World Turtle Day

World Turtle Day is #Shellebrated globally on 23 May, to celebrate these incredible creatures, increase knowledge, raise awareness of the impact of plastic pollution, and to highlight the importance of protecting their disappearing habitats. Did you know six of the world’s seven marine turtle species are known from Queensland? You can read more on sea turtles here.

The Impact of Plastic Pollution

Sea turtle eating a styrofoam cup.

Every bit of plastic that has found its way into the ocean or is buried in landfill still exists. The global production of plastic has now reached 300 million tonnes a year with production doubling every 11 years. It is everywhere in our lives and is a major source of pollution. Around 8 to 12 million tonnes of plastic enter the sea every year and around 18,000 pieces can be found in every square kilometre of ocean.

WTD 40 plastic pieces from a turtle gut
This assortment of plastic was taken from the gut of a sub-adult Green Turtle from the Coral Sea and is made up of 40 pieces of soft plastic, 4 pieces of plastic thread and 6 pieces of hard plastic.

Plastic does not go away. It is extremely durable; a single use, plastic bottle can take centuries to break down. In doing so, it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces that are particularly hazardous to juvenile marine turtles which feed in surface waters and mistake floating plastic for food. This material can lead to gut blockages causing animals to starve and tiny pieces of plastic (microplastics), and the toxins they contain, are now passing through marine food chains.

WTD Nylon fishing line
This image is of nylon fishing line removed from the throat of a Loggerhead Turtle that was beach-washed dead on Deadman’s Beach, North Stradbroke Island in September 1990.

The Hatchery

Did you meet the baby turtles at the Hatchery during World Science Festival Brisbane? If you missed out, head to Facebook to watch them hatch here and see the little dudes released into the Australian Current, 20km offshore from the Sunshine Coast as part of the Museum’s conversation initiative here.

Queensland Museum Senior Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, Patrick Couper, who oversees the World Science Festival Brisbane’s Turtle Hatchery, holding fibreglass casts of hatchling turtles (Green Turtle in left hand, Loggerhead in right hand).

Wild State highlights Queensland’s unique animals and habitats, focusing on five environments including teeming marine life. Explore how we can protect and preserve our precious natural world for future generations by stopping by the gallery on level 4.

Well, that’s a pickle!

This blog post is part of an ongoing series titled Connecting with Collections. The series offers readers a peek inside collections at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, highlighting objects and their stories

Sometimes when working with the collections at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, you see an object that just makes you stop in your tracks. The object featured today is one that really made me stop and think. So what is it?

A bottle of pickled onions. Exciting, I know!

This bottle was manufactured by Nuttall & Co in Lancashire, England between 1873 and 1887. It was then transferred onto the Scottish Prince, where it would become part of the cargo travelling with passengers on the vessel from the United Kingdom to Australia in the late 19th century.

MA3148 pickled onions A

On the 2nd of February, 1887, the Scottish Prince was making the final stage of its journey under the command of William Little, sailing into Moreton Bay, Queensland. William Little left the ship that night, with a less-experienced Second Mate in charge of the vessel. Just before midnight, the Scottish Prince ran aground at the southern end of Stradbroke Island.

More than 60 years later in 1955, the ‘Under Water Research Group of Queensland’ discovered the wreck. The site was explored and, in many cases, pillaged by divers collecting souvenirs and scrap metal.

This bottle of pickled onions was uncovered from the Scottish Prince wreck in 1974, by Mr Elliott. He collected it before the implementation of the Historic Shipwreck Act in 1976, which enacted new regulations that protect historic shipwrecks in Commonwealth waters, and maintain their use for educational, recreational and scientific purposes. In 1993, an historic shipwreck amnesty was established which encouraged divers and other private collectors to declare their artefacts from shipwrecks older than 75 years, without charges being laid, in order for the Commonwealth to document and create a more complete understanding of the existing artefacts and heritage of Australian Maritime history.

Pickled onions 3

Elliott declared this object at the time of the amnesty, and in 2017, donated the bottle of pickled onions to Museum of Tropical Queensland, where it became a valued addition to the Museum’s Maritime collection.

