|L-R: David Buffett, Lisa Richards, Phillip Smith|
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Next year the Norfolk Island Museum celebrates its 25th Anniversary. During the last few months we have been thinking about a range of things that we can do to celebrate this achievement, including displaying objects that will have special significance and meaning to the Norfolk Island community. We are very pleased to announce that a loan has been made with the Museum of Tropical Queensland for a quite special object that will be displayed throughout 2013.
The object is a Tahitian food pounder or pestle, or, as it was known in Tahiti, a penu. It was recovered from the wreck site of the Pandora and is thought to have been confiscated from one of the ‘other’ mutineers on the Bounty who did not sail on to Pitcairn Island with Fletcher Christian and the rest of the mutineers. The men it has been associated with are mutineers Peter Heywood and George Stewart who were taken into custody in Tahiti.
Heywood and Stewart along with another fourteen mutineers were captured in Tahiti after Captain Edward had been sent by the British Admiralty to find the Bounty ‘pirates’ and bring them home for trial and punishment. The Pandora arrived at Tahiti on 23 March 1791. Within twenty-four hours eight of the mutineers had given themselves up leaving another six men at large (another two had been killed earlier in a feud). Armed parties were sent out to hunt them down and in a matter of days they were found.
On board the Pandora the mutineers were placed under arrest and shut in a specially built wooden box on the deck, measuring 11 by 18 feet (3.3 x 5.4 metres) and known as Pandora’s Box. This was unusually harsh treatment of prisoners at sea but Captain Edwards had a reputation amongst naval officers for brutality.
On the return voyage to England the Pandora was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. Thirty four men drowned including four mutineers, one of whom was unable to escape from the wooden box. George Stewart was amongst those that drowned.
The survivors of the shipwreck, including ten mutineers, finally reached Timor in open boats following the route taken by Bligh in the longboats. When they arrived back in England the captives were imprisoned to await trial for mutiny. Four of the mutineers were pardoned following written evidence by Bligh that they only remained on board the Bounty because there was no more room in the longboat. The remaining six were sentenced to death. Peter Haywood and William Morrison were pardoned. William Musprat was released on a technicality but three mutineers Thomas Ellison, Thomas Burkitt and John Millwood were hanged in October 1792.
The simple and beautiful pounder that will be on display in the Pier Store was used to mash, amongst other things taro, which is cooked and then fermented to become a starchy food staple called poi. It would also have been used to pound breadfruit and bananas.
Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland very kindly brought the pounder to Norfolk with him when he travelled here to work on the HMS Sirius collection re-housing project. Prior to departing last weekend he presented it to the Norfolk Island Museum in the presence of the Chief Minister, and Minister for the Museum, Mr David Buffett.
We are very thankful to the Museum of Tropical Queensland for their support in helping us secure this loan. It is not yet on display as the finishing touches to a display case take place however it will be within the next few weeks and will be found on the ground floor of the Pier Store Museum. As a result of the removal of the HMS Sirius collection from the Pier Store, both floors of the building now display the Bounty story and artefacts together with the stories of Pitcairn Island and Norfolk Island. It is a museum that celebrates the history, stories and culture of the people of Norfolk Island. We hope that many people will enjoy viewing the pounder with its special connection to Norfolk’s foremothers and fathers.
Posted by Norfolk Island Museum at 5:36 PM
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
It has been a big few weeks at the museum. On Thursday 8th November the amazing team of Phillip Smith, Franklin Randall, Caine Henderson, Winton Stephens, Brent Jones, Pumpkin and Brett Berganin took the Sirius anchor, carronades and other artefacts from the Pier Store to their new home in the former Protestant Chapel. This was no easy task for the anchor in particular. Not only did they have to take the 1.7 ton anchor out through the gantry doors in the Pier Store (that are shorter than the average door and thinner than the width of the head of the anchor) they also then had to manoeuvre it in through the compound side door, attach it to a wooden stock and leave it free standing in the middle of the room! Hopefully some of the pictures will reveal the level of skill and ingenuity required to successfully carry this out.
