Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sirius Links

I think that perhaps out of everybody on Norfolk Island, I have the best office location of all. Every day from my desk in the Pier Store I have to draw myself away from looking out the window, across about 25 metres of Kingston Pier to the reef and over to Phillip Island. I can easily gaze at the site of the wreck of HMS Sirius and often find myself thinking about that day. Every day visitors come to see the artefacts from the Sirius on display at the Pier Store. Due to her role as the flagship of the First Fleet she is Australia’s most important shipwreck and her artefacts are of National significance.

The Sirius’ story is part of our Norfolk Island story. Her wrecking here has meant that we have forged particular relationships with others in Australia and beyond. One of those links is with HMAS Sirius and the other is with the suburb of Mosman in Sydney.

HMAS Sirius 
On the 16th September 2006 the HMAS Sirius was Commissioned as an auxiliary oiler carrying over 34806 cz of fuel to replenish ships at sea by day or night. She is one of two ships of the Afloat Support Force. The name Sirius was selected because of its historical connections with the First Fleet and the important role the HMS Sirius played in providing logistical support to the struggling colonial settlement and economy. There have been six other ships of the Royal Navy named HMS Sirius, however this is the first time a Royal Australian Navy Ship has been named Sirius. Norfolk Island is her home port and her crew has freedom of the island whenever they visit.

The Commissioning Lady was Jeanine Nobbs, fourth Great Grandaughter of Fletcher Christian and married to Benjamin (Booda) Nobbs, who is the third Great Grandson of Philip Gidley King, the second Lieutenant on board HMS Sirius during the voyage of the First Fleet and the first Commandant on Norfolk Island.
 HMAS Sirius was built as a double-hulled commercial product tanker, MV Velos and purchased by the Commonwealth on 3 June 2004. She underwent modifications including the adding of a flight deck for helicopter operations. She is capable of replenishing two ships at once and has transfer points for fuel, water and stores. She is 183.22 metres long, has a displacement of 25016.53 tonnes and a crew of 60. Her motto is “To serve and provide”.

Links to Mosman, NSW
In October 1788 the Sirius went on a voyage back around the world to get supplies from Cape Town. The voyage home to Port Jackson very nearly ended in disaster when they encountered severe storms when rounding the south of Tasmania. When she arrived in 1789 the Sirius required a major refitting and was beached on the north side of the harbour at a place that was then referred to as Elbow Cove and Careening Cove, later Great Sirius Cove and eventually Mosman Bay.

The reason for venturing across to the other side of the harbour from the main settlement is written about by Judge Advocate David Collins in his chronicle of the first decade of New South Wales: “There was no doubt, that the work necessary to be done to the Sirius would meet with fewer interruptions if the people who were engaged in it were removed from the connections which seamen generally form where there are women of a certain character and description”. The seamen’s stay of five months was Mosman’s first European settlement. (Talk by Gavin Souter: HMS Sirius NSW 2008, November 2007)

Repairs were carried out to repair storm damage and to replace weak timbers and dry rot. It was found that some vital fittings had been omitted when the ship was readied for the voyage from England and this, along with the deterioration of the iron bolts, had caused many of their problems.

A connection between the people of Mosman and Norfolk Island was formalised in 1989 by Mosman Council and the Norfolk Island Government with the introduction of a Friendship Agreement.

A bas-relief of the Sirius commissioned by Mosman Council was installed at Mosman Bay in 1989. A second one was gifted to the people of Norfolk Island by the citizens of Mosman in celebration of their Sister Community relationship and was installed on Norfolk Island in 1990. A third was installed on the Isle of Wight in 1991 celebrating their connections with the Sirius and Friendship status with Mosman. The bronze relief sculptures were made by Dr. Alex Sandor Kolozsy. Dr Kolozsy is a leading Australian sculptor represented in many major museums in Australia and worldwide. He is particularly known for his fine figurative bronzes, portrait busts and monumental sculpture commissions.

Since 1989 there have been a number of visiting delegations between the two communities. In 2003 Mosman Council presented a special Friendship Agreement display about Norfolk Island in the Mosman Library. The display provided information about the community and its natural and built environment, and promoted Norfolk as a tourist destination for residents of Mosman.

In 2008 Norfolk Island participated in The Art of Friendship, an exhibition presented at the Mosman Art Gallery. Twelve artists were selected to represent the community and displayed their artworks which included paintings, drawings, printmaking, photography, ceramics, jewellery and fibre work.

The full story of the life and wrecking of HMS Sirius is told on our web site at