Bird Week 2015, 19-23 October, is an initiative of BirdLife Australia, with the aim of inspiring Australians to take action and get involved in bird conservation efforts. This week, as many people take part in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, they’re likely to ask: ‘What bird is that?’ Generations of Australians have answered that question with a copy of the book What bird is that? in hand, inspired and guided by the work of Neville W Cayley.
World Mosquito Day commemorates the discovery that female Anopheles mosquitoes transmit malaria between humans, made by British medical researcher Sir Ronald Ross on 20 August 1897. Since that day, researchers across the world have sought to understand mosquitoes and their role as vectors, developing methods to prevent and control the spread of disease. The material culture created in response to the mosquito reflects the wide ranging interests of scientific endeavour, environmental adaptations and social paradigms in Australia and across the world.
Since the introduction of motor vehicles during the early twentieth century, exploring the Australian landscape by car has become a national pastime for locals and tourists alike. This week, the National Museum has hosted Citroën Australia, as it launches its new C4 model and celebrates the 90th anniversary of the first drive around Australia, completed by Nevill Westwood in a Citroën 5CV. Westwood left Perth on 4 August 1925, returning after 148 days of driving on 30 December. His 1923 Citroën 5CV, affectionately known as ‘Bubsie’, was acquired by the National Museum in 2005 and is on display in the Hall.
In July 1934, Charles Ulm piloted his eighth crossing of the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Australia, and then delivered the first official airmail between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Firm in his resolution to establish regular air services between Australia, New Zealand and north America, Ulm then began planning his second flight across the Pacific Ocean – this time, with the aim of having the effort recognised as a commercial enterprise rather than an act of daring.
Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith ended their partnership after the final closure of Australian National Airways in 1933. Both men continued to promote the future possibilities of air services in separate ventures. Ulm purchased ANA’s ‘Southern Moon’ aircraft, rebuilding it and renaming it ‘Faith in Australia’, with a view to securing new airmail contracts. In 1933, he piloted ‘Faith in Australia’ from Sydney, with GU ‘Scotty’ Allan and PG ‘Bill’ Taylor as crew, with the intention of flying around the world.
As the crew of the ‘Southern Cross’ celebrated their trans-Pacific flight in June 1928, aviation was changing Australia’s environmental and political landscapes. On 15 June, they flew from Melbourne to Canberra, arriving at the recently established aerodrome during the early afternoon and receiving an enthusiastic reception by locals, government officials and returned servicemen. Riding the wave of their success and popularity, Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith had big plans, and this and their future visits to Canberra would be strategic.
When the ‘Southern Cross’ touched down at Eagle Farm aerodrome in Brisbane on 9 June 1928, tens of thousands of people turned out to greet the triumphant aviators after their trans-Pacific journey. Throughout the flight, the crew had maintained continuous radio contact with the world, assisting their safe passage, but also allowing the public to share in their endeavours. By the time they arrived in Australia, the feats of Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith were well-known and the nation celebrated their achievements. Challenges and criticisms came quickly, however, and some of the shine was soon taken off their glowing success.
At 12:17 pm on 1 June 1928, the ‘Southern Cross’ landed safely at Wheelers Field, Honolulu, with her crew – Charles Ulm, Charles Kingsford Smith, Harry Lyon and James Warner. They received a warm welcome and shared a sense of relief in completing only the fifth successful aerial crossing from California to Hawaii. Celebrations were short-lived as they prepared for the next leg of their journey across the Pacific Ocean.
Two objects celebrating the flights of Charles Ulm are now on display in the National Museum’s new acquisitions showcase. This is the first in a series of blog posts to come during June, remembering Ulm’s flights above oceans and continents from 1927 to 1934.
After six months on show, the Spirited horses are returning to their stables and paddocks for a well-earned rest. From 11 September 2014 to 9 March 2015, over 52,000 people visited the Spirited exhibiton, enjoying a stream of associated tours, talks, holiday programs and events. If you missed the exhibition, National Museum photographers George Serras and Jason McCarthy captured Spirited from every angle so that we can continue to explore, share and reflect on Australia’s horse story.
Amongst the National Museum’s initial list of 100 Defining Moments in Australian history is 16 November 1920, the establishment of Qantas. This date was the culmination of a series of defining moments – years of trial and error that got Qantas in the air. From partnerships formed on the First World War battlefields, a long drive, chasing government subsidies and public support, and finding suitable aircraft, the Qantas story is focussed on responses to the social, environmental and economic possibilities and needs for an aerial service across western Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Today, 94 years after the company’s inaugurating papers were signed in Brisbane, it seems appropriate to reflect on the circumstances, technologies, personalities, events and environments that gave rise to the flying kangaroo.