Our sincere thanks to Franklin Randall for doing it all again! and providing his expert knowledge to the whole process. Caine Henderson brought his ‘Dial a Digger’ machinery and team who worked together for the entire day meeting every challenge without a hitch. What amazing Norfolk men!
We have been so lucky to secure the services of Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland who has so much experience with this type of work. Prior to the move of the major artefacts, Phillip worked with Brent Jones putting up the 5 metre long replica fibre-glass hull. Fitting the difficult bow sprit and figurehead were no problem for these two! Phillip and Brent will continue working on this museum and the Pier Store through next week as all the interpretation panels are hung and new displays installed in the Pier Store. As always we had our amazing volunteer Sue Brian doing anything and everything and more that was asked of her.
This exciting re-housing of the HMS Sirius collection is of course only possible due to funding from a grant through the Commonwealth Your Community Heritage Program and the Norfolk Island Government. We have a long way still to go before the new museum will open its doors – but the major and most difficult task of moving those precious artefacts has been successfully achieved.
The photo's really capture the action, skill and incredible accomplishment of the 'move team'.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
The move of the HMS Sirius collection continues. We had a great day yesterday as the anchor stock and cabinets were delivered to the museum and the replica hull had the bowsprit attached. Our 'full-time' team of Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland, Brent Jones, Sue Brian, Janelle Blucher and Lisa Richards were on hand - and also Franklin Randall from KAVHA and Caine Henderson from Dial a Digger! Caine's team will be also be managing the move of the major items such as the anchor and carronades on Thursday.
The following pictures tell the story of the day:
The following pictures tell the story of the day:
Monday, November 5, 2012
All of the work of the last five months is coming to a head this week and next as the HMS Sirius collection is moved into the Protestant Chapel. This “HMS Sirius Collection – Re-housing Project” has been made possible with funding through the Commonwealth’s Your Community Heritage Program and the Norfolk Island Government. It is a very large and exciting project and one that will importantly result in the Nationally Significant HMS Sirius collection being housed in vastly improved environmental conditions. As the flagship of the First Fleet, the Sirius is Australia’s most important shipwreck and as a result of this project Norfolk Island will have a dedicated museum to display her story and remains.
A lot of work has been undertaken to get us to this point. The building has been modified to include a workroom/office, painted and had the floors sanded and re-sealed. New interpretation panels have been designed, written, printed and mounted onto backing panels. Cabinets have been custom made and the replica hull that stood in the old museum has been cleaned up ready to be installed. The anchor stock has been cleaned and oiled ready to stand once again attached to the anchor. A touch-screen with a database on all of the nearly 1,400 people of the First Fleet is underway as is a First Fleet Wall that will eventually contain individually inscribed wooden disks for each of the 1,400.
Not only that, but new displays have also been developed to fill the ground floor of the Pier Store which will be left empty when the Sirius collection is moved out. The Pier Store will be closed for a period towards the end of next week and will then re-open with a focus on the stories of the mutiny on the Bounty, Pitcairn Island and Norfolk Island from 1856.
Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland (MTQ) has arrived to work with our local men on the move. Phillip was last here in 2010 to build a fibreglass replica Bounty cannon used while we completed conservation work on the original. At the MTQ he is a Display Officer with responsibility for the mounting of displays and moving objects throughout the museum. He is also a specialist in dinosaur creations! He recently made a life size replica dinosaur that moved by remote control to the delight of children visiting the museum’s dinosaur exhibition. We are excited to welcome Phillip back to the island and to work on this important project. Our sincere thanks to the MTQ for releasing him from his work and allowing him to come – and also to his wife Claudia and small son Lennox for letting us take him away from home for the fortnight!
Sunday, October 28, 2012
More wonderful stories emerging from our re-housing of the HMS Sirius objects through the Commonwealth Your Community Heritage Program. This is a very interesting one!
