Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

New Zealand Day 10: Auckland War Memorial Museum

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 16, 2019

First, a little bit of catching up…

In Napier, Tim went to the aquarium while I put my feet up with a book.

So, back to Wednesday in Auckland!

After a scrumptious breakfast in the hotel (the Scenic, on Queen Street) we headed off to the wharf, not far from the Maritime Museum.  It was a beautiful morning, sun shining with a light breeze, so a trip across to Devonport on the ferry seemed like a good idea.  And even though as the day wore on there were intermittent flurries of wind and rain, for the most part the day stayed congenial. We have been very lucky.

Devonport is lovely.  I can understand why people would want to commute across the harbour to work in the CBD!  We had coffee and friands at a really nice café called Twister Tomato, and then strolled around the shops and admired their lovely houses.  Best of all we found a second-hand bookshop called Bookmarks and spent a blissful half hour browsing their extensive collections.  I bought three, and so did Tim, so we are going to have to be careful with further purchases, but backlist books of Catherine Chidgey and Kirsty Gunn are impossible to source in Australia so it would have been daft not to buy them.

Back on the mainland, we went to the Auckland War Memorial Museum.  The architecture is neo-classical with Roman columns inside and out, and entablature on the exterior features scenes of war on the frieze. Inside, it’s what I call a traditional museum, (i.e. the kind I like), with collections focussing on the natural world, NZ’s geological history, and a representative collection of classical artefacts from Egypt, Greece, Rome and China.  There were also a couple of replicas of Greek statuary including the Laocoon and the Dying Gaul, and I think this is a good idea: it’s a very long way to travel for students studying these classical civilisations to see the originals, and just as the V&A in London has replicas for its students, so the Auckland Museum enhances its collection of original artefacts with these life-sized replicas as well.

They have a very good fossil collection.  (I am fascinated by fossils, and have my own small collection at home, including a trilobite).  Here’s the slideshow, including a giant ammonite and a reconstruction of the extinct giant moa.

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They also have a good (if somewhat disconcerting) exhibition about volcanoes.  NZ doesn’t just have to worry about devastating earthquakes, volcanic eruptions in their cities is a possibility too.  An animation shows how volcanic eruptions from the sea reshaped these islands over millions of years: my photos don’t capture it all that well, but it’s one of the best exhibits I’ve seen on this topic.

Upstairs is dedicated to the War Memorial and associated exhibits, including a real Spitfire on display, and a poignant cabinet of POW’s handwritten stories.  New Zealanders served in many theatres of war, and so there are cards written by people captured everywhere from Germany to Crete and of course in Singapore as well.  As well as the exhibits you’d expect to see about WW1 and WW2, there was also an exhibit about women’s war service, and one about peace-keeping operations as well.

And I had my first Bookish Moment of the trip.  (The visit to Katherine Mansfield’s birthplace, you may recall, didn’t work out because the house was closed for the duration). In a delightfully idiosyncratic collection donated by a gentleman called Mackelvie, there was this: ivory mini-busts of Voltaire and Rousseau.  (The man at the front isn’t anybody, the signage just says he’s a man, so why he’s at the front in the way I do not know!)

For dinner we went to a restaurant that claimed to serve Japanese-influenced European dishes—but they don’t.  They serve Japanese dishes with the inclusion of mismatched European ingredients. such as bits of shredded raw potato, red radish instead of daikon and (a mortal sin, IMO) mustard drowning out the subtle flavour of freshwater caviar.  The dishes were the usual unpalatable raw fish in feeble sauces.  If you like Japanese cuisine, and Tim does, then it was fine, if grotesquely overpriced. If you don’t, and I really don’t, then the only ‘European’ dish in a seven-course degustation that you might like will be dessert.  And this is a shame because Tim chose this particular restaurant because he thought a fusion cuisine might suit us both.  But the irresponsible table service was something else again: the tables are very close together, so all night long anything the waitstaff said to us was drowned out by a boisterous couple next to us, made worse by the way the waitstaff kept replenishing the father’s glass with sake and beer so he became louder and louder and more and more obnoxious. Not a happy experience at all.

