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Metal packing plate

Date: before 1856
0.1 x 43 x 207 mm, 82.61 g
Medium: Metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of the Andrew Thyne Reid Trust
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Packing plate
Object No: 00041938
Related Place:South Head,

User Terms

    A rectangular packing plate from a set of balance or spring scales. The inscription reads "SALTER'S IMPROVED / SPRING BALANCES" with a measurement rule from 0 to 30 pounds. A hook would originally have been attached to each end with a needle to indicate the weight on the gauge. Part of the material from the historic shipwreck DUNBAR.
    The DUNBAR Collection was retrieved under the auspices of an amnesty enacted through the jurisdiction of the Historic Shipwrecks Act, 1976.
    HistorySalter's Improved Spring Balance

    " A very neat form of the instrument last described has been recently brought before the public by Mr. Salter, under the name of the Improved Spring Balance. The sping is contained in the upper half of a cylinder behind a brass plate forming the face of the instrument, and the rod is fixed so that the lower extremity of the spring, is consequently extended, instead of being compressed, by the weight. the divisions, each indicating half a pound, are engraved upon the face of the brass plate, and are pointed out by an index arm attached to the rod. "
    (Source: A Treatise on Mechanics, Kater (Henry) Dionysius Lardner, Hilliard and Brown, 1831)

    Built in 1852, the 1167-ton, wooden, three-masted sailing ship DUNBAR was designed to cater for this new trade. Costing over 30,000 pounds and constructed from British oak and Indian teak and held together by copper fastenings and iron knees, the vessel was designed to carry passengers and cargo quickly between England and Australia. As the vessel was requestioned by the Royal Navy for use as a troop carrier during the Crimean War, it was not until 1856 that the vessel made its first visit to Australia. The ship remained in Sydney for three months before returning to England in the same year.

    In late May 1857 the ship departed London for its second voyage to Australia, carrying at least 63 passengers, 59 crew and a substantial cargo, including metal dyes for the colonies first postage stamps, machinery, furniture, trade tokens, cutlery, manufactured and fine goods, food and alcohol. Many of the vessel's first-class passengers were prominent Sydney residents, returning to Australia after visiting their English homeland.

    After a relatively fast voyage the vessel was only hours out of Sydney when on the night of 20 August 1857, in heavy seas and poor visibility, the vessel struck the cliffs just north of the Signal Station at South Head - midway between the lighthouse and The Gap. Within a few minutes the ship began to break up. All perished in the disaster but one person - a young sailor who was hurled from the deck onto to a rocky ledge.

    As dawn gradually unveiled the enormity of the event to the community of Sydney, the great loss of life (at least 121 men, women and children, many of whom were known to the local population) deeply affected the population. Thousands were drawn to the scene of the wreck to watch the rescue of the single survivor, the recovery of the bodies and the salvage of some of the cargo. For days afterwards the newspapers were filled with graphic descriptions of the wreck and the public interest in the spectacle. Pamphlets, engravings, poems, paintings and brochures soon began to appear in Sydney as part of the memorabilia industry associated with the tragedy.

    Many of the victims of DUNBAR were buried at St Stephens Church in Newtown. Some 20,000 people lined George Street for the funeral procession. Banks and offices closed, every ship in the harbour flew their ensigns at half-mast and minute guns were fired as the seven hearses and 100 carriages went past.

    The effect of the DUNBAR disaster is hard to imagine in these days of safe and efficient air and sea travel. The repercussions of the event still live on with the descendants of some of the victims attending the annual DUNBAR Commemorative Services at Camperdown Cemetery and St Stephens Church, Newtown.

    Additional Titles

    Collection title: DUNBAR shipwreck collection

    Assigned title: Metal packing plate

    Related People
    Maker: Salters
    Related Sites South Head

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