Let’s commence at least with good news! Actually quite a lot of promising news to put wind in our sails this month.
1. Melbourne to Osaka Double Handed Yacht Race
2. Invitations to forthcoming events
3. A Gentle Reminder
4. HMAS Australia II – a vessel of significance to many
5. Remember the promising project ‘Ocean Clean-up’?
6. Yarra/Birrarung River – a river with a Voice
7. Waterways pollution
8. Adrift Lab
9. Plasticosis – A nasty new disease
10. Two Types of Fish Kill
11. Octopus – Aquaculture – or not?
12. Submarines – First-Hand
13. NOPSEMA – another acronym challenge?
14. Off Shore Energy – Better late than never?
15. Auxiliary Replenishment Vessels (AOR)
16. Steam Tug Forceful – What an appropriate name for a tug?
17. Maritime Skills Shortages
18. Pacific Union – new proposal linking maritime nations
19. The Don Love Collection
20. Offshore & Specialist Ships Australia (OSSA) Maritime Skills Advocacy – Australian Strategic Fleet
21. Maritime Infrastructure and the BIG BUILD?
22. Maritime Archives
23. The Vessel Steve Irwin – in Newcastle
24. Maritime Museum of the Month – Abu Dhabi
MMHN is delighted to report the official launch of the 2025 Melbourne to Osaka Double Handed Yacht Race, featuring dignitaries from Australia and Japan, along with key personnel who will assist in running the event scheduled to start in precisely this date in two years’ time March 18, 2025.
MMHN Member George Shaw has been working towards this marvellous Melbourne Maritime event with immense energy, overcoming the pandemic obstacles, and sustaining remarkable progress towards organising this complex event. Registration numbers are growing! More detail in due course.
MMHN is grateful that maritime stakeholders and enthusiasts are willing to create opportunities to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with maritime enthusiasts everywhere!
Event 1. Saturday 22 April between 12 noon and 4pm – The C. Blunts Boatyard will open its heritage-listed premises at 150 Nelson Place, Williamstown. MMHN encourages you to visit to absorb the maritime heritage at your own pace – fascinating tools, materials, memorabilia accumulated since 1858 by five generations of skilled wooden boatbuilders. Boatbuilding enabled the colonial economy to prosper. No need to register, simply arrive.
Event 2. Saturday 6 May between 10am and 12 noon – Ship Spotting – Australia Victoria Branch of the World Ship Society (WSS). The venerable global institution, World Ship Society founded by a small group of dedicated ship enthusiasts in 1946, has since grown into the largest and most prestigious international organisation dedicated to maritime and naval history. WSS Victoria will host an MMHN event at the Port Education Centre, 343-383 Lorimer St. Port Melbourne (adjacent to the Control Tower). This is an opportunity to gain fascinating insight into the compelling pastime of ‘ship-spotting’ and gain knowledge about the vessels regularly seen plying our waters. Register via email: email@example.com
Event 3. Friday 21 April 7pm. The English Speaking Union Dr Jackie Watts OAM, inaugural Chair of the Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network, and MMHN Board member Michael O’Brien, will speak about the MMHN – its establishment, roles, objectives, current progress and language. The Network has won several ESU grants. This event is free and open to the public at ESU House, 1 Bank St, Ascot Vale (Mount Alexander Road Tram). Light refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP by 5pm on Wednesday 19 April by telephoning 0477 005 932 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Membership enables MMHN advocacy.
A gentle reminder that MMHN Membership Renewal is now due. Please note that if you intend to renew online, visit https://mmhn.org.au/membership/
If you require a print invoice order to renew email email@example.com
MMHN congratulates Andy Cripps for his outstanding achievement in creating a magnificent model of the HMAS Australia II. The model was unveiled at Seaworks on March 14 by Commodore Greg Yorke AM CSC RAN. Greg is the Senior Naval Officer Victoria – and MMHN Board Member. Andy’s work honours his grandfather who served on the vessel. A chance meeting with the President of the HMAS Australia Association led the Seaworks at Williamstown acquiring this model of immense significance to the many seafarers who served on this vessel – and to their relatives. Many artefacts related HMAS Australia II are also on display.
