The museum vs the caravan Park

At the Fleet Air Arm Museum

A happy little M&Ger inside the flight simulator.

It has been said that the caravan park is the ultimate children’s holiday destination – the novelty of confined living, the pool, the mini golf and the endless stream of kids on bikes. Would any kid want to leave this utopia for a trip to a stuffy old regional museum?

The Shoalhaven region on the NSW south coast is heaving with both caravan parks and museums. A short drive south of Nowra is the expansive Albatross Naval Air Base, a remarkable location for the Fleet Air Arm Museum.

The Navy has amassed a collection of seriously big objects and the 6000sqm museum built to showcase them, is impressive. The take-offs and landings on the adjacent airstrip can be witnessed from towering windows, evoking the possibilities of the flightless aircraft on exhibit inside. Nothing makes a little visitor run faster than an empty seat inside the cockpit of a helicopter. Add a simulated flight screen and they’re in heaven.

Museum 1. Caravan Park – zero.

The objects that generated the most interest were not the big guns, but those that evoked a human response.

The majority of objects in this museum are torpedoes, missiles, guns, propellers and engines. Big, noisy, metal and highly destructive.

Museum 2. Caravan Park – zero.

But surprisingly, the objects that generated the most interest were not the big guns, but those that evoked a human response. The 1957 Martin Baker Mk4 ejection seat positioned amongst the aircraft display reminds us that flying is not always smooth sailing.

Tapping into the universal fear of flying and what happens post ejection seat, is a collection of survival equipment. Sea water desalination apparatus, life raft bailing bucket, leak stopper, signal mirror and ration kits – evoke images of pilots and passengers bobbing around in deep oceans amidst the detritus of their flying machines. 

When a museum gives you a sense of the complexity, ingenuity and purpose of its objects and can convey the bravery and skill of the people associated with them – that’s when the real lasting memories of a museum and a holiday can weave its magic.

Museum 3. Caravan Park – zero.

And it wasn’t even a rainy day.

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