Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bounty Cannon Conservation

If you happened to see a cannon travelling on the back of a truck through Burnt Pine the other day, don’t worry we are not readying ourselves for enemy invasion! The cannon is the Bounty cannon, and it was being taken to the Works Depot in readiness for conservation treatments about to begin in the next few weeks. It usually sits in the Pier Store Museum, one of the most important objects on display in our Pitcairn Norfolk Gallery.

Moving a half tonne cannon is not an easy proposition, particularly as it sits upstairs in the Pier Store. Once again we were able to call on the expertise (and muscle!) of the KAVHA Works team to move it for us. As you can see by our photos the first step involved six strong men lifting it onto a prepared crate, which was sitting on top of a forklift, just outside the small side door. The forklift was then lowered to ground level and the cannon was transferred onto the back of a truck and driven up to the Depot. Thanks to David Magri and the KAVHA team for their support in undertaking this delicate operation.

This cannon is one of four, four pounder cannons aboard the Bounty when she arrived at Pitcairn Island. It is a standard design Naval gun and was put onto the Bounty when she was refitted from May 1787, prior to sailing for Tenerife on 23rd December 1787. It would have been mounted on a wooden carriage. It is known from the diary of George Hunn Nobbs that this cannon and one other were raised in 1845. One was used to salute ships visiting Pitcairn until 1853 when an accidental firing killed the island’s Magistrate. There is no record as to wether this is the cannon that fired the fatal shot.

The cannon was brought to Norfolk in 1856 when the entire population of Pitcairn Island left to relocate to Norfolk Island. On Norfolk it stood for many years outside the Military Hospital in Kingston. In the mid 1970s it was included in conservation work carried out by the Western Australian Maritime Museum, and travelled to Perth for that treatment. After it was returned to Norfolk it was included in the newly established Maritime Museum when it opened in 1988.

One of our photos shows the cannon being unloaded from the back of a Hercules when it was returned from Western Australia in 1978. Many thanks to Di Adams for the photo – it shows her father Mack and his cousin Billie Pumpa unloading her.

The cannon is now in need of further conservation treatment. A 2006 report by Jon Carpenter and Richard Garcia from the Western Australian Museum says it “is showing signs of corrosion activity beneath its surface coating. The coating will have to be removed in order to re-treat the canon”. In addition, there is significant corrosion and delamination of the bore, which is uncoated. The conservation work has been funded by the National Library of Australia through the Community Heritage Grants scheme.

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