Progress with Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN) January 2021
Melbourne – A Great Maritime City
January 2021 MMHN UpdateA belated Happy New Year to all!
Fortunately, Victoria seems to have averted yet another debilitating COVID Lockdown episode during January. With interstate and overseas travel curtailed, and ‘intra-state’ tourism booming, more Victorians spending time around coastal Victoria may result in a heightened appreciation for Victoria’s rich and diverse maritime heritage in the wider public of piers, lighthouses, piers, lighthouses, rocks and wrecks, etc.
Lighthouses seem to enjoy universal appeal as examples of maritime infrastructure, but sadly, piers perhaps less so. Most of us will have strolled along, fished from and jumped off piers – but the evocative and inspirational image below of Rye Pier taken by MMHN Board member Ross Brewer celebrating the wonder of what lies beneath, may change our minds about piers!
Station Pier – critical maritime infrastructure for so many reasons
The immense maritime heritage significance of Station Pier is irrefutable. But is it as valued and celebrated to the extent it should be? MMHN advocates greater recognition of this iconic Melbourne maritime infrastructure which is still in commercial and defence use. Importantly, it is of immense social significance for so many people in this multi-cultural city. Station Pier has been likened by historians to be the Melbourne equivalent of New York’s famous ‘Ellis Island’ – the entry point for vast post-war immigration to America. Pre-Christmas, MMHN Board members were delighted to have been taken on a tour of the surprisingly extensive pier infrastructure by Victoria Ports CEO Rachel Johnson and her colleagues.
We were even more heaterned to discover not only a wealth of expertise in relation to complex pier operations, but also a knowledge of its history. We found much shared enthusiasm for the heritage of Station Pier and its potential as a heritage site. The prospect of continuing collaboration between Victoria Ports and MMHN is exciting. Some would argue with the projected growth in cruising post-COVID; Station Pier can anticipate an increase in economic importance.
Note: Later in 2021, MMHN will present a seminar about Station Pier.
Port of Melbourne
As we all aware, the Port of Melbourne is currently the largest port in the nation and we are pleased that its essential work continues to support our economy despite the Holiday break. MMHN highly recommends you watch a video with excellent historic footage and commentary of the Port Melbourne operations from the 1950/60s, courtesy of Rob Newland, MMHN and Bay Steamers Group member.
Research into Project Management in the Stevedoring Industry: An Australian case study
Although government and other large industry organisations are frequently initiating major capital works projects and consequently have developed effective procedures, industries such as stevedoring with a strong operational focused, e.g., major container terminal (stevedores) tend to initiate capital works projects irregularly Consequently a significant persistent dilemma arises. A trade-off has to be negotiated between efficient project planning and the need for continued operational efficiencies. MMHN Board Member Haya Daghlas recently published research initiated by an Australian stevedoring company into this problem. The research involved an investigation into 12 actual capital works projects using participant/observer methodology and four-step coding qualitative analysis. The findings revealed that the organisation culture might impact the project initiation phase. Factors such as ineffective interdepartmental communication, inadequate resource allocation, erosion of workplace trust, and engineering and safety complexity may negatively influence initiating projects. The research also pointed out the needed for a tailored project management framework that reflects the stevedoring unique industry context and needs.
Central Pier – Be Alert and AlarmedMMHN was alerted just prior to Christmas to acutely alarming and disappointing action by Development Victoria (DV) in relation to the iconic heritage-protected Central Pier, Victoria Harbour Docklands. It is, once again, a failure by the designated responsible State Authority. DV quietly issued a media release appearing ONLY on the DV website and ONLY a week before the Christmas break, on December 15) The media release signalled their intention to demolish more of Central Pier. MMHN found this appalling news in itself but further, it shows a disturbing disregard for due public process by those deemed to be responsible for maintaining this heritage-protected infrastructure.
