Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Very Speical Loan

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.
L-R: David Buffett, Lisa Richards, Phillip Smith

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.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The HMS Sirius Collection is Moved!

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 - Day 2

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:

Monday, November 5, 2012

We're on the Move!

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

Henry Waterhouse and the Stone Hatchet

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.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Recovering HMS Sirius Artefacts

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.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Your Community Heritage Program Update

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.

Local suppliers and carpenters have been helping us with the design of new cabinets, updating existing ones and ordering materials ready for their construction. Others have been booked to be involved in the physical moving of the anchor, carronades and large ballast blocks etc. that will happen in mid November. We have begun the lengthy task of writing the content for information panels and sourcing images and other material to help with the interpretation and exhibition of the collection. The Works depot have very kindly found us the space to prepare the anchor stock – this half ton object will need to be cleaned up, have the fittings checked and then coated ready for display. It’s wonderful to finally be underway working on moving this priceless collection out from the current harmful environment it is in. We will keep you updated on our progress

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

HMS Sirius Re-housing Project

We received some very good and important news recently that our grant submission to fund the relocation of the HMS Sirius collection back into the Protestant Chapel has received funding from the Your Community Heritage (YCH) Program through the Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Water, Population and Communities. This is welcome news indeed as the collection has suffered since the 2004 move to the Pier Store which occurred as a result of an insurance issue with The Trial of the Fifteen. The unsealed walls and doors, high air salt content and temperature and humidity fluctuations that occur in the Pier Store all meant that the environment was simply too unstable for this precious collection. It was with great relief and thanks that we received notification of the success of our application.

The collection where it currently is in the Pier Store Museum
 The project will include an extension to the current kitchen area to allow for a small office where Janelle Blucher will carry out conservation work. A staircase will provide access to the existing balcony area. The replica hull from the old maritime museum will be replaced and the anchor will once again stand on its stock. The museum will be a dedicated space to HMS Sirius as the Bounty story will stay at the Pier Store, which will be entirely devoted to Pitcairn Norfolk stories. In essence this grant allows us to set up two new exhibitions with the expansion of displays at the Pier Store.

Of course the burning question is where will The Trial of the Fifteen move to? Negotiations are currently underway with a venue up-town which we hope to announce shortly.  This will be a major change for the play, but we hope will also present the opportunity to refresh and re-invigorate, make some needed changes and result in a fabulous new phase for this long running, successful play. We are sure that Peter Clarke would be pleased with our plans.
The Protestant Chapel - to be the new home for the HMS Sirius collection
 The move will result in a number of local businesses being used. Local builders, painters, floor sanders, cabinet makers and designers will all be part of this project. The work will unfold between now and the end of November and will keep us more than busy at the museum. 
 We would like to acknowledge and thanks the Commonwealth for fundingthis important project through the Your Community Heritage Program.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Maritime Week on Norfolk Island

Next March the Norfolk Island Museum will be partnering with The Travel Centre to present a week long event that celebrates our maritime heritage. Despite being such a little island we certainly hit above our weight when it comes to the quality of our maritime stories and it is wonderful to be able to share these with our visitors  in a ‘history soaked’ week of events! The Travel Centre has put together a fabulous package including airfares, accommodation and a range of activities for the week which will run from 15 to 24 March next year. Please help us tell others about this event by letting us know of individuals or groups who may like to receive information about the week and we’ll arrange for a package to be sent to them.

The title of the week: “From the Sirius to the Bounty” gives a clear indication of the substance of our maritime heritage. These two ‘big’ maritime stories bookend other perhaps lesser known but also fascinating parts of our maritime history. The story of the earliest Polynesian seafarers who lived here is important as this island is the only point of Polynesian settlement in Australia. Many islanders today have found artefacts such as stone adzes in their back garden or at the beach and of course we have a great array of artefacts from the archaeological digs behind Emily Bay. How the Polynesians came, why and when they left are just some of the questions surrounding this earliest part of the islands history.

Jumping forward in time an important part of our heritage today comes from our whaling history. One of the first industries to be started upon arrival by the Pitcairners, whaling brought vital cash into the economy. It was a dangerous activity as evidenced by the number of graves in our cemetery and an industry that stopped and started a number of times until finally finishing in 1962. The Resolution is another key local maritime story that goes to the heart of this island’s ultimately unsuccessful attempts to control shipping of fresh fruit and vegetables to mainland markets. Our modern day lighterage activity and the skill of our local men in unloading ships attracts visitors to every unloading. All these stories will be fully explored during the week.

