BIG IS BETTER: ‘Ovation of the Seas’ comes to Australia.

No help needed. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

No help needed. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

Big is best,
Big wins
Big is like – OMG – gigantic
Big is beautiful!

Look what’s outside my hotel window in Hobart: Ovation of the Seasone of the biggest ocean cruise ships in the world. It’s here, you can’t miss it, it seems longer than the docks, wider than the widest sea, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound – anything goes in this department.

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Putting the ‘classic’ into classic wooden boats: the Halvorsen dynasty

A collection of Halvorsen vessels at the 2012 Classic and Wooden Boat Festival. Image: ANMM.

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.

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Mark your calendars for the Classic and Wooden Boat Festival 2016

The Ena, a fine example of Edwardian elegance. Photo by Andrew Frolows/ANMM.

The Ena, a fine example of Edwardian elegance. Image: Andrew Frolows/ANMM.

The Classic and Wooden Boat Festival, April 15 to 17 2016.

The answer to the question ‘what is a classic boat?’ will be on display over the weekend on 15th to 17th April at the Australian National Maritime Museum, where The Classic and Wooden Boat Festival will have over 100 craft that show the diversity that fits this title.

One of the most easily identified classic vessels will be the steam yacht Ena. It features high class Edwardian elegance throughout and the sight of this fine craft steaming along, cutter bow carving through the water, a gently curving sheer, raked lines to the superstructure and a long overhang aft are all hallmarks of what most would consider classic without question.

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D’Urville and his navy of discovery

Astrolabe and Zelee in a gale, in the Antarctic Circle in January 1840. ANMM collection 00032388.

Astrolabe and Zelee in a gale, in the Antarctic Circle in January 1840. ANMM collection 00032388.

It is easy, when reading accounts of early European explorers, to see only the official version they leave behind. The naval reports, detailed charts and an imposing portrait of a confident man in an impressive uniform.

But often, dig just a little deeper and a different man emerges. A man with individual oddities, unsuspected sympathies, personal tragedies and constant worries. Such is the case with the French explorer Durmont d’Urville.

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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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“She will be the first woman that has ever made it.”

In 1766 Louis-Antoine Bougainville, a 37 year old French army and navy veteran, received his wish from King Louis XV to become the first Frenchman to circumnavigate the globe. In a time of European rivalry, Bougainville’s journey would be an ‘enlightenment expedition’ – not only searching for new lands and the power and glory they would bestow of France, but also of learning. To help him achieve this he took with him the botanist and physician, Philibert Commerson.

Commerson was a man passionate about his field of study and he bought with him a keen sense of observation for all new discoveries – natural, cultural and scientific. He also bought with him something that no one on the expedition could ever have foreseen, a woman.

Philibert Commerson, the botanist who relied so much on Jeanne Baret

Philibert Commerson, the botanist who relied so much on Jeanne Baret

Women were of course explicitly forbidden on French naval ships and Commercon and his “assistant” had gone to great lengths to conceal her true identity. Her name was Jeanne Baret and she was a skilled and knowledgeable botanist. Whilst never formally trained, Jeanne’s skill as a herbalist had made her a valuable assistant to Commercon prior to his acceptance of Bougainville’s expedition.

Jeanne and Commerson had lived together after the death of Commerson’s first wife. It seems initially Jeanne acted as Commerson’s housekeeper and nurse due his continuous ill health. But clearly intelligent and gifted, Jeanne also became an assistant in Commerson’s botanical studies. Jeanne had given birth to a child that many believe was Commerson’s and yet social conventions and class restrictions seemed to prevent them ever marrying.

Perhaps it was Jeanne’s own sense of adventure and scientific interest , a love for Commerson or a sense of responsibility to care for his health and assist in his studies, that saw the pair convince Bouganville that she, now known as “Jean”, was a Commerson’s male assistant. They were allocated a shared cabin aboard the Etoile where they could work, sleep and store their equipment. This alleviated many of the practical problems of keeping herself disguised from the crew. Nonetheless, suspicion grew on board that all was not quite what it seemed with “Jean”.

Jeanne Baret as

Jeanne Baret as “Jean”

Whilst on shore, Jeanne acted as Commeson’s eyes and legs. He was still plagued by leg ulcers and it is unlikely he could have walked the vast distances required to collect specimens. She carried all their equipment and often trekked the terrain alone and armed to ensure no further suspicions would be raised by any perceived lack of strength on her part.