Photo credit:

Auckland War Memorial Museum by User:Antilived – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Posted in 2019 New Zealand, Auckland, Dining out, Museums | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

New Zealand Day 9: Auckland Maritime Museum

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 14, 2019

So, after lunch we strolled down to Auckland Harbour.

It looks pretty much like most harbours do, but some of the nearby apartments are stunning.

As you walk along the wharf, they look very swish….

…but it’s when you’re on the other wide of the water you can see that they are designed to look like a cruise ship, portholes and all!

The Auckland Maritime Museum is well worth an hour or two of your time.  The entry fee isn’t expensive (and they honour Australian Seniors Cards here, which is nice).

First of all there was a comprehensive display of Polynesian boats which made those amazing journeys across the Pacific from Tahitian islands to New Zealand about 800 years ago.

Then there were the European explorers—Portuguese, Dutch, British and French.

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Black Magic NZL-32 (Wikipedia)

The yacht Black Magic NZL32 which won the America’s Cup was there: and I was most amused by signage that said that this yacht was one of only two in the world to have defeated the Americans for the Cup … but they didn’t mention which country the other winner came from!

There was also a replica of the America’s cup, and an extensive display about Sir Peter Blake who captained the yacht, including his ‘lucky red socks’ (replicas of which you can buy in the shop).  Tim (who used to sail in his youth on the family yacht ‘Valhalla’) was captivated by the collection of yachts large and small, from numerous different ‘classes’, and there was a great long cabinet displaying some of the trophies the Kiwis have won.

As in the other NZ museums we’ve visited, there was a Migration Gallery.  This one started with C19th migration and some of the advertising for migrant women caught my eye.  There was also a model of awful cabin conditions in the days of sail, contrasted with a cabin from a 1950s ocean liner (which seemed a bit more rudimentary than what I remember, but we didn’t travel as Ten Pound Poms, so I guess our conditions were better).  Here’s the slideshow:

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But what I liked best of all was all the model ships.  These never fail to enchant me when I find them in museums… I used to love the collection they had on display in the old Melbourne Museum.  The ones here in the Auckland Maritime Museum didn’t disappoint: the detailed fittings and the authenticity of these models is just breathtaking.  Here are two that I especially liked:


Photo credit: Black Magic NZL-32 by Kiwimedia (talk) at en.wikipedia – (Original text : I (Kiwimedia (talk)) created this work entirely by myself.), CC0,

Posted in 2019 New Zealand, Auckland, Museums | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

New Zealand Day 9: Auckland Writers Festival Event

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 14, 2019

Well, we’ve attended our first Auckland Writers Festival Event, a bespoke lunch with celebrity chef Tony Tan!

But we’ve also checked out the venue for the bookish events… and it is going to take all my self-control not to succumb to some very enticing books a *lot* of Air New Zealand excess baggage charges from the festival bookshop, which is already open.

The Aotea Centre is a stone’s throw from our hotel, but I managed to find some interesting buildings en route all the same.  Here’s the slideshow:

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You will have noticed that I slipped in a picture of Melbourne’s Forum Theatre… as soon as I saw the Auckland Civic Theatre, I recognised the style, and it didn’t take much searching to find that the similarity is owed to the designer John Eberson, who was an American promoter of what were called Atmospheric Theatres.  (If you’ve been inside our Forum Theatre, you know exactly what that means.  If not, click here to find out more).

So, back to our first festival event…

Tony Tan is a celebrity chef, Malaysian-born but based in Melbourne, and to celebrate the launch of his new cookbook Hong Kong Food City, he put on a special lunch at Nic Watt’s Masu restaurant here in Auckland.

