Melbourne – A Great Maritime City

November 2020 MMHN Update

Greetings all,

As Melbourne tentatively emerges from Lockdown and the ‘Ring of Steel’  springs open ending months of ‘virtual’ engagement with maritime heritage and allowing the possibility of “actual” engagement, we will again venture forth – if only around our Marvellous Maritime State!  Three suggestions to consider:

  • Go East – Western Port Oberon Association

Many will recall that the federal government $1M grant to purchase, tow and secure the ex HMAS Otama at the former BP wharf at Westernport with the dedicated assistance of the volunteers of the Westernport Oberon Association (WPOA). The WPOA was established 12 years ago and continues to operates a small maritime museum at the Crib Point terminal building by Shell Australia. Nearby, alongside the old wharf, the ex-HMAS Otama remains an undeveloped exhibit. As is too often the case with such maritime heritage ‘assets’, the upkeep remains a grave and relentless concern. But this submarine may be on move: the local paper, the Mornington Peninsula News (14/10/2020) reports the appointment of Neil Armstrong as the new CEO of the WPOA for the next two years. MMHN member and President of WPOA Max Bryant says “key projects for the next two years include a finding permanent homes for the former HMAS Otama submarine (anchored off Crib Point) and the former pilot vessel Wyuna (currently anchored in Bell Bay, Tasmania). Otama and Wyuna will be preserved and placed on permanent display at Hastings Victoria, once facilities are completed”.

  • Go West – Portland Maritime Discovery Centre

Portland’s Maritime Discovery Centre, built in 1998, includes displays documenting the region’s rich maritime history including whaling, shipwrecks, surf lifesaving, rescue, navigation and the local fishing industry. Key exhibit is the Portland Lifeboat, one of the oldest of its type in the world and renowned for its role in rescuing 19 survivors from one of Australia’s greatest maritime disasters, the SS Admella in 1859. Curiously, the vessel’s ports-of-call led to her name – Adelaide, Melbourne and Launceston.

  • Go North – Port of Echuca

Built in 1865 by the Victorian Railways, this magnificent wharf was crucial to water transportation, ship building and the timber industry. In the late 1880s the seemingly endless supply of superior red gum in the nearby Barmah, Moira and Perricoota forest fed the eight sawmills at Echuca and generated work for more than 240 paddle steamers. The PS Adelaide is still operating. See

Star of the South Project 
Given that this is Australia’s first offshore wind farm project, MMHN is keenly watching the project from the specific perspective of the maritime industry’s opportunities and risks. The site being investigated off the south coast of Gippsland was chosen because of favourable Bass Strait wind, soil and water conditions, and because of the proximity to the connection point to the National Electricity Market Grid. The project is a joint 350development by Australian founders and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP). The Federal budget October 2020 allocated $4.8M over the next two years to progress 250this offshore wind project and other clean energy technologies. The project involves:

  • Wind turbines and offshore substations in the ocean (see licence area on map)
  • Subsea cables to transfer energy to the coast
  • A transmission network of cables and substations connecting to the Latrobe Valley.

Gippsland-based TEK-Ocean has been contracted for installation and maintenance support for floating wind and wave monitoring bases in Gippsland, providing installation and maintenance support for wind and wave monitoring equipment (floating LiDARS). Local vessel Silver Star out of Lakes Entrance was contracted by WA based Fugro, survey and geotechnics specialists, to undertake the geophysical work. Local fishing vessels Seapride out of Port Albert, the Nephelle from Lakes Entrance and the Gabo Bay from Port Franklin are also engaged with conducting fish surveys. A Community Advisory Group has been established for Gippslanders from Lakes Entrance to Waratah Bay, and from the coast inland to the Latrobe Valley.
Public in-put is still invited. See
MMHN encourages you to access the considerable amount of information which is available on the website and YouTube videos on the site investigations including:

  • Seabed studies vessel Silver Star tours
  • Fish surveys – 130 baited underwater video stations and 10 underwater monitoring devices (LiDARS) are anchored to the seafloor, collecting data on whales, seals and coastal currents and tides. In October more will be installed to collect data on Great White Sharks.
  • Environmental Assessment (migratory birds are a concern).

Timeline these preliminary studies in progress:

  • March 2019 federal government grants license to start site investigations
  • July 2020 Government confirms environmental assessment processes – Environment Impact Statement (EIS) and Environment Effects Statement (EES
  • Current status 2020-21 Engineering and environmental investigations to inform project feasibility, development and assessment.

