Polly Woodside Primary Programs

Welcome aboard shipmates, are you ready to learn the ropes?

Step lively aboard a real nineteenth century tall ship and into the lives of the sailors who lived and worked aboard.

These programs offer students a unique opportunity to step into the shoes of sailors who lived and worked aboard Melbourne’s favourite Tall ship – the Polly Woodside.

Programs include facilitated sessions aboard ship with a range of hands-on activities and engaging experiences from using the capstan to hauling sails to scrubbing decks and learning the fine arts of navigation.

The excursion includes entry to the Gallery and a film about the life of the crew member and his journey aboard in 1904.

Primary Program Details

Duration:2 hours +
Numbers:20 students minimum to 80 students maximum
Location:Next to Melbourne Exhibition Centre near Southern Cross Station
Resources:Below on this web page.
Bookings:Online Booking Form or email: bookings@nattrust.com.au. or phone: (03) 9656 9889

A Time Line for the Polly Woodside



Polly Woodside was built in Belfast, Ireland with her maiden voyage around the infamous Cape Horn taking place on 7 December. She was named Polly Woodside after the owner William Woodside’s wife Marian Polly Woodside.



Polly Woodside sails around Cape Horn 16 times trading coal and nitrate in South America.



As the coal/nitrate trade began to diminish and returned little or no profit, the ship was sent on two round-the-world voyages picking up and discharging cargoes wherever they could be found. This is called tramping.



Polly Woodside is sold to a New Zealand owner who officially change the ship’s name to Rona.



Rona has various different owners during her time in New Zealand, and undertakes voyages to Australia and the USA.



Rona is sold to the Adelaide Steamship Co. Ltd. for conversion to a coal hulk. A coal hulk is a barge used to transport coal to steamships.



Rona came to Melbourne where she refueled steam ships in the Port of Melbourne until 1964. For almost 40 years Rona was one of the 20 or so hulks that were in regular use in Hobson’s Bay and the Yarra River as coal lighters re-fuelling ships in the Port of Melbourne.

Due to the 1930’s depression and the increased use of fuel oil, their numbers steadily declined until Rona was the only one still afloat (in 1943-1946 the ship was also requisitioned by the Australian Navy for war service, refueling navy ships in Papua New Guinea).



As the years went on Rona became dirtier, rustier and less in demand until it was finally laid up at South Wharf while plans were drawn for its preservation.



The ship was handed over to the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) and sold for just one cent.



She was given back her original name of Polly Woodside and extensive restoration of the ship was undertaken to restore it as closely as possible to its 1885 configuration.



Polly Woodside is moved into Duke’s Dock and opened by the then Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Winneke, as an onshore museum to the public



The Polly Woodside and the Melbourne Maritime Museums operate as a major Victorian tourist attraction.



The ship is closed to the public as the redevelopment of the Melbourne Convention Centre begins.



The Polly Woodside reopens as a new museum and ship at Southbank.

Special Nautical Terms

Can you guess what these mean?

Expandable list section

The Polly Woodside used to be called Rona. This is the Rona sailing in 1914.
The Polly Woodside used to be called Rona. This is the Rona sailing in 1914.

The area towards in the middle of the ship.

For example the cargo hold on the Polly Woodside is amidships in the middle of the ship.

Secure hatches and loose objects.

The front of the ship.

Ships are used to transport all sorts of things that people want to buy and sell between countries or places. This includes everything from teacups to tea to timber to televisions.

The Polly Woodside carried things like coal, wool and timber.

Pronounced FOE-K-SELL.

This used to be the worde Fore Castle and is the area at the front of the ship that can be a raised platform where equipment and the anchor chain can be stored.

The children absolutely loved the excursion to Polly Woodside. We were studying the First Fleet, so they got a bit of an idea what like was like in those days. The staff we very professional and friendly, and the children also enjoyed the museum. We will be back!

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