Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bounty Cannon Project near Completion

We are inching closer to the end of our Bounty Cannon Conservation Project, funded through a Community Heritage Grant from the National Library.

This has been a fabulous project to undertake on so many levels – most importantly our cannon is now rust free, and with new sealants to preserve it for years to come. Janelle Blucher has overseen all this work, painstakingly moving back and forth over the surface of the cannon to ensure the job has been done perfectly. We established a wonderful new relationship with Phillip Smith and the Museum of Tropical Queensland when he came to make the cast for us. We have also been able to engage with the skill of locals, in particular Lee Irvine and Peter Horrocks and volunteer Sue Brian. Lee was invaluable in working with Phillip during the making of the cast and also brought the know-how to move around and work with a half tonne object. Peter has made a truly beautiful carriage for the cannon to finally rest on which is quite a work of art in its own right. And Sue has given countless hours supporting Janelle with all the steps of the conservation process. While we won’t congratulate ourselves until the cannon is safely back on display in the Pitcairn Norfolk Gallery in the Pier Store, I’m sure this will be a project we look back on with great satisfaction and pride.

Testing the carriage with the replica cannon
Rhonda Griffiths sent me a link to the September edition of ‘Dem Tull Pitcairn News’ recently. Tim Young has written a great article on Pitcairn’s Bounty Cannon at Tim says:

The Bounty’s cannon did not see too much action, and seem to have been only used in anger during the aborted attempt by the mutineers to settle on Tubuai. Even then the only confirmed kill was a house rafter, as described by Bounty’s Boatswains Mate James Morrison: “(the mutineers) fired a four-pounder shotted among them (potentially hostile Tubuaians), at which they fled. The shot did no other damage then passing through a house where it cut away a rafter to which a man was hanging a gourd of water, and at which he was so terrified that he left the house.” 

The final seal is applied
When the Bounty was turned into a floating bonfire, all four cannons were still aboard.. Anyway, over fifty years later, in January 1845, two were recovered, and one was made into working order again. Sadly, this working cannon misfired on Wednesday 26th January 1853 as they were trying to salute the H.M.S. Virago, injuring three. One of these was the Island Magistrate Matthew McCoy, and he died of his injuries about 12 hours after the accident. As a result, the cannon was spiked, and many years later it was given to a passing ship (I tend to call this one the “killer cannon”). The other cannon was taken to Norfolk Island where it is on display to this day. The two remaining in the ocean stayed as such until June/July 1973 when the third was recovered, and today sits outside a private home in Adamstown. The final one remained untouched until it was raised in 1999 and sent to the Museum of Tropical Queensland for preservation. It was returned last year. Having sat in a box since its return last year, a replica carriage was built, and after putting the cannon on it, and a Perspex case around it, it now sits in the Pitcairn Island Museum for all to see”.

Wheel detail

Making the supporting sections

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Whale Watching on Norfolk Island

In years gone by Norfolk Island had an active whaling industry where whales were hunted and killed for their oil. However when we talk about whaling on Norfolk Island today, we are talking about the conservation of whales and the wonderul activity of whale watching. Two dedicated whale conservationists have been visiting the island every year for the past 8 years, spending a month here each time tracking the movement and numbers of whales that pass by the island. Adrian Oosterman and Merv Whicker have given countless hours of their time to the whales and Norfolk Island.

This year their visit has been a bit of a disappointment as the weather has not allowed many boat trips to occur and the wind has made the spotting of whales very difficult amongst choppy seas. On these trips they capture photos to ID the whales, take skin samples and hydrophone recordings. However they had a fantastic day spotting a dwarf minke whale the other day. Adrian said "Finally got on the water on Tuesday and came across this minke (dwarf) whale. Actually, we were attempting to locate a mother/calf pair of humpbacks when we came across the minke. One of the most outstanding experiences I have had with whales. This whale mugged the boat for about 45 minutes and could have jumped aboard. Came that close we could have patted it on the nose, but didn't of course. Finally broke away and headed towards the humpbacks, but they were not interested and they managed to give us the slip".