Masu is actually a Japanese restaurant, and I asked the man who was obviously in charge of it (owner? maitre d’? head chef?) if it was stressful lending his restaurant to another chef, and he laughed and said yes, it was, because his chefs had no experience cooking Chinese food and before the event, there were lots of emails flying backwards and forwards seeking further instructions about how to do things.  Imagine it! The kitchen staff certainly deserved the sustained applause they got from the delighted patrons!

Anyway, here’s the slideshow… the chicken is inside that packet.  I did take a photo, but, well, it just looks like chicken!

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We took a constitutional down to Prince Wharf afterwards, and from there to the Maritime Museum.  I’ll whip up a post about that after dinner…

Photo credits:

Forum Theatre, Melbourne by Donaldytong – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Auckland Civic Theatre by Ingolfson at English Wikipedia(Original text: Uploader.) – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.(Original text: Own picture.), Public Domain,

Posted in 2019 New Zealand, Auckland, Dining out, Museums | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

New Zealand 2019 Day 7: Napier Museum

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 12, 2019

Actually, the Napier Museum is also an art gallery and a library!

There are only three floors, but it’s still a very interesting museum.  Alas, I had a Senior’s Moment and left my camera on the desk in the hotel so we have only a few photos on Tim’s phone…


We started off on the ground floor with a display about the 1931 Earthquake.  We had already read about this, and seen the informative video at the Art Deco Trust, but this museum exhibition rounded out the historical facts with personal stories.  There were stories from people who lived through it, including some poignant ones from people who were small children at the time, and there were some treasured trinkets that had been salvaged.  There was also a digital display on a banner, that had voices of the people superimposed over diagrams that showed the transitions as the land rose up and changed the landscape while below it the Richter Scale was climbing.  It was very vivid.  There were replicas of press reports and telegrams, and also photos of the naval ship HMAS Veronica that was anchored in the bay when the quake struck. The ship was thrown right up out of the water and then back down again, coming to rest in newly exposed mudflats when the ocean retreated.  They had to wait until a high tide before it could be re-floated, but they had radio and they sent an SOS to Auckland by Morse Code.  The next day two naval ships arrived with medical help and supplies, and the city has never forgotten the navy and how it managed the relief effort.

There was a lovely display of local silverware, and not all of it was owned by the rich and privileged.  We were both captivated by trophies awarded to two fire stations competing in fire drills.  Tim liked the rooster, and I liked the one with the water cannon!

There was also a display of Maori carvings and whatnot but we’ve seen a lot of that by now (and I think you need to be a bit of an expert to see the difference between them) and the same was true of the exhibition about a pioneering family called Webb.

However we loved the display of architectural drawings by the architect J A Louis Hay.  He was in his fifties and already a notable architect influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright when the earthquake struck and Napier needed rebuilding.  He joined the Napier Reconstruction Committee and ensured that local architects who had the interests of Napier at heart were those who controlled the massive rebuilding task.

There were framed drawings of his proposed buildings, many of which we’ve seen realised as buildings in the CBD, and there was signage that explained that he was a meticulous man who was intolerant of shoddy workmanship.  But it was from Wikipedia that I discovered that his wife was severely injured in the disaster.  I think these architects are real heroes, who restored a ruined city into a truly beautiful place, and I suspect that the local people who had suffered so much must have been delighted to see their new city arising from the disaster.

We also took the opportunity to admire the Napier Library.  It is a beautiful space, quiet and calm, and nicely organised with a spacious feel and what looks like a good contemporary collection.  They also had a clever initiative to encourage borrowing: you can borrow a ‘pot luck’ bookbag of five books, which are tagged ‘romance’, ‘thriller’, ‘paranormal romance’ (what’s that??) or ‘crime’.  You simply scan the bag, take it home and embark on a voyage of discovery!

