Category Archives: Adventurers

Making a nation: “Afghans” and their camels for Australian inland transport

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Afghan camel train on the Wanaaring Road, north west NSW. Camel trains varied from 20 to 80 camels. Photo by George Bell, part of the Tyrrell collection, MAAS, gift of Australian Consolidated Press, 1985. 85/1284-765.

Afghan camel train on the Wanaaring Road, north west NSW. Camel trains varied from 20 to 80 camels,1890-1917, photograph by George Bell, MAAS collection, 85/1284-765

It’s estimated that about 20,000 camels were brought from India during the second half of the 19th century to work in the vast internal areas of Australia. Accompanying the camels were Afghan drivers. The term “Afghan” is really a misnomer as few came from Afghanistan but rather more came from parts of India and present-day Pakistan. The Afghans, or Ghans as they became known, were extremely competent at working lines of camels and had great knowledge about the care of their charges, a skill which Europeans failed to master.
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The Many Sides of Charles Laseron, Part III

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Presented to the New South Wales Collection of Applied Art by Charles F. Laseron in 1927. Brush pot, Japan, 17th Century, MAAS collection, 115A

Presented to the New South Wales Collection of Applied Art by Charles F. Laseron in 1927. Brush pot, Japan, 17th Century, MAAS collection, 115A

Charles Laseron was an early collector at MAAS and formative influence upon our applied arts collection. He was also present during the Gallipoli landings in 1915. In the week leading up to the ANZAC Centenary, we are publishing a series of posts detailing Laseron’s life. This post is the final in a series of three.
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The Many Sides of Charles Laseron, Part II

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Charles Laseron catches an early penguin arrival in Spring, photograph by Archibald Lang Mclean, Cape Denison (Antarctica), 1911-14, State Library NSW collection, ON 144/Q498

Charles Laseron catches an early penguin arrival in Spring, photograph by Archibald Lang Mclean, Cape Denison (Antarctica), 1911-14, State Library NSW collection, ON 144/Q498

Charles Laseron was an early collector at MAAS and formative influence upon our applied arts collection. He was also present during the Gallipoli landings in 1915. In the week leading up to the ANZAC Centenary, we are publishing a series of posts detailing Laseron’s life. This post is the second of three. Continue reading

The Many Sides of Charles Laseron, Part I

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Charles Laseron among staff at the Technological Museum, Sydney, 1919, MAAS Collection, MRS 299/17 (detail)

Charles Laseron among staff at the Technological Museum, Sydney, 1919, MAAS Collection, MRS 299/17 (detail)

Charles Laseron was an early collector at MAAS and formative influence upon our applied arts collection. He was also present during the Gallipoli landings in 1915. In the week leading up to the ANZAC Centenary, we are publishing a series of posts detailing Laseron’s life. This post is the first of three.

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Surviving in Antarctica – Cas and Jonesy’ contemporary equipment

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The harsh toll of the expedition can be seen in the faces of the adventurers at the conclusion of their trek, 2012, photo supplied by James Castrission and Justin Jones, MAAS collection, 2014/48/54.

The harsh toll of the expedition can be seen in the faces of the adventurers at the conclusion of their trek, 2012, photo supplied by James Castrission and Justin Jones, MAAS collection, 2014/48/54.

“… all kinds of schemes were in progress for adapting our sledging-gear and instruments to the severe conditions. Nobody was idle during the day, for, when there was nothing else to be done; there always remained the manufacture and alteration of garments and crampons.”
The Home of the Blizzard’, Sir Douglas Mawson, 1915.

When Australians, Justin Jones (Jonesy) and James Castrission (Cas), successfully completed the first unsupported return journey to the South Pole, on 26 January 2012, they were in a sense, following in the footsteps of pioneers from years past. Continue reading

Ice Bird – the unsinkable boat

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Dr David Lewis, happy on his arrival in Cape Horn, South Africa, March 1974. From BOX 2 B 24446-2. Collection: MAAS

Dr David Lewis, happy on his arrival in Cape Horn, South Africa, March 1974. From BOX 2 B 24446-2. Collection: MAAS

