Scrimshaw is the name given to scrollwork, engravings, and carvings done in bone or ivory. Typically it refers to the handiwork created by whalers made from the byproducts of harvesting marine mammals. It is most commonly made out of the bones and teeth of sperm whales and the tusks of walruses. The making of scrimshaw began on whaling ships between 1745 to 1759 on the Pacific Ocean, and survived until the ban on commercial whaling. The practice survives as a hobby and as a trade for commercial artisans. Scrimshaw essentially was a leisure activity for whalers. Because the work of whaling was very dangerous at the best of times, whalers were unable to work at night. This gave them a great deal more free time than other sailors. A lot of scrimshaw was never signed and a great many of the pieces are anonymous.
Almost every place that we visit near the sea, I look for a maritime museum. In Sydney, we visited the Australian National Maritime Museum and I was not disappointed. This museum has real ships, exhibits on a multitude of subjects and beautiful nautical models, paintings and instruments. In June 1985, the Australian government announced the establishment of a national museum focusing on Australia’s maritime history and the nation’s ongoing involvement and dependence on the sea. Proposals for the creation of such a museum had been under consideration over the preceding years. After consideration of the idea to establish a maritime museum, the Federal government announced that a national maritime museum would be constructed at Darling Harbour, tied into the New South Wales State government’s redevelopment of the area for the Australian bicentenary.
As part of the Sydney Maritime Museum, they have a replica of the HMS Endeavour which was the British Royal Navy research vessel that Lieutenant James Cook commanded on his first voyage of discovery, to Australia and New Zealand, from 1769 to 1771. The idea of recreating Endeavour for use as a museum ship was generated during the establishment of the Australian National Maritime Museum in the 1980s. A specialist shipyard, complete with viewing platform and guided tours for the public was set up, and construction of the vessel commenced in 1983. Due to financial problems the building had to stop but was finally completed by a private foundation. The Endeavour replica was launched at the end of 1993, and completed in 1994. After sea trials, the replica sailed from Fremantle to Sydney, where she arrived at the end of 1994. During 1995, the ship recreated Cook’s voyage along eastern Australia, then visited New Zealand at the end of the year. In late 1996, the Endeavour replica set out on a circumnavigation of the world, visiting ports in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and North America, before returning to New Zealand in late 1999. During 2011 and 2012, the replica circumnavigated Australia.
Since our hotel was on the west side of Darling Harbor, we really enjoyed hanging out in the many attractions and restaurants located there. Darling Harbor is named after Lieutenant-General Ralph Darling, who was Governor of New South Wales from 1825 to 1831. In 1984 the premier of NSW, Neville Wran, announced the Government’s decision to redevelop Darling Harbor and “return it to the people of Sydney” in time for Australia’s 1988 bicentennial celebrations. In 2000, Darling Harbour hosted five sports during the Olympic Games and construction of the King Street Wharf was completed. In 2009, Darling Harbour celebrated its 21st anniversary with a year of activities including a multicultural birthday festival and the publication of a commemorative book, A History of Sydney’s Darling Harbour. Today it is a large recreational and pedestrian precinct that is situated on western outskirts of the Sydney central business district. Since we live in the desert, we don’t usually think of ferries as a way to get around but in Sydney, they are most often the quickest way to get places. There are ferry wharves including Darling Harbour and Pyrmont Bay which provide access to the Inner Harbor ferry services, which runs services to Circular Quay and other suburbs.
The genus Siganus, or Rabbitfish, is comprised of 26 or 27 species of fish and a couple of hybrids, depending on who you ask, all of which are commonly known as rabbitfishes also called spinefoots by some people. Rabbitfish, found in shallow lagoons, have small, hare-like mouths, large dark eyes, and a peaceful temperament. They are colorful, and have well developed, venomous dorsal and anal fin spines. Use caution when handling these fish, as the spines will inflict a painful sting. Also, while these fish are sometimes eaten, you can have hallucinations if not properly prepared. The largest rabbitfish grows to about 53 cm (21 in), but most species only reach between 25 and 35 cm (9.8 and 13.8 in). All have large, dark eyes and small, somewhat rabbit-like mouths, which gives them their name. Most species have either bright colors or a complex pattern. I decided to give them their own post because they are attractive and to keep the other posts a little shorter.