The estimated number of seafaring career opportunities presented by this project is not yet known. However, the Sunday Age 25/10/2020 p.6 reported that ” the project will generate 5200 jobs; 740 of these on-going over its 30 years lifespan. All types of Investigations and assessments are obviously not yet complete and opinion in the township of Port Albert is divided.” See:

Submarine Update – don’t hold your breath
The Australian (26/10/2020) reported a further delay on this controversial contract with French company Naval Group building Australia’s $90 billion (yes billion) submarine fleet. It was revealed in Senate Estimates Committee questions about the Future Submarine Program that the final submarines commissioned four years ago would be operational by 2054 relying on a “nominal drumbeat of a delivery of one boat every two years”. That said officials anticipate that by the mid-2030s the majority of the submarine fleet will be the regionally superior crop of submarines. In the meantime, Australia is in the process of up-grading an older fleet of Collins-class submarines from the 1990s to extend their usefulness while the new submarines are being built. This upgrade/maintenance work is politically (depth?) charged in that the work may be shifted from SA to WA. The Age (16/10/2020) reported that under political pressure, the federal government forced an agreement from Naval Group to locally source componentry valued at $900 million (yes million), e.g. main shaft line, steering gear system and weapons. The EOI process concludes 16 November 2020. The preliminary designs will be ready by January 2021.

Image appears on the ASPI site.

But – leaving aside these ‘mainstream’ media reports on Australian submarines issues, MMHN recommends an excellent comprehensive account of the considerations influencing Australia’s submarine policy.  The recent Australia Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) 4 November 2020 presents a Paper by Peter Jennings and Marcus Hellyer entitled:  Submarines: Your Questions answered. Questions addressed include: Why are they so expensive? Why do we need 12 of them? Why build them here? Why not nuclear propulsion? Why a French design? Why not an American, German, Japanese or Swedish design? Aren’t submarines obsolete, to be replaced by drones? Won’t technology make the oceans transparent?  See also on this link an excellent video interview – Peter Jennings in conversation with James Goldrick explaining key submarine capability matters.  See

Antarctica Looms large in Australian Maritime Heritage

  • Mawson’s Hut Foundation

Each year, the Mawson’s Hut Foundation hosts an event in Hobart to honour Douglas Mawson, a remarkable man, but also in recognition of Australia’s extraordinary engagement with Antarctica. Predictably COVID caused the cancellation of this event in 2020, but next year may well be more significant. On December 1911 Mawson led the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) heading south from Queens Pier in Hobart. On the way ‘down’ to Commonwealth Bay on the Antarctic continent, a vitally important Relay Station was established at Macquarie Island enabling radio contact with those on the Antarctic Continent for the first time.
Mawson is an iconic heroic figure in the annals of Australian Antarctic Exploration. Born in Yorkshire in 1882, his family migrated to Australia three years later, and he was educated as a mining engineer and later a geologist. Mawson’s contact with Antarctica was initially with the Shackleton Expedition in 1907 during which, besides climbing Mr Erebus, Mawson’s geological expertise led him to conclude that Australia should take an independent approach to Antarctica. Mawson declined an invitation to join the Scott Expedition to the South Pole and instead he persuaded the Australian government to fund the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE). Such was the success of the AAE under Mawson’s leadership that he was knighted in 1914. Mawson returned again to Antarctica in 1929-31 and in 1933, enabling the formal establishment of the Australian Antarctic Territory. Australia now has territorial claim of 42% of well as three Australian research stations on the Antarctic continent and another on Macquarie Island. Mawson’s contribution to Australian Antarctic heritage is immense – visionary, leader, explorer, mining engineer, scientist, intrepid expeditioner – and survivor.

  • Australian Antarctic Heritage Conservation.

In April 2020, the federal government granted the Mawson’s Huts Foundation (MHF) $321,000 for a 2020-2021 expedition to conduct urgent conservation work on Mawson’s Huts at Cape Denison. Expedition Manager Rob Easther and six others will depart Hobart late 2020 to spend up to six weeks at the historic site. The French Antarctic programme will transport the team on the voyage south. It will be the 16th expedition organised by the MHF. The program will include major work on the fragile Transit Hut, used by Mawson in 1911-14 and take star sightings to determine its exact position. This is pleasing and aligns with the MMHN approach to conservation – looking ‘forward’ in the installation of an automatic weather station to monitor the changing climatic impacts on the historic site.

