Category Archives: Queensland Stories

A Man From Glamorganvale

Mephisto, the world’s only remaining German First World War tank is without doubt a unique and fascinating object. Visitors come from across the world to see it, and many words have been written about it. It is also a treasured object to many Queenslanders who remember it out the front of the old Museum on Gregory Terrace, or lurking menacingly in the Dinosaur Garden of Queensland Museum at Southbank. But it is also close to the hearts of Museum staff and volunteers – one more than most.

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Lance Barrett, Queensland Museum Volunteer, 2018.

My name is Lance Barrett, and I am a Front of House volunteer, meeting and greeting the public when they visit the museum. My paternal Grandfather William Joseph “Bill” Barrett played a part in the history of the Mephisto tank. As my grandfather passed away some years ago, I am only now coming to realise the significance of his experiences. During the 1980s my grandfather was interviewed by Queensland Museum and attended a function here but I would have been busy working at my job at Telstra then and missed it. Years later, when I joined the Sciencentre and the Museum, I began to understand that he was actually present around the time of the capture of the Mephisto and was interviewed when he was 90 about his experiences.

My grandfather enlisted in 1916, a boy from Glamorganvale, just 18 years old and fresh of the farm when he signed up. Before leaving he planted a number of Moreton Bag Fig seeds in the plot on his family farm, in case the worst should happen. By March 1917 he was on the Western Front, was wounded in battle at Broodseinde (Belgium) and returned to his unit in France in July 1918. In October he was transferred to the 26th Battalion who retrieved the tank and sent it on its way to Brisbane. At the interview with then Queensland Museum Curator, Mark Whitmore, my grandfather spoke about how he saw Mephisto when he was relieving troops holding an outpost beyond the tank.

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William Joseph “Bill” Barrett, circa 1916.

In my role as a Front of House volunteer I regularly visited the display Courage of Ordinary Men. It made me think about my grandfather’s war experience, and really personalised the First World War for me. In 2012 my Dad visited the European battlefields, including Villers-Bretonneux, to see where his father had fought. When he brought home photos, it made me feel so connected with my grandfather and his experiences. Added to this, other relatives have served in the military over the years, including both World Wars and Vietnam. One distant cousin received a DCM in World War 2, and my Dad served in peace time. With all these family connections, and talking to visitors to the Courage of Ordinary Men exhibition, I felt everything fall into place because so many of my relatives have served our country – a family history of service. I have wondered whether I could do that – it seems to me the ultimate bravery.

Members of the Barrett family in 1986, with Mephisto. L to R : Darrell and Elaine Barrett (nee Harding), Barbara Douglas (nee Barrett), Elaine Barrett, Bill Barrett (centre), Glenda Barrett, Vivian Griffiths and Kelvin Barrett.

Now, when I talk to visitors about war time, I challenge them to think about what it really meant for the men and women who served. And today as I look at Mephisto, newly installed in the Anzac Legacy Gallery, I find myself thinking again of my grandfather, standing at an outpost on the Western Front, looking across at this tank, just after it had been captured. And once again feel that wonderful connection to my grandfather, William Joseph “Bill” Barrett. I think about our family, my Aunts and Uncles, most of who are still with us, who are so proud of Grandad, their Dad, and his role in the First World War.

Reconstructing the Kronosaurus

Kronosaurus queenslandicus was the largest predatory reptile to swim the seas of western Queensland 105 million years ago. This icon of the paleontological world is thought to have grown up to 11 metres in length, with around two metres of that dedicated to its unusually large skull, containing a mammoth set of jaws and dozens of enormous teeth.

Recently, an opportunity arose for the Queensland Museum to add to the State Collection with the acquisition of two lower jaw pieces from a large individual Kronosaurus. Although the Kronosaurus is an iconic animal, surprisingly little is known about its biology, with skulls and jaws a relatively rare find.

Kronosaurus queenslandicus was named in 1924 by Queensland Museum palaeontologist and former museum Director, Heber Longman, based on a piece of jawbone that was discovered near Hughenden, in central Queensland. It was named after the Greek Titan Kronos; so horrible that he ate his own children. Kronosaurus is a pliosaur, an extinct short-necked marine reptile. Its powerful jaws – which worked in a similar way to a crocodile’s – contain rows of large conical teeth, the biggest of which are nearly 30 centimetres long. Kronosaurus was a fierce predator – remains of its stomach contents found in central western Queensland indicate that it fed on turtles and other long-necked marine reptiles. Kronosaurus fossils have been found in the sediments deposited by the inland seas and turned to rock, ranging in age from 112-100 Million years, during the Early Cretaceous Period.

