Greetings – AHOY!

An invitation to present at the National Trust (Vic) Heritage Week event at the English Speaking Union led us to reflect on the surprisingly widespread adoption of maritime ‘terminology’ in modern life. In fact, we were quite taken ‘ABACK’ (Said of a sail which is desperately set with the wind on the wrong side or is accidentally ‘taken aback’ by a shift of wind or movement of the helm). Note ‘Ahoy’ is a signal word used to call to a ship or boat. ‘Hoy’ was a middle English greeting derived from the Dutch ‘hoi’. It became a signal word to boats and passing ships and used by seafarers in song well before the word’s first recorded use in print.

Apologies – overuse of maritime language by landlubbers could drive us all silly.

See: Nautical Language



1. Seaspeak
2. Stella Maris Seafarer’s Centre
3. Kelp – an environmental force for good
4. Tourism – Maritime Infrastructure and revenue loss
5. Searoad Ferries
6. Offshore & Specialist Ships Australia (OSSA) – Artefacts
7. Antarctica – OSSA
8. Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt – Seriously weird – and not very nice
9. Ghana ‘take’ on Sargassum
10. Warm Water Really Matters!
11. Greenline – City of Melbourne Project – what’s in a name? A lot!
12. Central Pier – Salvage
13. Blunts Boat Yard, Williamstown
14. Lighthouses of Australia (LofA)
15. Wreck Diving in the Bay: Wonder in the deep
16. Seafarers Rescue
17. Ship Spotting: the Bay and Beyond
18. New Technologies to improve the lives of modern Seafarers
19. Melbourne’s Spencer St Bridge – Remarkable maritime infrastructure
20. Maritime Museums of Victoria Inc (MMV)
21. Viking Ships in Melbourne
22. Treasures of a Military Library – a rare opportunity
23. Trove News


1. Seaspeak

Many nautical terms derive from the Age of Sail – the period of time between the 16th and 19th centuries when masted ships ruled the seas. By the 1960s, the USA and the UK dominated ocean traffic, and 80% crews were English speakers. However, by the end of 1970s, the mix had reversed. Today, 80 percent of ship’s crews do not speak English as a first language. Crews are likely to be a multinational multilingual mix. Miscommunication can be dire – or lethal.

To address this in 1983 a group of linguists and shipping experts created a new system of communication called Seaspeak. English was chosen as the principal lexicon for Seaspeak because it was the most common language spoken on ships at that time, and, importantly, it was also the language of civil aviation.

In 1988, the International Maritime Organization made Seaspeak the official language of the seas. Seaspeak also defines the rules of how to talk on a ship’s radio. The number of words is limited to ensure that messages and conversations are short and clear. Eight words, called message markers, precede each sentence. These words are Advice, Answer, Information, Instruction, Intention, Question, Request, and Warning.

See: Seaspeak


2. Stella Maris Seafarer’s Centre

A reminder that the Stella Maris Seafarer’s Centre in Melbourne is a not-for-profit organisation and one of over 300 centres worldwide providing pastoral care, services, and support for seafarers.

MMHN wishes to alert maritime enthusiasts that Stella Maris is appealing for ship visitors and bus drivers!

Are you able to volunteer for a few hours a day or an evening per week? If so, please contact the Centre Manager Lee-Anne on 03 9629 7494. Stella Maris is assisting seafarers in any way possible, even if they are unable to leave their ship.


3. Kelp – an environmental force for good

What’s not to like about Kelp? Journalist Miki Perkins writes (The Age, March 29) that Golden kelp, Ecklonia radiata, a naturally occurring seaweed that grows in the cooler waters of southern Australia is helping to address the widespread sea urchin problem in Port Phillip Bay where 60 per cent of reefs are ‘overgrazed’ by that urchin.

Conservationists from several universities, Parks Victoria and Nature Conservancy Australia have launched a Golden Kelp Restoration Project to recover these habitats adversely impacted by urchins – the first trial in Victoria to cultivate golden kelp at the microscopic level to plant onto reefs. The Project builds on similar work in Tasmania to select and grow heat-resistant varieties of critically endangered giant kelp to withstand rising ocean temperatures.

See: Kelp


4. Tourism – Maritime Infrastructure and revenue loss

Dispiriting news for Victorian tourism. Regrettably MMHN notes that none of the funding requests put forward by the peak body Victorian Tourism Council relate to the maritime sector. The maritime ‘blind-spot’ continues. Journalist Rachel Dexter (The Age March 30) reporting on data from Victoria Tourism Industry Council “Both NSW and Queensland are investing significantly in their visitor economies“.

