Thursday, 5 August 2010

Harbour Islands (5) - Spectacle Island


There are 9 islands in Sydney Harbour: Shark, Clark, Garden, Fort Dennison. Goat, Cockatoo, Spectacle, Snapper and Rodd. Thus far, I have blogged on Shark Island, Goat Island, Garden Island and Cockatoo Island. Recently, I accompanied 60 intrepid salts from the Maritime Museum out to Spectacle Island.

Spectacle Island lies between Cockatoo Island and the Birkenhead Point peninsular on the western side of the Harbour Bridge. Controlled by the Navy, it is not open to the general public and tours are rare occurrences. It is used for training courses for naval tactical response groups and to house the Naval Heritage Collection, which collects and stores naval items for display at Garden Island and travelling exhibitions around the nation.


Originally two small islands connected by a tidal isthmus -hence its name - the first building on Spectacle Island was a convict-built powder magazine completed in 1865, designed to take some of the pressure off Goat Island. The chief engineer was George Barney who also constructed Victoria Barracks, Circular Quay and Fort Denison as well as the moat on Goat Island. The magazine, seen here, was constructed of rock from the island as well as from nearby Cockatoo Island during the construction of its Fitzroy Dock.


Commander Shane Moore, who live on the island, was our guide through the heritage collection. His knowledge is deep and it is personal. He knows the origin of every item in his massive collection, that ranges from Spanish canons, through ships bells, naval uniforms (including buttons), ships insignia and regulation eating utensils.


The two hour tour is not long enough to do this remarkable island justice. The group from the Maritime Museum was gobsmacked at every turn. We saw the ship's compass from the German cruiser, Emden, destroyed off the Cocos Islands in 1914. There is Mawson's sled from his Antarctic expeditions.

A truly remarkable collection stored on this island in the harbour that most Sydney-siders do not know exists.

15 comments:

Tulsa Gentleman said...

It is fortunate that Commander Moore was there to give the tour. He looks to be the classic "old salt".

E. Charlotte said...

Beautiful photographs!

jennyfreckles said...

This looks really fascinating slice of history. I love the names of all those islands too.

biebkriebels said...

Interesting story with beautiful pictures.

paul said...

Wow, what a busy two hours you had, Julie. Great story and wonderful images.

(To prove that I read your story: you missed out a date, probably 1865, for the completion of the powder magazine; http://www.afloat.com.au/afloat-magazine/2009/june-2009/Spectacle_Island )

ma thet zin said...

Wonderful and excellent Great post.

Julie said...

ooops Paul ... I see what you mean! Cannot think how I omitted that date. I always prepare my text in word and copy it across to the post so I am a bit baffled. Yes, I had read that url that you found. too. I shall put the date back into the story now.

J Bar said...

Great tour and a great post. I haven't heard of this island before. I'd like to take that tour sometime.

Ann said...

Looks really interesting, have never heard of this island. I really, really want to retire and do interesting stuff.

Dani said...

very lovely post. Love your photos.

Birdman said...

I'm glad I checked you out this morning. Enjoyed your trip out to the island. I checked out a map of the harbour to see just where you were. Outstanding shots. I like them: some BIG picture, some of the small.

diane said...

What an amazing place. It is a shame there are not regular tours. Thanks for taking us there.

Lois said...

Thank you for taking us on the tour with you Julie! It's an interesting and amazing place and your pictures are wonderful.

Joan Elizabeth said...

You are the epitome of busy retirement going to all these exciting places and making the rest of us jealous. Another interesting island tour .. thank you.

T. Becque said...

Really fantastic series of photos here. It looks like such an interesting place.