MMHN thanks Glenn Jones, Executive Officer at Seaworks Maritime Precinct for sharing the following background.
“The HMAS Australia II commonly known as “the Aussie “was the flagship of the Australian fleet during WW2. She was born on the river Clyde in Scotland in 1928 and ended up in the Thomas Ward shipbreaking yard in Barrow-in-Furness England 1956. During her time in service she covered more sea miles (477,000 miles) than any RAN ship. The cruiser was destined to hold one of the most notable and distinguished records of any warship. She had sailed the world 3 times and served longer than any other ship in the RAN. For most of her service she was the flagship of the RAN. It is considered by naval historians that the ‘Australia’s” unique record of service is unlikely to ever be exceeded by any ship of the RAN”.
MMHN recommends the video.
Image: Lingdejun, MMHN Board Administrative Assistant
MMHN has reported previously – and with optimism – the system that would rid the oceans of plastic? The brainchild of young Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat, Ocean Clean-up was feted as the beginning of the end for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Ten years from its inception, is it any closer to achieving its goal? ABC Science reporter Nick Kilvert reports March 2023 on the progress and setbacks.
Image: An earlier system being tested in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
(Supplied: The Ocean Cleanup)
Melbourne’s Birrarung Marr, aka Yarra River, is the only river in Australia with a legally enshrined voice. Established by history-making Act, the Birrarung Council brings all agencies responsible for managing the river together and ensures First Nation’s knowledge and science is a part of any decisions made about the river’s future. The Council’s Dr Erin O’Donnell and Uncle Dave Wandin explain the role of the council, the establishment of the Act and vision for the future of Birrarung Marr.
Polystyrene: Across the nation inland flooding eventually reaches the ocean. MMHN Member Janet Bolitho reports that Kate Macnamara of the Australian Conservation Foundation encountered an overwhelming by the volume of polystyrene on the banks of the Yarra/Birrarung River at Westgate Park. It’s the most abundant item. Fewer plastic bags though.
MMHN commends the work of Adrift Lab a research group focused on seabirds and marine plastics research. Insights gathered from our long-term research will inform marine and waste policy, and to drive positive changes at the individual and community level, for the benefit of our oceans. Adrift Lab is a dedicated group of researchers studying all things adrift in the ocean, including plastic, chemicals, and wildlife. This is a diverse and supportive lab engaging graduate students and post-docs from all over the globe, offering specialist skills in ecotoxicology, statistical analysis, and marine ecology. Adrift Lab analyses data gathered at sea and on beaches to identify long-term trends and quantify the impact of marine plastic pollution. Marine ecologist Jennifer Lavers, head of the Adrift Lab, has been studying plastic debris consumption in this wild shearwater population for over a decade. In 2014 the lab began publishing research linking ingested plastic to sublethal health effects.
“Seabirds that swallow ocean plastic waste have scarring in their stomachs – scientists have named this disease ‘plasticosis’”
Image : The Conversation In a 2021 study, scientists found 194 plastic fragments in the stomach of this great shearwater (Ardenna gravis). Yamashita et al., 2021, CC BY-ND
- Fish Kill Natural – In-land 2023
Media reports of volume of fish kill the Menindee Lakes have been horrifying. CSIRO explains what seems to be a perfect storm kill event,”The fish deaths occurred because of low dissolved oxygen (DO) levels. Dissolved oxygen is a measure of the concentration of oxygen available for consumption by organisms within a body of water. It’s critical for their survival. Low DO, and in turn fish deaths, are caused by a combination of prevailing weather conditions, the available water in the river up to and during the event, as well as water quality conditions. Extensive recent flooding at Menindee and upstream has led to an immense boost in fish populations by providing suitable habitat for spawning and growth of young fish. After the floods receded, a high concentration of organic material and sediments remained in the water. Water quality deteriorated, causing lower dissolved oxygen levels and, as water levels receded, fish became more concentrated in the main river channel essentially competing for oxygen.”See: https://www.csiro.au/en/news/News-releases/2023/Expert-Commentary-on-Menindee-fish-kill
Image: Australian Geographic Darling River. More appalling images: https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/news/2023/03/meninde…
- Fish Kill – Industrial Ocean
In 2022 Reuters journalist Deloresz Katanich reported on a deliberate and equally appalling fish kill event initiated by on the world’s second-biggest fishing super trawler the vessel Margiris jettisoned or shed an estimated 100,000 dead fish (aka ‘by-catch’) into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of France. Sea Shepherd France footage shows a dense layer of blue whiting, a sub-species of cod that is used by the industry to mass-produce fish fingers, fish oil and meal., that have been thrown overboard. The Margris 9,500-tonne vessel is bigger than a US destroyer uses drag nets that may measure over a kilometre in length and process the fish in on-board factories – a practice heavily criticised by environmentalists. Obviously, this method carries an adverse impact – unintentional capture of marine creatures, including endangered species, and habitats destruction.See: https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/02/21/shocking-footage-shows-more-than-100-000-dead-fish-discarded-off-the-coast-of-france
Image: Sea Shepherd: Aerial view of dead blue merlus off the coast of La Rochelle, western France, by one of the four factory ships operating in the area.
