New perspectives on an old case: ‘Somerton Man’, Sydney, and the Australian far-right – Rowan Holmes

The ‘Somerton Man’ or ‘Tamám Shud’ case involves the discovery of a mysterious body and a mysterious code in Adelaide in 1948. The man has never been identified or the code solved. This paper recounts the circumstances and adds some new information, suggesting that these events may be connected in some fashion to activities of the far-right in Sydney before World War II, and the formation of a secret anti-communist national militia with plans for a coup at the time that the body was found. Lacunæ in the records and the lapsation of time prevent firm conclusions being reached.

Australia in Joshua Slocum’s circumnavigation – Michael Roe

This paper presents Slocum’s circumnavigation aboard Spray, 1895-8, as an achievement of the highest order, and the man himself of surpassing qualities, alongside concern for worldly standing. Background information is given on Slocum’s earlier life, including marriage in Sydney and several tumultuous voyages under his command. When reaching Sydney on the circumnavigation Slocum met criticism for alleged tyrannical behaviour towards his crew in earlier years. He outfaced this, and indeed developed some talent for public relations, turning Spray into a mini-museum and attracting crowds to his many lectures. Children especially responded to his charisma. Slocum in turn found much to enjoy in Australia, and his Sailing Alone Around The World—generally a remarkable document—offered interesting comment on places ranging from Devonport to Cooktown.

Governor Gipps’ unwelcome guest: French Captain Du Petit-Thouars’ visit to Sydney in 1838 – Colin Dyer

When French Captain Abel du Petit-Thouars travelled around the world with one ship and 460 men in 1837-1839 he visited Tahiti before continuing on to Sydney. When he arrived in Sydney he was surprised to see almost no-one was prepared to receive him. He then learnt that the British believed he was about to annex Tahiti for France. He told Governor Gipps that this was not the case, but refused to give any details. Relations between the two men gradually improved, and they parted on good terms. Five years later Du Petit-Thouars was again in Tahiti, and declared French sovereignty over the islands.

Wentworth’s coolies – Tony Ohlsson

William Charles Wentworth’s biographers have not explored his efforts from 1843 to 1853 to save his ‘encumbered estates’ from bankruptcy. Squatting offered Wentworth’s best hope of release from the purgatory of debt but he needed shepherds willing to work for ‘modest’ wages on his squatting runs. When prospects for reviving transportation collapsed, he turned first to Indian coolies and then Chinese coolies. Convicts had been forced to work under the threat of a flogging or chain gang but coolies prosecuted under the Master and Servant Act could only be gaoled for up to three months. Without government regulation of recruiting and shipping, and ‘special’ laws to enforce indentures, Wentworth abandoned Chinese labour as too risky and costly.

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