Sunday, July 14, 2013

'Bounty' Food Pounder

At the end of last year we reported that to celebrate the Museums 25th birthday this year we had secured the loan of a penu, or food pounder, from the Museum of Tropical Queensland and it is currently displayed in the Pier Store Museum. The connection between this late 18th Century object and Norfolk Island lies in the story of the ‘other’ Bounty mutineers who decided to stay in Tahiti when Christian and his crew sailed off to eventually find Pitcairn Island.

 Those 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.  Sailing on the Pandora, Captain Edwards 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.

The pounder was recovered from the wreck site of the Pandora and is thought to have been confiscated from either of the mutineers Peter Heywood or George Stewart. Stewart was one of those drowned in the wrecking. All the survivors finally reached Timor in open boats, ironically following the route taken by Bligh in the longboats. When they arrived back in England the mutineers were imprisoned to await trial. Four 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. Of them, Peter Haywood and William Morrison were pardoned and William Musprat was released on a technicality. Finally three Bounty mutineers, Thomas Ellison, Thomas Burkitt and John Millwood, were executed by hanging in October 1792.

In Tahiti the pounder is known as a ‘penu’, or in English a ‘pestle’.  It was used to mash taro which is cooked and then fermented to become a starchy food staple called ‘poi’. It was also used to pound breadfruit and bananas. Now this beautiful object provides a link between our islands mutineer forefathers and those others on board the Bounty at the time of the mutiny. It is displayed at the Pier Store and looks across the Bounty cannon to the display panel on the Pandora’s voyage – if only it could speak! The pounder is on display until the end of the year; make sure you don’t miss seeing it.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

For Whom the Bell Tolls...

It has been wonderful to have our expert cemetery tour guide Mary Cooper back with us, if even for a short time. Mary developed our “For Whom the Bell Tolls…” cemetery tour and over the past few years has continued her research into the stories behind the graves in our amazing Norfolk Island cemetery. Over an hour and a half, the stories of each person build to provide a vivid overall picture of the islands settlements. We receive a lot of feedback about this tour that tells us it really ‘works’ – in content and delivery thanks to Mary’s passion, enthusiasm and hard work. It is easy to wander through the cemetery and ‘get a feel’ for it yourself, however a whole new appreciation can be gained with knowledge learnt about the graves through the tour. Two of the graves that we often visit are for men who died in the same accident.

Right down behind the back fence to the beach there are two large tombstones lying side by side. One is for Captain John Best and the other for John McLean who both perished along with a young soldier, when their boat was upturned while returning from a day of hunting rabbits at Phillip Island. However a letter to the “Australasian Chronicle” of Tuesday 17 March 1840 tells us that their drowning deaths were not the only ones that occurred that week and that an unusual rising of the sea was to blame:

To the Editor of the Australasian Chronicle
Sir – The Angel of Death has swept off four victims in an instant during this week. A prisoner, by name Atkinson, formerly clerk to Rev. Mr. Sharpe, and lately a constable at Government House, was drowned while fishing, - some men who saw him sink swam immediately to his relief, but in vain. His remains were found the next day, a mere skeleton – two arms and a leg gone, the bowels and flesh eaten away by sharks. This day, a boat returning from Phillip Island was upset and literally dashed to atoms, by a succession of tremendous rowlers, that came on suddenly and rather unexpected. The Hon. Captain Best, though a good swimmer and not four minutes in the water, was taken out lifeless. Surgeon Gaurie, 80th Regiment, instantly applied every measure to resuscitate animation; but the Captain must have been suffocated by a frock buttoned round his neck, which enveloped his head when upset by an awful wave. There was no water in his chest or lungs. Mr McLean clung to an oar, and was carried towards the blow hole, where no human being could get to his assistance. He remained on the oar at least half an hour before he sunk to rise no more. His body was found uninjured on Tuesday morning. Corporal McLoughlin, a worthy young soldier of the 50th, was lost on the upsetting of the boat; he was washed ashore the next morning. All were interred with due and melancholy honours.

At the same time our respected Commandant was ill of a bad fever, and not in a fit state to have this sad news communicated to him for more than a fortnight. Captain Few fulfilled the duties of Commandant during this time, and gave full satisfaction, till the arrival of Captain Maconochie.

The sea rose and subsided in about half an hour, when the destroying angel came on the wings of the wind on his errand of death. This sad an awful catastrophe has made a deep and I trust salutary impression on the minds of all, both free and bond. You may hear many exclaim, “May the Almighty prepare us for death – may he never cut us off unprepared, by such a sudden death”
An Eye-Witness
Norfolk Island, Feb 15, 1840.

The Cemetery Tour runs every Tuesday and Friday 11.30am to 1.00pm. Cost is $20 or, if you have a Museum Pass $15.00. It is not to be missed and booking can be made at any of the museum venues, the Tourist Bureau or Baunti Escapes.

