Queensland Maritime Museum: Maritime Australia 5

June 2023

Our mini-series on the maritime history of Australia continues with a tour of the Queensland Maritime Museum in Brisbane. Dr Sam Willis explores the museum with volunteers and local historical experts Kasper Kuiper and Keith Boulton. We explore the museum’s extraordinary collection of ship models including the Orion (1934), Otranto (1925), Orcades (1947) all of the Orient Steam Navigation Company; immigration to Australia; wrecks off the coast of Queensland and the navigational dangers of the Great Barrier Reef; the Queensland Government’s paddle ship Lucinda; the skiff Fury (1939) and the champion racing boat Estrellita (1951).

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    Sam Willis 

    From the Society for Nautical Research in partnership with Lloyd’s Register Foundation, I’m Sam Willis and this is the Mariners Mirror podcast, the world’s number one podcast dedicated to all of maritime history. Hello everyone and welcome to the Mariners Mirror Podcast. I’m delighted to say that we are today continuing with our mini series on Maritime Australia. In fact, this is just one of three more upcoming episodes. If you missed the first few in this series, then do go back and check them out. We heard about the Dutch first arriving in Australia about the recreation of the Duyfken ship. That’s the first vessel that brought europeans to Australia and which was recreated in 1999 and can be seen today at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney. We also heard about William Dampier and HMS Roebuck. He was the first Englishman to set foot in Australia and the first European to study Australia’s flora and fauna. In this episode, I made it across the full width of Australia. That’s hours and hours and hours with no sight at all of the sea. And then I finally arrived in Brisbane from Perth and of course I did what all of you listeners would have done, I went straight to the Queensland Maritime Museum, though it was, of course after a large glass of wine and a obster. It’s a fantastic place and I was warmly welcomed by a host of wonderful people, I should say, a particular thank you to SallyMay for helping me to set all of this up. This episode is a little tour of the museum. I was put in the capable hands of Kaspar Kuiper and Keith Boulton. The museum is built around the drydock on a bend on the Southbank of the Brisbane River and was founded in 1971. And in the more than half a century since then has developed a fantastic collection of artefacts as well as historic ships all beautifully presented and preserved around the drydock. In the drydock itself is HMAS Diamantina, a river class frigate that served in the Second World War and also the Carpenteria a light ship built in Edinborough in 1917. That served for almost 70 years, protecting shipping off Sandy Cape and Fraser Island and the Western approaches to the Torres Strait. Subsequent episodes will take you on a tour of the drydock and one of the ships being preserved there. The pearling luger Penguin. This episode is going to focus on the collection inside the museum. I won’t spoil it for you. But let me just say that the collections are rich, they’re imaginative, they’re varied, and they were all brought to life brilliantly by my hosts as ever, I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I enjoyed talking with them here are the hugely knowledgeable, patient, the charming the entertaining, Casper, then Keith.

     

    Sam Willis 

    We’ve come upstairs now in this wonderful museum and we’ve walked past the most magnificent collection of objects. It’s been a bit tricky working out which one to talk about. But then I came into this room upstairs and was nearly knocked over by the two of the biggest ship models I think I’ve ever seen. The only ones I’ve seen that are bigger are the ones in the dockyard Museum at Barrow in Furness. So let’s walk over here and talk about this. This one first the magnificent Orion, Kasper tell me about this vessel.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    It’s from the Oriental Steam Ship Company. And its built in off course in the UK and in

     

    Sam Willis 

    Barrow in Furness

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    Yes Barrow in Furness, this was one of the magnificent, over 200 meters in length, and the width was nearly 24 meters. 24000HP and a speed of 21 knots full on. Gross tonnage was 2400 tonnes. We have an original model of her sister ship RMS Arcadia, that was torpedoed in the South Atlantic, 1942. I don’t know how many trips they have done to Australia  I think over a million immigrants from the UK and around Europe to Australia. I mean, it was not a very luxury voyage, of course, because there were only so many cabins and they use old cargo holds for the fourth class and so on. That was not a luxury voyage. To be honest.

     

    Sam Willis 

    How long does it take them to get from the UK to Australia?