Of course the wrecking of HMS Sirius on Norfolk Island in 1790 left us with Australia’s most important shipwreck site and material. On the 223rd anniversary of her wrecking at midday the 19th March, we will be looking out over the site where the devastating wrecking occurred. The importance of her artefacts cannot be understated – they are the most significant array of First Fleet cultural heritage held in Australia.

Last, but certainly not least is the most famous mutiny story ever told – the mutiny on the Bounty. We will try to separate Hollywood fiction from fact and fully explore all the circumstances of the mutiny; that most remarkable voyage of Bligh in the longboat and the voyage of the mutineers back through Tahiti and eventually on to Pitcairn Island.

It would be hard to think of a greater spread of substantial maritime stories that our own island has. We look forward to partnering with The Travel Centre for Maritime Week on Norfolk Island next March – and hope you’ll help spread the word to potential visitors

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Les Brown Collection

Just over 6 weeks ago the Museum received its single largest donation from Paul Bowe, great friend and Executor of the Estate of the late Les Brown. Close to 600 books, hundreds of photographs and subject files arrived at the museum, literally, overnight. These were of course from Les’ library which he had built up over the previous 40 odd years and used to research and answer so many questions on Norfolk’s history.  

The work of sorting, cataloguing and deciding where the collection would be housed has consumed much time since then. The first big part of the job has now been completed thanks to Janelle Blucher and Sue Brian’s work processing all the books. They have recorded the details of each and entered a catalogue record so that they are all searchable. We made the decision to house the collection together rather than integrate it into our existing collection, so cleared away other items in the Guard House to allow them to fill ten entire bookshelf bays! The photo is of Janelle and Sue as they put the last book onto the shelves.

Janelle and Sue putting the last book on the bookshelf!
Helen Sampson has begun the task of going through the individual files – which amount to around ten, very full, boxes worth. As these are documented they will also be catalogued and hopefully housed alongside the books in filing cabinets.  What a wonderful problem for the museum – ‘where to fit all these resources?!’.

We had a comment on our Norfolk Island Museum facebook page the other day in relation to a post about the donation of Les’ materials to the museum. Pat said “My husband, Noel, & I were saddened to hear of the death of Les Brown. He was a great friend to us when we visited Norfolk Island & helped me immensely with my family research. We are so pleased that his wonderful collection of books & papers are with the Norfolk Island Museum”.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

1821 visit of the Surry to Pitcairn Island

We have received another wonderful donation to the Museum. Belinda Cohen from NSW has sent us a CD with photographs her grandmother Muriel Ramsay took while living on the island for a year in 1925. Belinda says that Muriel came here for a year after her husband died and while she doesn’t know what she did while here on the island, from the look of her photographs she certainly led a very busy social life! If anyone has information on Muriel’s time on the island we would love to hear from you.

Belinda also has a link to Pitcairn Island. Her great great grandfather David Ramsay visited the island when a ship’s surgeon on the Surry when it stopped at Pitcairn in 1821. The Captain of the ship was Thomas Raine and he recorded the visit to Pitcairn in his log, as did Dr Ramsay. While Dr Ramsay did not go ashore he copied much of Captain Raine’s visit into his own record of the visit. This document was left by Dr Ramsay in the office of the firm, Raine and Ramsay, and so came into the possession of the Raine family (of Raine and Horne Real Estate). It was then transcribed in 1961 by Jean Marginson and subsequently typed up by Belinda.

This extract is from Dr Ramsay’s account:

April 11th  This morning the Weather cleared up, at 8 a.m. saw Pitcairn Island right ahead, altho’ 55 miles dist. At 4 p.m. close up with it, and altho we saw many cultivated spots no habitations presented themselves. We hauled our Wind intended round the South East point, in  a little while to our great astonishment we saw the British Flag hoisted, we immediately laid along that part of the Island, and in a few minutes after a Canoe came alongside with two Men, who asked us in good English “How you all do” – we hove to and they came on board. Their names were Edward Quintal and George Young – two more Canoes also shortly came alongside in which were Donald McKay and Charles Christian – Robert Young and Edward Young who were equally kind and warm in their salutations – The effect which the appearance of these men had on all of us is difficult to describe, they were quite naked except for a covering round the middle, so neatly put on – the most delicate eye could not be offended. – Here we saw the features of Englishmen and heard them talk in our Native tongue and their colour was so light, that it appeared more the effect of the sun than the Mixture of Blood. As the night was coming on we prepared to depart, upon seeing which they begged Capt. Raine in so earnest and warm a manner to stay the night with them and in the morning they would procure us a good supply of Yams, bananas, etc. – that he consented to their Wishes. – Accordingly the Gig was Lowered down and the Capt. Doctor and Mr. Powers went on shore, in Company with the Canoes…

