I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published August 13th 2013
Our National Nautical History
The Australian National Maritime Museum is operated by the Federal Government and is the only one of six Government operated museums to be found outside the ACT.
Development of the Museum commenced in 1985 but a number of delays meant that it didn't open until 1991.
The ANMM is a priceless collection of all things nautical dating from pre the First Fleet to the present day
With its fleet of all manner of vessels berthed nearby the imposing museum building itself is home to more than 130,000 items held in seven main galleries including one dedicated to the relationship between Australia and the USA. Funded by the Americans it's the only gallery in a national museum anywhere in the world funded by a foreign nation.
From the Charlotte Medal, a small silver medallion hand engraved by a First Fleet convict, to a vessel made using 2000 empty beer cans and examples of former operational warships, including an Oberon Class submarine, the museum collections depict almost every conceivable aspect of Australia's nautical development and history.
Not many museums could boast a former operational lighthouse relocated and rebuilt as an exhibit
The Charlotte Medal is widely recognised as Australia's first Colonial work of art, engraved by convict Thomas Barrett on board the First Fleet convict transport ship CHARLOTTE at anchor in Botany Bay between the 20th & 26th of January 1788.
Prominent among the museums fleet of ships is the replica of Captain James Cook's ENDEAVOUR, considered by many to be the most authentic maritime reproduction in the world. Conceived as part of the build-up to Bicentenary celebrations in 1988 the ENDEAVOUR was launched at Fremantle, WA in December 1993 following extensive delays due to financial difficulties experienced by her major sponsors.
HMB ENDEAVOUR seen here shortly after her launch at Fremantle in December 1993
Since sailing twice around the world and hosting many thousands of visitors the ENDEAVOUR replica has been on display at the National Maritime Museum since 2005 although she still regularly undertakes voyages in Australian waters.
Berthed nearby is the former Royal Australian Navy Daring Class Destroyer HMAS VAMPIRE. With three 4.5 inch twin gun turrets, anti-aircraft guns, torpedoes and anti-submarine mortars the heavily armed VAMPIRE was in service from 1959 to 1986 but never fired a shot in anger.
The Destroyer HMAS VAMPIRE and the Oberon Class submarine HMAS ONSLOW berthed in front of the museum building
Alongside VAMPIRE is the Oberon Class submarine HMAS ONSLOW. One of six of her class in operation with the RAN ONSLOW served for 30 years, travelled the equivalent of 16 circumnavigations of the globe and was frequently engaged on clandestine intelligence gathering missions. Her crew of up to 68 Officers and sailors lived and worked in incredibly cramped conditions.
Visitors to the ANMM can board HMAS ONSLOW and experience the cramped conditions in which her crew lived and worked
ONSLOW was unique in some ways including being the world's first conventionally powered submarine to be armed with anti-ship missiles. She was also the only RAN submarine to be fitted with a special hatch to enable the deployment and recovery of naval Clearance Divers while the vessel was submerged.
Perhaps the most famous of the Museums ship exhibits is also the most humble.
The trawler KOFUKU MARU helped evacuate people from Singapore in the face of the advancing Japanese forces in 1941. Two years later in 1943, renamed KRAIT and masquerading as a Malay fishing boat she carried operatives of Australia's Z Special Force back to Singapore. After leaving KRAIT six Commando's in three canoes attached high-explosive limpet mines to Japanese ships in the harbor sinking or severely damaging seven of them.
After the war KRAIT, renamed PEDANG, worked in the timber trade in Borneo where she was recognised by two visiting Australians in the late 1950's. A public appeal was set-up to raise funds to bring her back to Australia where she arrived in 1964 and worked as a volunteer coastal patrol boat for many years. Gifted to the Australian War Memorial in 1985 KRAIT has been on loan to the ANMM since 1987.
KRAIT. It's difficult to imagine that this unassuming little work-boat took part in a raid which wreaked havoc on Japanese shipping in Singapore harbour
A variety of tours enable visitors to board and explore the ENDEAVOUR replica, HMAS VAMPIRE, HMAS ONSLOW, Kay Cottee's globe-trotting yacht BLACKMORES FIRST LADY and the magnificent tall-ship JAMES CRAIG.
A visit to the Australian National Maritime Museum is time very well spent
The Australian National Maritime Museum is a must-see attraction at the very heart of Sydney's Darling Harbour precinct and provides an intriguing insight into Australia's rich maritime heritage.