We rounded off our two days in Napier with a wonderful meal at Bistronomy.  If you like fine food in a creative contemporary style, this is a restaurant you must not miss.  They make excellent cocktails (I had a Sour Tart, made with gin, elderflowers and feijoas (in season now); and Tim had a Lady Marmalade which was made with charred citrus, aniseed and Cointreau.  What we particularly liked was that the cocktails came before the first course as they should, because the whole point of a cocktail is that it’s a pre-dinner drink, and very rarely is it compatible with an entrée.  In a best-forgotten place we went to in Wellington, the bartender took so long to finish his theatrical performance—prancing around, waggling his pony-tail and thrusting his biceps about, that by the time the cocktails arrived #EpicFail we had almost finished entrée…

No such problem at Bistronomy.  The service was excellent, and the food was served perfectly.  Here’s the slideshow, and I have added the description from the menu so that you can see the complexity of the dishes:

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One thing we didn’t photograph, though it wouldn’t have conveyed much if we had, was the house-made bread which came with whipped butter flavoured with lemon and horopito.  We had never heard of this flavoursome ingredient, and it tasted sublime.  It’s a kind of bush pepper apparently… and I really hope we can source it at home! I’d like to try using it to flavour muffins:)

Tomorrow we are off to Auckland!

Posted in 2019 New Zealand, Dining out, Libraries, Museums, Napier | Tagged: , | 9 Comments »

New Zealand 2019 Day 5: Palmerston North

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 10, 2019

We were up bright and early for the train to Palmerston North.  The Wellington Railway Station is hugely impressive, rather like the one in Rome (which is my favourite of all railway stations in the world).  It is well-organised and easy to navigate inside, (none of this nonsense about checking in your own luggage) and helpful staff everywhere.

The train was very comfortable, other passengers were congenial, and apart from a very brief bumpy bit of track, a smooth ride from start to finish.  I love train travel, and this is a really nice way to see some beautiful scenery in relaxed comfort.  The food is surprisingly good too: we had some sandwiches and coffee and #NotLikeAirlineFood there were other appetising choices too.

On arrival at Palmerston North, we dumped our bags and headed out for a walk to stretch our legs.  Here’s the slideshow:

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Then it was off to the Museum.  Now, everyone you talk to in Wellington and in Palmerston North, will tell you about the Rugby Museum, (and I have developed a friendly patter in response, about The Offspring’s teenage career in representative rugby which conveys the entirely untrue impression that I know something about the game), but it will come as no surprise to my friends that we went to The Other Museum.  It’s called the Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History, and it’s wonderful!

We spent a very happy hour there, checking out the Environmental Science exhibits, and I was so pleased to see that they group the taxa together so that children actually learn something from the exhibit. BTW Note the Humble Bee in these images: one of these flew across my face at lunch in the Rose Garden in Wellington, and Tim thought I was exaggerating when I said how big it was.

I don’t have much patience with so-called interactive exhibits because I don’t think children really learn much from them, but we played with this one on the electromagnetic spectrum, and found it very good at explaining the wavelengths.

There were also exhibits of birds arranged by habitat, a skeleton of an extinct moa and a stuffed Kiwi (which was smaller than I’d expected).  Also on display was the massive stump of a Totara tree.

And then there was the history museum, which had all kinds of interesting things, including a Maori meeting house and some other artefacts that we were allowed to photograph.    Here’s the slideshow:

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You know you’re getting old when the phone booth you were using just a few years ago is in a museum, eh?

Lisa’s Sous vide Wild Red Tussock Venison Short Loin

We dined in at Jimmy Cook’s at the Copthorne Hotel, and had the best venison I’ve ever tasted.

Tomorrow we’re off to Napier!

PS I found two bookshops in Palmerston North, and recommend Papers Plus for friendly service and dedicated shelves of NZ fiction.  I couldn’t resist a new book called The Naturalist by Thom Conroy and an intriguing title called Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin – it’s an alternative history of the UK after it’s been defeated by the Nazis…

Posted in 2019 New Zealand, Dining out, Museums, Palmerston North | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

New Zealand 2019 Day 4: Te Papa Museum

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 9, 2019

After the disappointment of Katherine Mansfield’s house being closed for renovation, things improved.