The great reveal came whilst the Boudeuse and the Etoile were at Tahiti. Interestingly it seems it was the local inhabitants who exposed “Jean” rather than the dubious crew. Faced with the situation, Bougainville had no choice but to address it.

'Bougainville at Tahiti' by Gustave Alaux ANMM Collection 00000921

‘Bougainville at Tahiti’ by Gustave Alaux, 1930,  ANMM Collection

In his book ‘A Voyage Round The World In The Years 1766, 1767, 1768 and 1769’  Bougainville gives a very low key account of the event:

Some business called me to the Etoile and I had an opportunity of verifying a very singular fact. For some time there was a report in both ships, that the servant of M.de Commerson, named Bare, was a woman. His shape, voice, beardless chin, and scrupulous attention of not changing his linen, or making the natural discharges in the presence of anyone, besides several other signs, had given rise to and kept up their suspicion. But how was it possible to discover the woman in the indefatigable Bare, who was already an expert botanist, had followed his master in all his botanical walks, amidst the snows and frozen mountains of the Straits of Magalhaens, and had even on such troublesome excursions carried provisions, arms, and herbals, with so much courage and strength, that the naturalist had called him his beast of burden?”

Bougainville's account of the journey which includes the story of Jeanne. This first English edition is part of the ANMM collection and was originally from the library of Matthew Boulton, associate of Sir Joseph Banks

Bougainville’s account of his journey which includes the story of Jeanne.  ANMM collection

What happened immediately after the discovery is not known for certain. Bougainville states that “after that period it was difficult to prevent the sailors from alarming her modesty” and certainly most accounts acknowledge serious physical repercussions against Jeanne by the crew. She claimed initially that Commerson had not known her or her gender before the expedition and it was her own interest in the journey and a lack of money at home that had caused her to act as she did.

Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, the expedition leader who would become an unlikely ally to Jeanne

Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, the expedition leader who would become an unlikely ally to Jeanne

Despite the illegality of her ruse, Bougainville seems to have had some sympathy and good will for both Commerson and Jeanne. Once the expedition reached Mauritus, he arranged with Pierre Poivre, the governor there, to ‘acquire the services’ of Commerson to carry out a survey of possible medicinal plants on the island. Poivre, an avid botanist himself and a forerunner in the area of conservation, became a patron of Commerson and provided him with a “huge apartment in his house where he could prepare and conserve his plants, birds, insects.. [Poivre] hosted him at his table, lent him his servants and rewarded his talents in the most generous possible way.”

There is no mention of Jeanne. Can we assume she stayed with Commerson? Safe now in Poivre’s house? It seems she was again pregnant with another son that she adopted out but she was certainly still in Mauritius when Commerson died in 1773.

After this, with Commerson’s death and Poivre replaced as governor, Jeanne was alone. One account tells that she found work as a herbalist or tavern maid and married a French solider. They made their way back to France in 1774 or 1775 and by doing so, Jeanne became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. She took the considerable trouble to bring back with her the specimens and notes she and Commerson had compiled and the collection became part of the Musee du Roi in Paris.

Jeanne had been left some money by Commerson in his will and although her achievements were not acknowledged publically, she did later receive a small pension from the government in acknowledgment for her work on the expedition. There is one theory that it was Bougainville, who rose to great heights under Napoleon, who ensured this pension was paid to her. While some suggest Bougainville had wanted to distance himself from the fact a woman had been on his expedition, I rather think he admired her for it.

He does acknowledge in his book that in going around the world:

she will be the first woman that has ever made it, and I must do her the justice to affirm that she has always behaved on board with the most scrupulous modesty.”

Jeanne died in 1807 at the age of 67 but it was not until 2012 that a fitting tribute to her was created. Eric Tepe named a new plant species from southern Ecuador and northern Peru after her. In his dedication of ‘Solanum baretiae’ Tepe says:

“We believe that this new species of Solanum, with its highly variable leaves, is a fitting tribute to Baret.” They describe the plant’s namesake as “an unwitting explorer who risked life and limb for love of botany and, in doing so, became the first woman to circumnavigate the world.”

Solanum baretiae The plant named for Jeanne in 2012.

Solanum baretiae
The plant named for Jeanne in 2012.

