Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Barque TERROR Commencing after Sperm Whales

Date: 1840s
Overall: 195 x 345 mm
Medium: Whale pan bone
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Pan bone panel
Object No: 00038532

User Terms

    This panbone plaque is engraved with a whaling scene, signed by the artist and inscribed as a presentation piece. At the top is a crest of coat of arms, and at the bottom are the words 'Barque TERROR Commencing after Sperm Whales, Property of B. Boyd, Esq.'. The panbone is signed E Mickleburgh.

    Panbone comes from the lower jaw of the sperm whale and can be cut into a nearly flat panel serving as a whalebone canvas. A scrimshander can then scribe a design with simple tools such as the sailor's jackknife, and highlight the engraved lines with pigments such as ink made from lamp black.
    SignificanceThis panbone is not only signed by a recognised scrimshander, but it represents the whaling ship TERROR which was owned by one of the most famous and colourful characters in Australian maritime history, Benjamin Boyd.
    HistoryThe vast majority of scrimshaw, produced by often-illiterate sailors to ward off the boredom of voyages that could last for years, are anonymous. And while the depictions of vessels were often detailed and accurate, it is also unusual to be able to identify a specific vessel. Despite this, the museum's panbone is signed by a recognised scrimshander, E Mickleburgh who is described by the authoritative Dictionary of Scrimshaw Artists as 'a highly accomplished British engraver of detailed naval scenes on draftsmanship and accuracy of naval architectural detail suggest professional training (possibly in the Royal Navy or naval dockyards) and seafaring experience.'

    That Mickleburgh was associated with Benjamin Boyd is clear not just from the panbone inscription acknowledging the entrepreneurial whaler. The crest at the top of the scrimshaw incorporates a hand, with palm held forward and two fingers raised, and the motto, Confi do ('I confi de'). This is a variation of the crest of the Scottish clan of Boyd.

    Edward Mickleburgh was born at Margate, England, in 1814 and is known to have spent four years in the army. It is unclear exactly how Mickleburgh arrived in Australian waters and or how he was associated with Ben Boyd. Records indicate he may have been a captain active along the coast of Victoria in the early 1840s, living in Port Phillip with his wife and daughter, until moving to Sydney around 1843.

    The barque TERROR was engaged in whaling out of Boyd Town between 1843-1845, placing Ben Boyd and the Mickleburgh family in the same area, however there is no more direct connection between the two. Records indicate that the Mickleburgh family left Sydney for San Francisco in February 1852, returning to Sydney several months later. After this, the activity of the Mickleburghs is unknown. The 1881 British Census indicates that an Edward Mickleburgh was living in the Royal Alfred Merchant Seaman's Institution, Belvedere, 67 years old and widowed. The nature of the connection between Mickleburgh and Ben Boyd remains elusive.

    Scottish born British entrepreneur Benjamin Boyd (1801-1851), hoping to develop the resources of Australia, left Plymouth, England on 14 December 1841 aboard the yacht WANDERER bound for Australia. Boyd established settlements and pastoral stations between Eden and Sydney, and by May 1844 he had become one of the largest landholders and graziers in the colony.

    Boyd established two settlements at Twofold Bay, New South Wales. The first a victualling port at Boyd Town for his fleet of whaling vessels, and the second a shore-based whaling station at East Boyd. In 1849, Boyd's investments had financially collapsed and he left Australia without his extensive plans for Twofold Bay reaching full fruition. Many operations at the settlement stopped but the whaling station continued and became the longest operating shore station in New South Wales, only closing in 1930.

    Boyd saw the Californian gold rushes as a solution to his financial problems, and in October 1849 left on the WANDERER bound for San Francisco. Unsuccessful at the diggings, Boyd decided to explore the Pacific Islands. In 1851, Boyd was presumed murdered by natives on the Solomon Islands and the WANDERER was later wrecked off Port Macquarie upon its return to Australia.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Barque TERROR commencing after sperm whale

    Web title: Barque TERROR Commencing after Sperm Whales

    Related People

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.