Wikipedia. The Mawson’s main hut at Cape Denison

  • Images and Sounds of the Antarctic Maritime Heritage

Fascinating news of the restoration of a filmed interview with the oldest survivor of Mawson’s 1911-14 expedition. Six months ago, Jon Moyes, great nephew of the first AAE member Morton Moyes, handed four canisters of 16ml tapes to the MHF which had been stored and forgotten for thirty years. The canisters contained black and white and colour film along with voice tapes. Careful and expensive restoration work matching the voice tapes with some of the film produced a wonderful recorded interview arranged by Jon when Morton was 89, six years before his death. Video producer David Londo, a member of the 2008-9 MHF Expedition to Cape Denison, spent weeks diligently working on the tapes resulting 20 min. in colour of Morton talking about Mawson and other Antarctic luminaries (Frank Wild, Sir Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton) plus 30 min. of other quality footage. Morton Moys was the meteorologist with the eight-member Western Party led by diminutive and highly respected Antarctic explorer Frank Wild. Moys returned to the Antarctic with Mawson during the 1929-31 British Australian New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE). Moys later rose to a very senior rank in the Royal Australian Navy.
Note: The recording will soon be available for viewing thanks to donations from Jon and his family. Copies will be available for purchase. See
Note also that MHF produces a most appropriately named newsletter – Bllzzard! See

  • More of the Antarctic and the Melbourne Connection

MMHN thanks Seafarer and OSSA member Jorgen Berg for sharing these two wonderful images of the Danish built Thala Dan and North Wharf near the Mission to Seafarers. Danish born, Jorgen was First Officer and later Chief Officer, sailing the iconic Thala Dan on voyages to the Antarctic between 1970 and 1977. The photo below was taken on 17 March 1971 as Jorgen explains, on-board Thala Dan … she is looking aft and west towards the other famous Antarctic vessel the Nella Dan with port side alongside on North Wharf No. 7/8 with a Melbourne Gas Works silo to the right north of North Wharf No. 9. The reefer ship on South Wharf has starboard side alongside and just west of the swinging basin across from the Gas Works.

North Wharf  photo above, Jorgen continues: this photo was taken 17 March 1971 on board Thala Dan port side alongside on North Wharf No. 5/6. She is facing east and her bow would be in line with the western part of North Wharf Shed 5 with the wharf crane. The lady is Janice’ mum with a family friend. This was the day Janice, her sister Patricia and a girlfriend, Norma, all left Melbourne for Le Havre in France on Thala Dan allowed by the French Polar Expedition. The French had chartered the Thala Dan to carry cargo from the French Antarctic station Dumont d’Urvilel to Le Havre. The ship had finished her season trips for ANARE, down south to the Antarctic, Macquarie Island and Casey Station.
Note the Electric Crane positioned on North Wharf in the middle of the Goods Shed and on Southbank the possible the entrance to the Duke and Orr’s Dry Dock.

Voyage – The Good Girl Song Project
Helen Begley and Penny Larkins established The Good Girl Song Project to produce original Folk musical theatre and workshops that explore Australian women’s history. The work of MMHN Board member historian Dr Liz Rushen is the inspiration for their latest production, Voyage. In essence this is a ‘folksical’, written by Helen Begley, an Australian folk musician, and tells the story of story of two young women who emigrate to Australia in 1833 to begin a new life. Another MMHN member, Michael Womack, General Manager of Melbourne’s Tall Ship Enterprize is providing the ‘stage’ upon which actors Penny Larkins and Carly Ellis, and guitarist Helen Begley, will present a filmed script reading of Voyage, a precursor to the full production that will tour theatres in 2021. Patrons are being sought for the Good Girl Song Project and by way of thanks will be treated like special passengers who have been bumped from steerage to first class. If you have an interest in this production, see 

Waterways Transportation
During the recent City of Melbourne municipal election, a ‘hot’ issue emerged – the long overdue Docklands activation and waterways transportation, both matters staunchly advocated by MMHN. The media picked up on several maritime/waterways issues including the establishment of a Ferry Hub in Victoria Harbour, for both public transport and tourism to become ‘mainstream’ in Melbourne and beyond. Not so very long ago, water transportation provided us with all manner of essential services – trade, transport and entertainment (Herald Sun 22/10/2020): Changing the way Melbourne uses its waterways could overhaul transport for commuters and tourists in a post-coronavirus world, according to a city councillor. See
Opening up Melbourne’s waterways, by Cr Jackie Watts, 30/9/2020 Docklands News