MMHN is only too aware that Victoria fails to capture the tourist dollar attached to maritime heritage assets or to the cruise Industry. Despite more cruise ships heading into Port Phillip Bay and about 350,000 passengers arriving at Station Pier, MMHN notes that State Government investment at Station Pier is directed towards maintenance. Victoria’s primary cruise terminal, Station Pier, is reputedly THE Worst Cruise Terminal in the developed world. The promised consultations the ‘Navigating our Port Futures’ July 2022, Page 36, indicated a commitment to re-think on the way in which the State Government manages Station Pier, are yet to commence. See: Ports Strategy

A reminder that the cruise terminal at Halifax, Nova Scotia delivers $C3 billion economic uplift to Halifax annually. Victoria continues to squander maritime tourism by neglecting Station Pier. The reason Victoria fails to capture this latent value appears to be an absence of inter-departmental collaboration between Ports, Tourism and Infrastructure. What is required is a ministerial champion with imagination prepared to take the lead on what seems to be a ‘no brainer’. Victoria has reportedly fallen below Queensland to 3rd place in national tourism statistics – and it is certainly not because of the weather.

See: Tourism Stats and Station Pier


5. Searoad Ferries

Although MMHN bemoans the inadequate investment in the heritage asset Station Pier, we are delighted at the exciting changes at Queenscliff. MMHN congratulates Searoad Ferries on the official opening of its fabulous new multi-million-dollar Queenscliff Ferry Terminal redevelopment.

After 15 years of planning, the Queenscliff terminal is both technically state-of-the-art as well as architecturally spectacular. Melbourne architect Franco Fiorentini and his team at F2 Architecture, have created iconic maritime infrastructure featuring a restaurant, passenger lounges, sweeping bay views with a gangway connection to the ferry. Numbers are impressive – this car and passenger service route between Queenscliff and Sorrento is Australia’s busiest vehicle ferry service with over 8,200 crossings annually, carrying more than 950,000 passengers.


6. Offshore & Specialist Ships Australia (OSSA) – Artefacts

OSSA continues to accept and facilitate re-location of spectacularly impressive model ships. Recently a model of the vessel Ulimaroa, first owned by Huddart & Parker and later Caulfield Grammar School was donated to OSSA. OSSA then arranged for the model to be displayed on long-term loan to Queenscliffe Maritime Museum.

Image: Ross Brewer. The Ulimaro.


7. Antarctica – OSSA

If ever there was a place where specialist ships were required, it would have to be Antarctica! OSSA ( is very active in this space. OSSA recorded an excellent interview with OSSA and MMHN member Ray McMahon describing his exciting working life in Antarctica during the 20th century. This link will take you to the video where Ray talks about his life in Antarctica and his friendship with Phillip Law. See:

OSSA has a permanent exhibition at Seaworks Williamstown including models of the famous ‘Dan’ vessels Aurora Australis and Magga Dan plus photos, documents and video. Of special interest there is the original tank test model of the Aurora Australis brilliantly restored by Blunts Boat Yard. OSSA in collaboration with the ANARE Club and Friends of the Nella Dan hopes to continue to build this collection at Seaworks into the pre-eminent display of Antarctic Specialist Shipping in Australia. One video you may be interested in is on YouTube of the commencement of Mawson Station.

MMHN encourages you to look a video record of the 1954 Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition, which relieved the scientific stations at Macquarie and Heard Islands and established a new station at Mawson in MacRobertson Land in Australian Antarctic Territory.



8. Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt – Seriously weird – and not very nice

The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt carries huge floating mats of sargassum, or free-floating brown bloom of seaweed toward Florida. Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean in the warm months. Atlantic Sargassum is argassum is a genus of large brown seaweed (a type of algae) that floats in island-like masses and never attaches to the seafloor kept afloat by ‘berries’ are actually gas-filled structures, called pneumatocysts, which are filled mostly with oxygen. Pneumatocysts add buoyancy to the plant structure and allow it to float on the surface (The Conversation April 7).

Nearly every year since 2011, sargassum has inundated Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Florida coastlines in warm months, peaking in June and July. This immense brown tide rots on the beach, driving away tourists, harming local fishing industries and requiring costly clean-ups. According to scientists who monitor the formation of sargassum in the Atlantic Ocean, 2023 could produce the largest bloom ever recorded. Why? A 5000-mile-long mess.

