Twelve thousand years ago, sea levels were rising as the period of global glaciation ended. The land mass now known as Tasmania was cut off and the Aboriginal people living here were isolated from the Australian mainland. Before European settlement, Aboriginal Tasmanians lived in bands, each occupying a stretch of coastline and adjacent inland areas. They were hunter/gatherers who moved around the country to harvest seasonal food. As a coastal people, they relied on the sea for much of their diet. Aboriginal women collected abalone, oysters, mussels and other seafood and the remains of these make up the middens which can be found all around the Tasmanian coastline. The boat shown above was typical of the Tasmanian people. Southern Tasmania became a favoured resting and restocking place for French and English explorers journeying to the Pacific in search of new trade routes, products, land, and scientific knowledge. Aboriginal Tasmanians of the Oyster Bay and South East Tribes were the first to observe Europeans. The earliest encounter in 1772, with a French expedition led by Marion du Fresne, was marred by misunderstanding. Men from both sides were wounded and an Aboriginal was man killed. Other early visitors included Furneaux on Cook’s first Pacific voyage and Cook himself on his second voyage. Bligh also stopped over on his two attempts to obtain breadfruit from Tahiti.
The Heemskerck was the flagship of Tasman’s expedition when he discovered Tasmania in 1642. The 60 ton “yacht” was based in the East Indies having arrived from the Netherlands in 1638. It was manned by 60 crew and carried a variety of trade goods as well as provisions for 18 months.
The 21 ton sloop Norfolk was reportedly built up from a longboat salvaged from the wreck of the Sirius at Norfolk Island in 1790. The vessel performed valuable work linking Port Jackson (NSW) with outlying settlements and was one of the few colonial craft available for exploration. After completing the first circumnavigation of Tasmania in January 1799 the vessel returned to its regular duties. In 1800 the Norfolk went ashore near the entrance to the Hunter River.
The 60 ton brig Lady Nelson played a remarkable role in the European settlement andexploration of Australia. With a shallow draughtand three sliding centre-boards she was an excellent survey vessel. Between 1803 and 1804 she was also responsible for carrying parties of first settlers to Risdon Cove, Hobart, northern Tasmania and Newcastle (NSW). She brought three loads of Norfolk Islanders to be resettled in Tasmania and in 1824 helped to establish the first European settlement in the Northern Territory. After an outstanding career in Australia the brig was captured and burnt in Indonesian waters in1825.
The octant or ham bone was a forerunner of the modern sextant and was used to find the altitude of the sun. This octant is fitted with a peephole sight and vernier fine adjustment.
The Batavia was wrecked of Western Australia in 1629. This is one of three replicas of the astrolabe found by Max Cramer in the 1980’s. The graduations were still clearly visible after being submerged for 360 years. Astrolabes of any kind are rare and this wooden model is particularly interesting.
This sextant was obtained by D.S. Bull when he was the mate of the Kosciuco in 1877.
Chronometers showed Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on board a ship. A ship’s longitude could be determined by comparing GMT to the sun’s noon position as measured by an octant or sextant. A difference of 15 degrees of longitude corresponds to a 1-hour difference in time.
Deck watches were often taken on deck as an alternative to more cumbersome chronometers. They were used in conjunction with a sextant and then compared with the chronometer below deck.
A few of these shock-proof clocks used on Soviet nuclear submarines with no chimes became available to collectors at the end of the Cold War.
There is something about fine, well loved, nautical instruments that are particularly beautiful. These are instruments of Richard Copping, a clock from the “Bella Mary” and a sextant circa 1850.
Dry sand type compass which is said to be “quicker” than liquid damped models.
The carronade exhibited here is said to have been found submerged at Circular Quay in Sydney. Although first designed in 1752 carronades were made for the Royal Navy by Carron Iron Founding Co in Scotland from 1779. They were in general use during the Napoleonic Wars and until about 1815. Called “Smashers” by British sailors, they were most effective and destructive at close range. Sometimes they were fired with two shots linked with a chain or with broken glass, fire wads or nails.
This is a small but interesting museum, if you have a chance consider a visit.
Maritime Museum of Tasmania: http://www.maritimetas.org/