An estimated 420,000 metric tonnes of this mollusc is caught worldwide each year. As stocks in fish decline fish food processing corporation, Nueva Pescanova is planning the world’s first indoor octopus farm. Octopuses can gain 5% of their body weight in a day! Generally solitary animals used to the dark, would be kept in tanks with other octopuses, at times under constant light. The species Octopus Vulgaris (Atlantic common octopus) would be bred in a 1000 tank facility to produce 3000 tonnes of mollusc annually although they are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity and have never been intensively farmed. The octopus larvae will only eat live food and need a carefully controlled environment, but Nueva Pescanova announced operational success in 2019. Why are the ethics of octopus farming is so troubling? Octopus are intelligent and playful creatures, unsuited to a life in captivity and mass-production. Controversary surrounds this venture. Nueva Pescanova claims that farming octopus will reduce the adverse impact of fishing methods such as sea-bed trawling.
If you are interested in intelligent marine life, MMHN recommends you see My Octopus Teacher, a 2020 Netflix Original documentary film directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, which documents a year spent by filmmaker Craig Foster forging a relationship with a wild common octopus in a South African kelp forest. At the 93rd Academy Awards, it won the award for Best Documentary Feature.
Image : The Conversation
MMHN is pleased to support this event at the Shrine. On 13 April at 11.00am, Commodore Peter Scott will discuss his new book “Running Deep: An Australian Submarine Life”. Over his decorated 34-year RAN career, Peter served in 10 submarines, passed the most demanding military command course in the world, and served as the Head of Profession, Submarine Arm RAN.
The book reflects on his successes and failures as a leader, and his personal battles with mental health. Tickets $10 pp.
The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) is relevant to Victoria’s ambition in relation to the hopefully burgeoning Offshore wind ‘Farms’ as the Offshore Infrastructure Regulator (OIR) an entity established under the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 to oversee the offshore renewables industry. The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) is Australia’s independent expert regulator for health and safety, structural (well) integrity and environmental management for all offshore energy operations and greenhouse gas storage activities in Commonwealth waters, and in coastal waters where regulatory powers and functions have been conferred. Although it is reassuring to find NOPSEMA industry research is occurring, how the findings impact on regulation is the crucial part of the offshore energy equation.
If you have concerns – MMHN encourages you to make NOPSEMA aware now. Consultation on NOPSEMA’s new Research Strategy has now commenced – a two-month opportunity.
An industry that in effect commenced 32 years in Denmark is gaining investment momentum in Victoria. Better late than never? Journalist Angela Macdonald-Smith reports (AFR 24-26/3) that “nascent off-shore wind sector is experiencing a surge in interest as international majors jockey with local groups and star- ups to tie up permit areas for projects”.
Gippsland is the epicentre of the investment excitement – the Gippsland Permit application deadline is April 27. The article concludes with reference a more controversial location being pursued by Corio Generation – the Great Southern Offshore Wind project – a minimum of 10km offshore and a minimum of 50km from Wilsons Promontory.
