Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Carronade’s Tampion

Earlier this year we announced that a tampion (or tompion) had been brought back to the island after being at the Department of Materials Conservation at the Western Australian Museum for twenty two years undergoing conservation.  This tampion had been discovered in one of the HMS Sirius carronades when it was recovered from the wreck site.   We are delighted to finally have this object on display in our HMS Sirius Museum in a special cabinet constructed by K.C. Industries.

Myra Stanbury, now an 'Honorary Research Associate' at the Western Australian Museum, was the Registrar during the expeditions to recover the Sirius material from the reef.  She travelled to Norfolk in March this year as a guest presenter for the ‘225th Anniversary of the wrecking of the HMS Sirius’, bringing with her the tampion.  She said “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.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”.

This tampion is a very significant object. Not only is it a very rare example of a complete tampion of this period, it is now displayed beside the carronade it was recovered from, and the carronade itself is rare for its early short barreled design –  and it is on display within several hundred metres of the site of its recovery.  Come to the HMS Sirius Museum and take a look for yourself, remember entry is free for residents.   (Our image shows the tampion on display.)

And last but not least, I want to say a huge thank you to two amazing people who have volunteered their time at the museum last week.  Some of you may know David and Michelle Cullen being regular visitors to the island, they have been working hard in the Guard House completing a huge task of sorting papers, creating files and entering data.  I think we’ve exhausted the island’s supply of manila folders.  Thank you, thank you …. and see you again next year.

Janelle Blucher

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