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Reproduced courtesy of manufacturer Modellers Shipyard and model maker Richard Keyes

Scale model of HM cutter MERMAID

Date: 2009
Dimensions:
Overall: 614 x 662 x 251 mm, 828.61 g
Medium: Wood, twine
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Richard Keyes
Object Copyright: © kit manufacturer Modellers Shipyard and model maker Richard Keyes
Classification:Models
Object Name: Ship model
Object No: 00046917

User Terms

    Description
    HMCS MERMAID was an 84 ton cutter that undertook several important survey voyages between 1817 and 1820. It had associations with many signifcant figures in the early colony of NSW.

    Lieutenant Phillip Parker King made four voyages to unsurveyed areas of the south and northwestern coastlines between December 1817 and April 1822. The first three were in HMCS MERMAID, purchased by Governor Macquarie in 1817. Among the crew of the first voyage were the botanist Allan Cunningham and Bungaree, an Aboriginal man from the Broken Bay area who had previously travelled with Matthew Flinders.

    The ship was badly damaged on the third expedition but re-fitted and used as a transport ship until it foundered in the Great Barrier Reef in 1829.

    The wreck was rediscovered by a team of maritime archaeologists led by the Australian National Maritime Museum in early 2009. The model constructed by Richard Keyes was given to the museum at this time.
    SignificanceThe cutter HMCS MERMAID is a significant part of early colonial Australian maritime history. It undertook several important survey voyages between 1817 and 1820 and was associated with many prominent figures from early colonial NSW, including surveyor Lieutenant Phillip Parker King, botanist Allan Cunningham and well-known Sydney Koori, Bungaree. It is also the subject of a Conrad Martens painting.

    The wreck of the MERMAID was discovered by an ANMM led team in early 2009.


    HistoryHis Majesty's cutter MERMAID was a single masted, copper-sheathed, iron-fastened cutter of 84 tons. It was a small vessel at just 18 metres, but was to undertake several important survey voyages between 1817 and 1820. It had associations with many signifcant figures in the early colony of NSW.

    Phillip Parker King (1791-1856), son of the Governor of NSW between 1800-1806 Philip Gidley King, has been considered one of Australia's greatest maritime surveyors. King entered the Royal Navy in 1807, and was promoted to lieutenant in 1814. He was assigned to survey the parts of the Australian coast not previously examined by Matthew Flinders, and sailed to New South Wales in 1817.

    King made four voyages between December 1817 and April 1822. The first three were in the MERMAID, purchased by Governor Macquarie in 1817. Among the 19-man crew were the botanist Allan Cunningham and Bungaree an Aboriginal man from the Broken Bay area. Bungaree had come to prominence in 1798, when he accompanied Matthew Flinders on a coastal survey as an interpreter, guide and negotiator with local indigenous people. He also accompanied Flinders on his circumnavigation of Australia between 1801 and 1803. Flinders noted that the well travelled Bungaree was 'a worthy and brave fellow' who, on more than one occasion, saved the expedition. Bungaree was a prominent Aboriginal person in Sydney society for many years.

    The Admiralty instructed King to discover whether there was any river 'likely to lead to an interior navigation into this great continent'. The Colonial Office had also given instructions to collect information about topography, fauna, timber, minerals, climate, as well as 'information on the natives and the prospects of developing trade with them'.

    The MERMAID was built of Indian teak in Calcutta in 1816 and after a re-fit for the expedition, sailed from Port Jackson on the 21st of December 1817, surveying Twofold Bay, King George Sound and Exmouth Gulf. From Port Walcott the survey party went to the north coast of Arnhem Land and explored it westward from Goulburn Island and the King River, around the Cobourg Peninsula and into Van Diemen's Gulf as far as the West Alligator River. The MERMAID visited Melville and Bathurst Islands, called at Timor and the Montebello Islands, and returned to Sydney Cove on 29 July 1818. During this voyage Cunningham collected specimens of over 300 species, including several new ones from Arnhem Land. The crew had many encounters with Aboriginal people and Malaysian fishermen.

    In December 1818 and January 1819 King surveyed the recently discovered Macquarie Harbour in Van Diemen's Land and sailed in May for Torres Strait. King took the explorer John Oxley as far as the Hastings River, and continued on to survey the coast between Cape Wessel and Admiralty Gulf. The MERMAID returned to Sydney on 12 January 1820.

    The vessel had proven to be a most capable coastal survey ship and the MERMAID began her third voyage of exploration in July of 1820, with Cunningham the botanist again on board. It was King's intention to proceed with all speed along the east coast as before, to the north-west coast. However on the 20th July, while standing in at Port Bowen on the north-eastern coast, the MERMAID 'took the ground' and remained fast. With great effort by the crew, the ship was warped off into deeper water, where it was found that 'she had received considerable injury'.

    The MERMAID was repaired and continued the voyage, however after constantly taking in water, King decided to return to Sydney. In a dramatic scene - immortalised in a painting by Conrad Martens - the leaky MERMAID was caught in a storm just short of Sydney, and after hitting a rock, limped in to the safety of Botany Bay, rounding Banks Headland during flashes of lightning.

    On King's next voyage to the 'unknown north west coast' in 1821, he was forced to use a new ship, the BATHURST. The battered MERMAID was taken over by the colonial government and re-fitted for John Oxley's surveys of Moreton Bay, Brisbane and the Tweed Rivers. It was later used to supply penal colonies at Port Macquarie, Norfolk Island and Moreton Bay and made voyages to Van Diemen's Land, New Zealand, Tahiti and Hawaii.

    In 1829 the MERMAID was converted into an armed, two-masted schooner. Under Captain Samuel Nolbrow, it was en route to Port Raffles (Northern Territory) and then Albany (Western Australia) when Nolbrow decided to risk the inshore route through the Great Barrier Reef, where the well travelled career of the MERMAID ended on a coral reef.

    The wreck was rediscovered by an ANMM led team in early 2009.

    This model constructed by Richard Keyes was donated at the time the wreck discovery.



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