Escape from Pompeii – The Untold Roman Rescue

Last Friday we decided to take the river ferry in from Parramatta into Darling Harbour and spend the day strolling around the harbour with grandma. As we made our way round to the Harbourside Shopping Centre for a pancake brunch, we passed the Australian National Maritime Museum where out the front was a big sign promoting their latest exhibition: Escape from Pompeii – The Untold Roman Rescue. We quickly decided that after we had eaten, we would go and check it out.

With tummies full of crepes, pancakes, ice cream and maple syrup, we waddled over to the museum and purchased our tickets (FYI they offer a discount to ADF personnel). We were told that at 2pm they would be screening a short film about Pompeii. With time to spare we went out to the dock and let grandma explore the Australian naval vessels; the Destroyer HMAS Vampire and the submarine HMAS Onslow. Due to my dislike of confined spaces I opted to sit out the tour of the submarine and instead checked out the exhibits in the building that is situated between the two vessels. I was intrigued by the map locating where the remains of Australian navy ships lie. The images of the wreckages underwater were sad, eerie and intriguing. Some were sunk following being decommissioned, others were lost during war, taking their crews with them to the bottom of the ocean.

Soon enough hubby, Grandma and the kids emerged. My kids bolted across and onto the HMAS Vampire. My mother-in-law informed me that she had suffered a “ding to the shin” whilst trying to step through a doorway, and that Mike had successfully bashed his head on everything inside the submarine. I noticed his bald head was looking a bit worse for wear with a few newly acquired dents. We all wandered around the deck of the Vampire; Sydney had put on a glorious day for my mother-in-law (who had come all the way over from Canada to see us). The sun was out, the sky was blue and the breeze was divine. Ship tour done, we still had a bit of time to kill so we wandered over to the replica of the HMS Endeavour. The kids climbed all over the ropes, watched the school of fish swimming around the bow, and soon enough it was time for us to go in and watch the short film on Pompeii.

I forgot to mention that the film is in 3D, so we got to wear these groovy 3D glasses.

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Running for approximately 8 minutes, the film details the progression and result of the eruption of Vesuvius. There are no people, you are watching from above the rooftops. The first tremor hits – roof tiles tremble, dogs bark, birds frantically fly away and you can hear a baby cry out. Eventually the tremors get stronger, the city starts to crumble, ash falls down to earth. With each passing hour, you begin to feel the dread. The fear. These people never stood a chance. You watch as Pompeii is wiped out and eventually everything is still and silent. I have never been to Pompeii, it is a place I would so love to see. In the meantime, I have read books, watched documentaries about it (even the Doctor Who episode – The Fires of Pompeii, which featured the now 12th Doctor as Caecilius); but this little film made it real for me. I thought about all the victims, lost for 2000 years. Even now, five days on I am still thinking about it. I can still hear the rumbling, the dogs, the crying baby.

It was very well done.

After we watched the short film on Pompeii and the following 3D film on Great White Sharks (brilliant by the way – highly recommend watching it) we went on to see the exhibit. In this exhibit, I learnt that the Roman navy had attempted to evacuate people from the area. This evacuation was led by Pliny the Elder, who died during the evacuation.

At the time of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79, which destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae and Oplontis, while going to the aid of survivors and spurred on, no doubt, by his scientific curiosity, Pliny lingered to observe the volcano at close quarters. Landing at Stabiae from a small boat he was overcome by the sulphurous fumes and died on 24th August 79. Pliny the Elder – Natural History: A Selection, Introduction, p xi.

He was 55 years old.

Pliny the Elder - Natural History: A Selection

The exhibit contains rare artefacts from the areas affected by Vesuvius eruption in 79AD. It details Roman naval history, and how this terrible event highlighted the importance of its navy to the Roman Empire. You gain an insight into the lives of the sailors, the culture in the Bay of Naples and how beautiful and resplendent it had been in that day and age. You see how Pompeii served as a successful maritime port, boosting the trade business which flourished owing to the navy, and how quickly and horrifically it was erased.

The exhibition runs daily (0930am – 5pm) from the 31st March through to 03rd September 2017.

If you are in Sydney during this time, I highly recommend you check out this exhibit. You can find further information on the Australian National Maritime Museum website: www.anmm.gov.au

Note: all photos were taken by myself, using my trusty iPhone 6S Plus.

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