Unlocking new stories from HMS Pandora

26 August 2019

Museum of Tropical Queensland will unveil a new object from the wreck of HMS Pandora at a special talk on Wednesday 28 August to commemorate the sinking of the ship 228 years ago.

The new artefact has been revealed as a large chain lock from the stern of the HMS Pandora and was recently returned home to the Museum after 20 years at the Western Australian Museum in Fremantle.

Scientific teams from the two museum’s worked on the Pandora wreck site from 1979 to 1999 and the lock has been safely housed and conserved at the Western Australian Museum by experts in the field of maritime metals conservation.

Queensland Museum Network CEO Dr Jim Thompson said the collaboration on the Pandora shipwreck demonstrates the excellent working relationships that exists between the nation’s cultural institutions.

“The story of the lock – more than 20 years in the making – is an example of the passion and dedication of museum scientists’ to conserve and protect important archaeological pieces for future generations,” Dr Thompson said.

“The lock has recently completed a rigorous and lengthy conservation process and will be able to be put on display as part of the Pandora Gallery at Museum of Tropical Queensland where the majority of objects excavated from the wreck are now housed.”

The lock will now be included in the Queensland State Maritime archaeological collection which has over 6000 object records.

Today, the mutiny on the Bounty remains one of the best-known stories in the history of seafaring. HMS Pandora was the Royal Navy warship dispatched to the South Pacific in pursuit of the infamous Bounty mutineers. Fourteen were captured in Tahiti and imprisoned on board Pandora.

After turning back towards England, Pandora ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef on 28 August 1791, with the loss of 31 crew and four prisoners from Bounty.

Museum of Tropical Queensland Senior Curator of Maritime Archaeology Dr Maddy McAllister, will be hosting the talk and said it’s wonderful to have the lock back in the Museum’s collection.

“Even 20 years after the excavations finished, there is still so much to learn about HMS Pandora and the crew through the artefacts in our collection and we look forward to uncovering their stories to share with our visitors,” Dr McAllister said.

“A unique combination of Pandora sinking behind a sheltered reef and the marine environment resulted in the recovery of many well-preserved artefacts.

“The talk will be a unique opportunity to view the lock in addition to a number of other Pandora artefacts from the State Maritime archaeological collection currently kept behind the scenes in the Cultures and Histories collection.”

The HMS Pandora talk is on Wednesday 28 August at 12pm. Entry to the talk is free with Museum admission.

Media Contacts:

Andrea Hughes                       

07 4726 0604 or 0497 347 117

andrea.hughes@qm.qld.gov.au