See videos: Sargassum Belt 1 and Sargassum Belt 2


9. Ghana ‘take’ on Sargassum

Less about tourist aesthetics and more about livelihoods, Ghana sees things somewhat differently recognizing it as the ‘golden rainforest of the ocean’ because of the floating ecosystem it supports in the Sargasso Sea, in the western Atlantic Ocean. It is beneficial to marine species such as white marlin and dolphin fish which depend on it for spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea. Commercial fish species, including tuna, depend on it for food. That said, when too much washes up on shorelines of coastal communities it is a serious problem which, since first sighted in 2009, is it is having a very seriously adverse effect.

2.4 million people (10% of Ghana’s population) work in fisheries, providing 2.4% of Ghana’s GDP. More than 200 coastal villages, including about 200,000 fishers with about 2 million dependents depend on fishing. Imagine the effect of 10,000 tonnes being washed up daily during a particularly severe season. This inhibits fishing by breaking nets, clogging outboard motors, creating seaweed mats that are impossible to navigate, causing skin irritations – and causing an unbearable smell. Work is underway world-wide to better understand and manage the phenomenon.

See: Golden Seaweed

Image : The Conversation


10. Warm Water Really Matters!

Fascinating – and scary? Journalist Tim Saunders (ABC online 19/4) reports Australian sea surface temperatures at record levels for more than a month, and it’s not just our beaches being affected – it’s the wider ocean. The mean sea surface temperature (SST) has been about 0.7 degrees Celsius above the 1982-2011 SST average for weeks and has exceeded daily record levels since mid-March. Waters surrounding Australia have been warmer than usual off almost every coastline this year, at times 3°C above normal.

The warmest ocean waters compared to normal are currently off the west coast of South America, sitting about 5°C above the April average. Preliminary satellite data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows the global mean ocean surface temperature peaked at 21.1°C in early April, passing the old record of 21.0°C from March 2016.

See: Ocean Temperature


11. Greenline – City of Melbourne Project – what’s in a name? A lot!

Let’s be clear – MMHN staunchly supports the City of Melbourne (CoM) Greenline trail project. Like other Docklands Precinct stakeholders, MMHN was pleased to respond to a recent invitation to participate in further Greenline Project design consultations at the Docklands Community Centre looking at multiple images of the evolving design. Regrettably, the design images once again revealed only a minimal grasp of the significance and value of maritime heritage. For example, the CoM persists in erroneously designating specific sections of Greenline as ‘Maritime’ and ‘Salt Water’. Maritime trade and operations dominated both banks along the entire Birrarung-Yarra River from Birrarung to the Bay. Maritime heritage was not confined a specific section of Greenline. The river actually enabled Melbourne’s prosperity along its length. Secondly, inaccuracy also occurs in relation to the section designated ‘Salt Water’ section of Greenline which is not, and never was, saltwater. This section is a part of Birrarung-Yarra River tidal estuary, re-configured so successfully by Coode and Brady. Even more bewildering – this section is of unique heritage significance, a world-renowned marvel of civil engineering (north wharf and Victoria Harbour not recognised – actually ignored in the Greenline design. Another bewildering example is that in the current Greenline design, the park at the tip of north wharf is designated ‘Eco’ Park. This is lazy generic marketing-speak. The name of the park should rightly reflect the engineering brilliance of Sir John Coode and Joseph Brady. See: Coode Canal & Victoria Dock

MMHN argues ‘names’ used along Greenline actually matter – a lot. Place names serve to raise public awareness and educate. The City of Melbourne has a responsibility, as well an opportunity, to properly ‘Name’ sections of Greenline so as to accurately reflect cultural and maritime history. MMHN applauds the environmental and ecological commitment embedded in the current Greenline design but strongly argues that celebrating these aspects of the Birrarung-Yarra River story should not require devaluing the significance and Melbourne marvellous maritime heritage.

Image : Greenline diagram City of Melbourne


12. Central Pier – Salvage

In response to maritime stakeholder concerns, MMHN contacted Development Victoria (DV) for confirmation that the demolition contractor for Central Pier has been directed to retrieve the large posters and to salvage the bollards at the wharf edges of Central Pier. The condition of these posters is generally quite poor and the retrieval may render the posters beyond re-use. As a precaution, DV have taken high resolution photos of the most legible posters and this will enable them to be reprinted or reinterpreted in a different format or way. DV reminds us that the Central Pier Demolition Permit (P37012) calls for a Salvageable Materials Report to be issued by DV to Heritage Victoria to record what, if any, materials were able to be salvaged once the demolition is completed.


