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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Geraldton Museum, Western Australia

The Geraldton Museum is full of interesting artifacts and information. Visiting here was an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.


The shipwreck exhibit details the wrecks of the Dutch VOC. Their headquarters were in Jakarta and the pride of their fleet was built in 1628 – the Batavia. Like the Titanic in later years, the Batavia sunk on its maiden voyage in 1628 off the coast of Western Australia. Sadly, the similarity ends here. The Batavia had over 300 people aboard. Soldiers, sailors, VOC members, mothers, fathers and children. It carried over 30 million dollars in silver that was designated as the salaries for employees in different parts of the world.

46 people left on a longboat with Francisco Pelsaert, the Merchant Commander, to the East Indies for assistance. This journey took them 4 long weeks at sea, over a total of 1500 nautical miles in a 10.7m open boat. A replica of the long boat is anchored in the waters outside the museum. When looking at the replica, it is amazing that they all survived that long journey alive.

Of those remaining stranded on inhospitable islands over 125 men, women and children were killed. When the rescuers arrived they immediately executed 8 of the murderers on the island, and recovered 12 of the 300kg chests of silver. They recovered every chest except one. These were dangerous waters.

A lifesize display shows how the skin of the ship would have been tightly packed with goods and supplies on the voyage.

The portico here is made of the actual stones recovered from the Batavia wreck. The same design in the Fremantle shipwreck museum is a replica.

In 1963 the wreck was discovered. On Beacon Island the graves of the executed men were discovered when fisherman were living there and dug beneath the surface.

There are over 8,000 items recovered from shipwrecks in the Fremantle & Geraldton Maritime Museums.

Shipwrecks can be identified as the coins recovered from them are lagged with dates. Coins recovered from the Batavia are on display here. Some are embedded within the coral that has grown around them in time.

In 1711 the Zutydorp sailed from the Netherlands towards Batavia. It carried large amounts of coin to purchase goods in Asia. With 200 people aboard it left the Cape on 21 April 1712 and was never seen again. Learning from the mistakes of the Batavia, when the Zeewijk shipwrecked in 1727, crew had been trained on what to do in case of a shipwreck.

They waited six months after their incident. They were able to eat food that was on their wrecked ship, as it did not sink immediately onto the reefs. They build a boat, ate sea lions and fish, and survived. In four months they build a sloop and embarked on a 5 week sea voyage aboard the sloop before they arrived at Batavia.


On 19 November 1941 the Sydney II was sunk by the German raider HSK Kormoran. In 2008 the wrecks of both ships were found off Shark Bay at a depth of 2,500m.

A film of the wrecks is played in a special room here. Sitting and watching the film, you almost feel that you are swimming past the wrecks under the ocean yourself. The wreck is overlaid with pictures of what the ships would have looked like when above the waves.

The music is soulful and no spoken words are heard. You can see the holes where torpedoes hit. Marine life grows on the rusting metal.


Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Services (GRAMS) launched a photography competition where entrants were invited to take a picture to capture the 2020 NAIDOC theme ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ and what it meant to be Aboriginal. The exhibition celebrates the culture, not the colour, of the Aboriginal identity.

All the pictures in the exhibit are powerful and beautiful photographs.

In another part of the museum is an area with a sadder recollection. Here, information details how Aboriginal soldiers have fought for Australia in every war from the Boer war onwards but still found discrimination upon their return to their country.


There is an area dedicated to the development of Geraldton:

- Geraldton is named after Governor Charles Fitzgerald and surveyed in 1849

- From 1850 convicts and pensioner guards came to the area

- From the early 1900s it was a great place to grow tomatoes

- Learn about mining in the area over the years

- That it was a summer resort for the mining population of the Murchison

- Discover that Sandalwood and horses were once exported form here

- The Australian Rules football player Chris Mainwaring was born in Geraldton

- How they overcame early health risks and found suitable water sources

- In 1906 Bubonic Plague arrived and children were paid sixpence for each dead rat they delivered to the council

- Early breweries

- Entertainment in the area over the years


Spanning more than 100 years, SPY explores well known – and more hidden – aspects of Australia’s security and intelligence history. It brings these stories out of their shadows - sign at exhibit.

The exhibit had a good balance of information and displays. Check out the defector kit from the 1950s. Pretty snazzy pajamas and a great range of toiletries so the defectors look presentable.

In 1953 ASIO officers started Operation Medico where they kept information secret by using hospital-themed code words to replace real words. This interactive board allows you to change the words around, and thus the message.

There are also old film footage on display here and machines used in espionage. This was an excellent exhibit.


There are displays of local flora and fauna, both in posters and life sized examples.

The Geraldton Museum is definitely a must see when visiting this area. Not only does it give you historical information, but has a well presented and easy to follow flow to the exhibits. All displays are on the ground floor and easy to navigate.

Happy Travels!

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