April 12th 1820 … 11 A.M. Cutter returned, loaded with all sorts of fruit, bringing some Men and Women, who appeared to be very happy, the men were pulling the Boats and the women chanting a bit of an old Song. Some few Words of which I caught they were these “When I am single then I’m free, Love shall never conquer me,” – the Dress of the Women was neat, it was composed of a large piece of cloth made fast just under their bosoms and extended to below the Knee, and their hair which was a bright black hung in curls down their back and laid on their breasts – they were very pretty women and might have vied with many of our beauties at home…

At 6 P.M. Captn. Raine came on board accompanied with 3 Canoes one man in them and young Adams came in the Gig. From this time we were engaged till 8 o’clock in talking and bidding them farewell. Their conversation evinced a great deal of Simplicity and Innocence. They were very happy to see us, and if we were good men and did as God bid us, we should see each other in a far happier world, so one of them told me in a very feeling manner, but, added he, if you do not love God and do as the Bible bidde (sic) you you go to a very bad place – all fire. – As they were in want of books we contrived to give them as many as we could spare, several spelling books, Prayer Books, Bibles and Tracts etc., were what best suited them.- At 8 P.M. we lowered down their canoes and gave them three cheers, and which they returned with all the cheerfulness possible. As Captn. Raine was kind enough to let me see the Acct. he had drawn up of his “Welcome” on shore and his remarks on them and on the Island I took the opportunity of gaining his liberty to make a copy of it. Thinking it would highly amuse my dear Friends at home, and if they enjoy the reading of it as much as I did on seeing these people – I shall be double paid for my trouble in copying it.-

(from Captain Raine’s log)
…As soon as we got into the House we found the Women had not been idle, by the fine supper we saw provided viz – a fine large roasted pig, Yams, bananas, etc. and a pleasant beverage made from the Cocoa nut tree.

Old Adams I was glad to find had felt himself so much revived as to be enabled to join us. When these good people who knew not how to express their joy with their company, having seated us all round at table… they then spread some plantain leaves on the floor and they sat down in a ring for their supper also, leaving two or three of the women to attend upon us.- thus being all seated  - Adams said Grace for our table and one of them for theirs… Supper being finished before anyone arose Grace was again said as I before remarked, they were as cheerful as possible. The women now entertained us with an Otaheitean Dance in which the expression of the eyes and the movement of the hands have the greatest share…

On retiring to Bed they all assembled but at their own Habitations, sang a Psalm and said their Prayers, concluded with a Hymn and then an end to Mirth. We were provided with very comfortable Beds in a room upstairs, about 25 ft. long and 15 broad – in a corner of which stood a Bed place, the Bed consisted of dry leaves very soft and comfortable, and the sheets were Otaheitean cloth – which answered the purpose extremely well….

At present many of them read very well and are very fond of it – for they frequently took their Bibles up, and we heard them read several chapters – none of them can write, nor do I think they ever will, unless someone remains with them to teach them – altho’ Adams can write, he is now too old to undertake to teach them. In this conversation with Young his Brothers joined and they all repeatedly expressed “that we wish to do what is right and suppose this Man come we pay great attention and do everything he tells us – two years now since we heard this Man coming, so we think now he never come.” – I told them when I went home I would do my best to get one sent out to them, when they said in great joy “oh you good Captain you never forget us we never forget you”.-

The simplicity and genuine goodness so manifest in all these poor fellows conduct and expressions filled me with Admiration.- to one another was such brotherly affection evinced – such a willingness to comply with each other’s wishes that quarrelling appeared almost impossible. This remark I made to Adams who confirmed it by saying they were the happiest people in the world he thought – for as we then saw them so they always were, and one of their greatest pleasures is having an opportunity in doing good to each other…In their conversation they were always anxious for information on the Scriptures and expressed their sorrow they did not understand all they read.