They were on-board Howard Christian's boat at the time and managed to get these wonderful images.The top photo is of a humback and the others are the minke.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Our Coat of Arms

30th Anniversary of Norfolk Island Coat of Arms

Last Wednesday 20th October marked the 30th Anniversary of the granting and assigning of the Armorial Ensigns to Norfolk Island by Queen Elizabeth II. By request from the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Mrs Robyn Adams, a small exhibition on the history of our Coat of Arms has been set up in the Legislative Assembly ante-chamber to the Legislative Assembly Chamber. Included in the display are some of the original design ideas submitted by members of the community and documents showing progress towards the issuing of the Coat of Arms. Of importance, the Official copy of the Warrant signed by Queen Elizabeth II is also on display.

The idea for our Coat of Arms began in 1973 when the H.M.S. Bounty Society International (Western U.S.A. Chapter) wrote to the then Norfolk Island Council submitting a Motion that the Council immediately approve the inauguration of procedural steps to acquire an Official Coat of Arms for Norfolk Island. In 1969 the Society had supported Pitcairn Island to gain their Coat of Arms. The Motion was unanimously accepted.

 Approval was obtained by the Commonwealth of Australia and the Norfolk Island Council then initiated the acquisition of a Coat of Arms by announcing a public call for designs. A gratuity of $25.00 was paid for ideas that the Council selected to be put forward for the design. These were sent to Sir Anthony Wagner, Garter King of Arms at the College of Arms in London, who prepared the design. It was originally hoped that the Coat of Arms would be ready for the 1974 Bi-Centennial celebrations, and then when that date was passed, for the formation of the Norfolk Island Government in 1979. Finally, on 20th October 1980 on board H. M. Yacht Britannia, Her Majesty the Queen signed the Royal Warrant assigning a Coat of Arms to Norfolk Island.

A coat of arms was traditionally a heraldic design on a cloak used to cover and protect armour. Historically, armorial bearings were first used by feudal lords and knights in the mid-12th century on battlefields as a way to identify allies from enemy soldiers.  The design is a symbol unique to a person, corporation, or state. They are also known as armorial bearings or devices, heraldic devices, or arms. The design of an official Coat of Arms is strictly regulated by the College of Arms in London.

Bruce Baskerville is our local expert on this subject and is the Vice President of the Australian Heraldry Society Inc. He wrote the chapter Coat of Arms for the book “Symbols of Australia” UNSW Press 2010, which is thoroughly interesting and fascinating reading. He has provided the following information on the College of Arms and Garter King of Arms: 

The senior officer in the College is the Garter King of Arms.  Garter is the senior King of Arms of the College and takes his title from the Order of the Garter which Henry V instituted in 1415. Since medieval times, officers of arms have been divided into three ranks: kings of arms, heralds and pursuivants.  In England, the public official with overall responsibility for heraldic and ceremonial matters, such as coronations and the opening of parliament, is the Earl Marshall.  The Earl Marshall is a hereditary office in the Royal Household, established in 1373 under the 1st Duke of Norfolk.  The 18th Duke is the current Earl Marshall.  The Earl Marshall issues the Royal Warrant, on behalf of the Sovereign, which formally assigns or grants the coat of arms that were designed under the direction of Garter. The equivalent of the Earl Marshall is the Lord Lyon in Scotland, the Chief Herald in Ireland and in Canada, and the National Herald in South Africa.  Australia and Norfolk Island still retain the services of the College of Arms in London.