Yesterday we’d made a brief visit to the Te Papa Museum, which is a modern purpose-built museum opened in 1998.  It is, alas, rather like the Melbourne Museum in concept, that is, there are vast areas of empty space to cross before you actually get anywhere.  I have no idea why anyone thinks this is a good idea.  These modern museums are obviously designed with children in mind and little legs get tired.  There are also lifts that don’t operate on all floors so you have to get out of the one cunningly placed next to the shop and then find the other one.  You do a lot of walking without actually seeing anything…

Anyway, the first exhibit is on Level 2, and it’s about New Zealand’s experience of Gallipoli, so we dutifully visited that and then went upstairs to Level 3 where I was keen to see the Suffrage 125 Exhibition.  To say that it was disappointing is an understatement.  Kate Sheppard is a bit of a hero of mine, and she should be a hero for women around the world because she spearheaded the campaign for NZ women to be the first in the world to get the vote.  But she barely got a mention and I know no more about her now than I did before.  The exhibition is what they call a ‘pop-up’ exhibition, and this is a description of what was there from EventFindaCoNZ:

To honour Suffrage 125, Te Papa curators have initiated a special collecting project, sourcing contemporary items related to women’s rights. Recent acquisitions include a breast pump from former Green MP and writer Holly Walker, the NopeSisters T-shirt which addresses sexual abuse, a menstrual cup from MyCup, a company committed to ending period poverty, a suit worn by Dame Jenny Shipley on her first day in office as New Zealand’s first-ever female Prime Minister, and Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban’s puletasi (formal Sāmoan outfit) which she wore to give her maiden speech as New Zealand’s first Pacific Island female Member of Parliament.

IMO If this is the best that New Zealand’s National Museum can do to honour a notable woman, then they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

So then we visited the Blood Earth Fire, Transformation of Aotearoa New Zealand exhibition.  This was huge, taking up nearly the whole floor, and was basically about the impact of humans on the land.

Level 4, which we visited today, was much more to our taste.  We started off with the Treaty Of Waitangi exhibits.  When you first walk in you are confronted by a massive replica of the document—it reaches from floor to ceiling.  Beside it on the wall is a large printed version of what was agreed… which was basically that the Maori ceded sovereignty but got to keep their land.  (And as we all know, it didn’t work out that way at all.)

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But as you progress round the exhibits (which include some of the original gifts that were exchanged as a sign of respect) you learn that actually there are multiple copies of the treaty, because it was copied and different copies of it were taken to sites (that you can see on the map of NZ) for all the chiefs to sign. (Some did, quite a lot didn’t).  In the process the copies got shabby, and the documents weren’t properly preserved and now they are all damaged, much like the one you can see in the cabinet.

This exhibition was interesting to us because it exposes some of the mythology surrounding Australia’s failure to negotiate a treaty.  It is said that in contrast to the disunity amongst Australia’s Indigenous People, the Maori chiefs were united and that made a treaty possible.  Well, clearly, they weren’t all united.   And then, obviously the treaty wasn’t respected anyway, not even enough to keep it safe from damage…

There is a huge exhibition of Maori history and culture on this floor, but unfortunately we weren’t allowed to photograph any of it, and I couldn’t buy postcards or an exhibition catalogue.  However, I can show you a link to the contentious Maori wharenui which is a remarkable artefact.  A wharenui is a meeting house, and this one was apparently removed from its original site without permission and the iwi (tribe) wants it back.  This may be the reason why the signage is inadequate: if you take off your shoes you can go inside it, but there’s nothing to explain the significance of the architecture or the symbolic meanings of the carvings, not even in the digital video outside it.  (I hate those things, I read much quicker than most people do, and it’s really annoying to have to stand and wait while they finish reading and turn the page).

There was also a stunning longboat, and models of the impressive boats that were used for the Maori voyages from Polynesia about 800 years ago—but we couldn’t photograph those either so you’ll just have to imagine them.

