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National Museum of Australia

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4

Lifebuoy from MV Tampa

Object information

Description

This lifebuoy was used on the Norwegian merchant vessel, MV Tampa which responded to an emergency call and rescued 438 asylum seekers at sea on 26 August 2001. The asylum seekers were trying to reach Australia in a 20 metre wooden fishing boat when it began to sink about 140 kilometres north of Christmas Island. The rescue was particularly difficult because of the difference in size of the two vessels, with the MV Tampa at least 10 times larger than the fishing boat.

Physical description

Ring-shaped lifebuoy or life preserver made of fluorescent orange plastic with four reflective strips, and text in black reading 'TONSBERG' and 'TAMPA'. Lengths of rope are threaded through loops moulded into the outer edges of the ring and knotted. The manufacturer's name 'PERRY BUOY' is moulded into the plastic.

Statement of significance

The collection consists of one life jacket and one lifebuoy from the MV Tampa owned and operated by Wallenius Wilhelmsen. The objects were part of the standard safety equipment inventory maintained on board the vessel. Both are made of synthetic materials and are fluorescent orange in colour with white reflector strips.

The Norwegian shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen has played a significant role in Australian trade since 1895. On 26 August 2001 the Wilhelmsen container ship MV Tampa rescued 438 Afghan asylum seekers from the vessel KM Palapa 1 which was sinking in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Christmas Island. During the rescue the crew of the MV Tampa wore life jackets (of the type offered). The asylum seekers became stranded on the MV Tampa when it was refused entry into Australian Territorial Waters. In response to this event, the interception of further illegal arrivals and international terrorism attacks, the Commonwealth Government enacted the 'Pacific Strategy' as a series of bills which looked to strengthen border control and national security.

Educational significance

Defining Moment: Australian troops take control of Tampa carrying rescued asylum-seekers (2001)
Curriculum: History
School years: 10

Object information

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