Cruise ships feature prominently in Australia’s experience of the Covid-19 pandemic. Almost from day one, they became an unfortunate symbol of the crisis as it unfolded.

Main image: Anna Warr, courtesy Illawarra Mercury.

Traditionally associated with escapism, exotic visits and on-board diversions, these great white ships soon lost some of their shine. Many were left suspended around Australia’s coastlines while government agencies grappled with quarantine and border control within and without the country to inhibit the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Ships such as the Diamond Princess in Japan, Ruby Princess in Sydney and Port Kembla, Vasco da Gama, Magnifica and Artania in Western Australia, and Greg Mortimer in South America became indelibly linked to this public health event.

Steve Krinks Marine Engineeer  photo by Nicole Bunnell
Steve Krinks Marine Engineeer  photo by Nicole Bunnell

The Australian National Maritime Museum is assembling a museum archive about Australia’s experience of the pandemic so that future generations can gain unique and unfiltered understandings of this world historical event.

Using oral histories, photographs and videos, memorabilia and souvenirs, the museum’s archive will focus on the travellers, workers and management of cruise ships during the pandemic in Australia, and in foreign ports when carrying Australian passengers or crew. 

The maritime experience of pandemics 
The museum holds historic material related to pandemics and it is important that we develop this archive to incorporate contemporary experience. The world before passenger aircraft was well aware that, in terms of biosecurity, ships were the primary vectors of disease through their carriage of peoples, animals, goods and bilge water into the country. The role of quarantine was paramount while vaccines were unavailable, and it remains so today. 

 ANMM Collection Gift from Geoffrey Martin 00027489; 00027514

A watercolour view of a ship in quarantine in Sydney Harbour by young Hallett Robertson Bartlett: the Aberdeen Line’s SS Miltiades 1920 | ANMM Collection Gift from Geoffrey Martin 00027514

Do you have a cruise ship story?
In particular, we are seeking stories from those who were on board ships caught up in the crisis, whether on ship, ashore, or in quarantine or self-isolation.

We would also like to hear from those who worked for or with organisations or government agencies responsible for cruise liners and their passengers and crews around Australia’s coastlines – the port, health, security and medical responders, and support and aid agencies such as the Mission to Seafarers.

 David Bosanquet, Assistant Chaplain Mission to Seafarers

David Bosanquet, Assistant Chaplain Mission to Seafarers

Become part of Australia’s history with your personal story about the Covid-19 pandemic
Personal stories and associated images are the important first step towards building a picture of the pandemic in Australia. They will become a vital resource for research and for web and learning programs, exhibitions and other creative projects. Your story, photographs or videos will contribute greatly to a fuller understanding of this crisis. 

Imagine that you are visiting our museum in 100 years and think of how your experience throws light on this pandemic.

How you can tell us about your Covid-19 experience:
Please enter your details in the fields below

If you would prefer, please write your story and send it by post to the senior curator at the address below. Please include any photographs and details of objects for the curators to follow up.

Senior Curator
Australian National Maritime Museum
Wharf 7, 58 Pirrama Road 
Pyrmont NSW 2009

Please note that by submitting details of your story and your historic material you agree to museum staff contacting you to request more information if required. And while this material will help us build this research resource, it may not be included in museum programs, nor will it necessarily be acquired into the National Maritime Collection. 

We would really like to hear from you now because all stories have emotional or informational perspectives, especially if they are recent.

Please include your contact details, email or phone number and we will get back to you within seven days. Note that this is confidential information subject to privacy laws. We thank you for your support.