One of the more curious objects in the HMS Sirius collection is an aboriginal stone hatchet. It is an edge-ground stone and was found amongst a collection of flint pebble and ballast and heavily concreted iron shot. Its unnaturally shaped edge drew the eye of the maritime archaeologists distinguishing it from the River Thames flint pebbles. They realized that it was a stone axe and originally wondered if it related to the Polynesian settlement (approximately AD 900 to 1100), as Polynesian axes have previously been found in Emily Bay. However examination by Australian prehistorians confirmed that it is a tool made and used by Australian Aborigines and probably originates from the cobble beds of the Nepean River between Emu Plains and Richmond Hill, New South Wales.
It has been fashioned from a flattish pebble, one end of which has been ground on two sides to form a sharp cutting edge, suitable for woodworking. Stone hatchets were commonly used to remove bark from trees for canoes and shields, for cutting notches up trees when pursuing possums or searching for honey and for chopping and splitting wood. A wrap around handle made of wood would have been attached to the hatchet head. Analysis of the surface residue was even able to show that the natural bonding substance used to secure the hatchet handle to the head was a mixture of plant resin and animal product filler, such as kangaroo dung.
The question of how an Aboriginal stone hatchet head came to be on the Sirius when she was wrecked is also interesting. It is known that officers of the First Fleet collected ‘curiosities’ and that there were exchanges between Aborigines and officers. We have recently discovered that one officer in particular who was known for collecting native artefacts, lost his collection in the Sirius wreck. It is possible that we can link the stone hatchet head to Acting 3rd lieutenant Henry Waterhouse.
Waterhouse was 16 when he joined HMS Sirius as a midshipman. By that time he had already seen service on four ships having been recommended to Governor Phillip. He was promoted in 1789 to acting 3rd lieutenant and spent time in Port Jackson working with senior officers surveying the harbour and surrounding land, showing interest in the country and its people.
Waterhouse was part of the ship’s company when HMS Sirius was wrecked loosing his collection of native artifacts. He returned to Port Jackson on HMS Supply working there with Captain Arthur Phillip. On one journey, when Phillip was speared by Aborigines, Waterhouse carried him to the boat and held him during a two hour trip back to the settlement.
Returning to England he carried a parrot and a “squirrel” (possum) from Captain Phillip as a gift for Lady Chatham. He later served on HMS Bellerophon and in Lord Howe’s fleet. In July 1794, Captain John Hunter asked for him as second captain aboard Reliance when he returned to NSW to take up the post of governor. Waterhouse remained in the colony until 1800 going to the Cape of Good Hope in 1796 to purchase stock which included the first merino sheep to land in NSW. Although he received land grants and leases he did not settle and returned to England in March 1800. He died at Westminster in 1812, aged 42 years.
The stone hatchet is on display in the Pier Store and will be on display in the new Sirius Museum currently being prepared in the former Protestant Chapel at Kingston. The entire Sirius collection will be re-housed there with wonderful new displays and cabinets thanks to funding from the Commonwealth Your Community Heritage program and the Norfolk Island Government. We are in the final weeks of planning for the relocation of the objects and the opening of the new museum – busy but happy work for us all.
Posted by Norfolk Island Museum at 3:05 PM
Sunday, August 12, 2012
The HMS Sirius collection will be re-housed in the former Protestant Chapel/Youth Centre at the end of the year via a project funded through a Commonwealth Your Community Heritage Program Grant and the Norfolk Island Government. We have been busy writing the interpretive panels that will form part of the new displays and researching the story of how the objects were recovered has provided some fascinating information.
Items were occasionally recovered from the wreck site during the 190 years from her wrecking in 1790. Some were washed ashore; others retrieved from the reef or, in the case of one anchor, deliberately blasted from the reef in 1905. This anchor had remained visible on the reef at low tide prompting a New South Wales politician Sir Francis Suttor to request it be retrieved and shipped to Sydney, to be placed alongside Arthur Phillip’s statue in the Botanical Gardens. However when the anchor finally arrived in Sydney it had both flukes missing and didn’t look as imposing or attractive as Sir Suttor expected, so instead he had it positioned in Macquarie Place.
|Recovered off the reef in 1905 and now in Macquarie Place, Sydney|
The anchor had been blasted up from the ocean floor by members of the local Methodist Church. The Administrator at the time provided the explosives and the men carried out the exercise with the promise of a 20 pound reward. They were reminded of their financial obligation to the Methodist Church in Sydney to encourage their involvement in this exercise!
