after it had been released from quarantine. Barbara's father is listed as Charles Crawford, tinsmith. Although it claims he had seven children, it is understood that another was born on the voyage. Image: NSW State Records.

Extract of the passenger list of the John Barry, after it had been released from quarantine. Barbara’s father is listed as Charles Crawford, tinsmith. Although it claims he had seven children, it is understood that another was born on the voyage. Image: NSW State Records.

The Rattlesnake had returned to Australia in 1847 under the command of Captain Owen Stanley. The vessel was undertaking a survey the region of Evans Bay near Cape York in October 1849 when they came across a group of Kaurareg people, among whom was Barbara Crawford. Still less than 20 years old, Barbara had been living with the Kaurareg community for what she thought had been four to five years. She had been rescued by them after her vessel was wrecked and her husband presumed drowned.

Despite living and learning the ways of the Kaurareg, Barbara chose to return to Sydney aboard the Rattlesnake. After being taken aboard Barbara told her story to the artist Oswald Brierly, who was travelling with the survey at the time and had been one of the first to talk to Barbara ashore. Over the long weeks of the journey, Barbara talked to Brierly nearly daily and he wrote down everything she could tell him about her time with the Kaurareg people, drawing and recording what she could tell him of their language, beliefs and way of life. In 1849 this was a significant insight into the traditional way of life of the Indigenous people of the area.

An article about HMS Rattlesnake which briefly the discovery of Barbara Crawford. Image: Sydney Morning Herald, 20 February 1850, via Trove.

An article about HMS Rattlesnake which briefly related the discovery of Barbara Crawford. Image: Sydney Morning Herald, 20 February 1850, via Trove.

The Rattlesnake moored back in Sydney in February 1850, and after four months aboard, no doubt it was a bittersweet farewell to the ship as Barbara was reunited with her family. After the usual public interest in her experience, little is definitely known about the next stage in Barbara’s life. It is believed she later remarried and died in 1912. No records remain to indicate whether she and Brierly kept in contact, but as Barbara was illiterate, it seems unlikely.

The discovery of Barbara is often overlooked as part of the Rattlesnake’s voyage to Australia in 1847. It became overshadowed by the subsequent death of the captain and the rise to fame of another crew member, the impressive Thomas Huxley. But in hindsight, the survival of Barbara through the trials of the John Barry, a later shipwreck, five years in the extremities of Cape York and her return to Sydney aboard the Rattlesnake is as worthy a story. The contribution of what Brierly recorded from his and Barbara’s conversations is as significant to our understanding of the world as the charts and collections that were made by others.

— Myffanwy Bryant, Curatorial Assistant

Want to find out more surprising stories? Why not check out our collection online (Warning: you might lose a few hours doing this).

Careers in science and museums: Meeting our conservators

Textile conservator Sue Frost. Image: ANMM.

Textile conservator Sue Frost. Image: ANMM.

What a museum without its collection? The stories we tell are imbued in the objects the museum collects and the conservation department is tasked with caring for these objects. Our conservation team look after a range of artefacts, from paper to paintings, ceramics, textiles and even archaeological material recovered from the seabed. From small coins to the HMB Endeavour replica, every object is condition reported, treated and conserved. The team monitor the environmental conditions our objects are either stored or displayed in, checking light levels, relative humidity and maintaining a stable temperature.

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A ringing success: Kenn Reefs expedition, days 7 and 8

Lee Graham and his trusty tow-board. Image: Julia Sumerling/Silentworld Foundation.

Lee Graham and his trusty tow-board. Image: Julia Sumerling/Silentworld Foundation.

While the dive team was busy documenting sites KR10 and KR11 on the morning and afternoon of 14 January, the magnetometer team took advantage of the calm weather and sea conditions to run a survey along the outside of the entire Kenn Reefs system. The first area surveyed was along the outside fringe of the ‘foot and ankle’, with specific emphasis placed on detecting offshore components of known shipwreck sites (such as KR1, KR2 and KR4). Because sea conditions were calm, the team also ‘deployed’ Lee on a tow-board behind the magnetometer.

The tow-board (also known as a ‘Manta-board’) is a flat, hydrodynamic-shaped board with handles that is connected to a towing vessel with a length of line. The person using the tow-board grips the handles, is pulled through the water at low speed, and can visually search the seabed for shipwreck material. Most tow-boards are designed so that their users can turn, dive and ascend through the water column at will, simply by changing its orientation with the handles. Lee was positioned 10 metres behind the magnetometer in the hope he might be able to visually spot and identify any anomalies it detected.

