After we left the Chinese Garden of Friendship [see my previous post] we continued to explore Darling Harbour. Passing between Tumbalong Park and the enormous Sydney International Exhibition Center, we walked along the pedestrian zone toward Cockle Bay, ultimately perambulating along the western shore of Cockle Bay to the Australian National Maritime Museum and Wharf 7 with its Welcome Wall and the Iron Barque ‘James Craig’. Compared to the tranquility of the garden, we checked out the busy parts of Darling Harbour, you might say.
Fun-House-Mirrors under massive freeway bridges, intriguing architecture & signage, and the occasional water feature kept us entertained in our approach of the waterfront.
Darling Harbour is really called Tumbalong. Several clans of the Eora First Peoples in the Sydney region lived in the modern-day area of Darling Harbour and along the Parramatta River. In the Dharug language of the Eora people ‘Tumbalong’ means a place where seafood is found. After the 1788 British colonization, the often starving convicts made good use of all those oysters and clams and called Tumbalong ‘Cockle Bay’ even though the authorities had named it, ever so boringly, ‘Long Bay’. Over thousands of years, a veritable mountain of seashells had accumulated along the shores of Cockle Bay and the European settlers made equally excellent use of those shells by cooking them into lime-mortar to build brick dwellings for themselves in this alien new world. In 1826 then Governor Ralph Darling bestowed the so far final name on Tumbalong by claiming it as his own. And Darling Harbour it has been ever since.
Nowadays, the main attraction along Tumbalong’s western shore is the Australian National Maritime Museum. The ANMM is a national non-profit institution which includes the Sydney Heritage Fleet whose volunteers buy, restore, and maintain historical vessels for the enjoyment of the general public. Through its galleries, the Maritime Museum explores different aspects of Australia’s connection with the sea and its people’s traditional dependency on the sea.
In addition to the main museum building, Wharf 7, a historical lighthouse, the Waterfront Pavilion dedicated to the Aussi Navy, and numerous berthed vessels, there are three ships on display which may be boarded and toured.
Permanently moored to the right of the Waterfront Pavilion floats HMAS Vampire, a Daring-class destroyer, one of the first all-welded entirely Australian built warship. She was commissioned into the RAN in 1959 and saw a lot of action in Vietnam. Moored to the left of the pavilion, you can visit the HMAS Onslow, an Oberon-class submarine. She was commissioned into the RAN in 1968, served for 30 years but never saw war action. On the other hand, little Onslow here survived an unauthorized dive to twice her approved depth allowance when a narked sailor took her down, down, down. That episode was the main impetus for the Royal Australian Navy to change sub-service from conscription to volunteers only.
The last one of the main attractions of the Maritime Museum is a replica of the world-famous vessel captained by Lieutenant James Cook, the HM Bark Endeavour. Sadly she wasn’t in port when we came around. We had to make do with the beautiful and original iron-hulled barque ‘James Craig‘, launched in 1874. She was lovingly restored and put into cruising services by the Sydney Heritage Fleet volunteers.
The architects designed the ANMM to “resemble billowing sails”. In the photo above, showing the northern edge of the museum roofline juxtaposed against the ‘James Craig’ bowsprit with its row of furled jibs, you can see how these staysails would indeed billow in overlapping splendor, just like the roof crescents. But if you can’t, let me find a picture of barque rigging with flying foresails, just a sec, alright?
A maze of stays, block & tackle and ropes, my kind of view. Not as confusing as you might think. After our close inspection of the Iron Barque, we returned to the main pier and enjoyed some seafood, like people have done hereabouts for a few thousand years.
Eating is quite the competitive sport along Cockle Bay, if you’re not vigilant you lose your share!
Back home that evening we had a seagull-free drink on our penthouse patio, enjoying Sydney’s sparkling lights supplemented by a departing cruise ship, silently gliding toward the headlands and the open ocean beyond.