“Replenishment” is arguably a rather quaint term for absolutely essential RAN service vessels. The aptly named, HMAS Supply, is indeed a ‘replenishment’ ship constructed at the Navantia Shipyards in Ferrol, Spain, before being commissioned into service with the RAN in 2021. Australia currently has two Spanish built Auxiliary Replenishment Vessels (AOR) in service, HMAS Supply (II) and HMAS Stalwart.
Such vessels “are intended to carry fuel, dry cargo, water, food, ammunition, equipment and spare parts to provide operational support for the deployed naval or combat forces operating far from the port on the high seas for longer periods“. The vessels can be used to combat environmental pollution. One of the RAN newest ships, HMAS Supply, is being assessed for possible mechanical defects reports ABC defence correspondent Andrew Greene.
Images: HMAS Supply HMAS Stalwart – RAN images.
Brisbane’s Maritime Museum reminds us that the Steam Tug Forceful (1925) served the Port of Brisbane for 45 years, the last coal fired tug in operation on the river. Donated to the Museum, she was preserved as a working vessel, making regular trips down the Brisbane River to Moreton Bay until 2006 prohibitive operational costs led to a conversion into a static exhibit. Steam Tug Forceful was moved to “The Yard” awaiting a funds for a total survey, repairs and a repaint. Hopes are high that she will once again be deemed seaworthy and can be placed in a safe location.
Forceful rescue tales attest to her fortitude under pressure. In July 1926, she went to the aid of Cooma, stranded on North Reef, off Heron Island. As the ship was being towed off the reef, the towline snapped and Cooma again grounded, where she remained until destroyed by fire some months later. In September 1926, Forceful went to the aid of the Rio Claro, grounded on Scott’s Reef, near Cairns. Forceful teamed with another tug to tow Rio Claro off. Forceful’s finest hour was February 1929 when she assisted towing the stricken steamer Arafura through a cyclone some 300km to Brisbane. Steam Tug enthusiasts may wish to connect with the Forceful project via Facebook.
Image: Steam Tug Forecful
MMHN has persistently advocated that urgent attention is need to boost our maritime skills capability. Australia’s protracted “Submarine Saga” seems to have turned the spotlight on one aspect of our maritime skills Hans van Leeuwen reports in the AFR (16/3) “Experts see skills shortage as subs risk”. Estimated construction and maintenance of Australia’s fleet of nuclear-powered submarines will generate 8,500 local jobs. Sidharth Kaushal from the London-based defence think tank RUSI has warned that recruiting and training enough skilled workers may be the biggest risk facing Australia and the UK in building the AUKUS-class submarines. RAN recruitment drive to support service AUKUS submarines deal.
The Prime Minister Samoa Fiame Naomi Mata’afa recently proposed that pacific nations including Australia and NZ form a ‘bloc’ modelled on the EU, describing pacific nations including Australia and NZ as “the worlds greatest concentration of microstates”. Re-defining perceptions of national size and importance, the impressive pacific writer Epeli Hau’ofa writes “We should not be defined by the smallness of islands but the greatness of our oceans. Journalist Peter Hartcher) calculates the total Land and Sea area, and importantly, the combined Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) as encompassing more than 30 million square klms ie. 1/5 or 20% of the entre earth surface – area larger than the US, Russia and China combined.(https://amp.smh.com.au/politics/federal/the-big-idea-floated-by-a-tiny-nation-that-could-be-a-winner-all-round-20230326-p5cveo.html) Leaving aside physical area – history reveals the strategic significance of this area of the globe. An earlier iteration of this concept of a Pacific Union, first suggested in 2003 by a committee of the Australian Senate.
Heritage Victoria archaeologist Danielle Wilkinson reports on the donation of a marvellous maritime artefact collection to the State of Victoria from Don Love.