When this news came to our attention, MMHN immediately contacted Heritage Victoria and found that Heritage Victoria had not actually received from DV and a Permit to Demolish Application. This permit process is a fundamental step for work on any heritage protected structure. It is to an extent reassuring to note that, even with an application for a Permit to Demolish, the process would require the applicant to substantiate the application by providing ‘proof’ (i.e. expert reports) on the actual extent of public risk, proof of its state of decay, proof that remediation measures were not possible, and finally that even if demolition was deemed to be warranted, then DV would be required to provide ‘evidence’ of their ‘intentions’ for the structure post demolition.
Of equal concern is that when DV demolished the central section of the pier, they failed to apply for, or to obtain, the requisite heritage permit and the central section of the pier was demolished without a permit. Further, it seems that DV remains in ‘breach’ over this failure to comply. This failure to comply has not been addressed. Nor has the matter of the sudden closure of the majority of the pier, which we understand is still before the courts.
Yet in issuing the media release, DV has in effect, signalled another plan to demolish on the ‘quiet’, without lodging a permit application. It is a plan to continue the incremental demolition of Central Pier: The pier’s western tip has been inaccessible for several years after being deemed structurally unsound (Note: as we now know, the western tip was demolished without a HV permit!) and requires a Heritage Victoria permit for its removal from the water (Note: again, no application has been made). DV continues: Alongside the heritage permit process, Development Victoria will also begin a tender process to appoint a contractor to remove the western tip. No works will begin on the removal until all permits are approved. Questions arise: can we be sure of this? Does DV intend to pre-empt due process once again? Why would DV commence a tender process AGAIN without following due process or having a Permit to Demolish? This is precisely the way much of our built-form maritime heritage is lost – by the bureaucracy. Inexplicable and unacceptable on many levels.
Coastal Maritime Industry Heritage Precincts
The MMHN Update in December featured Portland – now we turn to the south coast township of Lorne where the struggle to preserve threatened maritime heritage infrastructure focusses on the Point Grey Fishing Cooperative, Lorne.
Plans to establish a hospitality facility by re-developing an iconic fishing co-operative dating back to the 1950s on the outskirts of Lorne have raised fears that a key part of Lorne’s maritime heritage will to be lost. This highly contentious plan is one of the first tests for the new body, the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority (GORCPA). Once more it seems that the responsible state government authority (GORCPA) failed to acknowledge the rich maritime heritage in its grandiose plans. Its primary focus is elsewhere, i.e. primarily land-based environmental protection and economic development through tourism. Somewhat incongruously, it even manages eight caravan parks! Despite the promise implicit in its title, the Surf Coast Shire apparently seems to share this amnesia around the value of maritime heritage preservation . Locals who actually understand heritage values are taking the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT – a decision is due in April.
The federal government is funding $8 million of the $10 million proposed re-development. Yet even according to GORCPA, the fishing co-operative building needed extensive maintenance and repairs.( Note – call for demolition there?) This current plan is NOT the modest plan which won community approval some years ago Many locals argue that the new re-development plan does not recognise its historic and cultural significance as a fishing industry hub.
The Fishing Co-Op Pier
Crane rails – to be preserved.
Fishing industry heritage at Lorne
The fishing industry was very strong – over twenty ‘couta boats operated from the Lorne Pier, with the Fishing Co-op processing tonnes and tonnes of fish and employing many local people. “This ‘couta fishing went on for years”….. “Then one year, 36 years ago, the barracouta never turned up, just like that”. A new pier opened in 2009 to service the remaining fishing fleet. Controversy continues to rage locally over the removal of the 40-year-old pier crane, a well-loved landmark and functioning maritime infrastructure at Lorne. The fishing fleet operating out of Lorne had dwindled over time, but two boats continued operating from the pier until the time the crane was dismantled by the bureaucracy. Over decades this crane on the pier lifted, weighed and transported fish along still visible rail lines, to the Fishing Co-op for processing.