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    About two and a half months. They left England and picked up at Southampton and then they would go to Lisboa and go to the Mediterranean and then Greece. go through the Suez Canal, Colombo, and then off to Perth. That is how they’re distributed all the passages, and end port was always Brisbane of course. There were different classification of immigrants, the blue collar people, they stayed in Perth and the white collar people was distributed to Melbourne and Sydney and the blue collar people came to Brisbane and Adelaide. That was our outlet door was set up. And that is why the banking system is still there. The banking system is still in Melbourne and in Sydney, and here we’ve got the mining industry and the workers and the boilermakers and the carpenters, they all came to Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia,

     

    Sam Willis 

    Perth similar with all of the mining

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    Similar, there’s a different type of immigrants, as we call them, the blue, the white collar ones, you know, bankers and insurance people etc and so on.

     

    Sam Willis 

    And just turn around and look at one of this other amazing model here. Keith tell me about this one.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    The Otranto, it was a similar type of ship, again for bringing out the the immigrants.  The nice thing about these size models is, as you can imagine, before the days of video and Google, these were in the shipping offices. This is where the people would come to think about, this is what I want to travel on and envisage what they’ve voage was going to be like, that’s the only way without having a brochure

     

    Sam Willis 

    It’s more than two metres long

     

    Keith Boulton 

    Oh, definitely. Two meters as long, massive.

     

    Sam Willis 

    So it was used to help people decide to select this ship to travel on, but also for the shipbuilders, I suppose to demonstrate what they could achieve. So where was this one built? This is the Otranto

     

    Keith Boulton 

    Is it the same place? Barrow o Furness. Vickers? 20,000 tonnes to 20,000 horsepower length 658, 75 width.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Then was used as a troop ship in the Second World War. That must have been very common for vessels like this to be used in the war.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    That’s what I said before. And now I bring you later now to the cabins down down there and you can see the cabins. What was really on board of the ships.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Let’s go have a look at them. Now. That sounds interesting. But look at the cabins. They’ve got some amazing recreations here of the inside of vessels. So here we are voyages to the land of dreams, emigration to Queensland. And I tell you what, I need you to describe to my listeners who can’t see this. What am I looking at?

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    I mean look inside of that four birth cabin, and all the ventilation you had was to open the door of that little ventilation area

     

    Sam Willis 

    it says about the size of a small saucer.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    Yes and it was on deck cabin. In othwords that came out on the gangway and on the deck area. And that was already second class this and then we got another one here.

     

    Sam Willis 

    So I’m just gonna describe these bunks here. So iron framed, four iron frame bunks there is one single washbasin in the centre with a little a mirror and a place for shaving kit and not much else.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    With the shaving facilities. The water was filled by the steward outside to fill the water tank up so when they emptied the bowl when they lifted up its water then spilled out over the deck. Alright, so that was the ablutions

     

    Sam Willis 

    Nice so let’s move along to another, got a recreation of another cabin here. So this is again second class accommodation on steamships in the early years of the 20th century. Oh, this is occupied by a lady in a very fine, fine silk dress a bit smaller this one.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    In  addition two birth cabin this was for nourishment and by virtue of a sister, sister and then another sister of a brother and so on like that. That he looks at me and then you see it there was already moved inside. This you had a little bit more, more classic that you felt a bit ahead home a bit more quality here and interesting. The basement is the same.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    Kerosene lights, not air conditioned, no ceiling fans. So circulation would have been pretty limited.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Yeah, I mean, pretty stuffy and hot.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    That’s what I said that was not a luxury level when you see that on deck sitting down there and so on.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    And I used to talk about travelling posh in those days. That was to book a cabin that was on the port side going out on starboard side coming home. So I went through the Suez Canal, you didn’t have that sun,

     

    Sam Willis 

    right? Okay, so you’re in the shade all the time. Well, very good. Very good.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    And to come back on these models, that we saw down there, these models been always given to the ship owner who commissioned a new ship. Yeah, that was their show piece. And you get one because my father have two of these ships. Still in our family and former coasters in the Netherlands. And you’ve got a model from about the size two to three metres and it is four four metres size. And that was given to this new ship owner.

     

    Sam Willis 

    You stil have something like that in your family, do you?

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    Oh, yes. We have. Yeah.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Is that in in Australia or in the Netherlands?