Duke’s & Orr’s Dry Docks on Southbank
In the 19th century (and now of course), water and weather took a heavy toll on all sort of water craft. Maintenance was essential and this meant dry and wet docks, many of which once lined the Yarra. Now they have all gone except the splendid heritage listed Duke’s and Orr’s Graving Dry Dock built in 1868 (where the Polly Woodside currently sits at Southbank). Between the Dock and the Convention Centre, the fascinating Dry Docks Pump House, with the engine room visible through tall glass walls and explanatory signage, is still onsite. Added to this, the University of Melbourne Archives holds the collection of the Duke’s and Orr’s Amalgamated Dry Docks Ltd documents – a fascinating record of the engineering, maintenance and repair side of the maritime industry in Melbourne. Archivist Georgina Ward describes these Docks as having served thousands of ships, including those affected by the battles of wartime, docked, cleaned, painted and repaired, until its closure in 1975. Noting that in 1904 an immense and costly reconstruction was completed using a selection of species including red gum, blue gum, grey box and ironbark … for replacing the old sheathing around the dock as well as the floor and massive mitre gates. It is the last timber-walled dry dock in Australia, and of its size, possibly one of the last in the world. Its longevity is said to be in part due to the walls of the Dock being of Australian eucalyptus timber, renowned for its strength and durability. See archives/
More on this crucial maritime heritage infrastructure in later Updates

New Project: Know Your ’Hood Around the Bay
In this year of COVID lockdown, the pressing need for better health, positive experiences, engaged communities and for the local places in which we live and work to be meaningful as well as liveable has become clear. With all these ambitious objectives in the offing, MMHN is delighted to partner with History@Work, the thoughtful and creative minds behind the Know Your ’Hood, for a project with a maritime focus appropriately entitled Know Your ’Hood Around the Bay. The project involves ten Maritime Precinct walks. To make this great initiative happen, a VicHealth Reimagining Health grant application has been submitted. Melburnians of all ages and abilities will reap the benefits of exploring Port Phillip Bay’s elusive local and social maritime history. Fascination abounds from Point Nepean to Point Lonsdale with local history walks that feature archival research and oral history with maritime stakeholders who have had a range of maritime careers or simply relevant experience in their ‘hoods. Walks, based on professional history research and extensive oral history interviews, will bring evocative memories and new understandings to ten ‘hoods around Port Phillip Bay. If you would like to share your maritime stories relating to any bayside ‘hood, MMHN encourages you to contact historian Emma Russell at
For other walks from the Know Your ’Hood project see

Maritime Art
The 2020 Mission to Seafarers Maritime Art Awards and Exhibition took place recently. This international competition has been hosted at the heritage-listed Mission building for eighteen years and has become a highlight in the life of Docklands and the wider maritime stakeholder community. Amid the pandemic lockdown the 2020 competition exhibition and sale were virtual. You can still ‘attend’ the exhibition until 15 November and perhaps be tempted to purchase one of the works. The theme of the exhibition is Relationship between Humanity and the Sea. Entries are of a high standard both topical and challenging, for example the whimsical work by Mark Seabrook titled The Catch (1938), which won equal 2nd prize ‒ look closely at the catch! And winner of the Emerging Artist Award, the evocative work by Benedict Sibley entitled All Men will be Sailors referencing the renowned refugee writer boatperson Behrouz Boochani. See

Port Melbourne Historical & Preservation Society (PMHPS)

The Port Melbourne Historical & Preservation Society (PMHPS) with funding through the City of Port Phillip Cultural Development Fund has produced a fascinating Podcast Series – Port Talks. These are ten-minute distillations of highlights from the PMHPS audio-archive. The theme is the Depression – a time of great hardship in ‘Port’ and all of those who lived and worked in this maritime ‘gateway’ to our city. Long-time Port Melbourne residents Tom Hills (1904-1995) and Myrtle Richardson (1925-2013) speak of their lives. In the 1920s Tom worked pulling the ferry across the river at the ‘swinging basin’ where Webb Bridge is now. He became President of the Unemployed Workers Organisation, then President of the Waterside Workers Federation Melbourne and later the Retired Waterside Workers until he died. As a child Myrtle and her family were dependent on charity, rabbits mussels and fishing. These Port Talks may be accessed via

Sea Bathing in 19th century Melbourne
The Sandridge area, later known as Port Melbourne, had only been settled a few years when the first sea baths opened as public facilities offered by Wilbraham Liardet at the Pier Hotel. Many baths were attached to hotels along the shore. In 1843 the Port Phillip Patriot newspaper advertised a spacious and convenient swimming bath, and shower, warm bath if required. The bathing facility is clearly shown in the painting of the Pier Hotel by Liardet in 1874. A letter to the Argus newspaper instructed Anyone wishing to bathe could walk out on the small jetty to the little bath house, change to appropriate clothes and plunge into the water from the open doorway. Wilbraham offered advice on how the bather should best proceed: the bad practice and timid way of walking into water up to the hips, and then dipping the head two or three times … does more harm than good – rather when they go to bathe, they should plunge the head foremost into the water. He particularly urged readers to do this in the cold weather.