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This particular specimen was found by a private collector near Boulia in western Queensland and, through negotiations with Dr Andrew Rozefelds, Head of Geosciences, Queensland Museum, was acquired through generous Queensland Museum Foundation donations directed towards object acquisition. The jaw adds to the Queensland Museum’s collection of Kronosaurus specimens. The acquisition of the specimen will ensure that this important piece of Queensland’s geoheritage is preserved in the State Collection for perpetuity. Importantly, it will also provide an opportunity for both researchers and the broader community to get up close to this fascinating specimen.

But as is the case with most specimens of this nature, the jaw was not in perfect condition, which meant that certain work needed to be done before the object could be properly studied, displayed and stored safely within the collection. The main goal for the Geosciences team was to cradle the pieces of fossil as best possible, whilst demonstrating the aspects of the jaw that were missing, especially its teeth. Senior Technical Officer, Ms Debra Lewis took on this meticulous and detailed work.

To present the jaw in a life-like pose whilst also safeguarding it from damage, Debra began work on a bespoke base that would serve the dual purpose of supporting the specimen whilst allowing it to be displayed. Debra said that creating such a base is a lengthy process due to how customised it needs to be.

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“The base is made of timber but each one contains an individual cradle sculpted from polymer plaster to suit the weight, angle and intricacies of each piece of jaw. The cradle was glued to the timber and filled in with expandable polyurethane foam, which was then sanded off to create the shape of the base’s sides. Over that, two layers of fibreglass were carefully applied to give the structure strength. The final step was a coat of paint in a specially chosen shade that would not detract from the ‘hero’, our Kronosaurus jaw.”

As the teeth and part of the bone were missing, careful work was done to demonstrate this as accurately as possible. The teeth were made using 3-D modelling and printing – technology that Dr Scott Hocknull, Senior Curator, Geosciences, has developed within Queensland Museum and has become a key feature of his research and engagement work.

“In this case, the benefits of this technology served as a huge time saver,” said Scott.

The usual method for producing replicas is creating a plasticine sculpture and using that to make a mould and then cast from it. In this case, the process would need to be repeated for each individual tooth – all 16 of them – which Debra and Scott estimate could have taken a month of work or more. The same result using 3-D modelling and printing took about 36 hours, with most of this made up of printing time rather than manual labour. This is achieved through digitally modelling one tooth, then digitally sculpting a 3-D model of each of the 16 teeth. Using photographs of the original tooth, a 3-D model of it was created, which can then be modified and printed out. Debra then hand painted each tooth in a colour that matched the remaining bone. The final piece of the puzzle was to come up with a way that the teeth could be displayed so that it was obvious to viewers which part was original fossil and which was a reconstruction.

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“Part of the bone was missing, so rather than replicating this on top of the original, we decided to use clear perspex rods to place the teeth at the correct height and show the position of the teeth as they would have been in the jaw,” said Debra.

This was done by gluing each newly made replica tooth to a clear rod and placing it into a small indentation drilled into the matrix (a build-up of rock where the tooth would have sat) so that the rod would fit snugly and can easily be removed and replaced. So where to from here for our “revamped” Kronosaurus jaw?

The Geosciences team hope that the specimen will go on display, possibly within the permanent Lost Creatures exhibition at Queensland Museum, where it can be enjoyed by visitors. It is currently available to researchers and is being studied by a PhD student, who has been 3-D scanning the pieces of the jaw to reconstruct the animal digitally and learn more about its palaeobiology. Of course, a scientist’s work is never truly done – there is always more to learn and new examples of these extinct species to be unearthed, which in turn will bring new opportunities for research and discovery.

“We’ve known about the enigmatic Kronosaurus for a long time – hopefully we can continue to find out more about this icon of the Cretaceous inland sea,” said Scott.

Stories in living colour

By Dr Geraldine Mate, Principal Curator, History, Industry and Technology, Queensland Museum

When I was asked to say a few words at the opening of the new Anzac Legacy Gallery, I thought “yes, that would be great”…then they said three to four minutes and I thought that would be impossible. I could talk for an hour, but how could I fit so many incredible stories into four minutes?!

