Welcome to the Norfolk Island Museum's blog. We are lucky to be located in the most beautiful part of a stunning island in the South Pacific. We are a little island, but our history and stories and great - from Polynesian and convict settlements to the home of the Bounty mutineers. Hopefully you'll enjoy our stories.
The Pacific Development and Conservation Trust of New
Zealand have confirmed their most generous financial support for our project
titled “Documenting, Researching and Conserving Pitcairn Island’s Material
The Pacific Development and Conservation Trust (PDCT) was
established by Trust Deed by the New Zealand Government on 23 May 1989. The
money for the Trust was received from the French Government in recognition of
events surrounding the destruction of the Rainbow Warrior vessel in 1985.Some of us might recall Norfolk Island’s
connection to this incident with the vessel Ouvea
arriving at Norfolk Island after smuggling explosives and other gear into New
Zealand.Thirty years has passed since
the explosion of the Greenpeace vessel that tragically killed photographer
Fernando Pereira, just earlier this month the French secret-service agent who
led the attack made a public apology for his actions.
We at the Norfolk Island Museum are extremely pleased and
excited to be provided with the financial resource to pursue this project. The
aim of our project is to locate, document and provide conservation advice on
Pitcairn Island’s material culture that is held with the communities on Norfolk
Island and New Zealand.
population on Pitcairn Island has been decreasing rapidly in recent times with
the islanders migrating mainly to New Zealand.The cultural material is leaving the island along with the people
putting the provenance of the material at risk and creating potential for these
objects to be lost.
This is a two stage project.Stage 1 is to identify and document Pitcairn Island’s cultural material
located in New Zealand and Norfolk Island while Stage 2 will focus on Pitcairn
itself.This initial successful grant is
to facilitate stage 1.
The need for this project has been identified through
feedback from Norfolk Islanders visiting Pitcairn Island, and also by our
relationship with the Pitcairn Island Museum, whom have little resources to
undertake this type of project themselves.
This project is fundamental to the protection of Pitcairn
Island’s material culture.No previous
projects have provided for such a holistic approach to ensure material is
identified and documented. This project also explicitly acknowledges that there
is a distinct Pitcairner culture created through the historical circumstances
of its 18th century establishment by Polynesian and European
forebears:its development on Pitcairn
and later Norfolk Island. Today, these objects are an important part of this
Documentation of this material
and associated knowledge about its cultural contexts, uses and significance
will form a focus for future community interest in its material and cultural
heritage, as well as provide a body of material for researchers – wherever they
may reside, through physical and digital access.And what a valuable gift this will be to the
future generations of Pitcairn and Norfolk Islanders.
Individuals will be given the opportunity to tell their
stories about life on Pitcairn Island.They
will have the opportunity to have these stories recorded for themselves and
their families. Participants can showcase their material culture and
connections to Pitcairn Island.Basic
conservation advice will be provided to ensure the objects remain in good
condition, objects will be photographed and their history recorded.This information will form a comprehensive
database.The Norfolk Island Museum
will be the repository and access point of this data base of material,
information and research enabling full and direct access to the community.
The Pitcairn and Norfolk Island culture is intrinsically
interwoven; this project is imperative to protect our shared heritage and
culture.It also offers a fantastic
opportunity to develop research, learning and curatorial outcomes.
We’ll keep you posted, in the meantime please contact us at
the Norfolk Island Museum - your knowledge and ideas are important!
There are many more shipwrecks in
the waters surrounding Norfolk Island than is
commonly known.One of these lesser
known shipwreck stories is that of the Oscar
Robinson, a wooden hulled sailing vessel of 61 ton that became stranded on
the reef close to the narrow entrance into Emily Bay.
