Greetings – AHOY!
Last MMHN Update, we warned that pervasive presence of maritime terminology in our everyday vocabulary, once noticed could not be ignored! However, MMHN is not alone with this maritime fixation.
Maritime references also course through the works of William Shakespeare. The domestic and international news each night describes the ‘ebb and flow’ of human existence. As Shakespeare observed “there is a tide in the affairs of men”. The National Maritime Museum assembled an international group of Shakespeare academics, authors, creators and directors. Each has selected one Shakespeare passage that draws on the language of the sea, teasing out the meaning behind the maritime allusion. The sea carves out plots, turns the tide on characters’ fates, and acts as a device for exploring a range of human emotions and experiences. Even in plays and poems not set by or on the water, tumultuous seas, shipwrecks and maritime life still seep into Shakespeare’s language. You may (or may not?) wish to look further.
1. Yachting Heritage
2. Heritage Victoria’s Artefact Research Centre Tour – Register Now
3. Maritime Archives – Royal United Services Institute of Victoria (RUSIV)
4. ST Wattle Invitation
5. Maritime Nuclear Skills & Training: Nuclear AUKUS submarines
6. Litter in Waterways
7. Darwin Harbour Middle Arm
8. Historic Turning Basin threatened by City of Melbourne’s Wetlands Project
9. Better Boating Victoria (BBV) News
10. Australian National Maritime Museum
11. AMSA – Immense responsibility
12. Battle of the Coral Sea
13. Sharks, Skates and Chimaeras – The Great Eggcase Hunt
14. Fisheries Research and Development Corporation – food safety
15. Wreck of the MV Blythe Star
16. Station Pier
17. The MMHN Internship Program – Station Pier
18. Melbourne Maritime Heritage Tapestry Project
19. Maritime Volunteer Opportunities
You are invited launch of the book:
The Yachties: Australian Volunteers in the Royal Australian Navy 1940-1945
When: Tuesday June 6, 5:30pm – 7pm
Where: RHSV Premises, 239 A’Beckett St, Melbourne
Author, Janet Roberts Billet will launch this unique saga of exceptional valour displayed by Australian volunteers who served in World War II as officers with the Royal Navy. Recruited under the Dominion Yachtsmen Scheme, their war service in the Northern Hemisphere was as diverse as it was dangerous. Most sailed in convoy duties in the Battle of the Atlantic and some in the Arctic run to Murmansk in Russia. A small group distinguished themselves in Rendering Mines Safe. Later in the war, Yachties also served in the Royal Australian Navy in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, contributing to victory with bravery, dash and loyalty to country and Empire. As a group they are the most highly decorated Australian volunteers.
RSVP directly to firstname.lastname@example.org
MMHN is delighted to announce a rare opportunity to tour Heritage Victoria’s Artefact Research Centre on Wednesday 7 June at 3pm.
HV is responsible for regulating the Victorian Heritage Act and the Commonwealth Underwater Cultural Heritage Act, which both protect maritime wrecks, objects and infrastructure throughout the inland waters, coastal waters and within the sea off the coast.
The HV Artefact Research Centre (ARC) is a working lab and storage facility where objects recovered by maritime archaeologists are housed along with artefacts recovered from land archaeological sites. The ARC is where researchers, archaeologists and members of the public can come to view and study the objects and add to the history and knowledge of the objects themselves and the wrecks they have come from – the process of heritage curation and conservation of the fragile objects recovered from the seabed.
Heritage Curator Bronwyn Woff will conduct the free tour, but numbers are limited so we encourage you to register by email.
URGENT – Register Now by emailing: email@example.com,au
MMHN is delighted to report the success of the recent Royal United Services Institute of Victoria Library Exhibition showing some of its treasures at Victoria Barracks. The RUSIV Library has many fascinating items relating to Naval heritage which featured in this Exhibition. One notable example was the disturbingly detailed accurate Japanese map of Port Phillip Bay used by the pilot of the plane launched from a Japanese submarine in Bass Strait before flying over Melbourne to reconnoitre it in February 1942. The library is a significant research asset for scholars throughout Australia.
Anniversaries are always fun – 90th anniversaries in particular! Maritime enthusiasts are in for a treat in Victoria Harbour at 12 noon on Sunday June 25.
The venerable Steam Tug Wattle will be independently steaming around Victoria Harbour on its 90th anniversary. There are only two such heritage steam-powered vessel in Australia and thanks to the stalwart team of volunteers restoring the Wattle, we now have a rare steam-powered tug in Docklands. What an achievement! MMHN congratulates all those concerned. Wattle is not yet permitted to take passengers.
