Thursday, December 22, 2016

Draught of HMS Sirius

The Norfolk Island Museum is the custodian of artefacts recovered from the wreck site of the HMS Sirius.  This week we received a copy of a ‘draught’ of His Majesty’s Ship to complement this significant collection of First Fleet material.

In maritime terms we generally think of the draught or draft being the measured vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull, but in this instance we are referring to a scale drawing by the late Fred. ll. ‘Spring Esquire who was considered to be the Australian expert on draughts of British Ships of the Line. 

Fred Spring was a former draughtsman for Qantas whose scale drawing included British Spitfire fighter plane. His original drawing of the draught of the HMS Sirius (formerly known as the Berwick) was prepared for the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, he described the drawing as follows, “The draught of the HMS Sirius was compiled from the Original Sheer Draught taken off her body in the Single Dock at Deptford January 14th 1782. Mastings and Riggings were taken from Standards Specifications and Formula as laid down by the Naval Establishment”. 

John Shortland, a lifelong friend of Fred, has kindly donated the only copy of this drawing to our museum.  John visited Norfolk Island along with historian Cathy Dunn on her ‘History Lovers Tour’ in 2014 it was during this time he indicated he might like to make this donation. And so… this drawing comes to Norfolk Island with Cathy Dunn and is presented to our museum on behalf of John.

John has his own family connection to the HMS Sirius, descended from John Shortland Junior, 2nd Mate who was stranded on Norfolk Island in March 1790 after the ship wrecked on the reef at Kingston.  He left Norfolk Island in 1792 aboard the HMAT Supply eventually making his way back to England.  Appointed Lieutenant on the Reliance he returned to NSW in 1794, together with the new Governor John Hunter and Henry Waterhouse 2nd Captain (also originally of the Sirius).  John and Henry bought the first pure merino sheep to NSW from the Cape of Good Hope, selling to John McArthur, founder of the Australian Wool Industry.  In September 1797, while in pursuit of escaped convicts, he discovered the Hunter River and named it for his former Captain John Hunter of HMS Sirius.

It is with great appreciation we say thank you to John Shortland for this wonderful donation and to Cathy Dunn for the personal delivery and historical detail.

Janelle Blucher

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Research techniques and records for Norfolk Island 1788 - 1814

The Norfolk Island Museum and Research Centre welcome historian Cathy Dunn and her ‘History Lovers Group’ to the island this week.  During this time Cathy has offered to present her latest lecture on research techniques and records for Norfolk Island 1788 -1814, a lecture that has been well received at the Society of Australian Genealogists this past week.

Cathy will take you on a journey back to the first British Settlement of Norfolk Island, providing insight into the archives and records that are available, where copies are kept and what can be found online, a fantastic learning opportunity for budding genealogists or history enthusiasts.

A professional family historian, author, tour guide, heritage and public history consultant, a visit to her website will illustrate the breadth of her knowledge.  This period of Norfolk Island’s history has been a study focus for Cathy for many years evidenced by her many visits to the island, presentations and publications.

The lecture is presented at the Research Centre, No. 9 Quality Row, Monday 7 November, 9am – 10.30am at a cost of $20 per person.  Seats are limited so booking is necessary.  Contact the museum on 23788 to book your seat.

Janelle Blucher

Successful application to the 2016 Community Heritage Grants Program

 Image -  No 10 Quality Row House Museum

We are pleased to announce the Norfolk Island Museum (NIM) has been awarded funding through the 2016 Community Heritage Grants (CHG) Program to provide for a Preservation Needs Assessment.   This funding is by the Australian Government through the National Library of Australia and its partners; the Department of Communications and the Arts; the National Archives of Australia; the National Film and Sound Archive and the National Museum of Australia.  

We have been fortunate for this Program in past years providing the Norfolk Island Museum with the capacity to undertake a variety of important projects including; the 2015 Significance Assessment, Conservation of the Bounty Cannon Project, Disaster Management Planning and opportunities for professional development, to name just a few.  

A Preservation Needs Assessment will provide key recommendations for the short, medium and long term management of the collections in our care.  It will assess existing policies and their impact on the collection, broadly outline the types of objects in the collection and their condition, examine building and environment, storage and display, visitor impact, disaster preparedness as well as training and skills.  The outcome will be prioritised recommendations for a Preservation or ‘Action’ Plan.   Also and importantly, it will be the key tool to support future grant applications for conservation projects and planning to protect the collections for the future.

The Grant Agreement specifies the assessment must be undertaken by a qualified conservator therefore we have engaged the services of Sue Valis, Conservator at the Queensland Museum to undertake the task.  Sue is currently based at the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville where the artefacts from the wreck of the HMS Pandora are held, this was the ship sent from England to capture the HMAV Bounty mutineers, then on its return voyage became shipwrecked off the coast of Queensland where tragically 34 lives were lost.   Her experience includes conservation and collection management of a diverse range of collection material in various locations.  She has spent many years providing support and advice to museums in regional areas and is very much looking forward to visiting us here on Norfolk to complete the Preservation Needs Assessment.

We are grateful for our successful application to the Community Heritage Grants Program, this year there was a strong field of 172 applications whereby 77 organisations were offered a grant.  Our thanks go to the grant panel, the National Library of Australia and its partners for our selection.

Janelle Blucher

The Australian Society of Marine Artists 20th Anniversary Celebratory Exhibition

The Australian Society of Marine Artists (ASMA) is a body of diverse artists and others interested in marine and maritime art, every painting style is represented amongst its members from traditional to contemporary, realist to abstract.  Local artist Tracey Yager was invited to become an exhibiting member of this prestigious Society.