The following is a list of the ships which have touched at this Island since the settlement of Adams. The Topaz Captn Folger – an American, his was the first vessel they had communication with for Adams told our Captain that some years before this they saw two vessels, one passed the Island, the other landed and cut some Wood and procured some Water. He thinks this last one knew of the inhabitants, but had no communication. The next was the English frigate Britton – 1814.- The Sutton, American – Hercules, an English country Ship.- The Elizabeth English, South Seaman which vessel touched here twice, and the Stanton, American Whaler and lastly ourselves in the Surry, making in all Seven Ships in the course of Thirty Years”.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The R.E.O. Cafe and Bookshop

Here are some beautiful shots of the historic Royal Engineers Office, now the Museum's R.E.O. Cafe and Bookshop located in KAVHA. The photos were taken by Betty Matthews last week during some wild weather on the island.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Bounty and After

We recently received a wonderful donation from Mr Geoff Proctor of Nelson, New Zealand. Geoff’s father Donald served with the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and was stationed on Norfolk for a year from June 1943.

Donald took home with him a copy of one of the original roneoed copies of “The Bounty and After” by A.S. Gazzard which Geoff has now so kindly donated and sent back to the Island. The copy is special as the inside cover contains the signatures of around 50 New Zealand servicemen and also several locals including Bessie Gondon, Louis Gondon (Toothy), Beverly Downes (Simpson) and Lucie Downes. 

This 1943 publication was printed and published by the Norfolk Island Weekly which Albert published between approximately 1937 and 1943. In 1983 his daughter Mrs Dorothy Mitchell, published 500 copies in a soft cover book. She notes in the front cover that “The text of this book is as it was originally written by my father during the period 1930 to 1943. The words and phrases used are in keeping with this historical period”. The book is described as a short history of the descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty and opens with “The fortunes of Norfolk Island have been strangely interwoven with those of New South Wales. Few places in the modern world have had a history so strange, so various, so horrible and romantic, and in latter years such a peaceful, and happy one”. 

Geoff has told us that his father always hoped to return to Norfolk Island but was sadly killed in an accident at a young age. He did however talk with his family about his time on the island and spoke highly of one of the families he had spent time with. When Geoff brought his mother to Norfolk some years ago they met with locals at the RSL who remembered Donald.

The RNZAF played an important role here during WWII. The first ‘unofficial’ landings on the newly completed Norfolk Island airstrip were RNZAF planes on Christmas Day 1942. A New Zealand company, the 36th Battalion designated as ‘N Force’, made up of 1,488 personnel was dispatched to protect the airfield. They were stationed here between 1942 and 1944 and as a result, Norfolk’s war history is more closely tied to New Zealand than Australia. Throughout the duration of the war, an average of 150 planes a month staged through Norfolk, bringing sixteen different types of aircraft.

Geoff’s donation is a wonderful addition to the Museum collection. We are very thankful to him for returning to the island a small but very special piece of our history

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A World Class Ceramics Collection

The displays at the Commissariat Store Museum are impressive, containing artefacts that have been recovered from archaeological digs in World Heritage Listed KAVHA. Norfolk’s British settlement began within months of Sydney’s in 1788 yet the level of disruption that we have had to our landscape since then is minimal in comparison to Sydney. The result of that circumstance is that the archaeological digs here were able to uncover many unique and rare objects including ceramics. As a whole our ceramics collection is impressive in terms of the range of styles, makers, techniques used and patterns.

The museum produced a book on the collection in 2003 called “Kingston Ceramics”.  Written by Nigel Erskine it is a dictionary of the ceramic wares held in the museum and while on sale at the REO CafĂ© and Bookshop to our visitors, is also regularly sold to academics and researchers who are aware of the importance of the collection.

