Monday, 13 July 2020


New HMS Buffalo exhibit at Mercury Bay Museum

The Mercury Bay Museum in Whitianga has recently unveiled their new HMS Buffalo exhibit.

Work on the exhibit began in February this year and was completed a few weeks ago. “The museum’s team of volunteers and myself have been working hard to put the exhibit together,” says museum manager, Rebecca Cox.

“We are very happy with the outcome. It was quite a process as we had to catalogue each item forming part of the exhibit, which was something that hadn’t been done before.” 

Features include the “Buffalo Big Dig,” an interactive sandpit for children. Budding archaeologists can search through the sand to retrieve hidden Buffalo artefacts. The children can then measure and identify the purpose of each artefact. A huge thank you to Pinnacle Boats for painting the Buffalo Big Dig.

A TV in the corner displays dive footage taken by Dive Zone Whitianga showing the wreck of HMS Buffalo. The ship was wrecked in 1840 following stormy weather. It now rests in the water off Buffalo Beach approximately 200m east of Whitianga Continuing Care. Painted images of HMS Buffalo as well as photographs of the wreck taken by the Glass Bottom Boat are also shown on the TV.

A range of copper sheathing and timber planks retrieved from the wreck form part of the exhibit. The copper sheathing was used to cover the underwater part of the ship to provide protection from shipworms, small wood-eating sea creatures. They begin life as creatures almost invisible to the human eye. They latch onto the hull of a wooden ship and can grow up to one metre in length as they eat through the hull.

A broad arrow stamp is visible on each piece of copper. This stamp was used from the early 14th century to mark objects purchased with the British monarch’s money, or to indicate government property. The British Admiralty also stamped every copper sheet to show the month and year.

Before precise chemical analysis existed in the second half of the 20th century, the Admiralty had no understanding why some copper was good while apparently similar copper was bad. To establish the difference between the good copper and the bad copper, the Admiralty dated all ships’ copper sheathing to know how long it remained serviceable by identifying the dockyard, manufacturer and date of coppering.  

A stunning quilt featuring the HMS Buffalo is displayed on the wall. The quilt was made by the Mercury Bay Quilters and presented to the Mercury Bay Museum in 2015 to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the grounding and wrecking of the Buffalo.

The HMS Buffalo exhibit will remain in the museum as a permanent exhibit.

“The Buffalo exhibit has its own identity now and it’s neat to have something more permanent,” says Rebecca. “The Mercury Bay Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of the many people and organisations who have assisted us in the development of this wonderful new exhibit.”

The Informer is proud to be the principal sponsor of the exhibit.

Pictured: Part of the new HMS Buffalo display in the Mercury Bay Museum.


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