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Australian National Maritime Museum

I have been absent from these pages for some time, in large part due to a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit the continent of Australia. It was a magnificent trip, and going there is well worth your time, effort and wherewithal should you get the opportunity.

Part of the trip was spent in Sydney, the capital of New South Wales and an extraordinary city by any measure. While there, I had the great pleasure to get a tour of the United States Gallery of the Australian National Maritime Museum. Paul Hundley, curator of the gallery, has been in Sydney for 18 years, being a native of Minnesota and having worked at a TMM sister institution, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. He gave me a great tour of the gallery.

One of the high points of the gallery in its current configuration, as I saw it, was the beautiful model of the CSS Shenandoah. Evidently, Shenandoah once docked at the Australian port of Williamstown (near Melbourne in the far south) for repairs. Representatives of the United States howled in protest, but the presence of the ship and the Confederate crew was evidently the social event of 1865. When the ship finally surrendered in England in November of that year, it evidently carried 42 Australian crew members! To this day, there is an active chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Australia, the William Kenyon Australasian Confederates Camp 2160.

Other points of interest in the United States Gallery included a beautiful display on the visit of the Great White Fleet in the summer of 1908, and a contemporary photography exhibit of the fleet of a prominent shipping company doing business between California and Australia.

The ANMM is located on Darling Harbor in Sydney and is responsible for a number of historic ships as well as its collections. A replica of Captain Cook’s bark Endeavour was unfortunately not there when I visited, as it was making a circumnavigation of Australia. While it would have been magnificent actually sailing on her and being a member of the crew, a hammock berth for 10 days would have cost nearly as much as a round-trip airline ticket to the United States! I think I’ll stick with reading about the voyage in the 30 or so books and journal articles on the subject (including one published in 1774, just 4 years after the voyage) in Mariners’ Museum Library.

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