Evidence for the existence of sharks dates from 450–420 million years ago, before land vertebrates existed and before many plants had colonized the continents. Only scales have been recovered from the first sharks and not all paleontologists agree that these are from true sharks. The oldest generally accepted shark scales are from about 420 million years ago. The first sharks looked very different from modern sharks. The majority of modern sharks can be traced back to around 100 million years ago. Most fossils are of teeth, often in large numbers. Partial skeletons and even complete fossilized remains have been discovered. Estimates suggest that sharks grow tens of thousands of teeth over a lifetime, which explains the abundant fossils. The oldest white shark teeth date from 60 to 66 million years ago, around the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs. These sharks attained gigantic proportions and include the extinct megatoothed shark, Carcharias megalodon. This giant shark reached a total length of more than 16 meters (52 ft). It may have approached a maximum of 20.3 meters (67 ft) in total length and 103 metric tons (114 short tons) in mass.
When we were at the Sydney Aquarium we had a chance to see one of their star attractions, the dugong. Sirenia (commonly referred to as sea cows) are an order of aquatic, herbivorous mammals that inhabit swamps, rivers, estuaries, marine wetlands, and coastal marine waters. Four species are living, in two families and genera. These are the dugong (one species, Dugong dugong) and manatees (three species; Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis), West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), and West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis)). Sirenia, commonly sirenians, are also referred to by the common name sirens, deriving from the sirens of Greek mythology. This comes from a legend about their discovery, involving lonely sailors mistaking them for mermaids. “Sea cow” (seekoei) is also the name for a hippopotamus in Afrikaans. In Germanic languages, the word Sea can mean either a body of fresh or salt water, so this follows from the hippopotamus inhabiting lakes in southern Africa rather than the sea itself. Australia is home to the largest population of dugongs, stretching from Shark Bay in Western Australia to Moreton Bay in Queensland. The population of Shark Bay is thought to be stable with over 10,000 dugongs.
Since we did not visit the Great Barrier Reef, we were particularly happy to visit the Barrier Reef exhibit at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. One of Australia’s most remarkable natural gifts, the Great Barrier Reef is blessed with the breathtaking beauty of the world’s largest coral reef. The reef contains an abundance of marine life and comprises of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays and literally hundreds of picturesque tropical islands with some of the worlds most beautiful sun-soaked, golden beaches. They have a beautiful collection of coral and fish at the Sydney Aquarium.
Since we were in Australia and surrounded by water we decided to visit the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. The aquarium contains a large variety of Australian aquatic life, displaying more than 700 species comprising more than 13,000 individual fish and other sea and water creatures from most of Australia’s water habitats. Additionally, the aquarium features 14 themed zones including a Bay of Rays, Discovery Rockpool, Shark Walk, and the world’s largest Great Barrier Reef display. The aquarium was designed by Australian architects to resemble a large wave, to complement the underwater theme of an aquarium and the maritime theme of Darling Harbour, and took nearly two years to build. The Great Barrier Reef complex which opened in October 1998 continues this same theme. The Sydney Aquarium was opened in 1988, during Australia’s bicentenary celebrations, and is one of the largest aquariums in the world. I plan to separate the visit into several posts.
We really enjoyed our time in Hobart in Tasmania and since I had a a few stray pictures, I thought I would share. Hobart is the capital and most populous city of the Australian island state of Tasmania. Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, Hobart is Australia’s second oldest capital city after Sydney, New South Wales. The city is located in the state’s south-east on the estuary of the Derwent River, making it the most southern of Australia’s capital cities and its harbor forms the second-deepest natural port in the world. Walking is the best way to see the city’s sandstone buildings and waterways, from bustling Salamanca Market to the fishing docks. You can stop to taste Hobart’s food and wine in the streets of Salamanca Place or along North Hobart’s restaurant strip. You can explore Mount Wellington on mountain bike or foot or kayak past the city’s wharves at twilight. Just south of the city lies Kettering and small, rugged Bruny Island. You can spend a day walking its windswept beaches, emerald countryside and dramatic cliff tops.