The fishing industry at Lorne had “dwindled and the final ‘nail in the coffin’ occurred when the old pier was condemned”. Without any consultation, state authorities deemed the crane non-compliant, beyond repair, and it was dismantled, and removed. Many argue that the crane was removed and dismantled unnecessarily It could have remained in situ as reminder of times past. Once again, the responsible state authority in effect failed to consider the tourism ‘value’ of preserving this important maritime heritage. Acknowledging the significance of this original pier as maritime industry infrastructure, a short stretch of the original pier adjacent to the new pier, has been retained.
Many local history groups along Victoria’s coast provide invaluable service in researching and retaining maritime heritage knowledge and artefacts. MMHN recommends that all maritime enthusiasts try to make contact with such local history groups to explore their collections which are held in a variety of forms. Invite their participation in the MMHN. Share whatever you discover with MMHN by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
An example from Lorne with an extract from the Committee for Lorne: Fishy Tales describing the beginnings of Lorne’s fishing history industry: The early thirties, during the great depression, saw the beginnings of the fishing industry in Lorne. Locals fished using nets off the front of the beach – one walking along the beach, another walking through the waves and occasionally with the use of a dinghy, they would catch salmon, garfish, mullet and silver bream to sell around the township. The perils of offshore fishing in these waters are paraphrased in anecdotes below: On Friday 13th 1961, a Lorne cray boat, the Barbara-Dee, was hit by a freak wave as the two crew tended to cray pots. The boat overturned on a reef ten miles east of Apollo Bay, at Sugar Loaf. The skipper swam half a mile to shore and then swam back to the boat with a four-gallon drum to rescue his shipmate who couldn’t swim. They eventually swam back to shore, climbing the cliff to Wangan, a religious ‘retreat’ house, where the intrepid fishermen were ‘revived’ with brandy by the Redemptorist priests. The boat Barbara-Dee was towed to Lorne.
Another chilling anecdote: In 1980 a local boat tending snapper traps was struck on its side by a large wave flinging the lone fisherman into the sea. The boat was still in gear, it motored away. The fisherman swam the three miles to the coast to Mount Defiance along the Gt. Ocean Rd. He then hitched a ride back to the Fishing Co-op.in Lorne. The manager of the Fishing Co-op contacted the police in Melbourne, who stated that given no loss of life, they had no interest! A friend of the fisherman and a pilot, drove to Grovedale near Geelong to access a light plane attempting to spot the boat. He did. Another boat sped out from Lorne to capture the still circling vessel eight miles out to sea!
Mission to Seafarers Project & the Melbourne Maritime Heritage Precinct
Over January the Mission to Seafarers Project Feasibility Study continued to progress. Three MMHN Board members are represented on the project steering committee. The City of Melbourne (CoM) appointed Biruu Pty Ltd to undertake a stakeholder consultation and prepare a report on the likely feasibility, support and costs for a maritime precinct focussed on the Mission to Seafarers premises. Key stakeholders identified by the steering committee were invited to respond to a detailed set of questions by the end of January. Meetings with representative bodies will follow to enable further discussion and to expand initial feedback. Community in-put may also be added via the City of Melbourne ‘Participate Melbourne’ website or directly by email to Biruu, email: m.bowles@biruu.
A section of Melbourne’s maritime precinct
Rebuilding the Australian Maritime Industry – Another COVID Opportunity?
MMHN Board Member and Chair of OSSA, Ross Brewer, wrote recently: The Coronavirus has opened up the inadequacy of Australia’s home-grown manufacturing and dependency on foreign imports. As pointed out in last Monday’s Q&A by former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, Australia’s short-term reserves of oil are woefully deficient and we rely on the support of the USA (is this a good long-term strategy for Australia?). There is general agreement these issues must be addressed and will be a major topic in post-virus discussion.
This MUST result in a greater proportion of our current imports returning to Australian manufacturing and creation of jobs.
We MUST, at the same time, address the lack of Australian controlled shipping so we are not totally reliant on foreign ships and crews to transport our cargoes and other shipping needs to and around our vast coastline.