The symbols used in our Coat of Arms are as follows:
1.         The lion is used as a supporter and crest, reflects the Island’s historic links with Britain, New South Wales and Tasmania.
2.         The Kangaroo refers to the Island’s connection to Australia.
3.         The anchors and naval crown allude to the naval background of the settlers on Pitcairn Island and Norfolk Island and the importance of the sea in the history of Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands.
4.         The covered cup is taken from the Arms of the Fletcher Christian family
5.         The book stands for the Bible taken from H.M.A.V Bounty
6.         The two Mullets (stars) on the Shield refer to those used in the Crest of Australia, the Arms of New South Wales, but they are depicted in the conventional heraldic manner with five points. Stars appear in the posthumous arms of Captain James Cook, the discoverer of Norfolk Island.
7.         Norfolk Island Pine Tree on the rocky mount is taken from the landing scene depicted in the 1856 Great Seal, and the hulls in the Naval Crown can also be taken as a reference to the boat in that scene.
8.         The laurel wreath around the neck of the lion is taken from the posthumous Arms of Captain James Cook.
The Motto “Inasmuch” is taken from the words of the Pitcairn Anthem, from the Gospel according to St. Matthew (25.40):  “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”.

The exhibition is open until Friday 19 November. If you would like to view it please contact the Clerk to the Legislative Assembly, Gaye Evans, at the Assembly on 22003.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sirius Links

I think that perhaps out of everybody on Norfolk Island, I have the best office location of all. Every day from my desk in the Pier Store I have to draw myself away from looking out the window, across about 25 metres of Kingston Pier to the reef and over to Phillip Island. I can easily gaze at the site of the wreck of HMS Sirius and often find myself thinking about that day. Every day visitors come to see the artefacts from the Sirius on display at the Pier Store. Due to her role as the flagship of the First Fleet she is Australia’s most important shipwreck and her artefacts are of National significance.

The Sirius’ story is part of our Norfolk Island story. Her wrecking here has meant that we have forged particular relationships with others in Australia and beyond. One of those links is with HMAS Sirius and the other is with the suburb of Mosman in Sydney.

HMAS Sirius 
On the 16th September 2006 the HMAS Sirius was Commissioned as an auxiliary oiler carrying over 34806 cz of fuel to replenish ships at sea by day or night. She is one of two ships of the Afloat Support Force. The name Sirius was selected because of its historical connections with the First Fleet and the important role the HMS Sirius played in providing logistical support to the struggling colonial settlement and economy. There have been six other ships of the Royal Navy named HMS Sirius, however this is the first time a Royal Australian Navy Ship has been named Sirius. Norfolk Island is her home port and her crew has freedom of the island whenever they visit.

The Commissioning Lady was Jeanine Nobbs, fourth Great Grandaughter of Fletcher Christian and married to Benjamin (Booda) Nobbs, who is the third Great Grandson of Philip Gidley King, the second Lieutenant on board HMS Sirius during the voyage of the First Fleet and the first Commandant on Norfolk Island.
 HMAS Sirius was built as a double-hulled commercial product tanker, MV Velos and purchased by the Commonwealth on 3 June 2004. She underwent modifications including the adding of a flight deck for helicopter operations. She is capable of replenishing two ships at once and has transfer points for fuel, water and stores. She is 183.22 metres long, has a displacement of 25016.53 tonnes and a crew of 60. Her motto is “To serve and provide”.

Links to Mosman, NSW
In October 1788 the Sirius went on a voyage back around the world to get supplies from Cape Town. The voyage home to Port Jackson very nearly ended in disaster when they encountered severe storms when rounding the south of Tasmania. When she arrived in 1789 the Sirius required a major refitting and was beached on the north side of the harbour at a place that was then referred to as Elbow Cove and Careening Cove, later Great Sirius Cove and eventually Mosman Bay.

