Vikings, vikings everywhere! I don’t even know how Master R discovered Vikings, but when he did he wanted to know everything about them. Where did they come from? Who were they? Does he have viking blood (indeed he does!). My personal philosophy is that a little book research blended with study through experience will help one establish a good understanding of a particular concept. So I set off to find a museum in Sydney that would offer us some insight into the world of the Viking. As luck would have it the National Maritime Museum was showcasing the world of the viking and even had a replica Viking ship on display. So one fine Spring morning off we went….
The National Maritime Museum is easily accessed via Darling Harbour. Admission is $17.50 for a family but check if there is an additional charge on the day for visiting exhibits. There are a number of galleries to work through, many ships and a submarine to explore. Be mindful that there is a height requirement to explore many of the ships. This was the first time we all made the height!
We arrived quite early so we decided to try and beat the crowds and explore the submarine first, leaving the Vikings for a little later. We could then work backwards – modern to old. Known as HMAS Onslow, the submarine is close to operational condition, arriving only a few weeks after it was decommissioned in 1999. Built for the Royal Australian Navy during the Cold War, the submarine completed many secret missions tracking Soviet submarines moving into the Arabian Gulf from Vladivostok via the Coral Sea and the Great Australian Bight. Exploring the submarine is a little squishy but it allows you to move your imagination to its time on the sea when it would have carried an entire crew of sailors!
We all had a look into Darling Harbour through the periscope. We attempted to fit into the bunk beds (are all sailors short?) and we peered into the gallery which once served four meals a day for 64 men. It was a fascinating tour.
We then moved to HMAS Vampire, Australia’s largest museum vessel. Serving the Australian Navy from 1959 to 1986, the Vampire will make your jaw drop with its magnitude. It is an imposing ship, making a dwarf of all the other boats and ships in the area. Our exploration of this ship took some time with the kids wanting to investigate each area, especially the torpedo room. The machinery within the ship is what you will notice. It takes up much of the space with the living areas cramped. It’s difficult to imagine living on one of these!
After stepping off the Vampire the kids begged to hop on the Viking Ship. Of course we obliged. Moving from a modern day battle ship to a historical viking ship is surreal. The Jorgen Jorgenson is a newly restored reconstruction of the late 9th century Gokstad ship. It is only about 8 metres long and is made of wood. How did they travel on such a small boat?
We looked at replica viking shields and items before walking through the exhibition which showcased over 500 rare artefacts including the oldest known Scandinavian crucifix, finely crafted bronze and silver jewellery, exquisite gold and silver pendants, small statuettes of Norse gods, and Viking swords dating from 700-1100AD. This challenged our concept of a viking as there were certainly no horned helmets.
On our way out I couldn’t help but stop by the Beer Can Regatta boat made from beer cans. It took me right back to my childhood in Darwin and a trip there was promptly added to our Bucket List.