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Artefact remnants from HMS SIRIUS wreck site

Date: pre 1790
Overall: 148 g
Medium: Metal, wood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Ron and Valerie Taylor
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Object Name: Artefact remnant
Object No: 00049368

User Terms

    Artefact remnants from the HMS SIRIUS wreck site off the coast of Norfolk Island recovered by well known divers Ron and Valerie Taylor during their diving expeditions of the early 1960s.
    SignificanceThe wreck of HMS SIRIUS was a significant moment in the colonial history of Australia and is now part of the National Heritage List.
    HistoryThe HMS SIRIUS, originally named BERWICK, was part of the First Fleet comprising of 11 ships that departed Portsmouth on 13 May 1787 headed for Australia with the intent of establishing a colony in New South Wales.
    The SIRIUS guardian or Flag Ship of the fleet and carried on board Captain Arthur Philip who would become the first governor of the colony. The SIRIUS also served as a supply ship for the colony - a vital component that would play a part in the success or failure of the fledging colony.

    On arrival to Australia the initial settlement was moved from Botany Bay to Sydney Cove where they landed on 26 January 1788. By October food resources were under enormous strain and HMS SIRIUS was sent back to the Cape of Good Hope to retrieve essential supplies.

    On her return in 1789 the situation had not improved and in February 1790 Captain Philip made the decision to send both SIRIUS and SUPPLY to Norfolk Island with the intention of establishing an outpost there. This would help in relieving the ongoing pressure on the settlement and supplies at Sydney Cove. SIRIUS would then sail to China to purchase further food and neccessary goods in order to prevent both settlements falling into starvation and subsequent failure.

    On their arrival at Norfolk Island on 13 March 1790, SIRIUS and SUPPLY encountered very unfavourable conditions of high winds and seas. Although SUPPLY managed to manovre her way to safety at sea, the SIRIUS found herself buffeted by strong winds and floundred on a reef south east of Kingston Pier in Slaughter Bay. Although most of the 96 convict men, 65 convict women, 24 children
    and 39 members of a detachment of the Port Jackson Garrison were able to be
    disembarked, the SIRIUS suffed so much hull damage, she was unable to be saved.
    It was a devastating blow to the struggling colony as SIRIUS, through her role as a supply ship and transport, had been seen as a crucial element to its sucess.

    On 25 October, 2011, HMS SIRIUS was placed on the National Heritage List of Australia. The reasons for oing ar cited as :

    "The shipwreck of the HMS SIRIUS is of outstanding heritage value to the nation as evidence of one of the most defining moments of Australia's history.
    The careers of the first three governors of the colony of New South Wales are closely associated with the Sirius. Governors Phillip (1788-1792), Hunter (1795-1800) and King (1800-1806) all sailed as senior officers on the SIRIUS.

    The shipwreck of the HMS SIRIUS has outstanding heritage value to the nation
    because of its potential to yield information that could contribute to a greater understanding of Australia’s history of early European settlement.
    As the shipwreck is relatively free from the effects of human disturbance after salvage ended in 1792 the remaining fabric of the SIRIUS and associated artefact assemblages represent a “time capsule” of cultural life from the period
    leading up to 1790.
    In an international context the HMS SIRIUS also represents one of the few located examples of an 18th century British warship. Exhibiting the use of experimental construction techniques in the period following the American War of Independence. Along with HMS PANDORA it is one of only two British naval ships from this period located in Australian waters.
    The shipwreck and its associated relics have been protected from damage or disturbance under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 since 1984.
    Revealing new information about early colonial history, ongoing analysis, research of the shipwreck, relics and naval records have revealed new information on the construction of the vessel and provided information relevant to the debate
    as to why Botany Bay was chosen as a penal colony. Convict ships are depicted as being rotten old tubs and contemporary reports’ criticisms of the SIRIUS, by some of the officers and crew, have led historians to assume the ship was unsuited to the voyage to New South Wales. This had led some to argue that the
    settlement was merely a temporary measure to relieve England’s overcrowded gaols.
    Naval records indicate that by the time the SIRIUS was ready for its journey with the First Fleet the cost for refit and supplies came to £7000 which was expensive for the time and indicative of a thoroughness of preparations for the naval contingent of the expedition. "
    [Australian Government, Department of the Environment, Heritage.]

    Both Ron Taylor and Valerie Taylor (née Heighes) were pioneers in Australian skindiving. Ron took up the sport in 1952 and Valerie in 1956; they met as members of St George Spearfishing Club in Sydney and were married in 1963. At this period there was little awareness of marine conservation and both Ron and Valerie excelled at the sport of competitive spearfishing. Valerie won the Ladies National Spearfishing Championships three years in a row in the early 1960s, and Ron took out the World Spearfishing Championships in Tahiti in 1965.

    The Taylors' underwater interests grew to encompass scuba diving and underwater photography. Ron built the first of many underwater housings to take land cameras beneath the sea in 1953. When television came to Australia in 1956 he saw the potential for making underwater news stories and with the help of a friend, who lent him a Bell & Howell 16 mm movie camera, Ron built an acrylic housing for the camera and started selling underwater footage to television and to the cinema newsreel producer Movietone News.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Artefact remnants from HMS SIRIUS wreck site

    Collection title: Ron and Valerie Taylor collection

    Assigned title: Artefact remnant

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