The reason for venturing across to the other side of the harbour from the main settlement is written about by Judge Advocate David Collins in his chronicle of the first decade of New South Wales: “There was no doubt, that the work necessary to be done to the Sirius would meet with fewer interruptions if the people who were engaged in it were removed from the connections which seamen generally form where there are women of a certain character and description”. The seamen’s stay of five months was Mosman’s first European settlement. (Talk by Gavin Souter: HMS Sirius NSW 2008, November 2007)

Repairs were carried out to repair storm damage and to replace weak timbers and dry rot. It was found that some vital fittings had been omitted when the ship was readied for the voyage from England and this, along with the deterioration of the iron bolts, had caused many of their problems.

A connection between the people of Mosman and Norfolk Island was formalised in 1989 by Mosman Council and the Norfolk Island Government with the introduction of a Friendship Agreement.

A bas-relief of the Sirius commissioned by Mosman Council was installed at Mosman Bay in 1989. A second one was gifted to the people of Norfolk Island by the citizens of Mosman in celebration of their Sister Community relationship and was installed on Norfolk Island in 1990. A third was installed on the Isle of Wight in 1991 celebrating their connections with the Sirius and Friendship status with Mosman. The bronze relief sculptures were made by Dr. Alex Sandor Kolozsy. Dr Kolozsy is a leading Australian sculptor represented in many major museums in Australia and worldwide. He is particularly known for his fine figurative bronzes, portrait busts and monumental sculpture commissions.

Since 1989 there have been a number of visiting delegations between the two communities. In 2003 Mosman Council presented a special Friendship Agreement display about Norfolk Island in the Mosman Library. The display provided information about the community and its natural and built environment, and promoted Norfolk as a tourist destination for residents of Mosman.

In 2008 Norfolk Island participated in The Art of Friendship, an exhibition presented at the Mosman Art Gallery. Twelve artists were selected to represent the community and displayed their artworks which included paintings, drawings, printmaking, photography, ceramics, jewellery and fibre work.

The full story of the life and wrecking of HMS Sirius is told on our web site at

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A carriage for the Bounty cannon

Conservation work on the Bounty cannon has been continuing over the last few weeks however the focus of this project is now shifting to the return of the cannon to the Pier Store museum. This will most likely be in the next few weeks after Janelle Blucher has completed her work.

Part of this project, funded by the National Library’s Community Heritage Grants Program, included making a replica carriage for the cannon to sit in. We obtained plans of the original carriage from Nigel Erskine at the Australian National Maritime Museum and Peter Horrocks has taken on the job of making it. The original cannon would have sat in the carriage resting on its trunions (the small arms that come out of each side of the cannon). Our cannon does not have the trunions left on it anymore so working out how the cannon will sit in the carriage has been one of the design problems Peter has had to deal with. The replica cannon that we made at the beginning of this project has proved to be very useful to have on hand! Peter has used it to check the cannon’s position in the carriage, to help determine the best method for designing and placing supports which will actually hold the cannon in place. Our photos show Peter in the midst of making the carriage, including using the replica cannon made last month.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Last update from Pauline Reynolds-Barff

By the time this article is published, my 6 week Round-the-World scholarship will have come to an end … I’ll be home and wondering, ‘did it all happen to me?’.

Firstly, I wish to encourage anyone who has a worthwhile project of benefit to our island and/or our culture, to apply for a Churchill Fellowship. What a wonderful opportunity to broaden one’s horizons and on return give back to the community. Sir Winston Churchill is famously quoted as saying, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  His life is awe inspiring, and what better way to assure his memory lives on than these Memorial Fellowships?

Pauline in the archives at the Royal Scottish Museum
The fellowship has allowed me to see around 40 pieces of Pitcairn barkcloth and some of the beaters that were used to make them.  This data will provide valuable information about the makers - the Bounty women and their daughters.

Whilst the studying of barkcloth in itself is fascinating, the stories related to each piece make the Pitcairn barkcloths even more interesting. The curators have been equally eager to know more about them, so it really has been a two way street.