And there are literally hundreds of incredible stories. Stories about bravery under fire, quiet moments in war, about women who cared enough to devote months and even years of their lives to giving to others, of cruel internment, of men who stoically bore injuries and illness as an aftermath of war, and of those who never returned.

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This gallery, however, is not just one of wartime one hundred years ago. It’s also about the Queensland we live in today, a Queensland where unexpected events are tied by filaments back to the First World War, where tea cosies, place names and even robots can be seen through the lens of time as having a link to the war.

But this war, and its link to Queensland, was not in sepia, or black and white, but affected and embroiled real people. And people are at the centre of the stories presented here, stories that we are privileged to be able to tell. These stories could not be told without the objects that were loaned and or donated to us by the descendants of the original owners of the special objects that make up the gallery.

I would like to thank all of you, from the bottom of my heart, for your involvement in the gallery – in ways both big and small. It may not seem much at times – a phone conversation about your grandparents, lending us a photograph, or coming in briefly to look at something donated years ago – but for me as one of the curators for the gallery, it meant an enormous amount, allowing us to get a more personal glimpse into the lives of the men and women we are telling these stories about.

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This would be a good point to acknowledge that this gallery is first and foremost a team effort. There were a large number of Curators and collection managers involved over the course of the project, as well as other colleagues in different roles who brought the project together. The project management team, Graphic Design, Exhibition Design, the Exhibition Services team, our amazing Conservation team, and last but by no means least the teams at Architectus and Romeo who brought the curatorial vision to life.

That’s one of the exciting things about doing an exhibition. You start out with a single idea – “let’s do a gallery about World War One and its impact in Queensland”. There’s the discovery phase where you look at the objects in the collection and reveal the stories about them; the hard graft stage where you write the stories, finalise the object selection, and choose photographs, and write some more; the creative phase where you work with designers to create a space that suits the gallery and case layouts that tell the stories to their best advantage; and then the final push to get objects conserved, to build and install cases, and polish the glass before opening day. As a curator, it’s pretty exciting seeing the objects and stories that have going around in your head for months or even years suddenly before you, in three dimensions and living colour.

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The idea of living colour was particularly important to me as a way to connect in the gallery with the real life stories, and this was an objective for us ­– connecting with the people – the men and women who were part of the war, or lived with its aftermath, and those who have continued to impact Queensland today.

Women like Elsie Wright who by day helped her husband farm on their soldier settlement block after his return from the war, and by night embroidered to support their family. Men like Caleb Shang, a book-keeper from Cairns who was awarded the DCM, or Henry Dalziel, an apprentice in the Railways from Atherton, who was awarded the Victoria Cross.

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These stories are yours – the families of the men and women who’s lives we reveal a little of in this gallery. Thank you again for your donations, stories and photographs. Thank you for the privilege of a small glimpse into your family’s history. I hope you enjoy the gallery, and feel proud of the stories we are telling of your loved ones to the many, many people who visit Queensland Museum.

As you look around the exhibition we hope that you find a touch point – perhaps in a story, funny or poignant, or in the sheer size of the undertaking of war and the long impact of the war in Queensland; and that you leave with a new view of the Legacy of our Anzacs.

Lagoon Creek Shearer’s Strike Camp

Written by Nicholas Hadnutt, Curator, Archaeology.

In the 1890’s, work relations in Australia were a hot topic. Working conditions and wages were at an all-time low for shearers and they were preparing to fight for their rights. The Queensland wool industry was rapidly growing and shearers and pastoralists were seeking to define fair working conditions. Unfortunately, the opinions of the two groups as to what constituted reasonable working conditions were poles apart and conflict was looming. By 1890, shearers and other labourers began forming unions to better represent their rights, including a key requirement that pastoralists only employed union members. The pastoralists reacted by coming together nationally to create a shearing and labouring agreement of their own. The wealthy pastoralists were expecting a fight and were working together to defeat the union movement.
Continue reading Lagoon Creek Shearer’s Strike Camp

19th century Australia: grog and salad dressing?

Written by Nick Hadnutt , Curator, Archaeology.