Oscar Robinson was originally a
trader off the coast of NSW, built in 1883 at Williams
River in NSW and registered in Sydney to Mr John Pinto
of Balmain.This schooner became a
regular trader between Sydney, Lord Howe and Norfolk Island, providing a vital freight and passenger
service between these ports.
this particular voyage in January 1898 she was headed from Sydney
to Noumea via Lord Howe and Norfolk Island;
offloading passengers and loading up with fifteen ton of onions at Norfolk. The ship was
anchored off shore at Kingston,
towards the south. Captain Garth was not
on board having left the vessel in charge of the mate Mr. Bezer and a local
pilot, Guildford Adams. On 16 January about 2 p.m. a heavy, black,
nasty-looking squall gathered to the south-west, the decision was taken to
manoeuvre the schooner out to sea. The wind being favourable for this direction
her course was set to go between Nepean and Norfolk Islands, a passage occasionally used by
small vessels.Unfortunately the squall
produced little wind and that which did arrive came from the east south east
put the vessel in difficulty.The anchor
was lifted and she started with the foresail and inner jib. Shortly afterwards
the mainsail was partly hoisted, then lowered and the outer jib set. All to no avail, the vessel drifted
dangerously close to the breakers and an unsuccessful attempt was made to
change course but as she would neither tack nor wear she struck
the desperate scene was witnessed by many including the Norfolk Island Council
of Elders as they were just about to hold a meeting.Seeing the dangerous position of the vessel, the
elders rushed to the boats, two were quickly launched but they were not able to
reach the schooner before she struck.The rescue boats proceeded through the narrow passage into Emily Bay
and worked continuously throughout the afternoon until all the cargo and mail
was recovered, fortunately the two men on board were not hurt beyond exhaustion
and disappointment and everything was landed undamaged.The Oscar
Robinson was the second trading vessel lost at Norfolk within a five year
period, the other was the Mary Ogilvie,
both ships were under the command of Captain W.G Garth, we can only imagine his
the evening Mr Young and a crew of locals made fast a line from the stranded
vessel to a pine tree, they carried a small anchor and hawser (travelling
block) out into the bay and at high tide that night the vessel floated offthe reef into Emily Bay, where she sank in
Chief Magistrate appointed Captain Bates, Captain Champion, Sen. and Mr Snell
as surveyors to survey the vessel, and an auctioneer for its sale.The next day the wreck was surveyed and it
was recommended that she be sold. She went
to auction on 20 January, the hammer went down on the sale at £46 10s and Mr.
Charles Chase Ray Nobbs was the new owner of the sunken Oscar Robinson.
men and boys were employed with casks, buckets and pumps to bale her out at low
tide, succeeding in keeping the water down and managing to take her broadside
onto the beach.The men from the No. 2
whaling company were then engaged and put her further up onto the east corner
of Emily Bay.There begun the stripping of the copper sheathing and other repairs,
most people who had carts and other appliances also provided assistance. It is
not known whether this work was undertaken for remuneration from CCR Nobbs
however it is known that Captain Garth was presented with a salvage claim for £299.
Charles Chase Ray Nobbs stated his intention
to patch up the vessel and then send her to Sydney for final repairs.He intended to keep her for the inter-island
trade.The Oscar Robinson was given a new master and a new name. The new master was Captain Bezer, the chief
mate that had struggled alongside Guildford Adams attempting to save her from
shipwreck.Agnes was the new name.CCR
Nobbs renamed his new schooner after his wife Agnes and the Agnes was the first vessel to be
registered at Norfolk Island.
Finlay and his wife Jeanette
visited the Norfolk Island Museum last week. Robert
came to Norfolk Island for a holiday in February/March 1959 with his mother Mrs
Beverley Finlay, from Launceston,
Tasmania to visit his uncle and
aunt who were living on the island at the time. Mr Frank Patrick, his uncle, was the Officer in Charge of the airport, and Mrs
Patrick was Robert’s mother’s sister.
found some slides which belonged to his mother from that era, and brought
the images with him to show us at the museum.
include photos of the ‘NI’ pines at the airport; the airport lounge
before and after upgrade; Joy Cochrane nee Christian pictured with Robert on
horseback; the Burns Philp store at Middlegate; a church picnic at Kingston; views
of Kingston prior to the pine plantings; view of Kingston from Rooty Hill Road;
Burnt Pine shops; Hopkins store; Philip Island; views from Mt Pitt; airport office; the
OIC house at DCA circle; the fire engines and a number of others.
you Robert for so generously sharing your photos.
are delighted to have received notification from the Maritime Museums of
Australia Project Support Scheme (MMAPSS) of our successful grant application
to undertake the ‘HMS Sirius
Collection Condition Assessment 2015’ project.