There are specific membership categories and entry requirements for this Society and membership is by selection only.  Tracey is honoured to have been selected and invited to become not only a member, but to be conferred with an Exhibiting Membership, this enables Tracey to take advantage of her recognition by this Society by using the letters ASMA after her name and her artwork may be exhibited in the Society’s exhibitions.

This National organisation has a rich mixture of expertise and interests supporting its members by promoting maritime and marine art in Australia.  This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Society and to celebrate this occasion they are holding an Exhibition hosted by the Royal Art Society of NSW at their Lavender Bay Art Gallery in Sydney until 30 October.  This exhibition features two of Tracey’s artworks.

Tracey flew to Sydney for the opening and said, “I’m pretty excited that my works are being exhibited at the Royal Art Society of NSW Art Gallery, it’s a beautiful heritage building in such a gorgeous location in Lavender Bay.  On the night of the opening we travelled to the gallery via ferry and walked up through Wendy Whitely’s Secret Garden – such an inspiring beautiful journey.  The gallery was full to the brim and the standard of art work was very high.  I was lucky to have a crew of Norfolk people there as support, it really made it a very special night”.

In 2011 Tracey attended the extremely popular MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart and wanted to become involved, by 2015 she had won the poster competition for that year’s festival and became an exhibiting artist with her work featuring small, lovingly built wooden craft at work, rest and play.  These artworks can be seen on her website at  It is her involvement in this festival that led to the selection and invitation to become an Exhibiting Member of ASMA.


One of the artworks selected for the exhibition at the Royal Art Society is titled ‘Unloading the Norfolk Guardian’ depicting the newly constructed lighter No.3 at work alongside Cascade Pier.  Throughout 2014/15 the Norfolk Island Museum Trust suggested and supported a project to document the construction of this newest addition to Norfolk’s lighterage fleet.  The construction was undertaken by local John Christian Bailey and his team.  Our photographic record starts with a stack of timber, shaped into bare boat ribs, eventually becoming a skilfully constructed craft.  It was ‘dunked’ into the water to season its timbers and the following day it was put to work unloading the ship.  Now, we can see it beautifully depicted in this fabulous watercolour.  Tracey stated that she felt it was important to capture this scene at Cascade Pier as an historical record of the Pier, as it was, prior to the commencement of work that will see it extended, heightened and strengthened.


Tracey’s other piece in this exhibition titled ‘Tender of Friendly Light’ represents a small clinker style wooden boat tethered beside a yacht, it speaks of light and shade with a sublime use of colour and a stunning reflection on water.

Maritime art illustrates the history of our world from almost the beginning of time, a powerful medium providing us with an interpretation of social commentary, trade, travel, war and more; in addition to a presentation of beauty or curiosity.  Norfolk Island by nature and culture abounds with a history connected to the sea.  We are very fortunate for such an accomplished artist to capture our Island’s maritime heritage.   Congratulations Tracey.

Janelle Blucher

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Protecting and Preserving our Maritime Heritage

The Historic Shipwreck Act 1976 requires all owners of shipwreck material older than 75 years to register their objects.  Registration simply records the details of your shipwreck material and in no way interferes with your ownership.  On Norfolk Island the museum is the agency to contact to register shipwreck material.

The purpose of the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 is to protect maritime objects. It is also to ensure that historic shipwrecks are protected for their heritage values and maintained for recreational, scientific and educational purposes.  It seeks to control any actions which could result in damage, interference, removal or destruction of an historic shipwreck site or relic.  It does not prevent private ownership of relics, or their sale or disposal, but it does regulate their transfer and disallows further removal of objects from wreck sites or disturbance of sites.

The reasons to register your material are not only that it is a legal requirement, but that without registration you cannot sell or transfer your material.

The registration form is a relatively simple one page form that includes your contact details, a description of your relics and information such as: (if known) where the relic was found, what historic shipwreck it is associated with,  where it is stored and its condition. Aside from getting a copy at the museum, you can download it from  see the link under Notification to find ‘Notification custody of shipwreck relic’.

Registering artefacts isn’t a new concept on Norfolk Island.  Many owners of HMS Sirius objects were brought forward for photographing, identification and recording during the 1985 Sirius Expeditions.  They were then included in the expedition reports, enabling us to revisit them in recent years to take additional photographs, reconfirm the provenance or associated stories, conserve them and return them back to their owners. 

We also urge you to record whatever information you have about your objects. Norfolk Island is surrounded by maritime events and many relics have been recovered from our seas and shores over the years including from our convict and whaling heritage to name just two.  The value we place on an object often relates to its connections to a story or a place.  An object by itself may tell you where or when it was made, but knowledge of its story or place is much more meaningful. 

If you have any shipwreck material older than 75 years (even if you’re unsure of its age) please contact us at the Norfolk Island Museum to process your registration and answer any questions that you have.

Our photo shows a fine example of a shipwreck relic: The bell of the Mary Hamilton in repose at the Norfolk Island Central School, no longer directing the students throughout their day with its ring. The Mary Hamilton was on a twelve month whaling cruise when she called at Norfolk Island on 19 April 1873 to load wood and water. Her master went ashore but as she was being brought around from Cascade to Kingston by the Mate she struck a rock off Nepean Island; bilged and eventually sunk.


 Janelle Blucher