Tag Archives: Museum

The Maritime Archaeology Collection: Part 2 Islands and Reefs

Written by Dr Maddy Fowler, Museum of Tropical Queensland

Following from Part 1 Shipwrecks, which detailed the 17 named shipwrecks represented by artefacts in the Museum of Tropical Queensland collection, Part 2 explores objects discovered at islands and reefs that are not ascribed to a known shipwreck. With the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia’s greatest ship-traps, lying off the Queensland coast, it is unsurprising that shipwreck material occurs on many of the islands, reefs and cays both there and further offshore in the Coral Sea.

In saying that, artefacts from the following locations may relate to vessels: Moulter Cay the ship Sapphire (1859); Great Detached Reef the ship Aerd Van Nes (1854); Polmaise Reef the barque Tambaroora (1879) and the barque Deutschland (1883); and Double Island Point the brig Missie (1866). Further research needs to be undertaken to determine how conclusive these identifications are.

Northern Great Barrier Reef

Island or reef name Number of records*
Torres Strait 6
Moulter Cay 12
Raine Island 198
Great Detached Reef 11
Cockburn Reef 14
Sir Charles Hardy Island 1
Wishbone Reef 8
Little Broadhurst Reef 1

Many of these artefacts, while not identified to individual vessels, are ship-related objects. These include parts of the ship such as fastenings (bolts, nails, spikes, staples, tacks), rigging (block components) and miscellaneous objects (ballast, planking). Other ship-related objects are ship’s furniture and fittings such as slate, brick, window glass, metal sheeting (copper and lead sheeting, hull sheathing), hinges, drawer handles, door fittings and locks and plumbing. Maritime-specific tools include navigational instruments like binnacle or compass components.

Although, some objects may not pinpoint a shipwreck, but rather relate to shipping mishaps or objects discarded overboard. This includes weapons and accessories such as ammunition (iron and lead shot), and domestic and personal equipment like food and drink consumption and storage vessels (earthenware, glass bottles, stemware, barrel hoops) and clay pipes.

Southern Great Barrier Reef

Island or reef name Number of records*
Heron Island 9
Polmaise Reef 20
Lady Elliot Island 34
Double Island Point 11

While most artefacts pertain to a submerged environment, some of those from islands actually represent island-based industries rather than shipwreck events or shipping mishaps. The largest site-specific collection, Raine Island, is an excellent example of this, used for convict labour (constructing the stone beacon), as a beche-de-mer fishery and for guano mining.

Given the remote location of many sites in the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, the collection of these artefacts often occurred on the basis of which organisations were in the area. Queensland Museum (QM) maritime archaeology staff collected the majority of these artefacts, often with the support of volunteers from the Maritime Archaeology Association of Queensland (MAAQ), in the 1980s and 1990s, when QM was the State delegate for the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976. In other cases, organisations such as the Queensland National Parks & Wildlife Service were responsible for their collection. The Raine Island Corporation field trips excavated the Raine Island collection. Individuals have donated very few artefacts.

Coral Sea

Island or reef name Number of records*
Mellish Reef 2
Dart Reef 6
Wreck Reef 3
Porpoise Cay 57
Whalebone Cay (Hope Cay) 1
Kenn Reefs 18
Observatory Cay 2
Bird Island 1

*The ‘number of records’ refers to the number of individual entries recorded against each island or reef in the Museum’s database. It does not quantify the number of individual artefacts, as some records relate to more than one object.

The records from islands and reefs make up 6% of the collection, compared to named shipwrecks. This collection reminds us that many of these fastenings or bottles, for example, lose meaning when removed from their context. The significance of these objects diminishes without accurate provenance. It is time to revisit these objects and connect them back to the stories of Queensland’s islands and reefs.

To learn more about the artefacts from the islands and reefs listed here, please contact the Museum of Tropical Queensland +61 (0) 7 4726 0600 or info.mtq@qm.qld.gov.au.



The Maritime Archaeology Collection: Part 1 Shipwrecks

Written by Dr Maddy Fowler, Museum of Tropical Queensland

As the recently appointed Senior Curator Maritime Archaeology, I have faced the challenge of familiarising myself with the maritime archaeology collection, predominantly housed at the Museum of Tropical Queensland. The HMS Pandora artefacts are justifiably the most well-known of this collection, due to both their international value and significance, and their substantial quantity. The collection, however, also includes artefacts from at least 16 other named shipwrecks located across Queensland’s coast and rivers. The maritime archaeology collection can therefore be seen as a cross-section or a sample of the total shipwreck resource in the State, and a brief analysis of these sites can inform significance and research potential.
Continue reading The Maritime Archaeology Collection: Part 1 Shipwrecks

Collection manager shares her favourite items

Queensland Museum Collection Manager (Mammals and Birds), Heather Janetzki, talks about some of her favourite items within the Queensland DNA campaign that you have the opportunity to look after.

Continue reading Collection manager shares her favourite items

Anniversary of when QANTAS took flight

The Queensland Museum is calling on the public to become involved in preserving the stories within the State Collection. Through the Become a Part of Queensland’s DNA Campaign, people have the opportunity to link their name to an item from the Collection and in essence preserve that story. Queensland Museum, Senior Curator, Mark Clayton has written about his favourite item, an Airmail Bag.

