Welcome to the Norfolk Island Museum's blog. We are lucky to be located in the most beautiful part of a stunning island in the South Pacific. We are a little island, but our history and stories are great - from Polynesian and convict settlements to the home of the Bounty mutineers. Hopefully you'll enjoy our stories.
We were thrilled this week to receive a wonderful donation and addition to our collection. Danny Vadas from Newcastle has donated a ship’s model of the Supply which he has hand made. Not only is it a simply beautiful addition to our collection, it is also meticulously made and aids our telling of the Supply’s role in establishing and supporting the settlement of Norfolk from 1788.
With the looming presence of so many ‘big name’ ships in our history – the Sirius, the Bounty and (both) Resolution’s – the Supply’s story has perhaps been lost a little in our daily interpretation of the First Settlement. She was of course, involved with two very important events on Norfolk – the arrival of Captain Philip Gidley King and the small group of 22 who began our first European settlement on the 6th March 1788; and the wrecking of HMS Sirius off the reef at Slaughter Bay in 1790. Both of these were key events in the settlement of Australia.
Danny has made his model as painted by Midshipman George Raper off Lord Howe Island on the fateful 1790 voyage to Norfolk Island, together with Raper’s painting of the actual wreck which shows a glimpse of Supply's stern in the background. Danny says “These two paintings are regarded as the best primary sources for the Supply, as they were done ‘on-the-spot’ by an accomplished seaman”.
The Supply was the smallest of the eleven First Fleet ships at only 170 tons and 70 feet long – she was smaller than a Manly ferry! She carried 55 seaman and was skippered by Lieutenant Henry Ligbird Ball. Built in 1759 for the Admiralty in a Thames-side shipyard, possibly by either H. Bird or Thomas Slade, she was totally re-masted and fitted in 1786/7 after being commissioned for the First Fleet journey. She was intended as an armed companion to the flagship Sirius and back-up in case of an emergency. Because she was small and fast, she was the primary leader of the Fleet and often had the job of rounding up ships that had become detached from the others. She was given jobs such as sailing ahead to find land, relaying the Commodore’s signals and even searched for a man lost overboard from the Alexander.
Danny's model of HMAT Supply
On leaving Cape Town on the final leg of the voyage, Captain Phillip transferred from the flagship Sirius to the Supply. They reached Botany Bay on 18 January 1788, two days ahead of the rest of the Fleet, and the Supply's officers planted a flag. After the arrival of all the Fleet and the disembarking at Port Jackson, only the Sirius and Supply remained in the colony. After the Sirius was wrecked the Supply was the only ship left to support both settlements. In total the Supply made ten trips Norfolk Island between 1788 and 1790.
The fate the Supply is uncertain. Some sources indicate that she served as a hulk in Sydney Cove until broken up in 1807. Others say she returned to England in 1791, was renamed the Thomas & Nancy, and served as a coal carrier on the Thames until around 1806.
The flags Danny has put on his model are a Jack from the Jackstaff, a long Pennant from the mainmast and a Blue Ensign from the peak of the gaff. His model shows her with 4 x 4lb long guns and 4 x 12lb Carronades as well as 6 swivel guns. She sits in a purpose made case with a nameplate HMAT Supply. HMAT standing for, His Majesty’s Armed Tender. It took Danny over 2,500 hours to make this model – and one look confirms that it is a superbly hand-made work of art. It is well worth a trip down to the Pier Store to see Danny’s model - you will not be disappointed.