Anzac Cove from the water: the Gallipoli diary of 2nd Engineer George Armstrong

George Armstrong’s diary

100 years after the Anzac landings at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, the museum has acquired a rare diary written on board a transport ship lying off Anzac Cove.

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Diving into the past: the Beatrice Kerr collection

Swimming Gala poster featuring Beatrice Kerr

A swimming gala poster featuring Beatrice Kerr. ANMM Collection.

“By-the-bye, everyone rushes after lunch to the Palace Pier to see a young Australian girl in a swimming and diving performance. We went with the rest, and can assure our readers that Miss Kerr is better worth seeing than nine out of ten of the famous dancers…”

Poster advertising Beatrice Kerr's swimming and diving show.

Poster advertising Beatrice Kerr’s swimming and diving show. ANMM Collection.

Digitising the National Maritime Collection archive reveals some interesting stories from the lives of the people behind the objects. One such story was the career of aquatic star Beatrice Kerr. I found her both entertaining and inspirational, while scanning and researching her letters, handbills and photographs.

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Going it alone – Kay Cottee’s voyage aboard Blackmores First Lady

Blackmores First Lady surfing down a wave rounding Cape Horn. Painted by Jack Earl, 1988. ANMM Collection.

Blackmores First Lady surfing down a wave rounding Cape Horn.
Painted by Jack Earl, 1988. ANMM Collection.

“It’s what I do — I do the sea … To people it may seem dangerous, foolish even but, for me, it’s not a strange environment. It’s not alien to me, it’s where I’m happiest.”

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston – (Still solo racing at 75)

Solo celebrating the milestones. Label reads   `Rounding Good Hope. Kay Cottee'.

Solo celebrating the milestones. Label reads `Rounding Good Hope. Kay Cottee’. ANMM Collection.

It has been 28 years now since Kay Cottee set out aboard Blackmores First Lady to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe non-stop and unassisted. Much has happened and changed in the world of solo sailing in that time. While still attracting those quiet adventurers, solo sailing also attracts big money, big boats and big speed.

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Sharing the collection on Google Cultural Institute

A selection of the museum's collection displayed on Google Cultural Institute

A selection of the museum’s collection displayed on Google Cultural Institute.

The museum is excited to be among the 14 major Australian museums, archives and galleries to recently join Google’s Cultural Institute — the world’s biggest online museum.

Google’s online platform, which includes the Google Art Project, allows visitors to search and virtually explore high resolution images of artworks and artefacts from around the globe. So far, 673 international museums have joined, contributing digital collections, online exhibitions and even virtual tours made possible with Google’s Street View technology.

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Operation: Torpedo

The 1200 kg dummy torpedo class 21" MK9.

The 1200 kg dummy torpedo class 21″ MK9.

Working as a registrar at the museum often requires one to think outside the box, and today was no different. Today’s task was to organise the return of a 1200 kg dummy torpedo class 21″ MK9 to the Naval Heritage Collection – simple, right? The only problem was that the NHC storage facility is located on Spectacle Island…and it’s an island. Solution? Call in the Navy.

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You have to be in it to win it – trophies from the collection

A selection of trophies from the ANMM collection.

A selection of trophies from the ANMM collection.

When I finally held the trophy, it was just how I imagined it would be.

Gabriela Sabatini, US Open Winner, 1990

I have never won one and at my age I do feel that the chances of me ever winning one are fast slipping way. In my mind I know exactly where I would put it – front and centre of the room so no one could miss it. I would casually and modestly dismiss it and then proceed to tell the winning tale behind it. Ah, yes, a trophy. Continue reading

A pilot steamer for the collection

Model of Pilot Steamer Captain Cook III

Model of Pilot Steamer Captain Cook III. ANMM Collection, bequest of David Radford.

In 2014 the museum was very fortunate to receive a bequest of a model of the pilot steamer Captain Cook III made by David Radford. The pilot ship was constructed at Mort’s Dock in Balmain and was in service from 1939 until 1959, providing a valuable service to both cargo and passenger vessels. A pilot boat is used to transport pilots between land and the inbound or outbound ships they are piloting. Marine pilots typically have extensive seafaring experience and their job is to manoeuvre ships through dangerous or congested waterways such as harbours or river mouths. Continue reading

The last performance

The museum has an extensive collection of broadsheet ballads covering 100 years and every topic that our modern barrage of social media would also relish: death, drama, shaky morals, heroism, political activism, nationalism, murder, the royals, and the occasional happy ending love story. Continue reading

Tidings at sea

“And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.”
– ‘Christmas At Sea’, Robert Louis Stevenson, c.1888

Whether by choice or by obligation, spending the festive season on the water is part of many people’s lives. From early journeys when Christmas was celebrated by a devout few, to modern times when Christmas is widely celebrated in so many different ways, thinking of the shores of home seems part of every Christmas spent at sea. Continue reading

A dog’s life at sea

ANMM Collection Crew of the SS Stratherry and their pets.

ANMM Collection
Crew of the SS Stratherry and their pets.

Although the sailor, while at sea, is obliged to do without nearly all of the home attractions which even the poorest landsmen indulge in, he is allowed to cultivate to a limited extent his fondness for domestic pets…It affords him deep pleasure to hold in his loving though rough embrace the innocent creature who either by a cheerful wag of the tail or a responsive purr assures him that his attentions are appreciated…
(New York Times – November 2, 1884)

We love them. Their loyalty, good humour and appreciation for simple pleasures—dogs are quite simply the ultimate companion. And for hundreds of years, sea farers have also thought so. Other pets such as monkeys, cats, birds and even goats may have their place, but dogs and boats are truly a match made in maritime heaven.

ANMM Collection A crew member of the steamer SS SUEVIC

ANMM Collection
A crew member of the steamer SS SUEVIC

ANMM Collection

ANMM Collection

The museum has many photos capturing the unique friendship between sailors and their dogs. Whether it be captains, crew, cooks, explorers or passengers, dogs were never far away. Although the life these ship-board dogs led may not have involved parks or yards, their small on-board world was one filled with affection, attention and camaraderie. They were a welcome relief from the monotony and tension of sea life, and despite their earlier uses as ratters, it was their endearing nature that has kept them happily afloat.

History has also proven that no matter what the maritime triumph or disaster, dogs could be found on board. From the sinking of Henry VIII’s ship the Mary Rose, the Titanic and even HMAS Sydney, dogs were on board and suffered the same conditions and fate as the ship’s crew.

ANMM Collection Crew and dog aboard the Discovery on their way to  in 1901.

ANMM Collection
Crew and dog aboard the Discovery on their way to Antarctica in 1901.

Crew of the submarine HM Ursula and their dog Peter, 1943. (Wikimedia)

Crew of the submarine HM Ursula and their dog Peter, 1943.

Incredibly dogs were also kept on board some submarines. Surely a less dog-friendly environment would be hard to think of. There is a story of one such dog called Garbo who lived aboard the USS GAR. One crew member recalls:

“Under the heaviest depth charge attacks, when the gauges were leaking, light bulbs breaking, and fires breaking out, Garbo remained as playful as ever. Bunn said, “She should have gotten a medal for keeping our spirits and morale up when we needed it most.”

Whilst they were commonly known as mascots, dogs proved to be so much more. They provided comfort and courage, loyalty and affection, and a chance for crew to be human in circumstances that often asked them to forget their humanity.

– Myffanwy Bryant, Curatorial Assistant


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