W.F.E Liardet Pier Hotel (detail) State Library of Victoria

In 1854 at the Chusan Hotel, the Sandridge Sea Bathing Association was formed and advertised in the Argus newspaper that a Gentlemen’s Bath, the Sandridge Baths, was now open located near the mouth of the Lagoon. A 200 ft. Pier carried enclosed and Ladies Baths, the enclosed Bath with 20 boxes for bathers, with ladders, etc. An extended further for 100 ft. to the deep water Baths, with another 30 bathing boxes. As well as a good diving board every convenience and; two boats with oars, pulleys. The Hobson’s Bay Sea Bathing Company Baths and also known as the Watson’s Baths was operated diver Thomas Watson between 1881 and 1906. As well as hotel-based baths, there were many ship-based baths in the 19th century around the bay.
Railway Baths (1855) also known as Dardanelli’s Bathing Ship or simply the Bathing Ship was an actual ship moored at the end of a jetty, with a wooden fence enclosing the bathing area to protect bathers from shark attack as well as providing privacy. People at the time were very fearful of shark attacks in Port Philip Bay.
For more information see the fascinating PMHP website:
Sea also Baths of Victoria, Bruce Bennett, 2013 and The Borough and its People by Margaret and Graham Bride, 2013.

Other Australian Maritime Podcasts
The Naval Studies Group (NSG) consists of former naval officers who have written extensively on naval affairs and have a long-term association with UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy. The Australian Naval History Podcasts Series, associated with the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS), provides leadership in the study and understanding of naval strategy and history discusses important and little-known events in the history of the Royal Australian Navy. It brings together in discussion historians and veterans to outline and analyse each topic. Over a hundred panellists have taken part from Australia and overseas and is supported by the Australian Naval Institute, the Naval Historical Society, the Seapower Centre – Australia and the Submarine Institute of Australia.
See and

Global Maritime Heritage

MMHN is a member of a worldwide network of organisations supporting the preservation of maritime heritage – ICMM. Given that the UK is an Island nation, with a history of a strong Royal and Merchant Navy, it is not surprising that the UK has many members of ICMM. Two examples:

  • National Historic Ships UK (NHS UK)

It is instructive to note that amnesia is not a deficit unique to Melbourne. NHS UK is the successor to the earlier body, the National Historic Ships Committee, which emerged from a seminar held in 1991 to discuss the problems facing the preservation of historic ships and vessels in the UK and the evident neglect of this important part of British heritage. NHS UK was established in 2006 as a non-departmental public body reporting to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with a specific remit to advise the Secretary of State and other public bodies on ship preservation and funding priorities. See
You might want to log on for the Annual Awards of the NHS UK, filmed aboard the HMS Belfast streamed online globally. Everyone’s invited!
Awards include 2020 a Photography Competition, Marsh Volunteer Awards, Flagship of the Year, and Excellence in Maritime Conservation Awards, graduation of their SHTP2 trainees and a special curator’s tour of HMS Belfast looking at conservation work taking place while the ship is closed. Watch on 10 November 2020 from 7.30pm GMT

  • UK Society for Nautical Research (SNR)

SNR is offering three interesting opportunities:
1. Access the new SNR podcast, featuring the HMS Victory Conservation Project.
2. Contribute to future SNR podcasts about particular vessels. SNR is seeking engagement with knowledge or connections with historic vessels and are looking for suitable subjects for future episodes. A separate strand of the podcast will be on historic vessels, dedicating an episode to an individual vessel. SNR are particularly looking to hear from particular vessels with a good stakeholder network. If you have such connections email    See
3. Access The Mariner’s Mirror, published since 1911, the international journal of the SNR and is recognized as the world’s leading journal of naval and maritime history. See

Modern Australian Coastal Trading and Training
Given that MMHN looks both ‘backwards’ in relation to Maritime Heritage and ‘forward’ in relation to sustaining Australia’s Maritime industry into the future, we are keen to contribute the considerable expertise within our membership whenever the opportunity arises. For example, the recent Department of Infrastructure Transport, Regional Development and Communications consultations. These commenced in December 2019 but paused due to COVID in April 2020. The federal government is seeking stakeholder input on various proposals to change the way cargo vessels are regulated under the Coastal Trading (Revitalizing Australian Shipping) Act 2012 (Coastal Trading Act). As well as administering the Act, the Department has regulatory responsibility for monitoring compliance with the Act, operational issues in relation to compliance are to be considered separately. These current consultations are concerned with:

  • Separation of licensing for cargo and passenger vessels
  • Cargo and Route nomination system for general licence holders
  • Removal of five-voyage minimum for temporary licences
  • Automatic approvals of temporary licence applications where there is no approved general licence route/cargo nomination
  • Aligning new matters and authorised matters timeframes
  • Voyage notification requirements
  • Tolerance limits
  • Emergency licences
  • Note re Dry-docking and offshore oil and gas are excluded from consideration.