However, the museum has a modern version of a wharenui which belongs to everyone, they say, and I’ve found a Wikipedia picture of that:

On the same floor there is a Passports exhibition which is a bit like Melbourne’s Immigration Museum in concept.  Unfortunately the lighting isn’t conducive to taking good photos, but here’s a little slideshow of items that caught my eye:

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Tonight we’re going to Dockside Restaurant which is close by and therefore an ideal choice for tired feet, and tomorrow we are taking the train to Palmerston North. I gather that the main attraction there is a rugby museum, but I’m sure we’ll find something else to amuse ourselves, and I’m expecting the scenery en route to be gorgeous.

Photo credit:

Modern wharenui: by Allie_Caulfield from Germany – 2001-12-02 01-03 Neuseeland 152, CC BY 2.0,

Museum Entrance: by rheins, CC BY 3.0,

Kate Sheppard: By Book written by William Sidney Smith (1852-1929) but unclear whether he was photographer – From Outlines of the women’s franchise movement in New Zealand (1905) by William Sidney Smith (1852-1929). See File: Outlines of the women’s franchise movement in New Zealand.djvu, Public Domain,

Posted in 2019 New Zealand, Museums, Wellington | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

New Zealand 2019: Day 3 Wellington Museums

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 8, 2019

The weather continues benign, and I have yet to suffer what is called the Wellington Hairdo:

We took a stroll along the waterfront en route to the Wellington Museum, and admired other examples of Kiwi humour:

We also liked a retaining wall that featured memorials of one sort or another.  I liked the one to the Shaw Savill Line because that’s the line on which I sailed to Australia and although it’s not the classiest ocean liner of my childhood travels, it did get me to the right place to make a wonderful home. Here’s the slideshow:

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So then we got to the museum, said (by someone, Lonely Planet?) to be among the best 50 museums in the world.  It is just the kind of museum I like: with interesting exhibits, lots of good signage, not dependent on pressing digital interactive stuff that is mostly rubbish and not what you wanted to know anyway.   It’s definitely among my best-ever museums too.

On the ground floor there’s a chronological circuit which takes you through the 20th century in Wellington.  It has some surprising exhibits: I’ve never before seen any exhibits about conscientious objectors but this museum features Alexander Baxter, and it acknowledges that it takes courage to stand up for your beliefs when everyone else is against them.

There’s also a banner for Nuclear Free Wellington, which as our tour guide Dean said yesterday was a no-brainer given New Zealand’s propensity for earthquakes. (BTW I have no idea why they’ve put a woman sweeping the floor next to the sign, there wasn’t any signage to explain it.)

It’s always pleasing to see a city’s literary and artistic history being included in a museum’s exhibits.  Here’s the slideshow:

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Having read so recently at home about the battle for women’s suffrage, I was impressed yesterday when our tour guide drew our attention to Kate Sheppard Place which acknowledges her role in the NZ campaign which led to New Zealand women being the first in the world to get the vote.  And with what we now recognise as typical Kiwi humour he pointed out that this little street is between two pubs, which might not have amused Sheppard who was (like many of the suffragists) a temperance campaigner as well.

However in the Wellington museum, all that we could find about her was this enigmatic statue, and her name among other notable Kiwi women on a tapestry.  (You probably won’t be able to read the names, but they include Jean Batten the aviator; Katherine Mansfield (author); Helen Clark (first female PM of NZ); Jacinda Ardern (of course!); Jane Campion (film director); Patricia Grace (author) and other names I don’t know but will look up in due course.

All up it’s a jolly good museum, and highly recommended.

To finish off, here we are having lunch at the Crab Shack!

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Posted in 2019 New Zealand, Dining out, Museums, Wellington | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Norfolk Island Museums #4, June 26th 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 28, 2018

The Sirius Museum is the smallest of the Norfolk Island Museums, and really, there’s not much to see, but it’s the most poignant.

Sirius shipwreck signage 3 (excerpt)

‘What will become of us God only knows’… was surely what the unlettered among the ‘500 souls’ were also thinking when they found themselves stranded on Norfolk Island after HMS Sirius was wrecked on the reef.