Monday, July 1, 2013

H.M.S. Sirius Museum Officially Open

Lisle Snell MLA Chief Misinter and His Honour The Administrator Neil Pope
With the joint cutting of a cake by His Honour the Administrator Neil Pope and Lisle Snell Chief Minister, Norfolk’s newest museum was officially opened last Friday night. The H.M.S. Sirius Museum located in the former Protestant Chapel at Kingston celebrates and displays the artefacts and significance of the flagship of the First Fleet, wrecked on the reef at Slaughter Bay in 1790. Around 70 people witnessed the opening of this major new asset to the island that presents an important part of our heritage and history.

It was apt that the opening occur by both the Chief Minister and the Administrator as funding for the project was a 50-50 contribution that began with a successful application to the Commonwealths Your Community Heritage Program which was then matched by the Norfolk Island Government. The need to re-house the collection had been clear for the previous 8 years as artefacts had deteriorated in the environment of the Pier Store. The project spent 95% of its budget on local builders, suppliers and contractors and is a proud statement of the skill and expertise available within our local population.
Probably one of the single best decisions we made was asking graphic designer Haylee Fieldes to design our interpretation panels. Using her brother Matt’s wave photographs as a backdrop she has given us a fresh and contemporary look that gives the space a real WOW factor. Armed with Haylee’s work we then needed to get the images printed, onto panels and onto the walls. Thanks to Rob Nesbit’s investment in his 2899 Gallery we were able to print and mount the large scale prints on-island ready for adhering onto the timber backs. Charles and Kim at Christian-Bailey Agencies spent a lot of time nutting out supplies and getting everything onto the island just in time to fit our tight schedule. 

 There were a number of months spent preparing the building at the start of the project. After gaining EPBC approval to undertake internal building works, Gavin Snell at the Works Depot extended the old kitchen and pulled down the walls of a second room. Michael Porter and his All Star team then painted leaving us with sparkling new white walls. Wayne Pendleton was next, sanding back and re-surfacing the floor. Other suppliers and those involved were Norfolk Electrical, O’Hara Plasterers, People Peaples, Island Plumbing and Gas, Norfolk Island Building Supplies, The Trading Post and Timber on the Move.

Janelle Blucher and Lisa Richards
Amongst other things, Brentt Jones was responsible for building new cabinets which then received Perspex tops thanks to John and the guys at JCB cabinets. Steve Cochrane built other cabinets and also the frames for the window covers with material from The Upholstery Shop. Brentt and Basil Vercoe pulled out the historic setting of the Trial of the Fifteen at the start of the project. Greg and Pete Horrocks moved cabinets and replica hull pieces around and we hired space at Five Pines to cope with the coming and going of cabinets, stage settings and replica hull pieces. Once our replica hull had been put in place it was brought to life with the amazing painting skills of Noelene Nobbs, who also worked with us on the production line of assembling the interpretive panels.

Doug Creek, Works Supervisor
Lesley Warren and Nicky Beadman
Without a doubt the most daunting aspect of this project was actually moving the artefacts themselves. The potential risk of damage occurring while moving these incredibly precious, but very big and heavy artefacts was high. With thanks to the Museum of Tropical Queensland, they agreed that Display Officer Phillip Smith be here for the move bringing his many years experience moving ‘hard to move’ objects. However these objects would simply not have been able to be moved without Franklin Randall who has been involved in every move of the anchor since its recovery from the sea floor in 1973. Together with Caine Henderson and his Dial A Digger crew of Winton Steven, Pumpkin and Brett Berganin and also Brentt Jones – they moved the entire collection within one day. It was an absolute privilege to watch them work and a great sense of pride to know that the skill to undertake such a job exists in our Norfolk men.
One of the things we purposely set out to do in the museum was to celebrate the approximately 1,500 people of the First Fleet and achieved this via a First Fleet Wall. Darren Bates took on the mammoth job of creating an individually inscribed plaque for each person that could then be sponsored and mounted by a descendant. Descendants can also sign our Descendant’s Books that provides a page for each person and an accumulation of signatures. Finally a touch-screen computer was set up by Linda ‘Chips’ Halcombe providing the opportunity to call up each person and read their biography.

Don and Sue Brian
The months of the re-housing project went smoothly due to the absolute support and hard work of all museum staff including Janelle Blucher, the cast of the Trial of the Fifteen and Director Rose Evans, Jeanine Snell, Andrea Greenwood, Mary Cooper, Helen Sampson, Rachael McConnell, Sallie Davie, Rebecca Hayes, Di Garner, Betty Matthews, Colleen White, Barb Elvey and Nat Grube. Volunteer Sue Brian worked nearly 4 days a week, every week with us on this project and then at night with Don!

We hope that the new H.M.S. Sirius museum will bring greater focus to Norfolk’s role from 1788 in the establishment of the new colony and what was to become Australia. We have the tangible evidence of that time on display - the most significant array of First Fleet cultural heritage held anywhere in the world. We have the potential to specifically bring more visitors to this island to visit this museum and celebrate the First Fleet and the role of the Sirius as the flagship.  

Please come and see our new museum any time between 11.00am and 3.00pm Monday to Saturday. We’d love to show you through!