Come along with others in the MMHN to see the long-anticipated sight of the Wattle tootling about Victoria Harbour on June 25.
MMHN staunchly advocates for all forms of maritime industry training and is pleased to note one of the few Higher Education initiatives in the 2023 federal budget $127m over 4 years to train an additional 4,000 students with the skills required to build, maintain and operate Australia’s fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Tim Dodd (The Australian Online 16/5) reports that at least 800 student places will be allocated to South Australia, where the submarines will be built. Other universities and higher education providers will be allocated student places via a competitive process.
MMHN has often called upon Parks Victoria (PV) to ‘lift its game’ in disposing of vast seemingly stagnant quantities of floating debris in PV litter traps and left to rot in seemingly THE most visible stretches of our waterways. But PV are trialling something ’new’ in the form of a weird ‘machine’ from Queensland. Even more weird is that PV has named it ’Geoff’.
Geoff is an automatic river cleaner (ARC) which will be moored on the Yarra River for a six-month trial. MMHN fervently hopes will indeed be an efficient and effective addition to PV litter operations. According to PV it is an “old-fashioned looking water wheel that drives a conveyor belt to collect rubbish. Solar panels also provide power when the [water] current is low. Floating debris is captured by two floating boom arms and guided towards the conveyor belt mouth. The conveyor deposits the rubbish in a bin, which is monitored by cameras (powered by the solar panels) and notifies rangers when it’s full”. While MMHN observes that any litter collection news is good news, we remain concerned that Geoff simply adds the existing (and failing) PV litter traps now operating, We can ALL see when existing litter traps on our waterways are full – day after day. The key issue is removing the litter more PROMPTLY. After three months in the Yarra Geoff will tootle over to the Maribynong River for a further trial period.
A $1.5bn port infrastructure project at Middle Arm in Darwin Harbour is slated to become a major manufacturing hub for gas, petrochemicals, hydrogen and minerals. However, located merely 1 km from Darwin’s only known remaining Indigenous rock art petroglyphs is a serious concern for Traditional owners who fear there will be an adverse impact.
Lisa Cox (The Guardian Australia 12/5) writes “Another Juukan Gorge: Darwin’s Middle Arm hub threatens Indigenous rock art, traditional owners say”. Given that seawaters have risen and receded over millennia and that there is evidence of first peoples all along the coast it is not surprising that new port infrastructure projects have the potential to adversely impact on ancient indigenous sites and are contentious.
It is regrettable and depressingly familiar. Well-intentioned but ill-informed responsible authorities continue to ignore maritime heritage infrastructure along the Yarra – the basis for Melbourne becoming a great port city.
The latest example of this civic maritime heritage ‘amnesia’ is the CoM otherwise admirable Wetlands Project intended to re-instate wetlands along the river, where Council is actually destroying the form of one of Melbourne’s remaining Turning Basins. There were several such Basins along the river but this particular Turning Basin (also known as the Swinging Basin) was the furthest point that vessels could navigate up the river from Port Phillip Bay. So as the tides swept into the estuary and slapped against a natural rock barrier across the Yarra (near Market St) a natural river ‘washout’ swirled around the rock obstacle carving out a natural Turning Basin which was later widened and deepened so that ships could turn unload or load cargo at the wharves in the vicinity close to the CBD. The CoM Wetlands Project will enclose the Basin.
Georgie Atkins (Southbank News 9/5) writes “The council said that the project will provide opportunities for the community to learn about Indigenous plants as well as improving future urban waterways”. MMHN ponders – will the CoM similarly provide opportunities for the community to learn destroyed maritime heritage assets along the waterways? Hopefully, CoM will ensure that the community learns about the vanishing Turning Basins which were critical to the maritime trade on the river making this city and this state prosper? The rocky outcrop spanning the river which kept fresh water upstream and brackish water downstream was destroyed last century. MMHN hopes that lessons have been learned since then. MMHN is soon to be invited to meet the project design Team to discuss maritime heritage on the riverbanks.
See: Turning Basin
Good news for the 445,000 a maritime license holders in this State. Better Boating Victoria (BBV) have funded 35 projects worth $2.75 million to support recreational boating around Victoria – on infrastructure, weather, dredging, free trailer reversing clinics – and importantly on safety.
For a comprehensive list of successful grant applications see Grants. BBV list all ramp upgrades, the Ramps BBV website is extraordinarily informative – and offers sage advice: “As the weather begins to cool down even more, if you’re in doubt about going out on the water, then don’t! ”
Many maritime stakeholders in Victoria perceive a pattern of a ‘Sydney-centricity’ in relation to the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM). Recently the Chair of MMHN visited ANMM with the view to raising their awareness of the difficulties non maritime stakeholders outside Sydney encounter and to hopefully strengthen a more collegiate ‘national’ approach.