L to R HMS Supply & HMS Sirius

At the entrance to the museum there are scale models of the HMS Sirius and its much smaller companion, the HMS Supply. While the Supply was the smallest (and fastest) ship in the fleet of 11 vessels bound for Botany Bay to establish a penal colony there, the Sirius was the flagship. Armed with 14 cannon, 6 carronades and 8 swivel guns, its length on deck was 118 ft (almost 36 m) and it had a tonnage of 512 tons. Almost as soon as he arrived at Port Jackson in January, Governor Arthur Phillip despatched the Sirius to take control of Norfolk Island and set it up for commercial development of its timber and flax. After the other ships in the fleet returned to England, the Sirius was to become the Sydney settlement’s insurance against starvation and their only link to the rest of the world.

replica of HMS Sirius

The Norfolk Island Pine turned out to be too soft for masts and spars, and the flax was the wrong species for cordage and sailcloth, but the small settlement at Kingston became an essential source of food supplies for the Sydney settlement because the soil and climate were more benign. The original 15 convicts and seven free men under the leadership of Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King were soon supplemented by more convicts and soldiers to reduce pressure on provisions for the colony at Sydney. So though the Sirius was actually en route to China to buy some much needed tools and other hardware and was only intending to drop off more convicts and personnel en route, the fatal voyage was not the only one between the two settlements.

The Supply landed first and unloaded, moving out of the way so that the Sirius could dock. But when the weather worsened, it was the more nimble Supply that could manoeuvre to safety, while the Sirius came to grief on the reef before unloading.


HMS Sirius anchor

Disastrous as it was, the loss of the Sirius could have been worse. Signage tells of the ingenious methods used over two days to winch those on board to safety and to salvage provisions and weaponry. Signage also relates the escapade of convicts Dring and Branagan who discovered the grog supply on board, got drunk, and set fire to the ship. Another convict unnamed in the signage swam out, put out the fire and returned the two convicts to justice – which could easily have been the gallows but they were spared that (though not severe punishment).

The ship finally broke up two years after wrecking.

ship’s bow

What the signage doesn’t explain (or if it did, I missed it), is what the Supply was doing after it had manoeuvred to safety on the day of the disaster. I think she must have continued on to Batavia where she was bound and then returned to Sydney with fresh supplies without calling in at Norfolk Island. (But why didn’t she hang about a bit, to be sure that Sirius survived the hazardous landing on that fateful day? I bet their respective captains had a ‘bit of a tense chat’ when they were reunited, because Hunter and the crew were marooned on Norfolk for eleven months before the Supply eventually returned. In the interim martial law had been declared and it was in this period that the ‘Providence Petrel’ was almost hunted to extinction in an effort to feed the stranded population. It was not until the following March that King and 22 of the crew returned to Sydney on the Supply and only then did Governor Phillip find out about the disaster.

What must it have felt like, each time their sole remaining ship the Supply set sail out harbour on Norfolk and at Sydney? Everyone must have been well aware that if disaster befell her too, then they were wholly alone until a new ship arrived from England…

Posted in Museums, Norfolk Island 2018 | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Norfolk Museums #3, June 26th 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 28, 2018

Pier store museum

The tourist brochure about the Pier Store Museum has this to say:

The legendary mutiny on board the Bounty has been portrayed in no less than five Hollywood movies, but the true story is to be found here along with major Bounty artefacts.  Life on Pitcairn Island and the resettlement to Norfolk in 1856 are also told.  Today’s rich local culture, including Norf’k language, is revealed in this museum.

Which is to say that it’s a bit of a mish-mash, neither chronologically nor thematically coherent. Still, there’s some interesting stuff.