It has been a moving experience touching these pieces, knowing they were made by my foremothers (and the foremothers of many of you reading this article now). Whilst they were creating this fibre to clothe themselves and their children, they were also creating the fabric of the new society on Pitcairn.  They truly were pioneering women, and deserve much more than the historical fiction that has been written about them to date and that I am sure will continue to be written.  It is my mission to find as much historical factual data as possible about them - it just requires digging and an open mind.  The mythic, sometimes sensational, movie drama story has seen its day: our history is fascinating, but only half told as far as I am concerned.

At the time of writing I am in Norway waiting for my appointment with the Kon-Tiki Museum’s curator whom I met during an archaeological dig near our house on Huahine, Tahiti many years ago.  I’m looking forward to seeing the lovely finely made barkcloth and beaters they have in their collection.  By looking at the fabric itself, and the collection data, I might be able to determine the maker of the piece and the tree it was made from.  The beaters are also extremely interesting – in the Norfolk Island Museum there is a beater that has always been associated with the Melanesian Mission, however, I believe it came from Pitcairn to Norfolk on the Morayshire in 1856, and so I’ll be doing some comparisons.

Some museums have asked me to contribute thoughts and some writing for future exhibitions including Pitcairn tapa-cloths.  I hope now that our material heritage might continue to be featured, even if in small ways, in exhibitions around the world.  I broached the idea of the possible loan of some of these items to our own museum on Norfolk and have received some positive responses.

Moorland Close Homestead
There is another guideline highlighted by the Churchill Trust - and that is to make the most of one’s travel, to watch local news and really breathe in the local culture. With my appointments attended, I’ve tried to pack in quick visits to meaningful areas and cities surrounding the museums.

Grasmere of Lakes District
The most memorable visit was after my appointment at the Liverpool World Museum. I had met up with friends who took me to Moorland Close (Fletcher Christian’s birthplace and childhood home), Cockermouth (the nearby village) and St Bridget’s Church (where the Christian family is buried and where they sought solace during their lives). This area forms part of The Lake District and a place I feel we all need to visit!  I felt a real resonance with this beautiful area, which is much like the Gloucester district of NSW Australia. 

So the Fellowship has taken me to the following cities: Wellington in New Zealand; Honolulu in Hawai’i; London, Kew, Cambridge, Oxford and Liverpool in England; Edinburgh and Aberdeen in Scotland; and finally Oslo in Norway.  This has been one of the most empowering, lonely, inspiring and enriching experiences of my life and I know that this will benefit our culture and people.

I’d like to give thanks to the Churchill Trust, those who had a hand in my selection, to Lisa Richards and Rhonda Griffiths, to those of you who have sent me messages of encouragement, my wonderful family who let me go, and all the museum curators and friends met along the way.  It’s been an amazing trip and I look forward to putting pen to paper to continue writing about the forgotten women of the Bounty.

Show Day on Norfolk Island

The Norfolk Island Agricultural and Horticultural Show

Yesterday was the 150th showing of the A&H Show. However did you know that it was Fletcher Christian’s first cousin John Christian Curwan, who is credited with founding the first Agricultural Show in England when he established the Workington Agricultural Society in 1805? His work in scientific agriculture earned him the title of “The Father of Agriculture”. Over 200 years later no doubt some of his cousin’s descendants will be vying for prizes at a show that may not be too dissimilar to that of his own!

During the Sesqui-centenary in 2006, one of the community exhibitions at the Museum was devoted to the A&H Show. Mary Christian-Bailey provided a fabulous overview of the history of the show – reprinted here to enjoy once again.

“The first Norfolk Island Show was held on 21st February 1860, and created great interest in the community, newly arrived from Pitcairn Island. An extract from a letter written by Andrew Christian on 14th September 1840 to Bishop George A. Selwyn reads:

“Everybody is busy. All are striving for the prize which is to be given to the person who raises the best 200 heads of corn and another for the one who gets most of the different sorts of things such as cabbages, yams, onions, bananas, sugar cane etc. and another is for the woman who makes the best three school dresses. All prizes to be one pound each”.