Image: MMHN. Best preserved examples of the Central Pier posters.


13. Blunts Boat Yard, Williamstown

MMHN is grateful indeed that Greg Blunt at Blunts Boat Yard so generously supported MMHN by welcoming an extraordinary number of maritime enthusiasts to the Boat Yard on a sunny Saturday afternoon during the National Trust (Vic) Heritage Week. MMHN is certain that a visit to Blunts yard will have inspired maritime enthusiasm in youngsters and will have re-kindled enthusiasm in everyone else.

14. Lighthouses of Australia (LofA)

MMHN recently connected with the inspirational group of lighthouse enthusiasts around Australia. Their marvellous lighthouse research and restoration efforts around Australia’s vast coastline is truly commendable.

MMHN encourages you to see the website Lighthouses.

Good news from the MMHN perspective is that, given Lighthouses of Australia 2023 AGM is to be held in Victoria in October, there will be an opportunity to connect with LofA and learn more about the wealth of maritime heritage embodied in our lighthouses. We will publish details of our AGM in due course. Meanwhile look at images of the restored McCrae Lighthouse Restoration.

Images: Macrae Lighthouse, photos by Mary Iles.

Macrae Lighthouse

Text by LofA member Mary Iles

The lighthouse was in a sorry state with rust, leaks and timber needing a good sand and polish. Due to COVID restrictions work was delayed but eventually scaffolding was installed together with protective wrapping to contain dust and lead paint particles. At one point, local graffiti opportunists managed to tag the wrapping! 

The lighthouse has now been restored to its former glory with a beautiful new ‘white dress’ replacing its dull battleship grey which for some reason the light was painted when last restored. The locals much prefer the white! The official opening was held on Wednesday September 28, 2022 in the late afternoon to maximise the impact of the new flood lights that will illuminate the structure to celebrate completion of renovation works and future special occasions and events. The McCrae and District Lions Club not only provided a sausage sizzle but also buried a time capsule to be opened in 25 year’s time. 

The restoration of McCrae Lighthouse was funded by Mornington Peninsula Shire and a $1 million grant from Heritage Victoria. Built in Smethwick England in 1874 by Chance Bros it was transported to Australia and re-assembled at McCrae in 1883. The lighthouse guided mariners through the south channel on the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay for over a 100 years until decommissioned in 1994 by the Port of Melbourne. Measuring 33.5 metres high, it’s Port Philip’s tallest lighthouse. The lighthouse has been given a full clean and painted in its original colour of bright white. Restoration works included repair of glazing astrigals and water proofing of lantern glazing. It was stripped, cleaned and external surfaces were repainted. Broken window glass was replaced in the stair tube and the architraves were cleaned and re- painted. Painting of exterior timber in lower entry areas of the building was also undertaken. Safety works have been completed to allow some limited supervised access to the lighthouse in the future. 

The lighthouse will remain a shining beacon for residents and tourists for many years to come.

15. Wreck Diving in the Bay: Wonder in the deep

Senior Archaeologist for Heritage Victoria, Danielle Wilkinson will make a fascinating presentation of the wreck riches around Port Phillip Bay – do come along:

Thursday: May 11, 5pm – 7 pm
No need to register, simply arrive.
Location: City of Melbourne, Waterways Office, Suite 120, 439 Docklands Drive, (86 Bourke St tram – end of the line)

Image: Heritage Victoria


16. Seafarers Rescue

MMHN readily acknowledges that seafaring is an essentially a dangerous occupation. Cyclone Ilsa left eleven Indonesian fishermen stranded on an island in Rowley Shoals off Broome,100s of km from civilisation – surviving out of contact for 6 days without food or water. A skilled timely collaborative effort commenced when a. passing Australian Border Force (ABF) plane conducting planned surveillance flight spotted the survivors. An Australian Maritime Safety Authority aircraft then went to investigate. An emergency team from PHI Aviation dispatched a helicopter from Broome.


Image: AMSA. One vessel washed up on Bedwell Island after hitting trouble during the cyclone – another was lost.


17. Ship Spotting: the Bay and Beyond

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.