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    I came out here for the Brisbane Airport in 1980 Yes,

     

    Sam Willis 

    I sence a trip to the Netherlands. I want to come and see these models. They sound interesting.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    We got a lot on every ship. Oh my god. We’ve got a model.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Okay. Let’s come around here. There’s so much magnificent stuff in this in this museum. Models everywhere you go there are models, just idly walking past the Cutty Sark. I want have a look at this one. Orcadis what do we know about

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    Sister ship from the other one

     

    Sam Willis 

    From the Orion? Yep. Okay, so a very distinctive buff coloured Hull, green stripe

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    Up market, because it was a bit with smaller passages for all the people. You know, that was the size same as the Amsterdam and the Rotterdam.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    I’m gonna draw your attention to one more down the end, has got quite a bit of history.

     

    Sam Willis 

    What are we looking at here, Keith,

     

    Keith Boulton 

    The steamer Sala,  struck a rock up in Cape York was unmarked and sank within minutes. Queensland’s first naval marine tragedy and back back in 1883. Still there to this day laying on the bottom and about 90 metres of water. Right? Yeah, rip the water out of it. And it sank like a stone.

     

    Sam Willis 

    A bit too deep for regular divers, I suppose.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    And about 400 people perished in the in the wreck.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Do you have many shipwrecks around this coast?

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    We’ll make a photo of your wife goes up against the coast once again. I go many times myself from Key Bay in United States with dynamite for Port Alma. And you came in from through Panama Canal  was very difficult, he navigation aid was very poor in Australia, was just the beginning. You have to be really careful with navigation, and still now.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Yeah. And I was thinking about that. I was talking to someone when I was in Perth about the people that you know, the people who first visited the coast, and you have no idea what’s in front of you ever. And you must have to just move forward. So slowly sounding as you go. When you approach the coast.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    You had these little yachts what you see the dive come down there. That was the ship were called before the biggest ships and they made already a route and do the sounding because we’re better manoeuvrable  and shallow draft also, one two and a half metres. I dropped anchor and then I turned quickly on the anchor and could say out again,

     

    Sam Willis 

    right? Yeah.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    So thts why those ships were built

     

    Sam Willis 

    Makes me think that the there’s some work that someone could do on the Seamanship of discovery. So when there’s specific Seamanships, ship skills required and sailing and unknown waters, which I suspect was was rapidly lost, or certainly started to be forgotten after the, the 18th century.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    The big thing is the square riggers is the fact that they couldn’t tack so they had to go with only a small angle on the wind and that’s why they’d have to keep a well away from the coast because

     

    Sam Willis 

    They could tack, I’m not sure it’s very effective.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    And that’s what they carried four anchors.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    My my father in law is is a captain Captain Jim W Hurt is born in Scotland in Montrose. And he’s born in 1889. And he learns under sail and steam and motor. And he did salvage the Niagara gold, the ship run on mine, in the early 1940s in Auckland, and he salvaged that ship in 1941 And if you see that story, the gold of the sea from the Niagara, then you Aries rising up primitive. And now that did it.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Yeah, amazing. Let’s go and look at these skiffs at the other end of the museum. They’ve got some magnificent small coastal craft here, as well. And Queensland has a great tradition of building small coastal craft. Oh, there we go. Yes. There are a lot of shipwrecks. Good Lord, there are a lot of shipwrecks. A graveyard of ships. Approximately 1500 vessels are known to have been wrecked or otherwise lost in Queensland waters since the first record had lost the wreck of HMS Pandora in 1791. And I’m looking at a map here, there’s a red pin for every shipwreck, I’m just trying to identify where we are. Where is Brisbane here, Brisbane is down south. So you’ve got a couple of here, but not too many. But there’s a pretty nasty spot here. What’s going on here?

     

    Keith Boulton 

    Thats the wreakreef and that’s all from Gladstone. That was to part of the barrier reef, wasn’t m arked.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    It was difficult to get in from Yeppoon. And all that back here. Because Pemberton had had not an easy navigation area, we see the outer reef, you had to go into the reef.

     

    Sam Willis 

    So this is inside the Great Barrier Reef. So between the Great Barrier Reef and the coasts and at the top there, there’s something going on. There are a great deal of shipwrecks right at the very peak. So that’s when we saw the model. Yeah. What’s that part of Australia called so we can to orientate ourselves.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    Capr York, because the tide runs very fast up there, down there near the equator, about only eight degrees south. And the tide is fairly strong. And the ships have to do a nearly a 180 degree turn when they come around, out of the thing and then have to go up to to Singapore and so on.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Yeah. So this is an Torres Strait is at the top of Cape York, and it’s a miracle that people actually

     

    Keith Boulton 

    The same in Moreton Bay alone. We have now recorded that there was 122 shipwrecks in Moreton Bay,

     

    Sam Willis 

    Can you point Moreton Bay out to me on this map? Where we’re from Brisbane right.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    Now from here? Yep. And 93 in the Brisbane River. Wow.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    And it is hardly Queensland. Just now all Australia when you see all the shipwrecks and all Australia invest in Australia is very heavy as well. Yeah. Yeah. patrollers, Victoria, and Victoria,

     

    Keith Boulton 

    and New South Wales.

