Marine research conducted by the Australia National Maritime Museum is sparking interest in the story of early Church members who sacrificed 142 years ago to join the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley.
Last December an underwater expedition located remains of the Julia Ann, a ship carrying LDS immigrants bound for the Salt Lake Valley that sank on a reef near a Tahitian atoll in 1855.The Julia Ann - carrying 56 people, including 28 Church members, and 350 tons of coal - was just four weeks out of Sydney when it struck a reef off Scilly Island Oct. 3, 1855. (Please see May 4, 1996, Church News) Five Mormon immigrants, including three children, drowned when the ship split in two.
The surviving passengers and crew spent two months on a nearby island eating turtle flesh and coconuts, and drinking water from holes dug deep in the sand.
Much of the remains of the 118-foot vessel lay dormant for more than 140 years until it was recovered this year by Paul Hundley, curator of the American Gallery at the Australian museum. He led a team of international maritime archaeologists in the search of the sunken ship. The international archaeological team included representatives from the Newport Harbor Maritime Museum in California and the Groupe de Reschersche en Archeologie Navale, an amateur group associated with the Museum of Tahiti.
The team spent from Dec. 29 to Jan. 10 at the site retrieving objects such as copper sheathing that once protected the hull of the Julia Ann, the copper fasenings from the rigging, and coal - enough to confirm the identity of the wreck beyond a reasonable doubt. The vessel's anchor and windlass were also located but not salvaged.
The recovered artifacts are undergoing conservation processes at the museum in Sydney before being displayed.
The museum plans to mount a major exhibition of 19th century United States/Australian shipping links as part of the lead-up to the Sydney Olympic Games.
Remnants from the Julia Ann will be featured in this exhibition, which is expected to travel internationally to Tahiti, California and Utah. A preliminary exhibition just on the Julia Ann wil be held later this year under the sponsorship of the Church.
During his recent visit to Australia and New Zealand, President Gordon B. Hinckley visited the Australia Maritime Museum May 15, and presented museum officials with several artifacts, including journals and a diary, on loan from the Church Historical Department relating to the Julia Ann ship wreck.
Also part of the display are artifacts on loan from descendants of the Julia Ann survivors living in Utah.
During Mr. Hundley's recent trip to Utah, he met with descendants of the early Church members who were aboard the Julia Ann. He told them of his team's efforts and successes and showed pictures of the excavation.
Descendant Shauna Johnson of Centerville, Utah, said it is thrilling to see the museum bring her ancestors' story to light. "I can't learn enough about it," she said.
Descendant Anna Moyar of Salt Lake City, Utah, lent Mr. Hundley one of her family's treasures for the exhibit - a black shawl that was used to tie her grandmother, then a baby, to her great-grandfather's back in the first moments after the wreck.
She said, "My grandmother told many many stories about her life and the Julia Ann. Grandmother kept the shawl in a chest her husband built for her."
Now the descendants hope others can learn from their heritage. They all eagerly asked Mr. Hundley questions about the excavation and trusted him with family photos and other relics.
Mr. Hundley said he is appreciative of their help with and interest in his work. "The things we have found are beyond anything I thought we would reach up to this point," he said. "
This projectT is forging friendships across the Pacific."