The Musée Maritime de Nouvelle-Calédonie (Maritime Museum of New Caledonia) is a fascinating museum for anyone interested in maritime history and how it has influenced the development of New Caledonia.
What to see at the Musée Maritime de Nouvelle-Calédonie
The museum’s permanent collection is divided into several different sections, each of which covers a different aspect of New Caledonia’s maritime history and a significant portion of the museum’s exhibits comprise artefacts from the wrecks of La Pérouse’s two ships, the Astrolabe and the Boussole.
In 1785, Jean-François Galaup de La Pérouse set sail from Brest, France on what was intended to be a four-year voyage of discovery, although he never made it back to France after his ships were wrecked on the reefs of Vanikoro in the Solomon Islands. La Pérouse’s voyage took him around the world, during which he visited Botany Bay at the same time as the First Fleet. The Sydney suburb of La Perouse is named after him and La Pérouse is also noted as the first European to set foot on Maui and for having rejected Napoléon Bonaparte’s application to serve on the crew.
The La Pérouse exhibits are excellent with many original artefacts recovered from the wrecks of the Astrolabe and the Boussole and La Pérouse’s story is presented with informative displays chronicling his voyage and also detailing the efforts to recover artefacts from the wrecks.
The museum also has a permanent exhibition space devoted to merchant shipping in the 19th century, which details the importance of maritime trade between New Caledonia and the rest of the world.
There is also a section of the museum that shows the importance of domestic maritime travel in New Caledonia and this includes displays showing the role of coastal maritime traffic in the development of New Caledonia as well as displays about lighthouses and the wreck of the Monique on 31 July 1953.
The museum also has a gallery with exhibits showing the role of sea travel in bringing immigrants to New Caledonia.
Temporary exhibitions at the Musée Maritime de Nouvelle-Calédonie
The museum also hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions with a maritime theme. Current and planned exhibitions include:
The Marine Carpenter (charpentier de marine) exhibition shows the importance of Nouméa’s shipbuilding industry, which relied on timber from New Caledonia’s forests. The exhibition shows what the shipbuilding industry around Baie de la Moselle would have been like during its heyday in the early 20th century and documents its decline in the 1970s as a result of a preference for ships built from more modern materials.
The Golden Age of Sea Travel
This exhibition (La croisière s’amuse) tells the story of the Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes, which provided an important maritime link between France and its colonies in the new world. The exhibition shows how the company helped to transform sea travel into a pleasant experience with on board entertainment and stopovers in exotic locations.
Visiting the Musée Maritime de Nouvelle-Calédonie
The museum is located in a former maritime terminal near the Île des Pins ferry terminal and the northern end of the city centre.
The museum is closed on Mondays and the admission fee is 700F with reduced rates for children, students and seniors.
There is quite a lot to see here and you can easily spend 2–3 hours exploring the museum.
avenue James Cook, Nouméa 98800
Bus L3, L6 (stop: Musée Maritime)
Phone +687 26 34 43
Open Tue–Sun 10am–5pm
Admission 700F, seniors (60 and over) 350F, children (6–18) 350F, children (under six) free, students 350F, disabled visitors free