Sunday, March 29, 2015

No Ordinary Week!

Tampion removed from HMS Sirius carronade

With the museum being the home of the HMS Sirius collection and last Thursday being the 225th anniversary of her wrecking, this week was never going to be anything other than extra-ordinary! Planning for this day began well over a year ago and teaming up with the Norfolk Island Travel Centre (NITC) meant that Graeme Henderson and Myra Stanbury could be invited to join us from Western Australia as special guest presenters and a full week of events planned. The NITC brilliantly organised a very special week for the First Fleet descendants and others who travelled especially to mark this special anniversary. Visitor numbers exceeded expectations with over 200 people sitting down to lunch and presentations at the waterfront on the anniversary day. 

Myra Stanbury, Kandy Henderson, Graeme Henderson, Kalle Kasi
Graeme Henderson and Myra Stanbury were of course key personnel from the 1980s maritime archaeological expeditions to recover the Sirius’ artefacts that are now on display in the museum. Graeme led the expeditions and Myra was the Registrar. Their presentations underscored the importance of the Sirius (Graeme’s final presentation was titled: Australia’s most important shipwreck) and the story of the undertaking of the 1980s expeditions and their findings. In her final presentation Myra estimated that 50% of the people involved in the expeditions were local Norfolk Islanders. This week brought together the story of the ship and her wrecking, with the stories of the people who travelled on her final voyage or one of the other ships of the First Fleet, as so many of our visitors this week were their descendants.

The relationship the Norfolk Island Museum has had with the Western Australian Maritime Museum (WAMM) has continued from the time of the expeditions. In particular this has been via communication and support with the on-going conservation of the collection. A number of objects went to the Department of Materials Conservation at the Western Australian Museum for conservation and gradually returned to the island when their treatments were completed. Myra and her colleague from WAMM who also travelled to Norfolk for the week, Kalle Kasi brought with them one of the final objects that has been in treatment over the past 22 years. It was an absolute highlight for us to receive the tampion (or tompion) that had been found inside one of the carronades and display it for this week.
Drawing: Myra Stanbury

Myra has said about the tampion: “In the process of conserving the second carronade recovered from the Sirius wreck site a disc-shaped, lathe-turned wooden tampion (or tompion) was found in the muzzle of the gun. Made of maple (Acer sp.), the plug was designed to prevent the penetration of sea water into the bore of the muzzle-loading gun which could cause rust to develop and render the gun unserviceable. Sometimes the tampions were carefully sealed with tallow or putty to make them watertight. This appears to have been the method employed on the Sirius carronade as a ‘waxy-oily’ layer of material was removed from the machine-turned inner surface of the tampion before it was placed in a treatment solution to remove some of the reactive iron corrosion products.

Myra and Janelle Blucher
Attached to the inner side of the tampion was a lanyard consisting of two 34-cm lengths of twisted twine. This was spliced to a ball of string wadding that fitted snugly within the 131 mm bore of the gun. When loaded with a clean round shot to fit the gun the ball of wadding in the muzzle would prevent the displacement of the tampion by the impact of the round shot as it rolled back and forth in the barrel with every roll of the ship. In this way, sometimes helped by the addition of olive oil or other suitable lubricant into the chamber of the gun, the bore was kept in good condition while at sea”. 

Kalle, Myra and Janelle unpacking the tampion
The tampion is a very special object. Not only is it a very rare example of a complete tampion of this period, it will be displayed beside the carronade it was recovered from – which is on display within several hundreds of metres of the site where it was when the Sirius was wrecked. 

We have had an extraordinarily busy week at the museum. My sincere thanks to the team of Administration workers employed as our Museum Attendants who have worked so hard to ensure that all our visitors had an extraordinary experience on Norfolk Island this week. 

 Photo of the tampion being put on purpose made stand
 Photo of connecting the hemp wading rope

 Photo of maple plug

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