Queensland Maritime Museum – The Last River Destroyer

The first thing that I noticed about this place was the River Destroyer sitting in the old dry dock. In fact it was on my first trip to Brisbane, after having lunch at a not very cheap cafe on the river bank and then deciding to cross the footbridge over the river to the CBD, that  we (that is my brother and I) saw the destroyer sitting in what looked like an old dry dock. At the time I was really impressed and was trying to work out how we could get down there and check it out, until we realised that it was actually a part of a museum. However, after taking a few photographs, we continued on our journey across the river (namely to see what was under the Pacific Freeway – not much by the way, with the exception of mangroves and carparks) then then proceeded to forget all about it. Anyway, on our recent trip to Brisbane, during the day when we decided (or should I say I decided because my brother will simply follow me where ever I take him – within reason of course: he has no desire to follow me to Somalia) to explore the Southbank parklands, that we ended up paying a visit the the Queensland Maritime Museum, where I suddenly discovered (having previously forgotten all about it), the destroyer sitting in the old dry dock.
As I have mentioned a couple of times, the Museum is located around an old dry dock. This dry dock used to be where ships were built, however the dry dock went into disuse after the freeway bridge was build over the river, namely because the ships that they would build there wouldn’t be able to fit under the it (at least that was what I was told by one of the curators at the museum). I suspect that the dry dock had fallen into disuse some time previously, and I doubt they would have build the bridge over the freeway without actually letting the owners of the shipyards have any say in it. Anyway, the museum, who had been given a retired tug boat as part of their collection, approached the Queensland Government and where allowed to use the dry dock, and the area around it, to set up their museum.
HMAS Forceful
Doesn’t look all that forceful

Okay, you can probably read about the Forceful on the martime’s museum website, so I probably don’t need to say all that much about it here (though I will anyway). The Forceful is one of museum’s collection of boats, and it was the last coal-fired tugboat to be in service in the Port of Brisbane. It was originally commissioned in 1926 and served in a number to places, though mostly in the Port of Brisbane, until 1970. These days she sits on the Brisbane River, next to the musuem, so that people like my brother and I can wander around on its deck and stick our heads into some of the compartments. They did have a guard (or maybe just one of the museum volunteers) standing on the jetty, probably to stop people from stealing it. Mind you, I suspect that stealing the tug boat is not all that easy, considering that you probably need an experienced crew to actually get it moving.

In fact there are a number of ships on display, including a retired Pearl Diver, and Jessica Watson’s yacht, Ella’s Pink Lady. For those who don’t know who Jessica Watson is (and I must admit that I’m one of them because after she completed her trek I pretty much forgot about her, not that I was paying all that much attention in the first place), she holds the record for being the youngest person to sail around the world (she didn’t circumnavigate the globe because, apparently, there is a certain route you have to take, and she took a route that while it went around the world, it didn’t travel the distance for it to be a circumnavigation – to actually circumnavigate the world you have to pass through the Suez and Panama canals).

Jessica Watson's Route
Jessica Watson’s route
Circumnavigation Route
Typical Circumnavigation Route

Among the collection of boats, the museum also have a number of nautical items, such as a collection of buoys, engines, a radar, and some cannons. One of the sheds is full of smaller boats, including the Fury, which is a skiff-class dingy (a dingy that has a sail attached to it, much like a small yacht). There is also a building what contains a number of exhibits as well some model boats, though since we were pressed for time, and also a little hungry, we weren’t able to look at all of the exhibits. The main reason is because we spent quite a lot of time crawling through the nooks and crannies of the Diamantina, which is the large River Destroyer sitting in the old dry dock.

HMAS Diamantina
It just fits

Once again you can find out all about the HMAS Diamantina from the museum’s website, or else you could go to Wikipedia, though I suspect you would get more reliable information from the owner’s of the ship (not that owning something automatically means you know everything about it – my Grandfather and computers is a prime example). Anyway, this destroyer (or is it a frigate – I’m not sure which – in fact I’m pretty sure I couldn’t tell you the difference – as far as I am concerned they are both ships) was built during World War II and served some time doing what ships generally do during war – or warships at least – shoot at things, preferably the enemy. After the war it was then converted to an ocean-survey ship (which basically meant that they removed all of the guns) and was then retired in 1980 where it became a permanent exhibit at the museum where it sits in the drydock.

Diamantina Engine Room
The Engine Room

Okay, they could have set the ship up so you could wander around the dry dock and look at the outside, but that wouldn’t be any fun, so you can go on board and wander around the inside of the ship. The first thing that I discovered is that this ship is huge. Okay, when I say huge I am not talking about aircraft carrier huge (now those ships are gigantic) but rather that to explore every nook and cranny of the Diamantina takes quite a long time. The ship itself has four levels, though the top comprises the bridge, while you can only go into a couple of the rooms in the bilge (which is what I believe they call the bottom level of the ship, the place naughty sailors are thrown because it tends to be dark and damp, with water shloshing around the floor). The middle two levels comprise of the crew quarters and the other operational parts of the ship, including the radio room.

Anyway, it would probably be better to simply show you a bunch of photographs – in fact it would be even better to go and check it out yourself, if exploring warships is your thing.

Diamantina - Front GunDiamantina - Side Gun
A couple of the cannons
Diamantina - Captain's CabinDamantina - Captain's Cabin
The Captain’s cabin, including the table where he would have his meals
Diamantina - Radio RoomDiamantina - Radio Room
A couple of shots of the radio room
Diamantina - HallwayDiamantina - Medical Room

As you can see from the photo above the hallways are quite narrow and cramped, and the doors are also quite small. Living on the ship while it was out at sea was not the type of experience for those who like their space – most of the crew do not have that luxury (though checking out the captain’s cabin, as well as the cabins of some of the other senior officers, you can see that they do). As for the medical suite (or whatever it is call) this isn’t just a first aid cabin – you would have a fully qualified surgeon on board, namely because there would be times that you simply could not wait to get back to shore to perform an operation.

Diamantina - CabinDiamantina - Hammocks

If you were lucky, or held a senior position, you may have to share a cabin with a couple of others, however if you were simply the average seaman, then unfortunately your bed would simply consist of a hammock hanging in one of the rooms in the lower deck.

Diamantina - Crew BarDiamantina - Crew Bar

Of course, there were also places where the crew could relax, which included a bar (though I suspect that alcohol was not available – we can’t have a drunk crew, or even one suffering from a hangover, operating the destroyer), though I suspect access would depend on one’s seniority. However, they do have a kitchen and a mess, though once again the officers and the crew wouldn’t generally share eating areas.

So, that is the museum. Pretty cool, particularly the River Class destroyer sitting in the dry dock. I found it interesting, and am certainly going to check out the one in Sydney (which I believe also has a submarine).

Creative Commons License

Queensland Maritime Museum – The Last River Destroyer by David Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.
Diamantina source: Nick-D used with permission under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Jessica Watson’s Route source: Moondyne used with permission under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

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