MMHN collaborated with OSSA in making a submission primarily in response to the looming shortage of qualified seafarers, the need for new entrants in the industry and noting all aspects of training required in such careers. This submission is available on the OSSA website. Given that Australia is an island nation, maritime cargo matters are of critical importance, not only to maintaining national prosperity, but also national viability. See

Careers in the Maritime Industry
Want to go to sea?
Continuing with the MMHN commitment in relation to the future of the maritime industry, we are keen to encourage young people to consider careers at sea, and as with all careers, acquiring credentials. A ‘Ticket’ in the maritime sector is essential as it confirms the requisite competencies. Australia’s national maritime regulatory body Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has several critical responsibilities, including promoting safety, protecting the marine environment, combating ship-sourced pollution, providing infrastructure for safe navigation in Australian waters, maintaining a national search and rescue service for the maritime and aviation sectors. AMSA also has a crucial role in the area of maritime training: to work on domestic or international vessels you need a ‘ticket’ – a certificate of competency to be qualified to work in the Australian maritime industry and on Australian or international vessels in international waters. The path is complex but AMSA provides a useful diagram-summarizing career pathways. Other related career options young people may consider acquiring through online learning include pollution response, air-search observer training, domestic vessel accredited marine surveyor self-assessment and navigation safety. See

Monthly Maritime Museum

  • National Maritime Museum of China (Tianjin, China)

A warning – this may cause an outbreak of envy in Melburnians! Look what Australian architectural talent can do – elsewhere! After winning an international contest in 2011 against more than 60 shortlisted competitors, the Australian architectural firm Cox Architecture designed this remarkable museum. It is located on the waterfront of Beijing’s port city, Tianjin, a sister city to Melbourne. It was constructed on a wetland area that had been recovered from the bay and opened, presumably amidst the pandemic in May 2020.This huge complex uses geothermal piles for keeping the building at a stable temperature, minimising its power usage. The 80,000 square metre Maritime Museum of China comprises five hall structures radiating out into the port harbour and converging in a central Hall. Each Hall is dedicated to a different aspect of China’s marine heritage. Aspects include nature and ocean, world maritime civilisation, Chinese marine culture and historic vessels. There is a Temporary Exhibitions Hall and spaces for public education, business, research and curatorial facilities. The museum already has exhibits but given it is in early stages, these are more conventional old-style rather than high technology. Captioning currently appears to be only in Chinese
MMHN is inspired to see that Melbourne’s waterfront Sister City, Tianjin recognizes the cultural and economic benefit flowing from investment in this Australian designed iconic maritime museum on its neglected waterfront – there is hope yet for Melbourne!  After all, we have the ambition, we have the talent, we have the neglected waterfront, and we have the rich maritime heritage. What’s the impediment?

Southbank Promenade Upgrade: Consultation Update
The City of Melbourne is up-grading Southbank Promenade. Noting the opportunity for input into the design, MMHN made a submission. In essence this was to remind the City of Melbourne that Southbank should not be considered a new urban renewal area because it has been an important Maritime Heritage Precinct of this city for a very long time. MMHN has been advised that the project is still technically paused, but co-ordination of the design, documentation, business measures to support adjacent businesses to ensure that the final project is delivered with minimal disruption for local residents and businesses is continuing. Regrettably No reference AGAIN by the City of Melbourne to make any effort to acknowledge or for maritime heritage preservation in urban design.

Hospital Ships in times of War – and disasters
Hospital ships were in use during the time of the Spanish Armada! The critical role of dedicated British hospital ships to support soldiers injured in combat evolved at about the time of steam engines in ships. Various chartered commercial ships were used by the British army to provide rudimentary medical support during the Crimean War but a serious attempt at fitting out a ship primarily for hospital purposes was first made by the Royal Navy with the steamer Maine in 1887 (a name used for a succession of hospital ships until after WWII.) Maine was intended for use in the Boer War but was instead sent to China to support international soldiers at the Boxer Rebellion. In WW1, hospital ships provided both medical aid facilities offshore yet close to battlefields and also transported the wounded to safer facilities. Ships requisitioned for converted for hospitals service included passenger liners and ferries. In theory hospital ships (HS) designated for primary function as a medical treatment facility or hospital were protected under Article Four of the Hague Convention of 1907. In reality, this provided little or no protection. Of the 77 designated hospital ships (twelve British, and one Australian) were sunk during this war.