Many of the artefacts recovered from historical archaeology sites in Australia are essentially the same types of material. Any researcher investigating these sites will expect to handle a range of material including various metal fragments, spent munitions, lost buttons, broken slate pencil tips, fragments of tools, bits of bridles and horse gear, lost coins and tokens, pieces of fabric, discarded leather material and ceramics. Amongst the most common objects are those made of glass: either whole vessels or as fragments. In fact, so much glass material is recovered from sites, it could be easy to assume 19th century Australians lived on a diet of alcohol and salad dressing, simply from the kinds of bottles we find most often.
Continue reading 19th century Australia: grog and salad dressing?

Other Anzacs

Written by Senior Curator, Social History, Mark Clayton.

At 4 a.m. on the morning of February 5, 1916, Mr W.J. McLaughlan who was on sentry duty on the beach at North Fremantle, noticed in the dim light an object which he at first took to be a snake, but which on closer examination proved to be a remarkably elongated fish of a bright silvery colour.

The Keeper of Biology at the Western Australian Museum, Mr W Alexander, soon identified this as a new species which he described in detail – four months later – in a paper read before a meeting of that state’s Royal Society. He proposed then to name the new species Evoxymetopon anzac, sp nov., explaining that this was “specially suitable for a fish found in Australian waters and nearly related to famous Frost-fish (Lepidopus caudatus) so well known in New Zealand.(1)

Related to the scabbardfish, Evoxymetopon anzac was the first species named after the - now - famous expeditionary force.
Related to the scabbardfish, Evoxymetopon anzac was the first species named after the – now – famous expeditionary force.

With the vantage of hindsight, and a century of liberal thinking, using the name ‘Anzac ‘to describe a new fish species might seem appropriate to us when in fact it could have been received as inappropriate and possibly even sacrilegious back then, especially given the prevailing legal, social and military tensions of that time.

A relatively new term then used mostly by military personnel and only reverentially, by civilians, the scientific community’s appropriation of the term ‘Anzac’ was – up until then – without precedent.

Since the first national Anzac Day commemoration had occurred some weeks prior to his Royal Society address, Alexander could not have been ignorant of the words sacredness, or the mounting media calls for its use to be safeguarded.  Already, by May 1916, a regulation had been passed (under the War Precaustions Act), “making it an offence for any person to use, for the purposes of any trade, business, calling, or profession, the word “Anzac,” or any word resembling it.” Initially intended to discourage the word’s commercial exploitation, these punitive provisions were progressively extended after the war to encompass a much broader range of potentially inappropriate uses.

In short time ‘Anzac’ became one of the few words in the English language ever to have been afforded legal protection, and it was here in Queensland that the Regulation’s legal force was first tested (the newly completed Anzac Memorial Church in Indooroopilly being given a Prime Ministerial reprieve, on the basis that its foundation stone had been inscribed prior to the Regulation’s passage).

With considerable foresight the Regulation’s authors had adequately anticipated and provided for Anzac parks, streets, biscuits and cottages, all of which were within the realms of past and popular experience,  Evoxymetopon anzac’s arrival from left of field however would have been difficult to foresee, or prevent. While provision had already been made within the Regulation for trademarks, the naming of species was typically regulated by peak international bodies which operated outside the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction.

If the term Anzac could be appropriated for one new species, then conceivably it could be re-used over and again for any number of other species (or genus)? Which is exactly what occurred.

Alexander’s paper had no sooner been published when, in 1919 on the other side of the world, French arachnologist Raymond Comte de Dalmas described a new ground spider genus (found in Australia and New Zealand) which he named Anzacia.

Anzac variants may well have been applied often since then, the term having even been used to describe insects (Anzac bipunctatus) and plants (the cultivar Callistemon citrinus having been termed ‘White Anzac’).

The cultivar Callistemon citrinus, otherwise known as White Anzac
The cultivar Callistemon citrinus, otherwise known as White Anzac

Queensland Museum staff have also played a part in helping to sustain this century-old practise, ABRIS Research Fellow Michael Rix having described – in 2006 – a tiny spider which he named Flavarchaea anzac….

 “The specific epithet refers to Australia’s national day of wartime commemoration, ‘Anzac Day’ (annually on 25 April). This date remembers and honours all Australians who have served and died in war, and originated after Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (‘Anzac’) soldiers landed at the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, on 25 April 1915. The first specimen of this species (QMB S66839) was collected on Anzac Day 2001.”

We may not remember them, as we do those other Anzacs, yet still their numbers grow.