Brickwrecks: Sunken Ships in LEGO® Bricks
Premiering just in time for the July School Holidays comes Brickwrecks: Sunken Ships in LEGO® Bricks. This is an exciting new immersive and interactive exhibition at the WA Maritime Museum in Fremantle. Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught, working with expert maritime archaeologists, brings to life these amazing real life shipwrecks and their stories in LEGO® form.
If you’ve been to a previous Brickman exhibition, you will know the level of detail he puts into his replicas. This was our first time. We were certainly blown away. There’s so many tiny details to find in each replica ship. You could spend ages exploring these.
The collection includes famous sunken ships you’re sure to have heard of such as Batavia, Vasa and, probably the most famous of all, Titanic. In addition to discussing the historic details of each wreck featured, the exhibition also tackles ecology and plastics impact on the ocean way. This is delivered in a way that is easy to understand.
Vasa and Shinan
On walking into the exhibition, the first sunken ships we saw were Vasa and Shinan.
Vasa was a highly decorated Swedish warship. It was build around 1624 and packed with cannons over two decks. As a result of all this weight, this ship barely got out of the harbour before she sank. With this in mind, there is an interactive model with cannons where visitors can attempt to balance the ship. We never managed it! There is also a LEGO® model which simulates how quickly the ship tipped over.
On the other hand, the Shinan was likely a Chinese trading vessel, built and sank in the 14th century. Her remains were discovered in 1975. Shinan was described in the 1990s as “the richest ancient shipwreck yet discovered.”
After that, we came to the model of the Batavia, an iconic wreck in Western Australia. This is a Dutch East India Company ship that was wrecked near a small group of islands off the coast of Western Australia around 400 years ago. Of the 200 people who survived the wreck, only 70 of these would be alive three months later. Two of these people became stranded on Australian shores following a bloody munity. The wreck of the Batavia was discovered off what is now known as the Abrolhos Islands in 1963. Much of the ship was salvaged and is now on display at the Western Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle.
The Batavia section of the exhibition includes a detailed LEGO® replica. This was one where we found lots of tiny details to study. Miss 7 loved the addition of a mermaid in the water watching the ship go by. There are also interactive parts. Kids will love the funny mirrors with beards make your child look like a 1600s sailor. There’s also a holo-wreck to explore. This shows the differences over time of the wreck being studied and excavated. Miss 7 found this activity fascinating! She kept returning to explore it. There is also a magnifying glass with slides you can use to examine the excavations.
Adjacent to the Batavia is the Pandora. She was most famously involved in the search for the ship Bounty. The Pandora ran aground on an outcrop of coral in the Great Barrier Reef while travelling towards the Torres Strait. 35 men were lost, including four mutineers.
The Pandora exhibit was another that captured Miss 7’s interest. The LEGO® part of this looks just like a sandy seabed with divers undertaking various tasks. However, there are four tablet devices for visitors to use to view an augmented reality of the ship in different stages. Miss 7 spent ages going through the different augmented layers and examining the details.
In addition to this, there is an interactive x-ray activity. This shows how archeologists examine the crusty relics they’ve recovered. Visitors can place a tray with a replica of a relic into a mock x-ray machine. This then reads the relic and shows an example of what an archeologist might see.
Terror and Erebus
At the very rear of the exhibition is the wrecks of Terror and Erebus. These two warships were refitted for polar exploration through the Arctic. Their last voyage was the Franklin Expedition, to cross the North West passage through Canada. The voyage was planned for three years. However the ships became trapped in ice. The crew abandoned them and attempted to walk back to land. Subsequently, the crew were never found. Between 2008 and 2016, several attempts were made to find the Terror and Erebus. The first wreck was discovered in September 2014, while the second was found in September 2016.
In this section there is a LEGO® replica of the underwater rovers. This is similar to those used to explore the remains of the Terror and Erebus. This model is huge and has lights, and looks very realistic. There is also an underwater rover simulator that you or the kids can try. Can you get photos of the virtual wreck without crashing your rover and before the oncoming storm hits?
My husband took his DLSR for our visit to Brickwrecks, and he particularly enjoyed photographing the model of the ships stuck in the ice. The details are exquisite, right down to the polar bear eyeing off the crew leaving the ships.