The bottle – with the lid still intact, and the onions inside still preserved – has lasted throughout its tumultuous history with almost no damage! Another interesting element is that the lid was made with a lead seal, which would have heavily contaminated the contents of the bottle had they ever been consumed. So no, even if we wanted to crack the bottle open, we couldn’t eat these pickled onions anymore! Created in the late 19th century in the United Kingdom, and then remaining – untouched and undamaged – underwater for almost 70 years in Australian waters, this object has lived a very interesting life, and seen things we can only imagine.

Sophie Price, Assistant Curator Anthropology, Museum of Tropical Queensland

Queensland Museum: Then and now

We’re taking it way back to celebrate International Museum Day this 18 May and revisiting the Museum’s rich location history. 

As we approach International Museum Day on 18 May, we reflect on the history behind the various locations of Queensland Museum and its 157 years of monumental displays, exhibitions and encompassment of history.

The Windmill 1862, where it all began, the first housing for the newly conceived ‘nucleus of a Museum of Natural Science’, where by the Moreton Bay Council granted temporary use of a ‘large room in the windmill’. The windmill continues to stand tall in Spring Hill and has since been heritage listed. It is also one of only two buildings that remain from the penal settlement. Built in 1827 under Commandant Patrick Logan, it was initially designed to grind corn and wheat for the colony. However, faults often arose and as a result, convicts constructed a treadmill beside it.

The Windmill
The Windmill on Wickham Terrace, Brisbane. This was the first housing for the fledgling Queensland Museum from 1862 to 1869

During a Philosophical Society meeting in 1866 it was reported that the Windmill suffered considerable damage due to heavy rains. It was then decided in October 1868, the room formerly occupied by the parliamentary library in the Parliament Building would be the new host of the society’s entities. In June 1871 it was established that an additional room be made available for the purpose of creating a mineralogical museum initially intended to boost the mining boom. The Parliamentary building, located on the north-western side of Queen Street, had been erected as a convict’s barracks in 1826. Although the location was central and accessible, the space the museum occupied was far too small. It was recommended by a colonial architect that a building on Ann Street be purchased and restored. This idea was soon rejected and a temporary home further up Queen Street was selected.

The Post Office building, standing between the site now occupied by the Lennons Hotel and George Street, originally consisted of six apartments. In 1873, rooms for an office, laboratory and a larger one for a mineral display were obtained. It was recognised not long after moving into the space that the old Post Office was not an ideal location.

The Post Office Building
The General Post Office and the new Brisbane City Hall about 1864. Photograph by courtesy of John Oxley Library.

In 1879 the construction of the First New Museum Building was completed. The building costing £10,706, was designed in the Colonial Architect’s department under architect F.D.G Stanley and still stands today as the State Library. The main entrance floor was one of three used for display and the basement contained a large room used as both a library and meeting place.

First purpose-built Queensland Museum building in William Street, 1879 to 1899.

As a result of the collecting programs the building proved to be too small, and due to the depression and financial difficulties plans were again put on hold. The Exhibition Building became home to Queensland Museum for the next 86 years after its completion in 1891 and was a combination of Romanesque, Byzantine and Baroque influence in polychromatic brick work. The building was built after the original timber exhibition building was destroyed by fire. 300 men of all trades worked on the brickwork at one time.

A Museum worthy of the city and the State

One of the first tasks undertaken by the museum’s board of trustees following its re-establishment in 1970, was to encourage the Queensland  Government to provide provisions for adequate housing for its museum. It was the state government’s decision to eventually develop on the south bank of the Brisbane River, a cultural complex that would include a museum, theatres, state library and an art gallery. Robin Gibson of Brisbane was chosen to design the cultural centre, which was then opened in 1985 and has since remained. The building consists of 5,000 square metres across three display floors and an external geological garden.

Queensland Museum
Queensland Museum

Mather, P et al. (1986). A Time For A Museum. (Volume 24 ed.). Brisbane: Queensland Museum.