Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Making of a Replica Bounty Cannon

The first stage of our Bounty cannon conservation project kicked off this morning! Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland arrived on the island on the weekend for a two week visit, during which he will make a mould and cast of the cannon. We are very fortunate to have Phillip undertake this work; he brings with him a wealth of experience in casting and moulding. And this is the second Bounty cannon he has worked on – he also made a cast of the cannon which underwent conservation treatment and was returned to Pitcairn Island last year.

Phillip is a Preparator, or Exhibitions Officer and has one of the most interesting jobs. Generally, he oversees and directs all exhibition design, production and maintenance jobs, but he also does skeletal reconstructions of dinosaurs including moulding, casting and assembly of bones. Other jobs include moulding and casting of biological specimens, fossil materials, historic artefacts and even human bodies.

Phillip’s moulding and casting skills have seen him being invited to work for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington USA. In 2002 the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History undertook major restoration work on its large dinosaur exhibits in an attempt to address damage caused by outdated and structurally weak steel armatures. A decision was made to mould and cast the dinosaur bones and re-exhibit the casts instead of the original bones. This was a grand undertaking as these exhibits are a dynamic part of the overall collection housed at the NMNH and therefore it was of great importance that they not be off display any longer than necessary. Phillip was invited to be part of the team charged with carrying out the work required regarding moulding, casting, mounting and modelling of missing parts of a Stegosaurus. In addition to this project he was also charged with replicating the scull from only one example of Saratosaurus.

Phillip will be making a two part mould of our cannon from silicon and fibre glass. He started off work by making a timber cut out around the cannon which sits half way down. Eventually a clay barrier will be made which will used to hold the mould. In about a week’s time the cannon will be turned upside down and the bottom half will be worked on. Assisting Phillip during this work is Lee Irvine – our thanks to Poppa and the Works team for lending us Lee for the fortnight!


  1. Great to see the cannon getting started - looks like an interesting object, and a slightly different technique to the last one you did. Hope all goes well and look forward to seeing photos of the end result. Ewen

  2. Hi Ewan, great to have Phillip here and working on the cannon. It got covered in silicon today and fibre glass tomorrow. Will keep the posts coming so you can see how it progresses.

  3. What are your future plans with the new cannon?

  4. We are having it made for a few reasons - when the cannon undergoes conservation treatments it will be there as insurance in case anything goes dramatically wrong - not that we anticipate that at all! It will be put on display while the original undergoes its treatments, whihc could be some months. Mostly, it will be available to the Norfolk Island community for their use. Up until the 1940s it was taken out on Bounty Day, (the anniversary of the arrival of the Pitcairn Islanders on Norfolk on June 8 1856) set up in the Compound and a shot fired from it. While we won't be able to fire anything out of the replica it can be used for these sorts of occassions.

  5. whose the ugly bugger in the last photo