- A.N. Other
- Ship histories and stories, History - pre-Federation
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2012 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
By Lisa Richards – Curator Norfolk Island Museum
We are pleased to continue a series on maritime museums and in this edition we are grateful for these articles by Lisa Richards on the importance of Norfolk Island to our maritime heritage. Norfolk is one of the richest sources of material from the early colonial period with the first settlers landed from HMS Supply on 6 March 1788 and two years later on 20 March 1790 there was the catastrophic wrecking of HMS Sirius upon the reef while landing supplies for the island. Added to which there is a strong Bounty connection with the arrival of descendants from the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives in 1856. All these events are still remembered and celebrated today.
Norfolk Island will be holding two significant anniversary events early this year, the first on 6 March marks the arrival of Lieutenant Philip Gidley King, who was later to become Governor of New South Wales, and the second on 20 March marking the fateful wrecking of HMS Sirius. Keen observers will note that one of Sirius’s anchors and a cannon are to be found in Sirius Place a few minute’s walk from Circular Quay and that two small cannon which were brought out by Sirius but not part of the ship’s armament are located outside the Clock Tower Building at Garden Island. These were intended for the defence of the colony and were at one time located on a battery at the northern end of what was then Sirius Garden Island.
For such a small island, Norfolk Island has some amazing stories to tell. Famous for its colourful history, the island was first settled in 1788 and later became a convict hellhole. Since 1856 it has been home to the descendants of the Bounty mutineers.
The Norfolk Island Museum collections cover material from four distinct periods:
- Polynesian Settlement 700-1450
- First Settlement (penal) 1788-1814
- Second Settlement (penal) 1825-1855
- Third Settlement (Bounty mutineer descendants from Pitcairn Island) 1856 to present.
Our location is enviable! We are housed in a total of six buildings in the World Heritage Listed, Kingston and Arthur’ Vale Historic Area (KAVHA). These buildings date from 1825 and are built on the ruins of structures that date from 1788.
The Museum was established in 1988 with Bicentennial funding to open a Maritime Museum. This museum proudly displayed the newly recovered HMS Sirius artefacts. Other museums to open included a house museum restored to 1844, a social history and archaeological museum. Today we receive up to 20,000 visits each year from travellers to the island, many of whom have come to see the place where their convict ancestors lived. For more information on our collections and exhibitions please visit www.norfolkislandmuseum.com.au
On 19 March 1790 HMS Sirius, flagship of the First Fleet and the only means of contact with the outside world for the new settlements at Sydney Cove and Norfolk Island, was wrecked on the coral reef off Slaughter Bay. She had led the fleet of eleven ships that set out from England in 1787 carrying the people who would start a new nation on the other side of the world. In a sense, the Sirius is Australia’s Mayflower. She was a vitally important ship to the settlements struggle for survival in their new, isolated home and her loss was devastating.
The Sirius’ story is in two parts: the first is of her loss, and the second of modern day recovery of the shipwreck material.
At the time of its wrecking the Sirius accompanied by HMS Supply, the smallest of the First Fleet ships, was on a desperate mission. Since the First Fleet’s arrival in 1788 both communities had lived not far from starvation. In late 1788 Captain John Hunter had taken Sirius on a voyage to Cape Town for supplies. However by the end of 1789 Sydney Cove was still starving. On this, its last mission, Sirius was sent to the Chinese port of Canton to obtain food and supplies. To relieve the pressure 275 people (116 convict men, 67 convict women, 27 children and 65 marines) with some food, were to be transferred to Norfolk Island.