 Myffanwy Bryant

 

A woolie mermaid

Sailor's woolwork picture of Mermaid, 1870s

Sailor’s woolwork picture of the convict transport Mermaid, 1870s. ANMM Collection, 00004596

Last week I started exploring the fascinating intersection between needlework, craft and maritime history in the museum’s collection, examining an embroidered sampler made by young British migrant Julia Donovan in 1879. Today I will be looking at the sampler’s first cousin – the sailor’s woolwork picture or embroidered ship portrait, affectionately known as a ‘woolie’.

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HMB Endeavour: Sydney to Hobart Voyage, Day 3

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A blog series from on board the Endeavour ship as she sails to Tasmania. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Friday 30 January 2015

With the wind now at our back, we have cut the engines and are enjoying ‘champagne sailing’ back to Sydney. Everyone is appreciating the sunshine and the much calmer seas.

Back in Sydney Harbour, people take advantage of the glorious clear sky to indulge in some photography. We are also finally able to undertake our climbing training: up the shrouds and futtocks of the foremast, onto the fighting top and down the other side. It’s exhilarating to succeed in what many people experience as a significant challenge.  Then up the masts again, this time to lay on the yard and furl sails. Continue reading

HMB Endeavour: Sydney to Hobart Voyage, Day 2

IMG_3096A blog series from on board the Endeavour ship as she sails to Tasmania. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Thursday 29 January 2015

The crew are in good spirits even though most are feeling some effects of the big waves.  More than one person has remarked that they would have felt ‘disappointed’ to come on this trip and not experience some challenging weather!

Man lines have been strung around the ship and we make our way carefully, clipped on for safety. There have been sightings of albatross, dolphins, flying fish and shearwaters, and a magic moment when a Caspian Tern kept with the shipwright beside the staysail. Continue reading

HMB Endeavour: Sydney to Hobart Voyage, Day 1

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A blog series from on board the Endeavour ship as she sails to Tasmania. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

A raining start to our grand adventure. By 12.30pm all voyage crew had completed their safety induction and necessary paperwork and after a delicious first lunch aboard of soup and salads, we were ready to depart.

The crews consists of 16 professional crew, 36 voyage crew and 4 supernumeries (for more information on crew types, see our Sail the Endeavour page).  There are a number of family groups aboard, including a group making up most of Foremast Watch, who are helping their father achieve a lifetime dream of sailing to Tasmania. Continue reading

Celestial navigation and astronomy: Voyage from Newcastle to Sydney, day 3-4

Noon sights and calculating latitude

In clear conditions with minimal swell, day 3 of HMB Endeavour replica’s voyage was perfect for using sextants to measure the angle of the sun at its zenith.

Voyage crew and supernumeraries gathered in the waist of the ship at 1115 to practice using sextants. The sun’s highest point – known as Meridian Passage – would be at 1145, not noon, due to the time of year and the ship’s longitude.

Third mate Penny and supernumerary Bill measure the angle of the sun at its zenith. Photo: Eden Alley-Porter.

Third mate Penny and supernumerary Bill measure the angle of the sun at its zenith. Photo: Eden Alley-Porter.

One of our supernumeraries, Bill Morris, ran this session along with Penny, the third mate. Bill is an expert on sextants – he has collected 65 nautical sextants and is the author of The Nautical Sextant. His interest in navigation began at a young age.

‘I bought a book called Teach Yourself Navigation when I was about 14,’ Bill said. ‘I had no sextant and no horizon but I taught myself the rudiments of coastal navigation.’

Sextant. Photo: EAP.

Sextant. Photo: EAP.

The specific interest in sextants arose when he and his wife visited the Maritime Museum in London on their honeymoon. He didn’t really get to indulge this interest until he retired, many years later and then living in New Zealand. He has since started to collect and repair broken sextants.

Bill crossed the Pacific on a container ship, the Natalie Schulte last year – a 19-day passage from Auckland, NZ to Oakland, USA. During the voyage he took several sights on celestial bodies each day to determine the ship’s latitude.

After lunch on day 3, Bill and the other interested voyage crew and supernumeraries gathered in the Great Cabin to do the calculations required to determine the ship’s latitude.

Calculating latitude in Endeavour's Great Ccabin.

Calculating latitude in Endeavour‘s Great Ccabin. Photo: SMM.

There’s something very special about gathering in the Great Cabin to do this kind of work. Spangled reflections from the sea played across the bulkhead from the great windows in the stern as Penny explained the process of calculating the latitude.

