Battle of the Coral Sea
A display of panels, artefacts, model ships and dioramas tells the story of Townsville’s association with the two world wars at sea, with as focal point the Battle of the Coral Sea (4-8 May 1942), which was fought between Japanese and Allied naval forces only about 885 km (477 nautical miles) north-east of Townsville. The two Royal Australian Navy vessels that participated were HMAS Hobart and HMAS Australia. The showpieces amongst the models are HMAS Nestor (dedicated to Neville George who sailed on the ship and later founded the Museum) and the American aircraft-carrier USS Lexington. A model of HMAS Albatross, an early seaplane carrier, represents the history of the Royal Australian Navy between the world wars. Also on show is a model of the famous (or infamous) World War I German auxiliary cruiser (or raider) Seeadler, probably one of the last windjammers (large steel-hulled sailing ships) used for waging war. Enhancing the display are a series of short video documentaries, courtesy of the Australian National Maritime Museum, featuring the story of the Australian submarine AE2 and Australian troop transports during World War I.
Also on show are two World War II documentaries, loaned to the Museum thanks to the generosity of the Australian National Maritime Museum. The one documentary, titled Clash of the carriers, features the Battle of the Coral Sea, using original footage and state of the art animation, making the battle through stunning visuals and sounds real as never before. This documentary is part of War and Peace in the Pacific 75, a program of the Australian National Maritime Museum supported by the USA Bicentennial Fund.
The other documentary confronts the visitor with the human side of the battle through interviews with Australian and US Coral Sea veterans, both moving and entertaining.
Women’s War 2
The Women's War 2 exhibition , consisting of display panels and display cases arranged around a mock-up of a typical North Queensland living-room during the war, complete with a piano (owned by the Breen family during the war) and blackout curtains. This exhibition tells some of the stories about life in Townsville during the years 1939-1945 from a young woman's perspective. The twelve participating ladies whose experiences are showcased had all worked in different local industries in the defence of the country, many of them associated with maritime industries.
The voyages of Endeavour, Bounty and Pandora
Another section of the Federation Gallery houses an exhibition about James Cook's first voyage of exploration, 1768-1771, focusing on the navigation instruments he used in charting the coasts of New Zealand and eastern Australia.
On board Endeavour was an English "gentleman" and botanist, Joseph (later Sir Joseph) Banks. Based on his observations during the voyage, he convinced the British Admiralty to equip and dispatch a naval vessel to collect breadfruit plants from Tahiti and bring them to the British colonial possessions in the West Indies where they could be grown as staple food for plantation slaves. This led to the voyage of HMS Bounty, commanded by William Bligh (who had sailed with Cook). After leaving Great Britain in 1787, the ship reached Tahiti in 1788 where breadfruit plants were collected. After leaving Tahiti, mutiny broke out on 28 April 1789. Bligh and a small crew of loyalists were put on the ship's utility boat and managed to sail 3,500 nautical miles to West Timor. In the end, the mutineers sailed with Bounty to Pitcairn Island, leaving behind sixteen of the mutineers on Tahiti.
The British Admiralty sent a warship, HMS Pandora, in 1790 in an attempt to capture the mutineers and bring them back to England to face a court martial. Arriving in Tahiti in March 1791, fourteen men were captured. Pandora ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef on 29 August. The survivors sailed in four boats to West Timor. Eventually, only 78 of the 134 crew returned home in England, including ten mutineers.