Sources: Naval Historical Review. Author Graeme Andrews, June 2012 edition.
See  and author Rupert Goodman’s Hospital Ships Boolaroong Press. 2016

WWI Australian Hospital Ships

  • Grantala. Often troop transport ships doubled as hospital ships. Australia moved quickly into the provision of a hospital ships with the charter of the coastal passenger liner Grantala for support of the Australian expeditionary forces involved against various German Pacific colonies. But the Grantala was found to be too small Australian authorities realized that the range and extent of anticipated injuries for Australia’s soldiers, at Gallipoli, elsewhere in the Middle East and in Europe would need larger ships. Fortunately, being an island nation, Australia was well supplied with modern passenger ships for conversion to hospital/troop ships.

HMAS Grantala 1914

  • Karoola (built 1909) Australia’s first Hospital Ship was owned by the McIlwraith, McEacharn’s Line Pty Ltd of Melbourne. First sailing with troops from Australia in June 1915 to Egypt, then on to Southampton for conversion to a hospital ship accommodating 460 patients. In December 1915 HS Karoola arrived in Adelaide with wounded from Gallipoli. In October 1916 she carried five soldiers from the 5th/22nd wounded on the Somme back to Australia. In outbound voyages between in 1916 and1918, Karoola transported Army Medical, Australian General Hospital, and Hospital Transport Corps reinforcements to England before returning with more wounded soldiers. The Karoola remained under the charter of the Commonwealth government until June 1919.

  • Kanowna (built 1902) owned by the Australian United Steam Navigation Company (AUSN), a ferry on the Sydney to Fremantle passenger service, was requisitioned to transport 1,000 soldiers to German New Guinea as part of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force. HS Grantala was also part of this force, in the role of hospital ship. Kanowna suffered mutiny, lack of drinking water and various other problems precipitated by haste to set sail. On 1 June 1915 Kanowna was used as Troopship A61, to Egypt and continued to Britain where she was modified as a hospital ship. In her new livery she worked around the Mediterranean and made regular voyages back to Australia carrying up to 452 seriously wounded with a medical staff of 88. In October 1918 Kanowna collected some 900 British and Commonwealth POWs released by Turkey. In 29 July 1920 she resumed civilian work until wrecked in Bass Strait in1929.
  • Kyarra (built 1903) a sister ship of Kanowna was requisitioned by the British government in October 1914 and converted for use as a hospital ship at Brisbane. As HMAT A55 she was used to carry Australian medical units to Egypt. In March 1915 she was converted to a troopship and in May 1918 she was released from Commonwealth control and sailed for Britain where she again reverted to the role of a hospital ship. On 26 May1918 she was torpedoed and sank. Five engineers were killed.
  • Wandilla (built 1912) and her sister ship Warilda were the newest and largest ships used as hospital ships by Australia during WWI. In May 1915 Wandilla became a troop ship for Australian military making two round trips from Australia to Egypt and carried wounded troops to Britain and then conversion to a hospital ship in Liverpool. On duty around the Mediterranean and to both sides of Africa before resuming work returning Australian troops to Australia. Later was refitted for passenger service.

  • Warilda (built 1912) requisitioned from the Adelaide Steamship Company in 1915 the Warilda sailed the East-West Australian coastal service. First serving as a troop ship for Infantry and Light Horse reinforcements to Egypt October 1915-February 1916 then later in 1916 converted into a hospital ship firstly stationed in the Mediterranean, then made 180 trips transporting 80,000 patients between Le Havre in France to Southampton. A dramatic period for the vessel followed: in February 1918 Warilda was struck by a torpedo which fortunately failed to explode, the following month a collision with a damaged ship the SS Petit Gaudet off the Isle of Wight, then on 3 August 1918 when transporting wounded soldiers from Le Havre to Southampton despite clearly displaying of the Red Cross markings, she was torpedoed by the German submarine UC-49. Damage to the engine room meant she sailed around in a circle at 15 knots and the lifeboats could not be launched until the steam ran out. Vessels escorting her attempted a tow, but the line had to be cut and she sank in about two hours with 801 persons on board, including 471 invalids (439 were cot cases). Sadly 123 people lost their lives, including the entire engine room staff, all the occupants of I ward (the lowest ward containing 101 ‘walking’ patients), and 19 people from capsized lifeboats. Amongst those that died were fifteen Australians.

Barges – Australian Nurses on Hospital Ships
Reference to medical staff, and in particularly to Anzac nurses on Hospital Ships, is important. Transporting the wounded and the sick by barge to Hospital Ship anchored offshore.

More than 3,000 Australian civilian nurses volunteered for active service during World War I. The Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) was formed in 1903 as part of the Australian Army Medical Corps. During World War I, 2000 of its members served overseas alongside Australian nurses from other organisations such as Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and the newly formed Red Cross.

In WW2 3500 Australian Nurses served – not necessarily on ships.