A unique feature of ceramics from the Kingston area is that some bear personalised marks of identification, know as Pitcairner scratch marks. This practice was common amongst sailors and continued by the Bounty mutineers when they arrived on Pitcairn Island. These scratched markings were used to denote ownership of a wide range of property - including trees, bottles, crockery, cutlery and tools. At first a single letter may have been used, however as the population increased the use of more complex marks evolved. These personal scratch marks were inherited down through the generations of families and a register of 150 personal marks dating to about 1893 still survives on Pitcairn Island. While personal marks are still commonly used on Pitcairn today, the custom appears to have declined amongst the Pitcairn Islanders on Norfolk Island during the second half of the nineteenth century and is no longer in practice.
Pitcairner Scratch Marks
The history of ceramics is fascinating. In the 18th century, most inexpensive earthenware came to England from China through the East India Company. English potters had been unable to match the quality and durability of white Chinese earthenware. When the East India Company's trade began to decline in 1773, English potters had the chance to wrest the ceramics market out of the hands of Chinese potters and exporters. Possibly as early as 1762 Josiah Wedgewood perfected 'Creamware' which was thinner and harder than earlier English pottery and by 1765, on the basis of this, King George III's wife, Queen Charlotte, solicited Wedgewood to be "Potter to His and Her Majesty". As a result of his new title, Wedgewood changed the official name of his creamware to "Queen's Ware". Wedgewood continued experimenting, increasing the flint content in the body of the ware itself and adding a small quantity of cobalt blue to the glaze to offset the natural yellow tint of the body. He produced a ware with a very white surface which was named 'Pearlware'. Pearlware completely eclipsed the creamware market and was manufactured by many potters, one of them naming it 'China Glaze'.

In the 1820s pearlware was replaced by the stronger earthenware 'Ironstone' developed by James Mason, and by bone china developed by Josiah Spode. Ironstone was given a variety of names emphasizing either brilliant whiteness or immense strength. The use of  'China' in some of the more creative earthenware names, such as Ironstone China', 'Granite China', 'Opaque China' and 'Stone China' conveyed a sense of strength associated in the public mind with Chinese ceramics. An invoice from Josiah Spode to William Tatton in 1796 contains the first reference to 'English China' as a general term to cover ironstone ware. The best ironstone wares rivaled porcelain and were quickly in use for everything from tea services to chamber pots.
The Copyright Act of 1842 meant that English decorative art designs had to be registered at the British Patent Office. This seriously limited the range of subjects available for reproduction, which in turn inspired many 'romantic' patterns and artistic designs. From 1842 to 1883 registered designs were marked with a diamond-shaped stamp that indicated the day, month and year the patent took effect. Patents were initially for periods of three years. After 1883 registered designs were marked with an identifying number.

 The printing process also has an interesting history. Transfer printing allowed a potter to duplicate a pattern by transferring it from a copper plate to a ceramic vessel via a specially treated paper. The vessel was then glazed and fired in a kiln. This process was much cheaper and quicker than the hand painting techniques used prior to 1751. Transfer printed patterns afforded consumers complete sets of identical dishes that were never possible before. The first successful colour used in transfer printing was deep blue cobalt. This was the only colour that could withstand the high temperatures needed for the underglaze transfer process. By 1828 new techniques allowed black, green, yellow and red enamels to be transferred resulting in prints of two or more colours. The process was expensive, however, with each colour requiring its own transfer and separate firing. By 1852 multiple colour underglazing techniques were developed and also included the colour brown.

Blue and white continued to be the cheapest process with the most favoured patterns being Willow, Tower Blue and Blue Italian. A minor problem facing manufacturers was acquiring pictures to copy. Copyright laws did not exist in England until 1842, so many pictures were simply copied from books. Pictures of stately buildings, European scenes and great events such as battles were favourites.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Polynesian Settlement

The first people to occupy Norfolk Island travelled here by canoe as part of the great Polynesian voyaging. The history of these people can be described as one of the last, great expansions of Homo sapiens as this species left Africa, passed through Asia, down the east coast and divided at what is now Taiwan, one section going through to Australia, the other section through to New Guinea and out into the pacific Ocean. This happened some 30,000 years ago when the migration halted for thousands of years. From there the migration divided into three sections – one northwards, now named Micronesia, one eastward named Melanesia and the last one Polynesia, the largest of the three. This is known as the Polynesian triangle; the most northward corner is Hawaii, the eastern corner Easter Island and the south corner New Zealand.

Unearthing the Marae
 New Zealand is considered to be the last area of the migrations and the date of the first settlements on the South island was about 750AD. The Polynesians were excellent mariners and soon colonised the North island and the outlying ones. From here they still explored the surroundings and ventured in their canoes to see what lay beyond the horizon.