Do come along to a Ship Spotting talk at the Victoria Branch of the World Ship Society (WSS) on Saturday May 6, 10 am – 12 noon: It will be an opportunity to gain fascinating insight into the compelling pastime of ‘ship-spotting’ and gain knowledge about the vessels regularly seen plying our waters. Free event, but please register via email:

Location: Port Education Centre, 343-383 Lorimer St. Port Melbourne (adjacent to the Control Tower)


18. New Technologies to improve the lives of modern Seafarers

Australian Mariners Welfare Society (AMWS) has alerted us new technologies clearly enhancing seafarers today. Working at sea remains isolated and hard. New technologies make a difference – a seafarers medical app GARD launched in March 2023 in collaboration with the Norwegian Centre for Maritime and Diving Medicine. It is in effect a Mariners Medico Guide, a free-to-download digital medical guide intended to enhance medical care on board ships and ultimately save the lives of can be used without a phone or Wi-Fi signal, and is suitable for use in remote parts of the ship.

Also ‘Starlink Maritime‘ – a new low earth orbit satellite communications system offering cost-effective internet services to all seafarers. The Starlink’s RV service started a year ago, and after was installed on several vessels, it was deemed to be a “game-changer” allowing crew unprecedented access to friends and family, while also enabling a new Starlink has commissioned over 600 data centres and replaced 5,000 workstations across its fleet, with the underlying infrastructure now in place to leverage the accelerated connectivity.

See: Starlink


19. Melbourne’s Spencer St Bridge – Remarkable maritime infrastructure

Melbourne has numerous famous – and infamous – bridges.

Do come along on Wednesday May 17, 5 pm-7pm: Historian, author and librarian Fiona Campbell will present on the fascinating heritage of Spencer St Bridge. Free event. No need to register, simply arrive.

Location: Magnet Gallery, The District Centre, Docklands (86 Bourke St tram – end of the line)

Image: Spencer Street Bridge, RHSV


20. Maritime Museums of Victoria Inc (MMV)

MMV’s postponed Annual General Meeting finally took place 17th April at the Mission to Seafarers. OSSA not only provided the meeting room but also facilitated participation by several MMV around Victoria via Zoom. MMHN congratulates the new MMV members who have volunteered as office bearers:

  • President: Kim Hatton, Port Albert – Gippsland Regional Maritime Museum.
  • Vice President; Kathleen Toohey, National Trust, Polly Woodside
  • Treasurer: Neil Thomas, Polly Woodside Volunteers
  • Board Secretary: Agostina Hawkins, Portland Maritime Centre
  • Minute Secretary: Rosey Kendall, Western Port Oberon Association

A reminder that MMV represents 20 maritime and riverine museums in metropolitan Melbourne and beyond across Victoria. These groups, in a sense, represents the dispersed maritime collection in Victoria. MMHN is a member of MMV but differs from other MMV members in that we do not hold archives or artefacts. However, we certainly encourage all maritime groups holding maritime collections but not yet members of either MMV or MMHN, to join. ASAP because, as we all know, ‘All boats float on a rising tide’.

Our success lies in collaboration and collective promotion of our maritime heritage.

Email MMHN: or MMV:


21. Viking Ships in Melbourne

Viking seafarers developed unique structures capable of great journeys, still capturing the imagination of us all.

Do come along on Wednesday, 3 May at 5pm Erik Thorup will discuss the interest around the world in replicating Viking vessels and will present images of a recent Viking ship launch in Port Phillip Bay. No need to register, simply arrive.

Location: Magnet Gallery, The District, Docklands
(86 Bourke St tram to end of the line).

Image: Southern Peninsula Press


22. Treasures of a Military Library – a rare opportunity

The President and Council of The Royal United Services Institute of Victoria are inviting heritage stakeholders to the opening of an Exhibition of the Treasures of its Military Library.

Do come along on Monday 15 May at 10am

Location: Robertson Room, Victoria Barracks, 256-310 St Kilda Rd, Southbank. 

It is essential to RSVP by 8 May email
Note:  Photo ID (passport or driver’s licence is needed for entry into Victoria Barracks from St. Kilda Road.


23. Trove news

Excellent news for Maritime Heritage! MMHN is grateful to all those who lobbied long and hard to achieve this outcome for us all. Federal Funding of $33m will be allocated in the May budget to save Australia’s most critical historical digitised archive – this resource has been secured. The National Library of Australia which runs digital archive database Trove will also be separately allocated funding of more than $9m to secure its future for years to come. You may wish to look at:

Revive, the government’s National Cultural Policy to “maintain our strong cultural infrastructure” Published 9 /2 2023

See Regrettably MMHN finds no specific reference to this island nation’s maritime culture.

Finally –

In the spirit in which we commenced this MMHN update, we conclude with a nautical message of farewell.

Until next month – May you enjoy Fair Winds and Following Seas.


Dr Jackie Watts OAM
Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network