WW2 Australian Hospital Ships
During WW2 Australia’s armed forces used six Australian Hospital Ships (Note: HMAHS His Majesty’s Australian Hospital Ship – no longer HMAS) used in most theatres of war from the Mediterranean through the Pacific area. Ownership WW2 hospital ships was divided: Australia 2 Britain 1 and the Netherlands 3. After Japan invaded the Dutch East Indies, three Dutch vessels were handed to Australia for operations. These included the Oranje, Tasman and Maetsuycker converted for use as hospital ships.

  • Centaur (built 1924) converted to a hospital ship in 1943. Centaur departed Sydney and was torpedoed northeast of Brisbane by the Japanese submarine I-177. No wounded were on board but of the 332 aboard, just 64 survived.

Note: Appropriately – a forthcoming exhibition at The Shrine of Remembrance is devoted to the sinking of the Australian Hospital Ship Centaur in May 1943 entitled Imagining Centaur, it features both still and moving images, with precious artefacts associated with the sinking and memorials established to those who served aboard Centaur. With COVID-19 conditions delaying the launch, elements of the exhibition can be experienced via a short movie and a Curators’ Talk.

  • Manunda (built 1929) Requisitioned as a hospital ship in July 1940. Between November 1940 and September 1941 Manunda completed four round trips to the Middle East. Then in January 1942 she left Sydney’s Darling Harbour for Darwin. On 23 February Japanese aircraft attacked Darwin, sinking many ships and damaging the clearly marked hospital ship, killing 11. With only one main engine operating and no compass Manunda sailed to Fremantle with the seriously injured. Manunda repaired and sent to Milne Bay in eastern New Guinea when Japanese forces invaded. She remained in the vicinity until the Japanese retreat on 7 September 1942. Manunda carried more than 30,000 casualties safely home and repatriated Australian ex-Prisoners of War from Changi camp to Australia. On 2 April 1948 Manunda returned to commercial passenger work for her owners Adelaide Steamship Co. She was scrapped in Japan in 1957
  • Wanganella converted to a hospital ship May 1941 sailed to Singapore in July 1941 then to Suez to collect wounded for return to Sydney and Brisbane. After two more voyages to the Middle East the ship was ordered to Port Moresby in May 1942 to collect injured for return to Australia. Her 13th voyage was from Sydney in March 1944 for Bombay where the British ammunition ship Fort Stikine exploded on 14 April 1944. The surrounding damage was immense and 3000 people died. Wanganella’s medical team and crew worked around the clock helping the many locals injured. After Italy surrendered Wanganella was sent to Taranto to collect New Zealand Forces patients, then made voyages to Darwin, Torokina, the Solomon Islands, Bougainville and Morotai where she collected ex POWs and civilian internees. Three more round trips to the New Guinea area followed before Wanganella was returned to commercial use in December 1946. During her period as HMAHS she travelled 251,611 nautical miles and carried 13,389 patients. She was scrapped in 1970.

Northbank Birrarung Marr -Docklands-Bolte Bridge Trail (aka ‘Greenline’)
A reminder that one key objective of the MMHN is to effectively ‘capture’ Melbourne Maritime Heritage through the establishment of an historic, properly designated and signposted (informational and directional) trail along the entire length north bank of the Yarra River from Birrarung Marr to the Ron Barassi Snr Oval beneath Bolte Bridge. A similar concept is being investigated in Sydney by The McKell Institute which has published a Discussion Paper on the proposal for a continuous foreshore access/trail, extending from the Sydney Opera House to the new geographic centre of Sydney – the Parramatta CBD. Like Northbank Birrarung Marr – Docklands-Bolte Bridge Trail the McKell proposal links existing access/trails and spaces. The MMHN concept is based on supporting heritage values and aligns with three other benefits flowing from such a trail concept:

1. economic stimulus in the short term
2. community amenity and health – access to public open space
3. boost to tourism- new visitor and local experience – cultural and physical.

MMHN has raised this matter with the City of Melbourne and has drawn to their attention the McKell Institute document. See

MMHN contacts since the previous MMHN Update

  • Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society
  • Victorian Ports
  • City of Port Phillip
  • AMSA
  • OSSA
  • AMC
  • NAVY
  • Mission to Seafarers
  • City of Melbourne
  • Ex HMAS Castlemaine
  • History@Work

Stay tuned. With COVID-19 hopefully in retreat, MMHN is looking forward to progressing our Events and Activities program for 2021. A reminder to either become a member of MMHN – or renew your MMHN membership for 2021.

Do keep well

Dr Jackie Watts  OAM
Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network 
0400 305 323 or email

We invite you to join now

Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network

The membership form is available on