MMHN hopes that progress has been made. Given that contacting the ANMM is often frustrating, it is reassuring to that MMHN now has a direct contact number. Discussions at the meeting were wide ranging. Complaints have already been made regarding overly complex ANMM grant application process and have resulted in the introduction of SmartyGrants – touted to be the world’s most “intuitive administration process”. Let’s hope so? Opportunities do exist for the maritime sector – but ANMM is clearly not adequately funded by the federal government.
MMHN draws your attention to one forthcoming opportunity – November 2023 ANMM Maritime Museum Administrators Course (15 places with up to $3000 per person – airfares, accommodation & food). Check ANMM website in September 2023 for details.
Given that Australia ‘s search and rescue region covers 1/10th of the Earth’s surface and is responsible for coordinating maritime and aviation search and rescue across the region, Australia will play an active role in forthcoming discussions at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) meeting on shipboard navigation, communications, and search and rescue. Developing rules on matters related to the harmonisation of global aeronautical and maritime search and rescue services, as well as shipboard navigation and communication is critical. eg ships’ routeing and reporting systems, improvements in navigation, communications and distress alerting equipment and their integration with global search and rescue systems, and delivery of maritime safety information to assist the safe passage of the world’s shipping.
AMSA Regional Safety Committee (RSC) MMHN alerts maritime enthusiasts to the opportunity to apply online. A new online form makes it easier to apply to join your local Regional Safety Committee (RSC). “The RSCs provide an influential opportunity for over 300 industry stakeholders to share their challenges and expertise with us. We have RSC representation in each state and territory (except the ACT), and dozens of industry sectors represented across Australia. In March 2023, AMSA held RSC meetings across Australia with over 80 representatives from the domestic commercial vessel industries. We shared localised information about inspection activities and heard feedback on Marine Orders that impact your operations. New-member expressions of interest from organisations and sole operators in each region with a passion for improving safety; representation of a defined sector within your region; and appropriate knowledge and experience in the sector are welcome.”
AMSA Data: The AMSO Monthly report of accidents and near misses makes for sobering reading. See: AMSA DATA
Nominations open for the 2022-23 Australian Search and Rescue awards – due 10/7 The Awards are open to individuals, groups or organisations that have made a significant contribution to search and rescue in Australia and deserve recognition at a national level. Any person or organisation can nominate candidates by completing the official form. Categories include professional, non-professional and longstanding contribution to search and rescue.
MMHN thanks Mr Sam Muscat, President of the Australian American Association (AAA) for an invitation to attend the 2023 memorial service at the Shrine of Remembrance commemorating the 81st Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. It was a most moving and informative service including an inspiring address by Capt. Ainsley Morthorpe CSM RAN, the Commanding Officer of HMAS Cerberus. State Government and Shadow Ministers spoke as well as the US Vice Consul and the Deputy Consul General of Japan. However, the remarks made by 98-year-old Mr Bruce Crowl, a WWII veteran of HMAS Australia, were especially poignant.
The Battle of the Coral Sea took place during 4–8 May 1942. It was a significant engagement in Australian naval history, a major naval battle in the Pacific theatre of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and naval and air forces from Australia and the United States, resulting in a strategic Allied victory and reversing the tide of World War II in the Pacific. The battle was the first naval action in which the opposing fleets neither sighted nor fired upon one another, attacking over the horizon from aircraft carriers.
CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, is calling on citizen scientists to find and record egg cases washing up on Australian coasts, so researchers can better-understand oviparous chondrichthyans: egg-laying sharks, skates and chimaeras.
The Great Eggcase Hunt, an initiative of United Kingdom-based charity The Shark Trust, has launched in Australia in partnership with CSIRO to help provide new data for scientists studying the taxonomy and distribution of oviparous chondrichthyans.
See: Shark Trust
More citizen science opportunities for recreational and commercial fishers are providing 100s of fish samples to FRDC to help develop new way to combat ciguatera toxins (CTX) in fish.
Marine toxin specialist Prof. Shauna Murray is leading the Project at the University of Technology Sydney in collaboration with University of Tasmania, University of Sydney, Sydney Fish Market and Cawthorn Institute in NZ.
Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) causes the largest number of seafood-related food safety incidents in Australia. CTXs are heat stable, odourless, Ciguatera toxins are produced by single-celled Gambierdiscus
The CSIRO research vessel (RV) Investigator in April 2023 confirmed the location of the wreck of the MV Blythe Star. The 44-metre coastal freighter disappeared off Tasmania nearly 50 years ago when travelling from Hobart to King Island, it suddenly capsized and sank off the SW coast. All 10 crew members escaped the sinking vessel in an inflatable life raft. Tragically, 3 crew members died before the survivors were rescued 12 days later. The disappearance of the MV Blythe Star sparked the largest maritime search ever conducted in Australia to that time. No trace of the vessel was ever found by the searchers.
The location of the wreck was confirmed by RV Investigator studying an underwater landslide off the west coast of Tasmania. The investigation by RV Investigator involved the systematic mapping of the unidentified shipwreck using multibeam echosounders and then a visual inspection using two underwater camera systems was able to confirm that the shipwreck was the MV Blythe Star. In the aftermath of the MV Blythe Star tragedy, reviews of the incident would directly lead to important changes in maritime safety laws in Australia to significantly improve safety at sea for future mariners.
Note that a 50th anniversary commemoration ceremony of the MV Blythe Star sinking is planned for mid-October 2023.
MMHN notes that the community-wide campaign to persuade the state government to “Reimagine Station Pier” is gaining momentum.
The Beacon Cove Residents Group, together with Port Phillip Council and MMHN share the view that the value of Station Pier is being squandered. Station Pier is neglected as a maritime heritage asset; as the State Cruise Terminal it is the economic driver; and is inadequate as community asset. Deficiencies at Station Pier simply must be taken seriously by the state government as a matter of urgency. Revenue and reputation is being lost while responsible authorities prevaricate developing various ‘strategies’, many aspects of which are already well-understood. Action, not further ‘exploratory’ research is required at this point. Multiple ‘solutions’ have already been proposed.
MMHN and the community agree that a Precinct Plan or Master Plan to optimise the capacity of Station Pier to generate both revenue and public good is urgently needed.
See: MMHN Station Pier
MMHN is delighted with the recently completed research on Station Pier by Monash University Interns which draws comparisons between Station Pier more successful Cruise Terminals.
Note that such Internship reports appear on the MMHN website.
There are many mediums through which to convey culture. MMHN is delighted to support MMHN Member Mark Simms in an exciting maritime heritage project to convey our rich maritime heritage. Mark visited the Cluny Museum in Paris in 2007 and found the 6 wool and silk 6 tapestries woven in 500 depicting the Lady and the Unicorn, still vibrant after 500 years to be awe-inspiring – and inspirational. Mark was inspired to develop the concept of a tapestry which would depict the evolution of rich maritime history of Melbourne.
The MMHN Board agree with Mark that the proposal has great merit, Images of maritime heritage are few and far between in this port city. Tapestries, like stained glass, have been created over centuries by artists and skilled artisans to capture great moments in culture and history of country or society. We are fortunate in Melbourne, to have the Australian Tapestry Workshop, established in 1976, regarded as an international centre of excellence for the creation of innovative, contemporary, hand-woven tapestries. It is the only workshop of its kind in Australia and one of a few in the world dedicated to the production of hand-woven tapestries.
In 1975 the Hamer government commissioned VTW to create a pair of maritime-themed tapestries – ‘Port Reflections‘ and ‘Port Impressions’ to grace the gallery at the World Trade Centre now replaced now by MCEC (Jeff’s Shed). Regrettably these tapestries now hang far from public gaze on the walls the sadly neglected Station Pier. (See: MMHN Member Janet Bolitho https://www.portplaces.com/
Mark has commenced discussions with Director of the ATW, Sophie Travers and representatives of the MMHN Heritage and Museums Sub-Committee. Given that tapestries last for centuries, the work is costly. A funding campaign will commence in due course. Mark writes ‘I have always had a love of tapestries’- many of us would agree with him. If you would like to be involved in being part of this fascinating project – email firstname.lastname@example.org,au
MMHN encourages all maritime enthusiasts to consider lending a hand. Here are two opportunities to consider:
- Mission to Seafarers – Information Session – 12 pm 18 June 2023 for people Interested in Volunteering at the Mission.17 Flinders Street, Docklands for anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering at the Mission and helping meet the welfare needs of seafarers visiting Melbourne. To register your interest call us 9629 7083 or come along.
- The Polly Woodside – The National Trust are seeking volunteers to join the team working for a wide range of maintenance tasks on the ‘Polly’. Are you free on Tuesdays? For further information call Kathleen Toohey on 9656 9811
Until next time,
Dr Jackie Watts OAM
Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network