Now the story of Norfolk Island can be told – the small settlement here was discovered and excavated in the late 1990s. Many artefacts had been found on the surface from the date of the first British settlement in 1788 to the present day and it was decided that a team of archaeologists should explore the possibilities of finding a living area. This was done and the artefacts recovered put the date of settlement as between 800AD and 1450AD.
Artefact finds

Some of the most revealing specimens recovered show that the voyagers had possibly been to other places as about 26 small pieces of obsidian (volcanic glass) were recovered in one area near Emily Bay and analysis of these pieces revealed that 25 of them had come from the Kermadec Islands (northeast of New Zealand) and one piece from Mayer island which is on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. Itmust be remembered that trading may have taken place and goods swapped so the above cannot be verified.

In 1999 the living area was found and excavated and the artefacts recovered were enough to realise that the Polynesians had been here for many years. It is not known how many lived here, how many trips were made, what caused the Island to become deserted, or if any died here as no burials were found. The Group excavating were restricted as to how many square metres could be explored so, after the major find of a marae (pictured), the excavations had to cease as all available area had been examined”.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mutiny on the Bounty

Last Saturday 28th April was the 223rd anniversary of the Mutiny on the Bounty. It is perhaps the most famous mutiny and one that has captured the mind of Hollywood with no less than 5 movies being made since 1917. Some of the facts of the mutiny have been blurred as a result of their Hollywood treatment but it is still an amazing story none the less.

The Pitcairn Norfolk Gallery in the Pier Store tells the story of the mutiny and houses a number of artefacts from the Bounty including a cannon, kettle, iron stone plate and smaller pieces from the ship. What happens is as follows…

The Bounty left England on 23 December 1787 on what should have been a straight forward mission. Bligh’s orders were to sail via Cape Horn but delays meant that they experienced the notoriously harsh weather conditions of Cape Horn late in the season – snowstorms, gails, constant rain and high seas. In April 1788 Bligh admitted defeat and turned for the Cape of Good Hope.

Ten months after leaving England the Bounty reached Tahiti on 25 October 1788. After the harsh conditions of the voyage Tahiti must have seemed like a tropical paradise. Six months were spent in Tahiti cultivating the breadfruit seedlings so they would survive the long journey to the West Indies. Fresh food, a pleasant climate, friends and sexual relationships were a predominant improvement on life at sea!

The Bounty left Tahiti on 4 April 1789. There was some tension on board between Bligh and Fletcher Christian. However there was no air of impending mutiny – this is pure invention by Hollywood script writers. Bligh slept at night with his door open, without guards or weapons. Three and a half weeks after leaving Tahiti, on the 28th April just before sunrise, Christian accompanied by Charles Churchill, John Mills and Thomas Burkitt went to Bligh’s cabin and woke him. They forced him on deck with his hands tied. It seems to have been an impulsive action.

The mutineers decided that Bligh should be set adrift in the jolly boat – the smallest of the three boats carried on the Bounty. The jollyboat, however, was unseaworthy, as was the cutter. The longboat, the largest of the boats, 23foot long (7 metres) and 6ft 9inches across (2 metres) was then chosen and into this went nineteen men. Some were forced, some went voluntarily. There began Bligh’s story of his amazing feat of sailing 3,700 nautical miles in an open long boat to safety.

After Bligh was put to sea in the longboat Fletcher Christian and his twenty-four man crew sailed back to Tahiti in the Bounty. Christian intended to settle in Tubai despite a violent clash with the natives when they first arrived. They sailed on to Tahiti to stock up on plants and animals required for their Tubaian settlement. Nine Tahitian women were taken with them, eight men and ten boys. Peter Heywood reported that most went of their own free will. The settlement was a failure as they continued to have disputes with the natives. After three months the mutineers abandoned it and returned to Tahiti. Sixteen mutineers decided to remain on Tahiti in spite of the risk of capture.

On the night of 22nd September 1789 the bounty left again. This time there were nine white men, six male and nineteen female islanders and one baby girl onboard. Many of the women had been kidnapped. One jumped overboard and swam for shore, another six were put onto a neighbouring island because they were considered too old.

The Bounty then sailed towards Tofoa, but changed direction and headed for the tiny, remote island of Pitcairn. It arrived on 21 January 1790. There began another chapter of this amazing story – the story of our ancestors.