in 1995 MMAPSS provides funding to support Australia’s maritime heritage. It
is jointly funded by the Australian Government and the Australian National
Maritime Museum (ANMM).The Norfolk Island Museum
has been extremely fortunate to have been the recipient of numerous grants over
the years; grants that have assisted us in caring for the HMS Sirius Collection and funded the
research, conservation, care and display of various aspects of Norfolk Island’s maritime heritage.
year’s project provides for a conservator from the ANMM to visit Norfolk Island to conduct an assessment of the condition
of the HMS Sirius Collection, the
proposed date for the visit is February 2016.In 2012 the collection was relocated from the Pier Store Museum into a
dedicated HMS Sirius Museum, this is
in the old Protestant Chapel or the Prince Phillip Youth Centre as some of us
will remember.This dedicated museum
offers better environmental conditions than the Pier Store.The collection is continuously monitored by
the museum staff and preventive conservation is applied to ensure it remains
stable in the new environment.
it is seven years since a qualified conservator has undertaken a whole of
collection condition assessment.In this
time not only the collection on display has been exposed to movement and a
fluctuating environment, but the collection in storage has been rehoused into
micro-environments.This amount of changing
activity to the collection now requires an assessment to record its condition.
It is hoped the assessment will record the collection is in a good condition
due to the environmental improvements over this time.
It has been an extremely busy and productive past couple of
weeks at the museum as we have benefited from the valuable skills and time
offered by two wonderful volunteers.Sue
and Don Brian are not strangers to Norfolk; they left the island eighteen
months ago after living here for five years.Don taught science and chemistry at NICS and Sue volunteered her time to
the museum four days a week for the most of that time, Sue had to have
Wednesdays off from the museum so she could attend to weaving with the guys at
the Golden Orb, and if she wasn’t at either of those places, you could find her
volunteering for the National Park.Outside of these times they were involved in many other charitable
activities supporting the island.
What they have achieved for the museum these past two weeks
is just remarkable.
Sue developed a
template that enables us to upload multiple entries into our database in one
single upload.This is no mean feat
considering there are more than eighty fields and multiple layers of
classifications necessary for the cataloguing.This template has enabled us to finally upload the Les Brown Collection
of over 1,000 files, plus books and images into our database.This week Sue has uploaded more than 2,000
entries into our database.Sue’s
previous volunteer work with the museum was mainly in the field of conservation,
with a science background, she was perfect for the job, this week she has been
able to provide instruction in conservation techniques to Gaye Evans, who has
recently joined us at the museum.
Don originally planned for a one week holiday and extended to
two.He was kept busy for the first week
digitising our entire collection of cassette tape recordings.This digitising work is done in ‘real time’,
outsourcing for this project would have cost hundreds.Amongst this collection of cassette tapes is
a recent donation by Chris Nobbs including nineteen oral history interviews he
conducted during the 1980s and ‘90s, now we can hear those voices and listen to
The final day of their ‘holiday’ on Norfolk was taken up
with performing the next step in the conservation of the artefacts recently
recovered from the works in the Blacksmith’s Compound.More than one hundred ferrous objects were
brushed and then placed back into fresh solutions of 2% sodium hydroxide; this
part of the conservation process is to remove the corrosion causing chloride
from the objects.Sue’s work on the
cataloguing template will be greatly appreciated again when it comes time to
record these items into our database.
These are the major projects accomplished during their two
weeks on island, there were many other tasks completed along the way.Sue and Don, your generosity and achievements
are immeasurable, a huge thank-you to you both from a truly grateful Norfolk
Island Museum.Come back soon ..okay!
Earlier this year we announced that a tampion (or
tompion) had been brought back to the island after being at the Department of
Materials Conservation at the WesternAustralianMuseum
for twenty two years undergoing conservation.
This tampion had been discovered in one of the HMS Sirius carronades when it was recovered from the wreck site. We are delighted to finally have this object
on display in our HMS Sirius Museum in a special cabinet constructed by K.C.
Myra Stanbury, now an 'Honorary Research Associate' at the Western Australian Museum, was the Registrar during the expeditions to recover the Sirius material from the reef. She travelled to Norfolk in March this
year as a guest presenter for the ‘225th Anniversary of the wrecking
of the HMS Sirius’, bringing with her the tampion. She said “In the process of conserving the
second carronade recovered from the Sirius wreck site a disc-shaped,
lathe-turned wooden tampion (or tompion) was found in the muzzle of the gun.