We MUST provide the opportunity for our youth to have careers in the Maritime Industry (ashore and afloat).
We MUST provide training.
We MUST provide properly for our and their future. As a major part of recovery from this virus created economic havoc, we have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restructure the Australian Maritime Industry – let’s not waste it!”.
Check the OSSA website for further comment on maritime training, building on the MIAL 2018 Seafaring Skills Census in Future Seafarer Training options for the Australian Maritime Industry. Observations and Recommendations from Offshore & Specialist Ships Australia Ltd (OSSA) following the MIAL Seafaring Skills Census. See https://offshorespecialistships.comSurf Industry – Your view, please?Is this comparatively new but substantial water-based industry part of our maritime heritage? Noted on a Torquay Back Beach is excellent informational signage explaining the origins of the (now Surf Coast in Torquay) Surf Lifesaving Club – the first in the state celebrating its 75th anniversary. The ‘sport’ was first introduced from Hawaii in 1918 and by the 50s it had taken hold in Australia as evidenced by the 70,000 spectators at the 1956 Surf Carnival at Torquay – an event which marked the transition from hollow timber surf boards to fibreglass versions.
Torquay is known as the epicentre of The Surfing Revolution which has spawned what could arguably be deemed as a new maritime multimillion dollar surfing industry.
Maritime Museum of the Month
Given the continuing ‘fluidity’ around international travel restrictions, if the travel ’bubble’ opens and becomes two-way, NZ presents the most likely COVID travel destination option for many of us. Last month MMHN featured Wellington Maritime Museum and this month we feature The New Zealand Maritime Museum (www.maritimemuseum.co.nz) in Auckland. Maritime enthusiasts regard this museum well. In fact, it should not be missed.
If any city around the globe aspires to establish a maritime museum, then perhaps it should follow the winning examples of Auckland and Fremantle. The very best first step is to win the America’s Cup! The Auckland Museum is centrally located on Hobson Wharf, close to the cruise ship terminal in Auckland Harbour. When the museum opened in 1993 it ensured that its scope covered from the Polynesian pre-history of Aotearoa to the present. Its themes include voyages of discovery, settlement & immigration, trading, whaling & sealing, maritime arts & crafts, and recreational maritime activities. It is home to an extensive collection of documents and photographs and a library of charts and other records, together with two extensive marine art collections. It forms a considerable genealogical resource. At last count, it also berthed five vessels including a floating steam crane. Oh, and an America’s Cup-winning yacht!
Auckland Maritime Museum
Emissions Free Maritime Propulsion – Back to the future?
Maritime heritage enthusiasts are familiar with ‘transitions’ in relation to propulsion. Oar to Sail to Steam to Oil to Electricity to Nuclear? Are we now heading back to wind propulsion? Will environmental controls and targets entail a radical shift in propulsion? Will we see the emergence the ‘sail cargo’ option? MMHN member Christiaan De Beukelaer (Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne School of Culture and Communication in the Faculty of Arts). In July 2020, Christiaan sailed into Hamburg aboard the Avontur, a two-masted schooner built in 1920 having crossed the Atlantic to Germany with 65 tonnes of coffee, cacao, rum, and gin. With a crew of 15, crew, the Avontur had sailed for the six months prior to completing the trans-Atlantic roundtrip via the Canaries, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the Azores relying almost entirely on wind propulsion. The International Maritime Organisation promptly released a report on the voyage: 4thStudy on the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) from ships. This presented cutting-edge pertinent information for both the shipping industry and the environmental movement.
An unusual conference in Germany – and perhaps an opportunity for maritime enthusiasts (or specialists) to participate virtually?