At a table just like this one, in a Great Cabin just like that of the Endeavour replica’s Great Cabin, Cook would have followed similar calculations and would have worked on the detailed charts of Australia’s east coast.

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Calculating latitude. Photo: SMM.

At that time, there would have been little margin for error as there were no pre-existing charts to work from and no other way of working out the ship’s position.

Keen to repeat their successes of the previous day, some of the voyage crew gathered again on day 4 to measure the altitude of the sun – this time at 1146 and 44 seconds. The sun’s highest point is a little later each day as it moves north until the summer solstice on December 21.

With a little more swell running on day 4, Endeavour was not quite the stable platform that she had been on day 3. My calculated latitude was out by more than I care to admit, but Bill’s calculated latitude was within three miles of our GPS position.

Day 4 at sea

Overnight on Friday (day 3) the ship gained ground to the south under engines, taking us past Pittwater. With the strong southerly breeze, we were able to turn around and go sailing on Saturday morning – just for fun!

Furling the forecourse. Photo: EAP.

Furling the forecourse. Photo: EAP.

We began furling* sails around 1500 while sailing towards the entrance of Broken Bay. Furling continued once the rest of the sails were handed and we were waiting for Fred Watson AM and his partner and colleague Marni to arrive in the ship’s seaboat for the evening’s astronomy talk.

HMB Endeavour dropped anchor at 1700 in Broken Bay and we prepared for the last evening of the voyage.

Astronomy

The highlights of the evening were two sessions delivered by Fred about what we could see in the night sky. In the first, the sun had just set and Marni kept a keen eye out for the first star of the evening, Alpha Centauri (also known as Rigal Kentaurus), which is one of the two pointers to the Southern Cross.

Observing Saturn from the deck of Endeavour. Photo: EAP.

Observing Saturn from the deck of Endeavour. Photo: EAP.

Telescopes were set up to have a closer look at Saturn – thankfully there was no wind so the anchorage was very calm and the ship was a stable base for using a telescope.

After dinner, voyage crew returned to the deck with Fred to look at the after-dark night sky – including the Southern Cross, sitting low to the horizon at this time of year.

All’s well.

*Furling is the process of rolling or gathering a sail and securing it with gaskets (lengths of line) so that the sail does not flap in the wind.

– Suzannah Marshall Macbeth

Day 2-3: Voyage from Newcastle to Sydney; sailing to windward

Friday 19 September 2014, 2000 hours

Hours under sail since Thursday 0800: 23

Hours under engines since Thursday 0800: 13

Distance travelled over ground: 100 nautical miles

HMB Endeavour replica left Port Stephens early on Thursday 18 September, weighing anchor at 0530 and motoring out of the heads. On the open ocean, all hands were called to set sail and we headed southeast on a light sou’westerly breeze.

Foremast watch learns about staysails with the aid of Topman Eddie’s chalk diagrams on deck. Photo: Eden Alley-Porter

Foremast watch learns about staysails with the aid of Topman Eddie’s chalk diagrams on deck.
Photo: Eden Alley-Porter

Over the course of the day we tracked around 15 nautical miles south before the wind shifted and we began to lose ground to the north while continuing to head further offshore than planned.

We wore ship at 1800 hours and sailed west, steering as close to the wind as possible in the hope of gaining some ground to the south.

Around 2200 hours, the wind began to back, shifting further into the west as a land breeze influenced the southerlies. Endeavour’s course was soon northwest.

Spritsails set on Endeavour. Photo by SMM.

Endeavour spritsails set. Photo: SMM.

The flukey breezes led the Captain to decide that now would be a good time to hand sail and make some ground to the south under engines.

During 15 hours under sail on day 2 of the voyage, we covered 50 nautical miles, but also lost most of the ground we had gained to the south earlier in the day.

The difficulty of sailing the ship to windward always leads to the inevitable question: how on earth did Captain James Cook manage to sail her to windward?

Cook faced much the same problem sailing to windward as we do on Endeavour today. With more experienced hands and a larger crew, he may have been able to gain a little more ground to windward with careful trimming of the sails, but it would not have been substantial.

Cook’s key advantage was time: if needed, he could beat back and forth across a headwind until the wind shifted enough for him to gain the ground he needed.

Unfortunately the modern day Endeavour does not have this luxury – we have a schedule to stick to and thus engines must sometimes be called on to enable us to reach our destination on time. In this case, the destination is Pittwater to meet Fred Watson at 4pm on Saturday afternoon.