     

    Sam Willis 

    So you’ve got some second world war ones here. Frances Preston Blair. July 1945.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    Maybe a not too sure about that. But the Centaur was the hospital ship. Torpedo by the Japanese off Moreton Island

     

    Sam Willis 

    And that’s really close to Brisbane. So we had Japanese in the submarines around here.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    And they also got into Sydney Harbour and also shelled Newcastle.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    And as the Centaur would have felt to have on the Hospital ship, so the Centaur

     

    Sam Willis 

    This is a hospital ships, the hospital ship.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    Yes. And that was torpedoed by the Japanese

     

    Sam Willis 

    But clearly is image here with the clear markings on her. In fact, I believe I talked to Gerry, who’s a model maker for the  Perth Museum, and he’s just made a model of that. So I’m linking things together. So if you’re listening to this podcast, go and listen to the one I talked to Gerry, the model maker from Perth, and it’ll tell you all about that. Now we’re gonna walk up through the museum now. Past,

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    a diving area,

     

    Sam Willis 

    Going to talk about these beautiful craft at the end. Now there’s, let’s just talk about this very briefly while we’re here. This is well, I’ll hand it over to you guys. Tell me about the Lucinder and why she is so importanI

     

    Keith Boulton 

    it was the Queensland Government yacht back in the 1800s. So the only way that government can transfer and communicate with towns up and down the Queensland coast because no railway system. It’s this is the mock up of the smoking room on the back of the the Lucinder where they the politicians drafted the Australian Constitution before we became in nation in 1900.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    It was in the law court here in Brisbane, Roma St. There’s a brand new law court being built and I had that inside of the law court and that was given to us to the Maritime Museum. They’ll be fairly lucky. The cost was half a million dollars to bring it out from there and set it up here again. Yeah,

     

    Sam Willis 

    so it’s a recreation of the of the room where the the Constitution was signed. Kasper take me inside. Come on, let’s have a look. So we’re inside it’s a U shape. There are 123456789 maybe 15 or so seats. Leather, beautiful leather seats, each with their own seat. rolled carved armrest. It’s very glamorous, isn’t it? There’s a beautiful wood panelling on what would have been the mast and up on the deck head here.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    Yeah, we finally the school tours. It’s a great thrill to bring them in here to sit here and experience what it would have been like in the 1800s. Creating the Constitution. Yeah.

     

    Sam Willis 

    And it gives us a bit of a guide here commemorates the opening of the Lucinda smoking room reconstruction on the 30th of March 2001. Well, it’s a wonderful, wonderful tool for engaging people with history, isn’t it just to imagine the hubbub of conversation .

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    A lot of people don’t know about it, because there’s never been very big told about it. These things that is the worst part of Lucinda centre, if you go around the corner and you see really Lucinda, and artefacts that come from the Lucinda then you think, hey, wow, that we’re already advanced, doing business between the states

     

    Sam Willis 

    So let’s do that is this is what I’m looking at here. So this is a wonderful model of the steam paddleship Lucinda

     

    Keith Boulton 

    smoking room is this one here, down the stern.

     

    Sam Willis 

    It’s like an entire third of the ship dedicated to smoking cigars Of course. Let’s describe this model.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    Side by side paddle steamer, paddle steamers on either side steam powered, triple expansion engine coal fired, so I could carry the crew and the passengers with a reasonable comfort and built out of iron and built in Scotland and sailed out to Queensland and then at the end of its service life had became a big Hulk for carrying coal up and down the river. And then finally it was hulked in the mouth of Brisbane River and then had to be ungraciously cut up for scrap when they’d redevelop the port taken to the skip to the dump.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    Think about it. I mean definitely is made overseas in Scotland built for the cold climate. Right and then three months later that ship arrives here in hot Queensland. 40 degrees in the summer, no air conditioning nothing at all. And everybody had to be fully dressed in uniform. I have photo my father in law is a head of the East started a company or master mariners in 1938 and they were in full uniform and long tails and that is our day at that dinner meetings. And I took that over from my father in law the company of master mariners we celebrate our 80 years and now we use go we tie and a jacket but otherwise they were in full uniform if the photos are looked at then I think oh my god.