Australian Seascapes (30 September to 2 October 2021, Trier University, Germany)
The call for Conference Papers concludes on 15 February. MMHN encourages your participation. You may care to make your particular point – individually or as part of a panel about Australian maritime matters ? In response to global travel restrictions and to reduce its carbon footprint, the conference will include a virtual stream. The Program scope is wide and impressive – indicating unusually comprehensively grasp of what all matters maritime mean for Australia – an island nation after all “Australia’s past and present are closely connected to the sea. The conference interdisciplinary program will cover socio-cultural and social-economic aspects of our engagement with the ocean. In coastal regions, maritime areas are an integral part of Country and thus play a vital role for Aboriginal communities. The sea also looms large in [modern] Australian cultural memory and imagination in general, as a passageway and connection to other parts of world with images oscillating between fear (migration) and longing (postcolonial melancholia). The socio-economic aspects of our engagement with the ocean is an important economic factor as the maritime industry, from gas and oil extraction to cruise shipping, currently generates $AUD 9 billion of the Australian GDP. As a destination for domestic and international tourism (surfing), the seaside and the Australian maritime world (Great Barrier Reef. The ocean surrounding us plays an important role in creating a sense of identity as well as selling Australia as a ‘brand’ to global consumerism. MMHN encourages all maritime stakeholders to consider topics that may include one or several of the multiple dimensions of Australian Seascapes: Aboriginal knowledges and practices, temporalities and geographies, movement and fluidity connectivity and entanglement politics, policies, and economy, memory and history, oceanic landscapes and maritime biodiversity, corporealities and bodily experiences, gender, roles of human and non-human actors, their relationship and interconnectedness, representations and imaginations of the sea and of seascapes literature, poetry, drama, the performative or visual arts or any other artistic form of expression.
Or email: email@example.comThe Melbourne ObservatoryThe Observatory is rarely acknowledged as key maritime heritage infrastructure but it has a critical role in shipping. A primary function of Melbourne Observatory was to maintain standard time. The Williamstown Observatory (1853) was established specifically to provide accurate time as a service to ships at 1pm each day, by dropping one ’timeball’ erected on a flagstaff pole at Gellibrand’s Point, Williamstown, and another at Flagstaff Hill in Melbourne. Ships at anchor used hand telescopes to observe one of the two timeballs and at the fall of the ball, adjust their chronometers. Precise time measurement enabled accurate navigation at sea. By providing an accurate measure of local time at a known longitude, ships could adjust for any errors that may have crept into their instruments and their calculations after long months at sea. Another service to ships provided by the Observatory was checking and adjusting the accuracy of ships’ chronometers and sextants.
Time at the Melbourne Observatory was determined using a transit telescope to observe the movement of ‘clock stars’ i.e., those stars with accurately known positions. Nightly observations ensured that the ‘master clock’ in the Observatory remained in alignment with of the ‘clock stars’ across the field of view of the telescope. What commenced as a maritime service at Williamstown, was followed by a ‘timeball’ at the Telegraph Office in Melbourne, linked by telegraph to the Observatory. Melbourne’s watchmakers and citizens used this to check their timepieces; it later achieved wider application and was adopted throughout the colony. In 1870 a telegraph wire was erected between the Observatory and the city. The Observatory ‘timeball’ came to control clocks at the railway stations at Spencer Street and Flinders Street, the Post Office clock, Parliament, Customs House and several banks. In addition to time setting, the Observatory was the source of all weather forecasting, weight setting and measurement standard setting for Victoria and the southern hemisphere, compiling meteorological observations and tide data. In 1869, a technological marvel and key instrument was installed in the Observatory, the largest fully steerable telescope of the19th century and the last of the great mirrored telescopes, the Great Melbourne Telescope (GMT). The is instrument symbolised a transition in Melbourne’s global reputation from a colonial outpost to a city of learning and science. The Observatory services to the colony ceased in 1944. The GMT is currently being restored.
Also see the Astronomical Society of Victoria, and Graeme Davison, The unforgiving minute: how Australia learned to tell the time, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1993.
MMHN was recently invited to participate at a seminar to support an application for World Heritage recognition of the Melbourne Observatory.
