Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Touching History


This is exactly what 8th generation First Fleeter descendant Andre Forrester did in our museum this week, touched a tangible connection to the history of his forefather.

‘Do not touch’ is a general rule in our museums, particularly when it comes to metal, the moisture, oils and salts on your skin transfer to the object encouraging corrosion.  However, this particular metal object has a sign beside it which reads ‘please touch’.   This object is a ballast block recovered from the wreck of the HMS Sirius during the ‘2002 Sirius Expedition’ the fifth and the last maritime archaeological expedition conducted on the wreck site of this flagship of the First Fleet.  

This iron ballast block has a long conservation story. For many years it has been immersed in a caustic solution undergoing an electrolytic reduction process to remove the chlorides from the metal.  This took multiple changes of more than 120 litres of solution, rinsing and maneuvering of a block weighing in at approximately 100 kg, hundreds of chloride readings and plenty of patience.  Then it was necessary to remove the remaining accretions cemented onto the block, and finally it was ready for applications of rust converters and waxing.  It is these applications and layers of wax that is providing the protective coating that enables it to be ‘touched’.   To list the names of the people that have supported the Norfolk Island Museum with the conservation of this object over so many years, are too many.  However, we’d like to say thanks to Shane McCoy from the Administration Works Depot for his recent work on the final stages and preparation for display.

This is a wonderful addition to our HMS Sirius Museum, housing the most extensive collection of cultural material from the First Fleet.  The First Fleet consisted of eleven ships, nine of these were privately owned and two British naval ships, carrying over 1400 people they left Portsmouth in May 1787 to arrive at Port Jackson in January 1788, these people are the founders of modern Australia.

Andre’s ancestor Robert Forrester was a convict in the First Fleet, making his voyage to Australia on one of the privately owned ships, the Scarborough.  Originally sentenced to death at the Old Bailey for stealing six guineas in gold with a couple of other characters, his sentence was later reprieved to 7 years transportation.  Robert came to live on Norfolk Island between the years of 1791 and 1793 holding a grant of 12 acres at Mount Pitt Path in Queenborough.  Robert Forrester’s descendants have come back to Norfolk to make it their home.  It was an honour to ask Robert Forrester’s descendant Andre to be the first First Fleeter descendant to ‘touch’ this link to his history.

Janelle Blucher


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