     

    Sam Willis 

    I mean I just unimaginable how hot it would have been inside there when they were doing the Constitution

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    The captain did not give permission I still do now I’m head off the company and man I had my meeting after I introduce and all this then I say you can take out off your jacket if you wish

     

    Sam Willis 

    you thank you for the permission to dress appropriately right that’s very good.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    You can see our standing there the photos you see Thenyou think, oh my god.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Surprise they didn’t faint

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    that’s the wheel from the Lucinder

     

    Sam Willis 

    as a magnificent ship’s wheel

     

    Sam Willis 

    And some of the ships cutlery from the dining room.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Yeah and some. Yeah, we’ve got some fish forks and knives perhaps that’s what we’re looking at there getting tucked into a few lobsters on the Lucinder is  what they were doing.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    Here look at that the bend of it is not a beautiful area what was in those days magnificent. Yeah, already to where now the building job. Cross the road.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Yeah. Well, let’s finish our tour by looking at a couple of these. These coastal coastal leisure craft. So this is I wonder let’s look at these sailing ones first. Let’s do that. Let’s come over here. So we’ve got a couple of sailing skiffs. And this one’s the Fury. Tell me about this one.

     

    Keith Boulton 

    One of the ones that used to race in the Brisbane River it was I think this one was the one of the 16 footers sailing boats built in 1939 and we had a crew of four carried huge big sails up and down the river. I think 16 and at 18 footers weren’t really used by any other sailing club in the rest of the world, only in Australia.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Okay, so very distinctive Australian craft. Now what happens is she has sold In 1945, to some US servicemen who take her back to America and then she spends her time sailing around in San Francisco. In 1949 disappears from the scene then in the 1950s, a strange looking boat, presumably this, was discovered in a boat dealers yard in Sacrament. in a derelict condition with her original cotton sails, which included a gunter mainsail bearing a colour patch of a black ‘V’. So what happens next Keith?I

     

    Keith Boulton 

    In 1996, Annie Kohis visited Australia and decided to donate her boat to the Queensland Maritime Museum. Here we arrived back in Brisbane on the Columbus line containership in December that year, and after five years of restoration work, she had floated again in the Brisbane River 62 years after we she was first built. That was last time she was in the water.

     

    Sam Willis 

    That’s extraordinary. What a wonderful story. So in the meantime, she’d been taken to LA where she was recognised in the mid 60s. She’s recognised by an Australian as an Australian 16 foot skiff. So someone said hang on a minute, what you doing here, where did this come from? And they managed to track down the history and then she’s back here where she should be, which is a wonderful, wonderful story. And then there’s a there’s another one with a cracking story around the corner here. Let’s go and have a look at this. Estrellita this one.

     

    Kasper Kuiper 

    Okay, did this the skiff they call it the skiff Don,Piper, built in Bunya pine, and it’s only 12 foot and beam was only five five foot length is bairly six metre 72. Estrellita was a champion, and was a runner up in 1954,55. and 56 have asked it the runner up for yachting in Queensland.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Right, so a real champion boat. Yeah, well, I’ll tell you what, gents I’ve really enjoyed this trip and this little tour of the museum. Thank you very much indeed for showing me around.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Thank you all so much for listening. Now my turn to ask you all a favour. If you’re listening to this on iTunes, please leave us a review. I promise I will read it out. It helps a huge deal as the more reviews we get the easier it is for people to find us and therefore the more people we can teach about the importance of maritime history. But don’t forget that this podcast comes from both the Society for Nautical Research and the Lloyd’s Register Foundation. You can find the history and education centre of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation at hec.lr foundation.org.uk. And please check out their latest project maritime innovation in miniature filming the world’s best ship models with the latest camera equipment. There’s some really exciting stuff coming there soon. The Society for North School Research you can find that snr.org.uk where you can and you must join up. It’s a wonderful way to meet people to find out all about the world’s maritime past from the very best in the business. And if you’re a full member you get to come to our annual summer dinner on board HMS Victory or HMS Warrior. And that is something you will never ever forget

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