From their arrival in 1860 to their departure in the early 1920s, the Ministers of the Melanesian Mission of Norfolk Island actively participated in the organisation of the Society. On 8th December 1880 the day after St. Barnabas Chapel was consecrated, a Horticultural Show was held at Longridge, at which there was a Spring and Autumn Show, the later being held on the Thursday in Easter week. The Rev. John Palmer was then President of the Society. Judges in the agricultural section were Mr. Stephen Christian, Mr. David Buffett and Mr. Hardy Rossiter. In the horticultural section, Rev. John Palmer, Dr P.H. Metcalfe and Dr. Codrington were judges.

The Society’s Show on 10th November 1921 was well attended. There were five sections for farm produce with excellent exhibits of potatoes, kumeras, yams and various vegetables as well as many sections for arts and crafts. The classes attracted 430 exhibits from a population of approximately 699 persons. Fifty-three pounds five shillings and nine pence was paid out in expenses including prize monies.

The Administrator, Major-General Selheim, C.B.M C.M.G officially opened the Annual Show on 23rd November 1927. The Secretary at that time was Mr. Ernests V. Stephenson and the Show attracted 473 exhibits. Mr. Ivens Nobbs carried off the prize for the best bunch of bananas. It stood 4 feet high and the bananas measured some 7 inches long. Mrs. C.C.R.  Nobbs won the silver cup presented by the Society for the exhibitor gaining the greatest number of points. The Show Schedule in November 1931 shows the Patron as Colonel A.J. Bennett, the President Mr. C.C.R. Nobbs, and the Secretary/Treasurer as Mr. A.A. Greenwood. Competition was invited in 150 classes and many more local crafts were included than at present. The livestock section was confined to two classes for pigs.

During the Centenary Celebrations in June 1956, the Society organised an exhibition in the Methodist Hall. The President was Mr G.G. F. Quintal with Mr. N.V.D. Kilvert as Secretary. The Exhibition was opened by the Governor-General of Australia, His Excellency  Sir. William Slim, C.C.B., G.C.M.G., G.B.E., D.S.O., M.C. On 18th July 1968 her Majesty the Queen was graciously pleased to grant Her Patronage to the Society. The President during the year was Mr. J. Carr with Mrs. Tim Lloyd as Secretary.

1974 was the Bi-Centenary Year of Norfolk Island’s discovery by Captain James Cook, and the Society’s Show was held on 14th October during the week of the Bi-Centenary celebrations. The venue was the Rawson Hall Memorial Hall and adjacent grounds (named the Bi-Centenary Centre). The Society invited entries in 407 classes and attracted a total of 2204 entries. The Show was officially opened by Air Commodore E.T. Pickerd, O.B.E., D.F.C. and approximately 1658 people including children passed through the gates to visit the show. In 1978 His Honour the Administrator, Mr. D.V. O’Leary, V.R.D., in opening the Show announced that Her Majesty The Queen had granted her approval of the use by the Society of the prefix ‘Royal’. The President during the year was Mr. David E. Buffett.

By 1984 entries had reached an all-time high of 3,060. This was the year that we were honoured by a special visit of His Excellency the Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen, who accompanied by Lady Stephen, officially opened the Show. In 1985 the 125th Anniversary of the first Exhibition was high-lighted with the issue of two commemorative postage stamps, the miniature sheet being reproduced in full colour on the cover of the Show Schedule. Special prizes were awarded for classes recorded as being in the 860 Exhibition. 1985 also saw the innovation of a Woodchop Team from Queensland.

The Bi-Centennial Show in 1988 was officially opened by the Duke of Norfolk on 17th October. The Duke was accompanied by the Dutchess of Norfolk and this was the first visit by any member of the family. In 1992 the Society moved onto its own premises on the Bi-Centenary Show ground. The building was officially opened on the 21st April by His Honour the Administrator Mr. Alan Kerr”.