Wandering back towards the front of the exhibition, we found the most famous wreck of them all, the Titanic. Miss 7 has just been reading about this ill-fated cruise liner, and was excited to see it represented here. Half the ship and it’s smoke stacks hand from the ceiling as though she were sinking all over again. You can read her full story as well as view the model and watch a video about her wreck.
Towards the front of the exhibition is a final wreck, the Rena. She ran aground following stormy weather on her journey from Napier to Tauranga in New Zealand. The ship split and caused an oil spill, which threatened wildlife and fishing waters. The spill is New Zealand’s worst ever maritime environmental disaster.
During her shift and split, the Rena lost containers of cargo overboard. This has happened with previous ships, one of which was carrying LEGO® in her containers. This lost LEGO® now regularly washes up on the beaches of Cornwall. You can see an example of some recovered LEGO® pieces in the expedition.
The Rena section of the Brickwrecks exhibition includes discussion of ecology and the impact her wreck had on the local area. There is video discussing saving wildlife and other steps taken to repair the damage. On reading a little more about the Rena now, it appears the remains of her wreck have since grown to become part of the reef, adding more homes for the sea life.
Interspersed between the LEGO® models, there are three LEGO® building stations. These are long tables with tubs of LEGO® pieces. Two tables are regular LEGO®, and one is Duplo®, more suited to toddlers and preschoolers. The Duplo® station also has some other small children’s activities. Each of these LEGO® stations has a challenge to try to complete. There are shelves to the side where your child can leave their complete creation to be viewed and appreciated.
Miss 7 enjoyed these stations, and we used them to break up our visit. During our visit she sometimes became overwhelmed sensory-wise by the noise levels or the bright lights. So we used these to stop and phase out and refocus for a moment.
If you need more LEGO® fun, the giftshop outside the the exhibit is well stocked with kits to take home. These include sea creature and underwater machine themes in addition to the classic packs we know and love.
In addition to the exhibit, there are two special events coming up in July. These are free with your Brickwrecks ticket and run to
Join us for games and family fun the Shipwreck Adventures Zone! Take your photo in fashions from the Titanic or Dutch Golden Age, or play to win in the Roaring Forties Race game. Find shipwreck treasures in the Shifting Sands Maze game and test your skills in other special interactive games and challenges.
Get creative with Titanic hats and make your own spinning thaumatrope, take inspiration from iconic shipwreck stories for a creative writing workshop, or play ‘find the archaeologists’ with hidden LEGO minifigures in the Museum with the Shipwrecks and Shrink-rays trail activity.
In conclusion, Brickwrecks: Sunken Ships in LEGO® Bricks is a delightful exhibition. It makes history easily accessible and enjoyable for all ages. There’s plenty for children of all ages to interact with and explore. My Miss 7 enjoyed it so much that she didn’t want to leave, so we have promised to go again another weekend, and possibly explore the WA Maritime Museum again at the same time.
Brickwrecks is a great rainy day activity. It would be an excellent multi-generational exhibit. Grandparents would enjoy it along with their grandchildren. There’s room for prams and wheelchairs to navigate the exhibit as well, so no one need miss out.
Brickwrecks: Sunken Ships in LEGO® Bricks
Located at the Western Australian Maritime Museum, Victoria Quay, Peter Hughes Drive, Fremantle.
The Western Australian Maritime Museum is open 9.30am to 5pm daily. Closed Christmas Day. Please check the opening hours for public holidays as these may vary.
Brickwrecks: Sunken Ships in LEGO® Bricks runs from to
Standard – $15.00
Concession – $12.50
Junior – $12.50
Junior (under 5s) – FREE
Tickets are for the Brickwrecks: Sunken Ships in LEGO® Bricks exhibition only.
Book online here or at the Museum ticket office.
If a visit to Brickwrecks has whet your appetite to know more about shipwrecks, why not visit the WA Shipwrecks Museum too? Similarly, if the kids wish to experience a real ship adventure, why not visit The Pirate Ship Mandurah?
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a completely different museum experience for the school holidays, the Play School Exhibition, Wanneroo is on now. Extra special play school themed events will be running alongside this. So be sure to check out our events guide!
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