A glimpse of some traditional boats: Fifty-six days in Sulawesi, Indonesia, 2015
This visit began in Manado at the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and included a ferry journey from Gorontalo to Ampana via the Togean Islands, a week’s stay in Tentena on the shores of Lake Poso, three weeks in the Toraja highlands, a few days in Makassar and four days at Bira Beach on the southern tip of Sulawesi.
Throughout much of the journey I rendered many drawings directly from life and they include a number of studies of traditional boats. It’s these images that I wish to share along with these notes, visuals and maps about boatbuilding in Sulawesi, and its wider context.
A collection of Halvorsen vessels at the 2012 Classic and Wooden Boat Festival. Image: ANMM.
Over four generations, Halvorsen boats have become revered collectors’ items. A Halvorsen craft is an example of master boatbuilding, and several of them will be in attendance at the Classic & Wooden Boat Festival 2016.
Just prior to the outbreak of war in 1914, legendary French archaeologist Pierre Montet was working to excavate several mudbrick tombs (or mastabas) of the wealthy in the extensive cemetery complex at Abu Rawash, just north of Giza in Egypt. In his reports Montet noted that one of the tombs had an unusual feature – a wooden floor.
Nearly 100 years later, Egyptologist Dr Yann Tristant (Macquarie University) found himself reading Montet’s reports, mystified by this particular detail. No other archaeologist had ever reported finding wooden floors around mastabas and with his curiosity piqued, Tristant directed his excavations to the area where Montet had originally worked. The investigations paid off when his team re-discovered the wooden floor.
Because it wasn’t a floor at all – it was a boat.
20 ft long, wooden and designed to the technique of lacing ligatures, the boat was one of a number found by Tristant and his team during the 2012-2013 excavation season, buried with their wealthy owners in the tombs at Abu Rawash. The boats were transferred to the new Grand Egyptian Museum where they underwent conservation treatment and C14 dating to establish their age. At nearly 5,000 years old, they are now confirmed as the oldest boats ever found in Egypt. Continue reading →
Last week I was invited to speak about the museum’s work at the Suitcases, boats and bridges: telling migrant stories in Australian museums workshop, organised by Dr Nina Parish from the University of Bath and Dr Chiara O’Reilly from the University of Sydney. The workshop brought together academics, museum professionals and museum studies students to discuss how migrant stories have been collected and articulated in a number of Australian museums, ranging from large government-funded institutions such as ours, to smaller regional, suburban or volunteer-run museums.
Suitcases and boats in Passengers, the museum’s permanent exhibition about Australia’s immigration history. Photographer Andrew Frolows
The coastline of Australia has some particularly exposed and dangerous areas, and a notable graveyard of accidents is the southwest coastline of Victoria and across to South Australia. Here the westerly winds of the roaring forties and the south westerlies that come in when a low develops bring gales and big seas hitting a landform of cliffs, headlands, islands, outcrops and hidden dangers. Increasing the danger further an arduous voyage was nearing its end, and a tired crew was trying to navigate to safety in testing conditions.
In response to the inevitable shipwreck situations that had occurred, lifeboat stations were set up at some of the safe havens along this coastline, following a pattern employed in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Three of the craft that have survived and are featured on the Australian Register of Historic Vessels (ARHV), they show the standard technology of the period. A fourth lifeboat on the ARHV shows how ideas ahead of their time failed to meet expectations.