Made of maple (Acer sp.), the plug was designed to prevent the penetration of
sea water into the bore of the muzzle-loading gun which could cause rust to
develop and render the gun unserviceable. Sometimes the tampions were carefully
sealed with tallow or putty to make them watertight. This appears to have been
the method employed on the Sirius carronade as a ‘waxy-oily’ layer of material
was removed from the machine-turned inner surface of the tampion before it was
placed in a treatment solution to remove some of the reactive iron corrosion
products.Attached to the inner side of the tampion was a lanyard consisting of
two 34-cm lengths of twisted twine. This was spliced to a ball of string
wadding that fitted snugly within the 131 mm bore of the gun. When loaded with
a clean round shot to fit the gun the ball of wadding in the muzzle would
prevent the displacement of the tampion by the impact of the round shot as it
rolled back and forth in the barrel with every roll of the ship. In this way,
sometimes helped by the addition of olive oil or other suitable lubricant into
the chamber of the gun, the bore was kept in good condition while at sea”.
This tampion is a
very significant object. Not only is it a very rare example of a complete
tampion of this period, it is now displayed beside the carronade it was
recovered from, and the carronade itself is rare for its early short barreled
design – and it is on display within
several hundred metres of the site of its recovery. Come to the HMS Sirius Museum and take a look for yourself, remember entry is free
for residents. (Our image shows the
tampion on display.)
And last but not least, I want to say a huge thank
you to two amazing people who have volunteered their time at the museum last week. Some of you may know David and Michelle
Cullen being regular visitors to the island, they have been working hard in the
Guard House completing a huge task of sorting papers, creating files and
entering data. I think we’ve exhausted
the island’s supply of manila folders.
Thank you, thank you …. and see you again next year.
This is exactly what 8th
generation First Fleeter descendant Andre Forrester did in our museum this
week, touched a tangible connection to the history of his forefather.
‘Do not touch’ is a general rule
in our museums, particularly when it comes to metal, the moisture, oils and
salts on your skin transfer to the object encouraging corrosion. However, this particular metal object has a
sign beside it which reads ‘please touch’.
This object is a ballast block recovered from the wreck of the HMS Sirius during the ‘2002 Sirius Expedition’ the fifth and the
last maritime archaeological expedition conducted on the wreck site of this
flagship of the First Fleet.
This iron ballast block has a
long conservation story. For many years it has been immersed in a caustic
solution undergoing an electrolytic reduction process to remove the chlorides
from the metal. This took multiple
changes of more than 120 litres of solution, rinsing and maneuvering of a block weighing in at approximately 100 kg, hundreds of chloride readings and plenty
of patience. Then it was necessary to
remove the remaining accretions cemented onto the block, and finally it was
ready for applications of rust converters and waxing. It is these applications and layers of wax
that is providing the protective coating that enables it to be ‘touched’. To list the names of the people that have
supported the Norfolk IslandMuseum
with the conservation of this object over so many years, are too many. However, we’d like to say thanks to Shane
McCoy from the Administration Works Depot for his recent work on the final
stages and preparation for display.
This is a wonderful addition to
our HMS Sirius Museum, housing the most extensive collection of cultural
material from the First Fleet. The First
Fleet consisted of eleven ships, nine of these were privately owned and two
British naval ships, carrying over 1400 people they left Portsmouth
in May 1787 to arrive at Port Jackson in January 1788, these people are the
founders of modern Australia.
Andre’s ancestor Robert Forrester
was a convict in the First Fleet, making his voyage to Australia on one of the privately owned ships,
the Scarborough. Originally sentenced to death at the Old
Bailey for stealing six guineas in gold with a couple of other characters, his
sentence was later reprieved to 7 years transportation. Robert came to live on Norfolk
Island between the years of 1791 and 1793 holding a grant of 12
acres at Mount Pitt Path in Queenborough.
Robert Forrester’s descendants have come back to Norfolk to make it their home. It was an honour to ask Robert Forrester’s
descendant Andre to be the first First Fleeter descendant to ‘touch’ this link
to his history.