The notion of a regular public airline service would have seemed fanciful in the nineteenth century. For Scottish-born Alexander Kennedy however, born in 1837 – just a few months after Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne – this notion was to be become much more than just a reality.

It was ninety-two years ago – this week -that Kennedy (then aged eighty-four) became the first passenger on Queensland’s first scheduled airline service – from Longreach to Cloncurry.

Kennedy’s enthusiasm for a local air service had been fuelled two years earlier following a chance meeting in Cloncurry with one of the fledgling airline’s founding Directors. A successful grazier, farmer, councillor, mine owner and company director, Kennedy had agreed to also become a provisional Director and guarantor, in consideration for a seat on the inaugural service.

Both pilot and plane were ex-military, the latter being particularly unsuited for the purpose. Attracted both by the occasion’s novelty and potential momentousness, a small crowd of Longreach’s citizens and dignitaries had gathered in the pre-dawn gloom that Thursday, 2nd November 1922 to bear witness as pilot, mechanic and passenger filled all available seats aboard the hulking Armstrong Whitworth AW8. As they readied for take-off, Kennedy in cap and goggles with wind tossing his beard is alleged to have shouted…”be damned to the doubters”.1

After an uneventful 498km flight with enroute stops for fuel (McKinley) and morning tea (Winton), Queensland’s first airliner landed at 11.30 that same morning, greeted by an equally enthusiastic gathering of Cloncurry citizenry. Kennedy’s first journey there, fifty-three years beforehand, had taken eight months to complete.

That airline is still operating, albeit, better known these days for its international services and by its acronym, QANTAS.

This mail bag was used by QANTAS to transport mail on the very first airmail service between Australia and England in 1931.
This mail bag was used by QANTAS to transport mail on the very first airmail service between Australia and England in 1931.

The airmail bag shown here relates to the following decade, a time when Q.A.N.T.A.S. (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Pty Ltd), as it was then known, was manoeuvring – desperately – to become something more than just a local air service. All the world’s airlines were dependent then on government mail subsidies, and the Q.A.N.T.A.S. Board was quick to recognise the strategic, financial and prestige advantage of extending its network to include Brisbane and Darwin. The former was the conduit to Sydney and Melbourne, while the latter was the gateway linking Australia with the rest of the world.

The Queensland-airline’s opportunity for metamorphosis came on April Fool’s Day 1932 when the British Post Office announced that it would be undertaking an experimental round-trip airmail service from London to Sydney, as an extension of Imperial Airways’ existing London to Delhi service. Although at that time Q.A.N.T.A.S.’s fleet of single-engined aircraft were incapable of providing over-water international services, the company was engaged to fly the trans-continental return sector from Brisbane to Darwin. This is one of the mail bags carried aboard the DH61 Apollo on that successful north-bound proving flight, pilot Russell Tapp’s four-day return flight covering 6,437kms.

It was this experiment which led – in part – to the formation two years later of a new international carrier known as Qantas Empire Airways Ltd.

This item part of the Queensland DNA campaign and is available for you to take care of. To take care of this part of Queensland’s DNA click here.

  1. Hudson Fysh, Qantas Rising (1965), p.92.

Museum for teens: Deep Oceans

Written by: Tim Janetzki is a student at Ferny Grove State High School who has taken it upon himself to discover the Queensland Museum and the amazing things within it. Over the coming months Tim will blog about his personal experiences and views on the Museum. His next assignment was discovering Deep Oceans.

Don't worry this Anglerfish is just a replica
Don’t worry this Anglerfish is just a replica

The unknown is a terrifying thing, to not know what lives in the depths of something that covers 71% of our planet’s surface, is a mystifying and uneasy feeling. Novelists have written about it, Film makers have pictured it, and scientists have corrected it, but still, we are still imagining monsters of the deep. They can’t be real, can they?

Queensland Museum’s newest exhibition is Deep Oceans sheds light on the undisturbed and inky black darkness of the seas, revealing some of the most exquisite and interesting marine life ever seen. Only 10% of the deep oceans have been explored and just from that small amount of exploration, marine biologists, scientists and explorers have just recently punctured the black veil of the ocean, allowing them to peek inside the abyssal darkness.

Get up close to the Giant Squid
Get up close to the Giant Squid

Now the Queensland Museum has put on show the rarities found within the deep ocean fissures and plains, displaying a wide range of bioluminescent fish, huge squid, Black Smoker sea vents, turbidity at different levels and air pressure. The crown jewel of the exhibition is the Giant Squid, submerged in glycerol has been preserved perfectly since its discovery in 2004, now is on display, along with the Queensland Museums own collection of diving helmets.

The many interactive displays provide easier ways of understanding the depths such as the legendary Bathysphere, a small sphere shaped submarine that was lowered down to the deep with people inside, observing the sea below with powerful lights.

One of the diving helmets from the Langley Collection
One of the diving helmets from the Langley Collection

Queensland Museum’s Deep Oceans transports you to a fabled world that has to be seen to be believed, with collections of Diving Helmets, Whale Bone carvings and stories of colossal monsters of the deep, but no one’s actually seen a monster, have they?

Deep Oceans, until 6 October 2014. Tickets cost $12.

For more information click here.