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.
When we visited the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium we got to see not only small tropica fish but also large schools of the much larger fish due to the grand scale of the facility. Approximately half of the aquarium’s visitors come from overseas, and they’ve been flooding in since the complex opened in 1988. Many visitors come to see creatures that they have never seen before, such a platypuses and dugongs. In general, the exhibits that can be found at the Sydney Aquarium revolve around Australian themes, and the exhibit areas mostly pertain to different Australian regions and habitats. Some of the displays are housed in the main exhibit hall and others are housed in floating oceanariums. The Seal Sanctuary and Open Ocean exhibits comprise two massive oceanariums, amongst the largest in the world, and have underwater tunnels allowing visitors to examine marine life at close quarters. If you make it to Sydney, this should be on your “must do” list.
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.
When Lisa and I visited the Museum of Contempory Art, they had an entire wall of beautiful bark paintings without (to me) comprehensible labeling p, with my apologies to the artists I have decided to present them here. Bark painting is an Australian Aboriginal art form, involving painting on the interior of a strip of Eucalyptus bark. This is a continuing form of artistic expression in Arnhem Land and other regions in the Top End of Australia including parts of the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Traditionally, bark paintings were produced for instructional and ceremonial purposes and were transient objects. Today, they are keenly sought after by collectors and public arts institutions. Bark paintings are based on sacred designs that include abstract patterns and designs (such as cross-hatching in particular colours) that identify a clan, and also often contain elements of the Eternal Dreamtime. Sometimes the elements of a story are obvious—such as men or animals—but sometimes the elements are symbolic. Many of the myths seem only to be concerned with a particular animal or bird. However in symbolic meaning of great importance. For instance, the Sun is a woman, she creates life and she is often symbolized by water, fire, earth and red ochre, the Moon is male and controls the tides and seasonal cycles – he is often symbolized by snake, dog, frog and also water.
The history of Australia is similar to the Americas with European settlers displacing the native peoples by means of force. As time went by, the European invaders have grown more respectful both in Australia and the Americas. This exhibition explores the Aboriginal peoples art and it’s connection with the true nature and experience of the landscape of Australia. The “more appropriate” terms describing the native people of Australia stress the humanity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. “Aboriginal” which in Latin means “from the beginning” and other such European words are used because there is no Aboriginal word that refers to all Aboriginal people in Australia. When we entered this room we immediately felt the spiritually and beauty of the art. The baskets glowed in their own quiet way, the fishing baskets enhanced the room and the paintings completed the picture in a truly Aboriginal people’s way.
The Sydney Opera House is such an iconic landmark that it would be virtually impossible to write anything original so I have gathered together the pictures I took of it from various perspectives and times of the day. The architect of Sydney Opera House, Jørn Utzon was a relatively unknown 38 year old Dane until January 29, 1957 when his entry, scheme number 218, was announced winner of the ‘International competition for a national opera house at Bennelong Point, Sydney’. With his vision the City of Sydney was to become an international city. The completion of this building created a piece of architectural art that became iconic, a symbol of the times, like the Pyramids, the Parthenon of Athens, the Colesseum/Aqueducts of Rome, the soaring Gothic cathedrals of medieval Europe and in more modern times the Eiffel Tower, the skyscrapers and the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge made possible by cheap steel from Henry Bessemer in Europe and Andrew Carnigie in America. No matter the perspective or time of day, the Sydney Opera House gives you that little chill that tells you that you are in the presence of greatness.