Danielle writes “Don was an avid shipwreck diver his entire life. He collected a vast and interesting assemblage of shipwreck artefacts from all around Victoria. Once these artefacts became protected, Don worked with Heritage Victoria to become a legal custodian. He has taken great care of the items in his possession and produced detailed scaled drawings of many. His passion for shipwrecks led him to write and publish a series of books about Victoria’s shipwrecks based on his own extensive research. Don’s family have recently returned most of his collection, research, reference library and wreck photographs to Heritage Victoria for exhibits and loaning to museums. Heritage Victoria are currently cataloguing the collection but hope to arrange displays of this material in the coming years. Keep an eye out for opportunities to see the legacy of Don Love’s passion for shipwrecks”.
Note: MMHN has scheduled visit to the HV collection later in 2023.
20. Offshore & Specialist Ships Australia (OSSA) Maritime Skills Advocacy – Australian Strategic Fleet
OSSA is to be applauded for its advocacy efforts to the Federal Govt. in relation to proposed Australian Strategic Fleet.
Ross Brewer, Chair of SSA and MMHN Board member, reports that OSSA “provided a number of written submissions to government with our views of what we consider to be the essential elements of creating a sustainable maritime industry going forward. In furthering our thoughts, we requested a face-to-face meeting with the Dept of Transport team bringing the Australian Strategic Fleet. project together”. A team of 4 from OSSA met with relevant bureaucrats in Canberra on Friday March 17.
Topics discussed included but were not limited to: tax regime, Australian 2nd registry, establishing a new industry training organisation, cadet sea time, schools & vocational education. OSSA and MMHN will continue to advocate necessary reforms. Improving our national maritime skills capability is imperative in our island nation.
- Beyond Docklands, Williamstown
MMHN encourages all maritime enthusiasts to make sure Infrastructure Victoria seriously consider maritime infrastructure assets as well as roads, overpasses and bridges. Infrastructure Victoria and the State Government must acknowledge their obligations in relation to the as yet unfinished elements of previous “BIG BUILDs” need to be completed before Infrastructure Victoria determines any new “30 year Infrastructure Strategy”.See: https://engage.vic.gov.au/victorias30yearinfrastructurestrate
- Infrastructure Victoria is asking all Victorians to state their views initially by complete the Infrastructure Victoria Survey. There will be other opportunities to provide in-put to the State Govt. in due course. MMHN has already completed in the Survey and has submitted 500 words on what is needed in relation to maritime infrastructure. eg Station Pier, Central Pier, Williamstown, Point Nepean! We urge all maritime stakeholders around Victoria to respond too. Who knows what influence we may all have? None, of course, unless we make our views known to decisionmakers. MMHN encourages the maritime enthusiasts to make sure Infrastructure Victoria recognizes maritime infrastructure assets as well as roads, overpasses and bridges. We call upon the State Government “BIG BUILD’ to acknowledge their obligations address the largely ignored ‘unfinished’ business of maritime infrastructure.
- Docklands Precinct
There is certainly slippage between Development Victoria’s rhetoric and the reality. Development Victoria’s own website states “Docklands is one of Australia’s largest urban renewal projects, reconnecting central Melbourne with its historic waterfront”. Given the heritage significance of the entire Docklands Precinct will come as no surprise MMHN looking at the Docklands Precinct though a maritime heritage infrastructure lens. From a strictly maritime infrastructure perspective Docklands presents a painful catalogue of squandered maritime heritage assets: Extensive crumbling wharves remain a feature along New Quay, North Wharf, Harbour Esplanade and Bolte West Precinct. The iconic Shipping Control Tower remains a boarded-off neglected eyesore when it could so easily be a fascinating destination for locals and tourists alike. The heritage-listed iconic Central Pier is to be demolished without firm plans for replacing this community asset. City of Melbourne announced that the Docklands’ ferry terminal at Victoria Harbour has been renamed “Yanonung Quay” — a Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung word meaning “waterways”. BUT there are no plans for more commuter or tourist ferries services; The Marine Services Depot to support local boating has failed to materialise; The Heritage Fleet (Alma Doepel. Steam Tug Wattle and the Enterprize) despite the valiant efforts of an army of volunteers, is without a permanent home in Docklands. in the Docklands Precinct! The crucial role Dockland’s in enabling Victoria’s prosperity is persistently ignored. And why is MMHN listing these worrisome matters now?Infrastructure Victoria is asking the questions! See: https://engage.vic.gov.au/victorias30yearinfrastructurestrate
MMHN is grateful to Tara Oldfield, Senior Communications Advisor for alerting us to fascinating maritime heritage articles which appeared recently the Public Records Office(PROV) Journal : Provenance 2022 | PROV
- The Outward Letter Book, Inspector of Fisheries and Game 1885-1894.
