Feature Stories

The Stories Behind Our Collection

  •  Nawurapu Wunuŋmurra’s Mokuy (spirit) sculptures Gapu-Monuk Saltwater Journey to Sea Country, November 2017. Image: Andrew Frolows/ANMM.

    Spirit figures from Arnhem Land

    A contemporary Aboriginal artwork has links to the cosmology of the people of Arnhem Land and to their relationships with their Makassan neighbours from Indonesia.

    Battle of the Coral Sea

    Battle of the Coral Sea

    Three navies, four aircraft carriers, 255 aircraft and 76 ships in a four-day battle that changed naval warfare forever. Eight ships sunk, 161 aircraft destroyed and 1622 men killed in a battle that should never be forgotten.

    Escape from Pompeii

    Pompeii and the Roman Navy

    A heroic ancient rescue attempt: How Pliny the Elder led the Roman navy on a voyage to save the people of Pompeii during the cataphoric eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD.

    Bombing of Darwin.

    The Bombing of Darwin

    Remembering 75 years since the Bombing of Darwin - the first attack by Japanese forces on the Australian mainland after Australia had officially declared war on Japan in 1941.

    Initial attack on Pearl Harbor. A captured Japanese photograph. Image: USA National Archives.

    First Watercraft

    From canoes to rafts and rediscovering traditional techniques, explore the history and types of watercraft used by Australia's Indigenous people.

    Sydney inverted Bow

    Into the Abyss

    Remembering the naval engagement between HMAS Sydney (II)) and HSK Kormoran seventy-five years on.

    Dirk Hartog landing site 1616 at Cape Inscription, Dirk Hartog Island, Western Australia. Image: Nicola Bryden / © Copyright Department of the Environment.

    A Chance Encounter: Dirk Hartog’s Landing in 1616

    Four hundred years ago, Dutch mariner Dirk Hartog (1580–1621) sailed into history when, on 25 October 1616, he made the first documented European landing on the west coast of Australia.

    Johnnie and Mehmet

    Remembering AE2: Johnnie and Mehmet

    'Johnnie and Mehmet', is a striking sculpture which commemorates the engagement between WW1 Royal Australian Navy submarine HMAS AE2 and Turkish torpedo boat Sultanhisar.

    Windjammer Sailors sculpture outside Wharf 7

    Windjammer Sailors

    The story behind the museum's life-sized bronze sculpture remembering the adventurous Windjammer sailors of the 1930s.

    Tug boat moving an aircraft carrier on Sydney Harbour

    Tug Boats: The Loss of the Working Harbour

    Explore striking photographs of tug boats hard at work when Sydney Harbour was primarily a place of industry.

    Percy Hockings Watercolour of a pearl lugger

    Percy Hockings: Watercolours from the North

    Percy Hockings’ rare collection of watercolours documents the people, plants and pearling luggers of Thursday Island.

    Last known image of  the AE1 submarine at sea

    The mysterious disappearance of submarine AE1

    Discover the story of Australia's most enduring maritime mystery — the loss of the navy’s first submarine AE1 in 1914.

    SS Moreton Bay

    Black Armada: Australian support for Indonesia independence

    Learn more about Australia’s role during the Indonesian independence struggle and the so-called 'Black Armada'.

    Blacksea lighthouse photo by Garry Searle 

    Australian Lighthouses

    Learn about the 100-year history of Commonwealth lighthouses and explore some of Australia's famous lighthouses.

    The Lu family on Tu Do

    A fishing boat called Freedom: the story of Tu Do

    Learn about the amazing journey of Vietnamese refugee boat Tu Do after the Fall of Saigon, and its restoration at the museum.

    39 foot gaff cutter AKARANA.  ANMM Collection 00001600. Image: Andrew Frolows/ANMM.

    Australian Sailing

    How the playful forces of wind and sea led to world sporting domination.

    HMAS Armidale (I) in Port Moresby. Courtesy Australian War Memorial.

    The sinking of HMAS Armidale (I)

    HMAS Armidale's (I) wartime service in the Royal Australian Navy lasted only 173 days before it was sunk off the coast of Timor. Of the 149 sailors and soldiers aboard HMAS Armidale, 49 survived the nightmare which followed.

    DP World Australia container terminal, Port Botany, photo Glenn Duffus, 2015. Reproduced courtesy DP World Australia.


    The box changed the world. Seaborne trade accounts for 90% of all global trade and it relies on a humble steel box. Do you know the story behind this revolution?

    USS Helm alongside USS Makin Island during the Iwo Jima operation, 24 February 1945. Image USN History And Heritage Command.

    The Lucky Ship

    USS Helm was the ‘The Galloping Ghost of the Queensland Coast’ during World War II, earning 11 battle stars with no casualties or injuries to her crew.

    Microplastic particles on a beach. IMAGE: 5GYRES.ORG.

    Turning the plastic tide

    Plastic is a versatile material and it's choking life in our oceans. By 2025, the oceans could contain one tonne of plastic rubbish for every three tonnes of fish.

    Initial attack on Pearl Harbor. A captured Japanese photograph. Image: USA National Archives.

    Pearl Harbor Remembered

    Australian filmmaker Russell Dority recounts his father's first-hand experience of the attack on Pearl Harbor, 75 years on.

    Captain William Fowler. ANMM Collection: ANMS1397[007].

    An Australian Sailor in the Spanish Civil War

    William Fowler was an Australian merchant sailor who found himself caught up in the Spanish Civil War, running blockades and rescuing refugees.


    Longitude: A Story Comes Full Circle

    Explore the history of how the measurement of time and distance developed — from tracking the sun to Einstein conceiving his the theory of relativity.

    Conservator Jon Carpenter cleans around the waterline number on Samuel Wright’s stem-post and artefacts uncovered during the excavation

    The Boat in the Beach

    A team of archaeologists have excavated the American whaling ship Samuel Wright using the latest technology.

    Image of indigenous shell work

    Living Waters: Shellwork in Indigenous Art and Culture

    Discover how traditional Indigenous shellwork techniques are used to explore sea, sailing and water.

    Submarine AE 2

    First in at Gallipoli: submarine AE2

    Read the harrowing story of Australian submarine AE2 during the Gallipoli campaign and its rediscovery a century later.

    Endurance at night by Frank Hurley

    Shackleton: Escape from Antarctica

    Follow Sir Ernest Shackleton’s famous Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition through rare historic photographs, maps and artefacts.

    Ichi Ban - its only day one. Photographer Carlo Borlenghi 2002 Rolex Collection

    Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race: 70 Years

    Journey through the triumphs and tragedies of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

    Underwater close up of a Humpback whale calf's eye

    Why save whales?

    Discover the pivotal role whales play in our ocean ecosystems, as well as the dangers that threaten their survival.

    An artist's impression of Ambulocetus Natans, the 'walking whale' discovered by Thewissen and his team in Pakistan. Illustration by Roman Uchytel. Reproduced with permission.

    Whale evolution and adaptation

    Learn about the evolution of cetaceans, and the discovery that revealed the link between land and sea mammals.