Williamstown Timeball and Melbourne Observatory
MMHN Member Michael Taman and member of MMHN Heritage/Museums Special Advisory Group is advocating for a more appropriate presence for the Merchant Navy in Melbourne. The current memorial in the embryonic Southbank Maritime Precinct lacks necessary infrastructure to enable appropriate means of displaying flags of great significance, e.g., the National Flag (Blue Ensign), Merchant Navy Flag (Red Ensign), Indigenous Flag (Aboriginal) and Tories Strait Islander Flag. Michael proposes that flag protocol would be served with the installation of a nautical flagpole comprising a large crossarm and a Gaff. Illumination would be an integral element in any new design. If you share Michael’s interest in raising the profile of the Merchant Navy in Melbourne, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Existing Merchant Navy memorial on Southbank
If Antarctic maritime matters captivate you, be aware that a Facebook international sub-website Friends of Nella Dan currently has 480 members, many from Australia, sharing a fascination with Antarctic ships. The Danish Naval Architect company Knud E. Hansen, designers of the new Antarctic ship RSV Nuyina, have a strong presence. The new vessel is likely to commence operating between Australia to Antarctica mid-2021. We thank MMHN member Jorgen Berg for providing much information about Antarctic shipping. Jorgen reports that the language of the website is both English and Danish and many of his marvellous images are posted on the website. A reminder that RSV Nuyina takes over from the iconic Aurora Australis which in turn took over from the four earlier ‘Dan-ships’ commencing with the Krista Dan which left from Melbourne’s North Wharf 3 in 1954 to establish the Australian Mawson Station. A series of Danish Polar Expedition ships followed, the Magga Dan,Thala Dan and finally Nella Dan.
Hard-core Antarctic maritime enthusiasts may also wish to look at another informative website Lauritzen Veteranerne which has 500 members focussing on deals with the other J. Lauritzen polar expedition ships as well as the ‘Dans’. Given that such rich maritime heritage is associated with these vessels, veteran Antarctic expeditioners have been disappointed that attempts to ‘capture’ and retain the various ‘Dans’ in Australia, the most recent being Aurora Australis. Ironically one ‘Dan’ remains, not in but under, Australian waters since it was scuttled off Macquarie Island.
MMHN Seminar Event
With considerable optimism, we announce that MMHN will be re-commencing our Events for 2021 with seminars, walks, tours and other serendipitous activities. Our inaugural presentation Port Phillip: Looking in, looking out. Aboriginal and colonial perspective, postponed exactly a year ago, has been re-scheduled for 22 February. Further information will be emailed to you in due course.
Plenty of Maritime media coverage
Leaving aside coastal print media, the visual references to diverse maritime matters this January has been very pleasing indeed. Maritime matters made the news over the holiday period in mainstream media, for example, throughout December The Age featured a series of wonderful Marvellous Melbourne images, many with maritime content, including recreational boating on the Yarra, swimming under piers, Port Melbourne ferry etc.
We noted several additional articles, including:
The Age, 28 December: Hope for a better future blowing in the wind about the Star of the South Windfarm at Port Albert.
Herald Sun, 4 January, p.10: Land Ho as past Revived and Get on Board with History featuring the reproduction vessel Enterprize (which has now returned to North Wharf, to commence its summer program).
Herald Sun, 4 January, pages 1, 10-11: Anchors away Maritime Past presenting comprehensive coverage of MMHN aspirations with excellent images.
Taken as a whole, can this surge in coverage be evidence of attitudinal change? Who can tell? Perhaps the ‘tide has turned’ and the significance of maritime matters may be creeping into the wider public consciousness? The MMHN Board faces 2021 with a sense of optimism and looks forward to what might be achieved collectively – which is after all, the primary agenda of the Melbourne Maritime Network.
Do keep well
Dr Jackie Watts OAM Chair, Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network 0400 305 323 or email email@example.com