David Harris in his article ‘The two fishery inspectors’ delves into The Outward Letter Book, Inspector of Fisheries and Game 1885-1894. Rather than the expected matter-of-fact administrative tone, the letters, memos and reports preserved in the Letter Book carry a clear sense of the authors as they express their opinions over a range of matters to do with the fishery. Both inspectors came from maritime backgrounds, so there is strong sense of identification with the commercial fishers with whom they regularly worked. At the same time, there is a palpable resonance with current concerns about the marine environment, species extinction and destructive fishing practices—matters that concerned both commercial fishers and the inspectors. Finally, the Letter Book captures a period of significant change in commercial fishing in the colony, as the older, pre-industrial remnants of artisanal fishing, brought to the colony by commercial fishers during the gold rush, gave way to an imagined industrial fishery with dreams of a Bass Strait trawling industry.
- Ladies Harbour Lights Guild (LHLG) of the Mission to Seafarers. ‘Discovering an archive’ Lucinda Horrocks looks at the records left behind by the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild of the Mission to Seafarers. The deeds of this remarkable group of women were almost forgotten until 2007, when a set of dusty old boxes were discovered stored under the mission’s theatre in the 90-year-old state heritage–listed building at 717 Flinders Street. The boxes held an archive filled with documents and photographs related to the activities of the LHLG from its foundation in 1906 to its demise in the 1960s. In recent years, a dedicated team of volunteers and staff at the mission has been gradually digitising, identifying and cataloguing the guild records. This article answers the question: what happens next after an archive of rare significance is discovered? See: https://missiontoseafarers.com.au/history/ladies-harbour-lights-guild/
MMHN is both delighted – and envious – to receive news of the vessel Steve Irwin receiving the attention it deserves. You may recall MMHN strongly advocated to all responsible authorities that a way be found to permanently locate this fascinating vessel in Docklands or Williamstown and in doing so attract new maritime enthusiasts. We were not successful. It was towed to Newcastle where authorities are now intent on capturing Newcastle’s maritime heritage: “Newcastle has a rich Maritime history. Which to date we believe has been poorly showcased. Newcastle Harbour and surrounds lacks a focal points / attraction from a community and visitor perspective“.
Sound familiar? And the Steve Irwin is set to become part of the Newcastle ‘solution’. A reminder that in January 2019 MV Steve Irwin was set to be being sold for scrap in Hong Kong after the ship had served to protect our oceans for over ten years – the majority of campaigns in Australian marine protected or threatened environment. Current owner Kerrie Goodall grasped its potential. Looks like Newcastle has too.
Former MMHN Board Member Haya Al-Daghlas currently the Director of Strategy and Regulations for the Abu Dhabi Maritime cluster at Abu Dhabi Port Authority. Haya played an active part in the establishment of MMHN and it is no surprise that she reports on the contrast between the recognition of maritime heritage recognition in Abu Dhabi and that evident in Melbourne.
“It’s amazing to see the huge interest in Maritime Heritage in the United Arab Emirates. In February, Abu Dhabi celebrated the Maritime Heritage Festival. A great event that catered for all community groups reminding the community of its maritime heritage and acknowledging of the importance of maritime trade now and into and future. Abu Dhabi has a Maritime Heritage Museum and adjacent to this is Sharjah Aquarium”.
Images: Haya Al-Daghlas
MMHN is grateful for unexpected but most welcome inspiration this month from Abu Dhabi and from Newcastle – both encouraging our continual efforts advocacy for greater recognition for maritime heritage.
A final request – if you are not an MMHN Member please lend your support and join the network. See: https://mmhn.org.au/membership
Until next month,
Dr Jackie Watts OAM
Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network