Maritime Museum of Tasmania: a Whale of a Time?

The Maritime Museum of Tasmania is one of those places we’ve been meaning to visit for ages.  Sometimes we overlook the popular attractions in Hobart, knowing they’ll be there next time.  With so many annual events and road trips to consider, the schedule always seems to be full.

But that’s just not good enough!  So we decided to revamp our to-do list, and moved this one up the order.  And we’re very glad we did…

Maritime Museum of Tasmania - Argyle Street, Hobart

The Maritime Museum of Tasmania is in Argyle Street, Hobart

Maritime Museum of Tasmania: on Deck in Hobart

You don’t even have to venture from the heart of Hobart to find the Maritime Museum.  Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, Constitution Dock, Elizabeth Street Pier, Sullivans Cove, Franklin Wharf: they all surround the Argyle St Carnegie Building.


 

Perfect location for boat-lovers, obviously.  Tours from the Maritime Museum of Tasmania include a guided walk around the port.  The May Queen, an 1867 trading ketch, is moored at the docks.  The museum’s floating exhibit is sometimes open for inspection during the warmer months, but is easily visible from the street.

Maritime Museum of Tasmania - May Queen

The May Queen, floating exhibit, Maritime Museum of Tasmania

Nautical Community Effort

After years of lobbying, nautical enthusiasts saw the first version of the Maritime Museum opened in Battery Point in 1973.  Through a series of upgrades, the current site was officially opened in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II as the major attraction and community resource we see today.

Maritime Museum of Tasmania - Nautical Community

Evolving: museum from the concerted efforts of the nautical community

The collection housed in the building is astounding, and much more elaborate than we’d envisaged.  Photographs and paintings line the walls, depicting all forms of maritime activity from Tasmania’s history.  Many of the displays have evolved from donations.  Our investigation took a lot longer than the hour we’d anticipated.  A lighthouse lens from Goose Island welcomes visitors inside the main entrance, and that alone is quite mesmerising.

Maritime Museum of Tasmania - Lighthouse Lens

Goose Island lighthouse lens, a nautical welcome!

Whale Hunting in Tasmania

Another exhibit we found fascinating, was the section on whaling in the Derwent River.  There’s even old footage of a whale hunt in progress.  The whalers row a comparatively tiny boat yet still manage to secure one of the massive whales.  Prized for the production of oil from the whale blubber, and just like the convict settlement in the state, this part of Tasmanian history is quite disturbing.


 

But the Maritime Museum has managed to incorporate the reality of the past, with the present-day protection of whales by organisations including Sea Shepherd.  The quote from their mural, Thar She Blows… there is no employment more hazardous, more labourious, more disgusting, than whaling… probably sums up the general consensus.

Maritime Museum of Tasmania - Whale Hunting

The history of whale hunting in Tasmania

Petrel Shipwreck and Hope Beach

Shipwrecks also make for interesting subjects.  There’s a large piece of timber on show, found at Hope Beach on the South Arm Peninsula in 2006.  Detailed archaeological research revealed the timber, a north-eastern Tasmanian silver-top ash, came from the stem and keel of the Petrel bow.

Maritime Museum of Tasmania - Petrel Shipwreck Timber

Timber from the shipwreck Petrel, washed ashore in 2006

The 195 ton barque Petrel was built in shipyards at Gravelly Beach on the Tamar River in 1847.  During a trading voyage between Hobart Town and Port Arthur in 1853, the vessel apparently ran into trouble near the Iron Pot lighthouse.  Some of the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Petrel was solved when the wreckage washed ashore during a storm… after 153 years lost at sea!


Maritime Museum of Tasmania: Features

There’s too many features to list in a single article.  If you’re a fan of model boats, the Maritime Museum of Tasmania is definitely the place for you. There’s stacks of them, from all vintages and cultures.  Kids (young and old) will enjoy the chance to ring a bell or two, and look through the telescope out towards Victoria Dock.  And what would a nautical theme be without a few masthead figures and models, or an awesome diving ensemble?

Maritime Museum of Tasmania - Nautical Artifacts

Nautical artifacts at the Maritime Museum of Tasmania

Everywhere you look, there’s reminders of the progression maritime travel has made over the years.  There’s a wooden boat given to a bride as a wedding present in 1871!  Strange enough present, but more so because her own betrothed was the founder of a ship-building firm.  Wonder why she didn’t just use one of his boats when she rowed the seven miles from Port Cygnet to Surveyors Beach?

Maritime Museum of Tasmania - Ropes, Knots, Canons & Boats...

Ropes, knots, canons, boats: all things nautical in Tasmania!

You can also check out

You might want to take home a reminder of your visit to the Maritime Museum of Tasmania.  That’s an option!  You’ll pass a couple of smaller rooms as you complete your journey, one with maps and one with books.  Those for sale include stories about the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and Jessica Watson‘s round-the-world adventure on Pink Lady.

Maritime Museum of Tasmania - Nautical Gifts

Nautical gift shop, maps and books about boats!

The Maritime Museum of Tasmania is located on the corner of
Davey and Argyle Streets in Hobart.  They’re open daily from
9am to 5pm;  admission is $7 per adult and $16 per family.
Children 12 and under are free.

Map of Maritime Museum of Tasmania…

Comments

  1. roger findlay says:

    I have to go there. I never realised it had such a comprehensive display.

    • We didn’t realise either, Roger. It is really impressive – highly recommend a visit. There was a group milling around outside when we left, wondering if they should go in. We gave them the thumbs up, told them it was nice and warm, and they were convinced!!

  2. At the other end of the state try the museum at Low Head, very comprehensive and some wonderful stories given by the volunteers that man the museum.

  3. Currently an architecture student, and I’m proposing the new museum at Macquarie Wharf Shed 1, anyone able to give me more info about maritime ? What should I focus on the main exhibition?

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