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Finding ‘Hope’ with a magnetometer: Kenn Reefs expedition, days 6 and 7

Pete Illidge and Renee Malliaros prove that site mapping and synchronised swimming are not mutually exclusive tasks. Image: Julia Sumerling/Silentworld Foundation.

Pete Illidge and Renee Malliaros prove that site mapping and synchronised swimming are not mutually exclusive tasks. Image: Julia Sumerling/Silentworld Foundation.

One of the major goals of the Kenn Reefs expedition was to find Hope, the small cutter built from material salvaged from Bona Vista, and later lost during the rescue of the brig’s crew. According to historical accounts, two boats were sent from the rescuing vessel (the ship Asia) to Observatory Cay, where they recovered most of Bona Vista’s crew, the brig’s allocation of specie (gold and silver coin brought aboard Bona Vista for trading purposes), and brought them aboard Asia. A skeleton crew of thirteen and the personal belongings of all of the brig’s officers and men remained aboard Hope, as did unspecified salvaged goods valued at £1,000. However, as Asia got underway and took Hope under tow, tragedy struck:

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Remembering the Guardians of Sunda Strait: An exhibition at the Houston Public Library

Peeling vinyl from the exhibition walls. Image: Lindsey Shaw / ANMM.

Peeling vinyl from the exhibition walls. Image: Lindsey Shaw / ANMM.

On a dark and stormy day in Houston, Texas, museum’s latest international travelling exhibition starts to take shape.

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Maritime history links between Australia and Indonesia

Indonesian sailors in Sydney in 1945 listening to the proclamation of Indonesian independence, recreated for the 1946 film Black Armada by Joris Ivens. National Film and Sound Archive, Australia

Indonesian sailors in Sydney in 1945 listening to the proclamation of Indonesian independence, recreated for the 1946 film Indonesia Calling by Joris Ivens. National Film and Sound Archive, Australia

This weekend (25-26th February 2017) the President of Indonesia will visit Australia for the first time since being elected in 2014. President Joko Widodo will be talking with the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Much of the discussion – typical of  Australia’s long relationship with its northern neighbour – will undoubtedly be about maritime related affairs. As Indonesia furthers its policy of focusing on maritime development as one of fundamental importance in an archaepeligo of around 18,000  islands, the historical maritime links between the two countries should not be forgotten.

In honour of the President’s visit to Sydney over the weekend, the museum will display an exhibition that explores one of the most significant – and largely forgotten – periods of strong bonds based on maritime links in the two nations histories. The display Black Armada – Australia’s support for Indonesian Independence 1945-1949 was developed for the 75th anniversary of independence in August 2015. The exhibition has been on display at the Museum Benteng Vredeburg in Jogjakarta, the ARMA museum in Bali, as well as here in Darling Harbour.

You can read more about this fascinating and important period of Australian links with Indonesia in the museum’s Feature Story.

Dr Stephen Gapps – Curator

 

 

 

 

Terrific times in Tasmania at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2017

Monday morning at the festival. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

Monday morning at the festival. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

Over 500 boats, numerous displays, demonstrations and talks, four seasons of weather plus a rainbow, and not to mention the fine Tasmanian food, it’s always a challenge at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival  (AWBF) to cover everything with not much more than three days to see it all. The museum managed to do it by sending a diverse contingent of staff for the festival, which ran from Friday 10th through to Monday 13th February, 2017.

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Ready for Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2017

At the 2015 Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

At the 2015 Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

The 2017 Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart starts this Friday 10th February, and the Australian National Maritime Museum will be very well represented at the festival over the weekend. A contingent of staff is travelling south to attend and help with various activities.

The museum has a booth in the principal display hall on Princes Wharf and is hosting a cocktail evening on Saturday. It is the sponsor for the AWBF Symposium of speakers which runs over three days, and is a key organiser with Maritime Museum of Tasmania for the Australian Maritime Museums Council’s Conference that proceeds the festival. The Voyage Game will also be a feature at the festival.

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Kenn Reefs expedition, day four (continued) and day five

Silentworld Foundation CEO and project team leader John Mullen uses a metal detector to search for artefacts in shallows off Observatory Cay, while Jacqui Mullen (background) documents a find. Image: Julia Sumerling/Silentworld Foundation.

Silentworld Foundation CEO and project team leader John Mullen uses a metal detector to search for artefacts in shallows off Observatory Cay, while Jacqui Mullen (background) documents a find. Image: Julia Sumerling/Silentworld Foundation.

While the magnetometer crew conducted its initial search west of Observatory Cay, a second team embarked upon a metal detector survey of the cay itself and searched for evidence of survivor camps associated with the wrecked vessels Bona Vista and Jenny Lind.

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