Restoration of the sailing boat that made the first single handed voyage to Antarctica
Dr David Lewis was a courageous sailor, an extra-ordinary navigator and an adventurer with big dreams. He was the first navigator in modern times to cross the Pacific Ocean without using instruments, following a legendary Maori course from Tahiti to New Zealand. In 1972, David undertook another adventure to sail, alone, to Antarctica and circumnavigate the subcontinent. He bought a second hand, steel hulled boat designed by Dick Taylor. It was an 11 metre sailing boat, called Ice Bird and David and some friends hurriedly prepared it for his summer journey. The steel boat had a large amount of lead in the ballast in case the boat capsized. The trip involved sailing through the ‘Roaring Forties’, the ‘Furious Fifties’ and the ‘Screaming Sixties’. He encountered mountainous seas with 35 metre waves, constant gales, hurricanes and freezing temperatures. The boat was not built for such incredible conditions and capsized three times, twice on the way to the Palmer Antarctic Station and once on its way to Cape Town, South Africa. Continue reading

Pumice from Antarctic volcanoes and Sydney beaches

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C4737 Mineral specimen, pumice from the summit of Mount Erebus, collected during Sir Ernest Shackleton's British Antarctic Expedition, Antarctica, 1909-1911

C4737 pumice from the summit of Mount Erebus, collected during Sir Ernest Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition, Antarctica, 1909-1911

Over summer the beaches of Sydney have seen the arrival of a ‘pumice raft’. The high tide line has been marked by a distinctive row of small light weight rocks which floated in on the tide. The phenomenon caused much comment amongst beach goers and gave children an exciting new material for their sandcastles. As usual a search in the Powerhouse Museum collection turned up something interesting; samples of pumice collected in 1908 by the party who made the first ascent of Mount Erebus in Antarctica. The party included Sir Douglas Mawson and Dr T. W. Edgeworth-David and the climb was undertaken during Sir Ernest Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition. Continue reading

The undies that almost stopped an Antarctic expedition

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Underpants  worn by James Castrission and Justin Jones during the Crossing the Ice Antarctic expedition. Image courtesy of James Castrission and Justin Jones.

Underpants worn by James Castrission and Justin Jones during the Crossing the Ice Antarctic expedition. Image courtesy of James Castrission and Justin Jones.

These two pairs of undies are part of a large collection of equipment and personal items used by Antarctic adventurers James Castrission (Cas) and Justin Jones (Jonsey) on their ‘Crossing the Ice’ Antarctic expedition to the South Pole, 2011-2012.

You may rightly notice that the pair on the left does not look like your average pair of underpants and it would not be remiss of you to ask what the unusual thing attached to them could possibly be…
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Cas and Jonsey’s Christmas in Antarctica 2011

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Justin Jones with his Christmas present, an extra ration of food, inside their tent during their 'Crossing the Ice' expedition. Fellow expeditioner, James Castrission later wrote, "This was going to be the whitest of white Christmases ever". Image courtesy of Justin Jones and James Castrission.

Justin Jones with his Christmas present, an extra ration of food, inside their tent during their ‘Crossing the Ice’ expedition. Fellow expeditioner, James Castrission later wrote, “This was going to be the whitest of white Christmases ever”. Image courtesy of Justin Jones and James Castrission.

It’s exactly a year to the day since Australian adventurers, James Castrission and Justin Jones, celebrated Christmas in Antarctica during their trek from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and return. Castrission, Jones and the fellow adventurer, Norwegian, Aleksander Gamme, were the first in history to complete this journey without any form of assistance on the 26th January 2012.

“We were heading to 90 degrees south, a place that had always held a starry-eyed fascination for me – it was the factory of adventure and home to some of the most inhospitable beauty on the planet” wrote Castrission in his recently published book, ‘Extreme South’, which documents the expedition.

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Afghan camel pack saddle

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Camel pack saddle, Powerhouse Museum collection, purchased 1962, H6926.

Camel pack saddle, Powerhouse Museum collection, purchased 1962, H6926.

With Christmas almost upon us and countless nativity plays and greeting cards featuring wise men and camels, my thoughts turn to a rare and interesting item in the Museum’s collection I researched a number of years ago, a camel pack saddle. It was used by Afghan camel drivers who led hundreds of camel trains throughout inland Australia. By the turn of the twentieth century camel trains provided transport for almost every major inland development project. They carried the poles, wire and rocks for the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line and stations; the sleepers, food, water and supplies for the men building the desert railways to Oodnadatta and Alice Springs as well as the Transcontinental Railway.

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