this citys afloat with history

SYDNEY, Australia There are two instantly recognizable structures for which Sydney Australia is famous: the Opera House, recently added to the World…

SYDNEY, Australia

There are two instantly recognizable structures for which Sydney Australia is famous: the Opera House, recently added to the World Heritage List, and the Harbour Bridge, which marked its 75th birthday in 2007.

Sydney’s beautiful deep-water harbour is a focal point of the city.

Just around the corner from these famous landmarks is Darling Harbour, a bustling area easily accessed from the city centre by monorail, light rail, ferry or a 10-minute walk across the Pyrmont Bridge.

It is difficult to decide which of the many attractions to visit first.

There is an Imax theatre, museums, and a wildlife centre where some 6,000 native creatures, including koalas and wallabies, live.

Star City, Sydney’s only casino, boasts eight bars and seven restaurants.

The big-ticket admission to the Australian National Maritime Museum includes entry to a number of attractions, which can be seen before you arrive, floating in the waters of Darling Harbour.

Madge, the silver-haired volunteer working at the admissions counter, handed out site maps and explained how the museum was laid out.

The first stop was an exploration of the destroyer HMAS Vampire, which served in the Royal Australian Navy from 1959 to 1986.

Among other duties it accompanied troop ships to the war in Vietnam.

It never saw active duty.

The submarine HMAS Onslow served in the navy from 1969 to 1999.

Another of the friendly volunteers who staff the museum stated that it would have been possible for the submarine to remain underwater for a maximum of seven weeks.

Semi-retired, with a keen interest in marine history, he told the tale of the day he met a U-boat veteran visiting the submarine.

The James Craig is a square-rigger survivor of Sydney’s 1874 Heritage Fleet: the result of an award-winning 30-year restoration, this tall ship now sets sail on alternate weekends.

A highlight of the museum is the magnificent replica of Captain Cook’s ship The Endeavor.

European settlement in Australia began when Captain James Cook landed at Botany Bay (now a suburb of Sydney) in 1770, claiming the east coast for Great Britain during his epic circumnavigation of 1768-71.

Built to look as if Captain Cook and his men have just stepped ashore, the replica is full of fascinating detail.

Two of the four anchors were cast from the actual anchor Cook lost on the Great Barrier Reef when the ship grounded, and the 10 cannon on board, which can be fired, are replicated from those thrown overboard to lighten the ship so that it could be freed from the reef.

A piece of pig iron tied to the mid-ships pillar, recovered at the Great Barrier Reef by divers in 1970, is the only original item on board.

Climbing down a ladder to the Mess Deck, the headroom is as low as 1.3 meters. Sailors had just 36 centimetres in which to sling their hammocks at night; they were stowed away each morning. Officers had a full 46 centimetres for their hammocks!

Desks are covered with items such as journals copied by quill pen and ink, and records of the some 1,000 new species of plants recorded on the voyage.

Gifts aboard The Endeavour, received from indigenous peoples who welcomed her to their traditional lands, include, among many others, a Canadian Sooke mask and paddle.

In the Great Cabin is a brass ring surrounding the last wooden nail hammered into the replica of The Endeavour.

This wooden nail was carried into space by the Space Shuttle Endeavour on her maiden voyage in 1992, linking the two Endeavours across time.

Catherine Miller is a Whitehorse-based writer on a months-long tour of far-flung places. Her chronicle appears here every Monday.