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.
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 history museum tells the story of Saint-Malo and its famous residents. It is located in the keep and tower of Saint-Malo’s castle. Back in 1838, the town of Saint-Malo decided to create a collection of portraits of prominent townspeople, to include Jacques Cartier, Duguay-Trouin, Mahé de La Bourdonnais, Maupertuis (famous mathematician), Chateaubriand, Surcouf, and Lamennais (priest and philosopher). The original 19th century museum was destroyed in 1944 during the struggle to liberate the town, and the present collection, numbering over 8,500 items, is themed around the maritime history of Saint-Malo and the surrounding area, including deep-sea cod fishing in the seas of Newfoundland, maritime trade, maritime warfare featuring colorful corsair characters such as Duguay-Trouin and Surcouf, long-haul sea voyages, and ship building. I have already posted images from the museum concerning Chateaubriand and Jaques Cartier in my posts Saint Malo and Jacques Cartier, look there for these subjects.
They have a nice collection of navigational instruments at the French Maritime Museum, so I thought I would share some with you. The little gadget shown above is called a ship log, and it is a way of determining the speed of the boat through water. This is the evolved form of throwing a chip of wood overboard and seeing how far it goes in a few seconds. In the above picture you can see a thirty second sandglass. The idea is to throw it overboard, let it float there for 30 seconds, while the ship moves away. The line has knots on it every so often and thus you can measure the speed of the boat.