The Maritime Museum of Tasmania is one of those places we’ve been meaning to visit for ages. Sometimes we overlook the popular attractions in Hobart, knowing they’ll be there next time. With so many annual events and road trips to consider, the schedule always seems to be full. But that’s just not good enough. So we decided to revamp our to-do list, and moved this one up the order. And we’re very glad we did.
Maritime Museum of Tasmania: Hobart
You don’t even have to venture from the heart of Hobart to find the Maritime Museum. Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, Constitution Dock, Elizabeth Street Pier, Sullivans Cove, Franklin Wharf: they all surround the Argyle St Carnegie Building.
Perfect location for boat-lovers, obviously. Tours from the Maritime Museum of Tasmania include a guided walk around the port. The May Queen, an 1867 trading ketch, is moored at the docks. The museum’s floating exhibit is sometimes open for inspection during the warmer months, but is easily visible from the street.
Nautical Community Effort
After years of lobbying, nautical enthusiasts saw the first version of the Maritime Museum opened in Battery Point in 1973. Through a series of upgrades, the current site was officially opened in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II as the major attraction and community resource we see today.
The collection housed in the building is astounding, and much more elaborate than we’d envisaged. Photographs and paintings line the walls, depicting all forms of maritime activity from Tasmania’s history. Many of the displays have evolved from donations. Our investigation took a lot longer than the hour we’d anticipated. A lighthouse lens from Goose Island welcomes visitors inside the main entrance, and that alone is quite mesmerising.
Whale Hunting in Tasmania
Another exhibit we found fascinating, was the section on whaling in the Derwent River. There’s even old footage of a whale hunt in progress. The whalers row a comparatively tiny boat yet still manage to secure one of the massive whales. Prized for the production of oil from the whale blubber, and just like the convict settlement in the state, this part of Tasmanian history is quite disturbing.
But the Maritime Museum has managed to incorporate the reality of the past, with the present-day protection of whales by organisations including Sea Shepherd. The quote from their mural, Thar She Blows… there is no employment more hazardous, more labourious, more disgusting, than whaling… probably sums up the general consensus.
Petrel Shipwreck and Hope Beach
Shipwrecks also make for interesting subjects. There’s a large piece of timber on show, found at Hope Beach on the South Arm Peninsula in 2006. Detailed archaeological research revealed the timber, a north-eastern Tasmanian silver-top ash, came from the stem and keel of the Petrel bow.
The 195 ton barque Petrel was built in shipyards at Gravelly Beach on the Tamar River in 1847. During a trading voyage between Hobart Town and Port Arthur in 1853, the vessel apparently ran into trouble near the Iron Pot lighthouse. Some of the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Petrel was solved when the wreckage washed ashore during a storm… after 153 years lost at sea!
Maritime Museum of Tasmania: Features
There’s too many features to list in a single article. If you’re a fan of model boats, the Maritime Museum of Tasmania is definitely the place for you. There’s stacks of them, from all vintages and cultures. Kids (young and old) will enjoy the chance to ring a bell or two, and look through the telescope out towards Victoria Dock. And what would a nautical theme be without a few masthead figures and models, or an awesome diving ensemble?
Everywhere you look, there’s reminders of the progression maritime travel has made over the years. There’s a wooden boat given to a bride as a wedding present in 1871… strange enough present, but more so because her own betrothed was the founder of a ship-building firm. Wonder why she didn’t just use one of his boats when she rowed the seven miles from Port Cygnet to Surveyors Beach?
You can also check out
- images of an early version of the Spirit of Tasmania
- samples of knots tied by shippies everywhere
- navigational instruments including a revolving scanner
- boating facts and figures from the navy
- an aboriginal bark canoe
- the SS Rosny, the eastern-shore ferry pre-Tasman Bridge days
You might want to take home a reminder of your visit to the Maritime Museum of Tasmania. That’s an option! You’ll pass a couple of smaller rooms as you complete your journey, one with maps and one with books. Those for sale include stories about the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and Jessica Watson‘s round-the-world adventure on Pink Lady.
The Maritime Museum of Tasmania is located on the corner of Davey and Argyle Streets in Hobart.