Interest was revived in 1965 when a film crew from the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) arrived on the island. They interviewed locals to identify the wreck site and were taken out to the area just seaward of the surf zone. Diving over the area they saw copper fastenings bolts, rudder and stern post fittings, copper sheathing tacks, lead shot and a large anchor in-situ. Jack Doyle filmed a story which was aired on the 31st October 1965 in the Weekend Magazine segment. This was the first underwater footage of the Sirius site. The visit by the ABC film crew sparked a desire by locals and others to recover the anchor and other relics known to be on the reef.
|Now on display in the Norfolk Island Museum|
The anchor seen on the ABC footage was finally raised by locals in 1973 with the assistance of the SS Holmburn, a Wellington, New Zealand registered ship as captured in our photo. Apparently she nearly came to grief during the exercise and her master was reported to have been dismissed on return to New Zealand.
|The Holmburn in 1975|
Numerous objects were removed from the site by local divers particularly from the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. The introduction of the Historic Shipwrecks Act in 1976 with its aim of protecting the relics of historic shipwrecks prompted many locals to offer the items they had in their personal possession to the Museum and these items are now accessioned into the official collection. Relics may not now be removed from the site without a permit.
Five official expeditions to recover artefacts from the HMS Sirius wreck site were conducted between 1983 and 2002. In the lead up to the 200th anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet in 1788, it was felt that a project that investigated the remains of the fleet’s flagship would be at the heart of the Bicentennial spirit. Jennifer Amess from the commonwealth department with then responsibility for historic shipwrecks, proposed the project. The Australian Bicentennial Authority provided the funds to conduct a survey to determine if the remains merited salvage and if they did a full-scale operation would commence.
The Western Australian Museum played a pivotal role, with personnel from the Maritime Archaeology and Conservation departments on all expeditions. Western Australia had been at the forefront of maritime archaeology after the discovery off the coast in 1963 of two seventeenth-century Dutch trading ships. The Western Australian Museum was given the responsibility for managing the sites and carrying out excavations, thus beginning maritime archaeology in Australia. The West Australians were therefore the most experienced marine archaeologists to undertake the Sirius project. The Western Australian Museum team were complimented in each of the expeditions with other experts from Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland and Norfolk Island.
Diving on the wreck site is dangerous. The ever-pounding surf causes rapid shifts in the sand and the rubble cover in the lagoon, as well as the areas between the inner and outer reefs where the wreck occurred. Standing on the seawall at Slaughter Bay and looking out to sea across the wreck site, is to be looking straight down the Tasman Sea; the surf and the swell are nearly always from the southwest so there is rarely a calm sea. This makes exploration in this area very difficult.
As a result of these expeditions many remnants from the flagship of the First Fleet are now available for all to see and our understanding of the circumstances of the wrecking and the construction of the Sirius are better understood. The artefacts of HMS Sirius are the most significant array of First Fleet cultural heritage and as such they hold National significance. It is fitting therefore that they will be displayed on Norfolk Island in a museum dedicated to the Sirius celebrating her life, wrecking and recovery of her artefacts.
Posted by Norfolk Island Museum at 2:03 PM
Monday, August 6, 2012
Since receiving funding from the Commonwealth’s Your Community Heritage Program to re-house the Sirius collection back into the former Protestant Chapel/Youth Centre/Museum Theatre (!), much planning and work has begun.
We are currently calling for quotes from painters for internal painting. Quotes need to be submitted by Monday 30 July at 4.00pm at the Pier Store and a schedule of the work needed can be obtained by calling 51434. We are hopeful that an EPBC referral to modify the internal office areas will be approved in early August so that the building work can begin shortly after.
Posted by Norfolk Island Museum at 9:23 PM