Heritage

This week at Macquarie Island: 31 August 2012

At Lusitania Bay, sitting at the base of one of the old boilers amongst a scatter of other artefacts, is the cast-iron lid to a ship tank.

Ship tanks were cubic wrought iron or steel containers used, as the name implies, to transport fresh water and other liquids on ships. Due to their robust nature, they were also commonly found in other places where secure storage of drinking water or perishable goods was critical. The lid sat on the top of the cube and was locked into the tank body with lugs.

The photo below shows the lid to be in remarkably good condition, and the name of the manufacturer can be read clearly: JOHN BELLAMY (BYNG) ST MILLWALL LONDON. This company was founded in the 1860s and, besides ship tanks, also manufactured buoys, water hauling tanks and, later, underground petrol tanks. This style of tank lid appears to have been manufactured.

You can see that the tank lid is exactly the same as the painted example shown below, except that the latter is missing its central metal bung, which would have been removable to allow the contents to be accessed without removing the whole lid.

It would seem that our tank lid formed part of the stores and equipment landed at Lusitania Bay for the establishment of the oiling works and the living quarters for the men that worked them, and shows that items from all around the globe, or within the British Empire, at any rate, found their way to Macquarie Island.

Comprehensive information on ship tanks and their use in Australia and Antarctica may be found in the excellent article [PDF] written by Michael Pearson in the journal Australasian Historical Archaeology. The article helped to inform this story and mentions this very tank lid (p.26).

The photo of the painted tank lid below is used with kind permission of Mr George Radion and may be found, with more information, on his website www.ozwrenches.com. Thanks also to the museum at the Booleroo Centre in South Australia where this tank lid forms part of a large collection.

Mel Van Twest

Artefact scatter including tank lid, Lusi Bay
Artefact scatter incl tank lid, Lusi Bay
(Photo: Mel Van Twest)
Lusitania Bay Hut 1880
Lusitania Bay Hut 1880
(Photo: image sourced by Mel)
Lusitania Bay Hut interior 1880
Lusitania Bay Hut interior 1880
(Photo: image sourced by Mel)
Tank lid detail Lusitania Bay
Tank lid detail Lusitania Bay
(Photo: Mel Van Twest)
Tank lid comparison photo
Tank lid comparison photo
(Photo: image sourced by Mel)