Despite our deadlines, the priority is of course to sail as much as possible, so after a night under engines we set sail again early on Friday morning.

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Calm seas and colourful skies: day 3 draws to a close. Photo by EAP.

In light breezes, more sail was loosed – the topgallants on both masts and the sprit topsail were shaken out of their furls and set. With a little more west in the wind we were able to sail southeast for most of the day.

By early evening the wind had dropped dramatically and once again Endeavour was unable to make ground to the south, so sails were handed and the ship settled in for another night under engines.

The hope is that we’ll gain substantial ground to the south overnight, enabling some good sailing on Saturday towards Broken Bay.

All’s well.

– Suzannah Marshall Macbeth

Possible discovery of Columbus’s flag ship SANTA MARIA (1492)

1892 replica of Santa Maria photographed in 1904 possibly by Edward H Hart. Source: United States Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

1892 replica of Santa Maria photographed in 1904 possibly by Edward H Hart.
Source: United States Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

Many years ago when I was attending primary school we were taught The Columbus Day poem in order to remember the momentous events of 1492. The opening stanzas of the poem went something like:

In fourteen hundred and ninety two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue

He had three ships and left from Spain
He sailed through sunshine and he sailed through rain

These three vessels, sponsored by Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I Queen of Castile and Leon – made up a great voyage of exploration lead by Christopher Columbus – also known Cristofora Colombo in his native Genoa and as Christobal Colon in Spain – who had managed to convince the joint sovereigns of Spain that he had found a short cut to the famous spice islands of the Orient.

These famous ships were, of course, the caravels Pinta and Nina and the larger Galician nao (ship) Santa Maria and with them Columbus discovered, although the Native Americans would have been a bit bemused by the term, not the Orient but in fact the Bahamas, Cuba and Haiti – before returning to Spain with the Pinta and the Nina – the Santa Maria having been wrecked in Caracol Bay, Haiti in on Christmas Day, 1492. Columbus lead several other voyages of discovery to what became known as the Americas and the rest as they say is history. Continue reading

A Caravel … ?

‘Graeme’s caravel’, by journalist Jon Fairall. From Signals 102 (March-May 2013).

Between the 12th and the 17th centuries the caravel was a ship of choice for long, dangerous voyages, at least among the Iberian nations – Portugal and Spain – that led the Age of Discovery. By the standards of the time, they were speedy, manoeuvrable, weatherly ships. But one particular caravel, Notorious, is the result of a purely local, Australian dreaming. Specifically, she is Graeme Wylie’s dream. Graeme and his wife Felicite designed and built her over a 10-year period in their backyard in Port Fairy, just to the east of Warrnambool, Victoria, using stockpiles of local timber.

Graeme and his wife Felicite

Graeme and his wife Felicite

In 2000, Graeme was a furniture maker in Port Fairy, a pleasant fishing village at the end of the Great Ocean Road on the long lee shore of western Victoria that’s called The Shipwreck Coast. He was fascinated by the local legend of The Mahogany Ship, which dates back to an 1847 article in the Portland newspaper about the uncovering of a wreck on the beach in Armstrong Bay, just west of Warrnambool, that was made of some exotic, dark timber. A ship hidden beneath the sands has been part of the area’s folklore ever since, along with the notion that it was made of mahogany.

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MV Krait – annual slipping

This humble fishing trawler led a double life during World War II. In 1941, in Singapore, it evacuated people to Sumatra during the Japanese advance. Renamed MV Krait (after a deadly Indian snake), the boat was fitted out in Australia for Operation Jaywick in 1943. Perfectly disguised as a local fishing vessel, Krait sailed boldly into Japanese-occupied waters with a team of Z Special Unit commandos whose mines blew up and severely damaged seven enemy ships in Singapore harbour.

MV Krait

MV Krait

After the war, Krait worked in the Borneo timber trade, until it was recognised by two Australians on a business trip in 1962. Krait returned to Australia to a hero’s welcome, a testament to Australian sacrifice during war. Krait is on loan from the Australian War Memorial.

krait2

The vessel was recently moved to Noakes shipyard on Monday 9th December 2013 for its annual slipping. The work package for this preservation was agreed by the Australian War Memorial and the Australian National Maritime Museum. MV Krait ex-WWII veteran under the care of the ANMM has been slipped for a preservation period of 2 weeks.

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