This interesting new acquisition comprises a photograph album documenting a year in service of the German cruiser S.M.S. Bussard (November 1895 to November 1896) under the command of K. K. Winkler.
The album contains 27 photographs of the ship, its crew, native villages and landscapes. The ship’s itinerary for the period covered in the album included places in the Bismarck Archipelago – Matupi and Herbertshöh; Nauru Island, Arno and Jaluit in the German Marshall Islands; and Apia and Pago Pago in Samoa. In Australia, S.M.S. Bussard visited Jervis Bay for torpedo exercises, as we learn from the ship’s itinerary published in ‘Marshall Islands History Sources No. 28’. There are also photographs of Cooktown and Lord Howe Island and possibly Sydney.
S.M.S. Bussard was launched in 1890 and was always deployed in the German colonies. In July 1893 she was one of the ships sent to suppress the revolt led by Mata’afa Iosefo in Samoa. After reconstruction in Danzig, the ship was sent to China to help fight the Boxer rebellion.
The first three photographs in the album document the 1889 cyclone at Apia, the capital of Samoa. The cyclone struck on 15 March 1889. Several nations had their ships in the exposed harbour of Apia and, although well aware of the risk, neither American nor German ships left the harbour in time to avoid the cyclone. One of the wrecks in the photographs below is probably that of the German ship S.M.S. Adler. New York Times (30 March 1889) reported on the disaster: ‘Dispatches from Samoa state that … the German man-of-war Adler, Olga and Eber were driven on a reef during a violent storm and totally wrecked.’
The third photograph in the album shows a monument to the victims of the cyclone.
Photographs taken on board the ship show the crew posing with a shark; a cow being lifted onto the ship’s deck and a group photograph of the crew posing with raised glasses and empty drink bottles.
Other photographs show the ship’s crew trading with the natives in canoes next to the ship, the sailors handling ammunition at Matupi and the crew posing with members of a native tribe on a half-built cottage.
This new acquisition will complement the State Library’s extensive collection of photographs of New Guinea.
‘Six war vessels sunk, wrecked in a hurricane at Samoa’, New York Times, 30 March 1889
Veronika Farley – Librarian, Original Content, State Library of Queensland