Journey of the longboat

There’s a scale model of the Bounty and its cannon, and a wonderful painting of the Journey of the Longboat, showing the fragility of the craft into which Bligh and his supporters were despatched by the mutineers.  How he ever got them safely to land (with just a sextant hurled to him from the ship) is a miracle, and one injustice which the museum seeks to rectify is Bligh’s reputation.  Signage tells us that he was actually quite enlightened for the times, that deaths onboard were rare, and that contrary to the dramatic scenes in the movies, he didn’t keelhaul anybody.  The amateur historian in me isn’t exactly sceptical, but I’m mindful that he’s the one who got back to England with a legacy to protect, and that when the mutineers landed on Pitcairn, all the Bounty’s logs were burned along with the ship to avoid detection.

There are also some miscellaneous bits and pieces, not authentic enough for the 2nd settlement period of the House Museum, but interesting in their own right.

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In marked contrast to the prominence given to WW2 history on New Caledonia where they have a whole museum dedicated to it, there’s only a little bit of signage about Norfolk Island in WW2. Due to its strategic position in the South Pacific, the island was used as a staging post for aircraft, a base for submarine patrols and as a refuge for aircraft in distress.  Perhaps because it was manned by Kiwis and not by a huge influx of US servicemen WW2 didn’t have the same social impact on Norfolk Island as it did on New Caledonia, where the racial mix today is evidence of fraternisation to say the least.  But as at New Caledonia the infrastructure built to service military needs was a great benefit to Norfolk Island although the signage gives very little credit to this.  Indeed, the only decent roads today are the ones built back then, and the 20-bed hospital was built then too.  (I keep getting reminders that there’s no money for community infrastructure in a tax-haven.) The biggest benefit was the building of the airstrip, which linked Norfolk Island to the world by air, enabling the growth of tourism and facilitating imports of fresh produce not available on the island.


There is also, inevitably, more about governance than any tourist wants to know…

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Norfolk Island Museums #2 June 26th, 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 28, 2018

I’m catching up on touristy things that we did two days ago because we spent yesterday doing more energetic explorations and when we got back to the cottage there was a really good book that I just had to finish reading.  (See Are Not Most People.  I’m drafting this offline, so I haven’t got the URL)


No 10 Quality Row is called the House Museum, because it’s been restored and refurbished as an authentic 2nd Settlement house for one of the officers.  (The 2nd settlement lasted from 1825-1855).  No 10 was built in 1844 as a residence for the (very busy) Foreman of Works, Thomas Seller.  He lived here with his manservant William Jenkins while supervising the building of the other residences, but before the house was built he lived in a wattle-and-daub hut.

Seller, a free settler who arrived in Sydney in 1833) had a wife and two children, but he came here to Norfolk Island in 1839 without them.  Having read some accounts of how women were distressed by the treatment of convicts in the penal colony on Van Dieman’s Land (now Tasmania), I can guess why she stayed in Sydney with the children.  I’m not at all convinced by the signage’s claim that by the time the Orfords family took up residence,  life was so far removed from the hardships and cruelty occurring just down the road that ladies sitting on the verandah to do their needlework were oblivious to it all.

One of Seller’s pastimes was painting, and his ‘Kingston from Flagstaff Hill’ is still hanging in the bedroom.  The other interesting feature is the trapdoor between the beds.  What was that for, I wonder?

During the Third Settlement, heralded by the arrival of the community from Pitcairn Island in 1856, the house was home to Isaac Young and his wife and 15 children. (Goodness only knows where they put them all!) They lived in the house till the early 1880s, and then a Methodist minister called Phelps moved in.  They called it the Faith Home of Norfolk Island, and converted 100 C of E believers to Methodism.  It reverted to C of E custodianship after that until the murky politics of Norfolk Island governance intervened. Since (despite the best efforts of assorted tour guides) I am sooooo not interested in that, (and neither are other tourists who say they are also sick of it) – suffice to say that this house and all the other buildings on this world heritage site now belong to the Commonwealth Government of Australia.  (And presumably, the restorations were done under their auspices.)


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Posted in Historic buildings, Museums, Norfolk Island 2018 | Tagged: | 4 Comments »