Sydney’s working harbour and marine science feature at the centre of exciting new public spaces launched today at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The Sydney Harbour Gallery and the Ben Lexcen Terrace, opened today by Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP, provide new insights to the workings of Sydney’s defining feature – its working harbour.

Kevin Sumption, Director and CEO of the museum said, ‘We are a nation a surrounded by the sea. Water, rivers, beaches and harbours are integral to how we see ourselves and how the world sees us. As the Museum of the Sea our role is not only ensuring our maritime history is conserved but also to champion stories and education about how we live and work around our waterways.’

‘Sydney’s working harbour is not only one if its biggest tourism assets, it is integral to the daily life of the nation’s biggest city and the new Sydney Harbour Gallery and Ben Lexcen Terrace showcase not only how we live and work on our harbour but also the key environmental aspects that we need to be vigilant about.

Sydney Harbour Gallery

This new gallery showcases the latest in ocean science and marine technology for the first time.

Sponsored by Port Authority of NSW and delivered in collaboration with the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Reef Design Lab and The Little Ripper Group, it is a place to discover how our harbour works both above and below the water line.

For the first time visitors have the opportunity to understand the connections between the water worlds of Sydney Harbour – one of the great working harbours in the world.

The gallery now combines a view out to the harbour with a modern investigative observation and relaxation space, forming a physical connection between the Darling Harbour waterscape and museum.

Inside, visitors are immersed in historical and contemporary stories of Sydney Harbour. They can see ship models that highlight past and present commerce and trade, learn about hydrographic surveys, and see what 365 days of marine traffic looks like on the busy harbour.

Visitors can also learn about the work of local organisations and agencies, like the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and their program to restore vital habitats and protect biodiversity in and around the harbour.

Australian technology is on display with the Westpac Little Ripper which performed the first drone rescue at sea.

Westpac Little Ripper enters the National Maritime Collection

The Australian National Maritime Museum is proud to announce the acquisition of the Westpac Little Ripper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to the National Maritime Collection*.

On January 18, 2018, when the world’s first drone rescue in the surf environment occurred. SLSNSW Lifesaver & UAV Pilot, Jai Sheridan, under the supervision of Westpac Little Ripper pilot and payload operator, Mark Phillips, successfully deployed a ‘Little Ripper 4 Man Marine Rescue Pod ’from the Westpac Little Ripper drone, to rescue two Australian swimmers in distress in big surf off Lennox Head, NSW. The pod inflated on contact with the water, keeping the swimmers buoyant as the large swell washed them to shore whilst the Westpac Little Ripper kept watch and SLSNSW Lifesavers responded by traditional methods.

The Westpac Little Ripper UAV was developed to conduct remote search, rescue and lifesaving operations. It can carry a range of proprietary deployables including Little Ripper Marine, Land and Snow rescue pods (2 or 4 person), a defibrillator, Sea Marker Dye, EPIRB locator beacons and other Search and Rescue Devices.

The Westpac Little Ripper UAV has had significant impact on Surf Life Saving operations since its deployment in early 2016. This UAV is an exemplar for adaptive technologies, with success in its primary function (rescue operations) yet modifiable for additional purposes such as shark and crocodile spotting, thermal imaging of wildlife and as a beach and coastal landscape monitoring system. The Westpac Little Ripper UAV is a device that significantly affects future operations and capabilities of surf rescue, as well as coastal management and monitoring in Australia.

The Little Ripper fleet of drones are equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, with the ability to detect 22 objects in the marine environment with 90%+ accuracy. This technology has been developed in conjunction with the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). In future aspirations, The Ripper Group are looking to expand the Little Ripper Program to be deployed a long vast expanses of our coastline to better monitor and manage unpatrolled beaches, and inland to the bush.

The Australian National Maritime Museum acknowledges the generosity of The Ripper Group, designer and developer of the Westpac Little Ripper, with support from Westpac, Surf Lifesaving NSW and NSW Department of Primary Industries for donating this important maritime object to the National Maritime Collection.

Ben Trollope, CEO, The Ripper Group said, ‘The Ripper Group is honoured to be a part of this special achievement. It has been truly amazing to see how technology can save life in the marine environment and more so now from beach to bush in a range of different circumstances. The drive and passion for The Ripper Group is to save life and this has been achieved through this amazing technology development. A special thanks to Westpac for seeing the enormous potential in this new technology and investing in the research to make it a reality and save lives’.

Emily Jateff, Curator of Ocean Science and Technology at the museum stated, ‘The Westpac Little Ripper is a perfect example of where technology is taking us through the use of drones, both above and below the surface. We now have new ways to not only protect us but to collect data to ensure the on-going viability of our waterways. We are so pleased to have the drone that conducted the world first rescue as part of the National Collection and to be able to celebrate Australian ingenuity.’

Ben Lexcen Terrace

Named in honour of Australian sailing icon and Australian Sailing Hall of Fame inductee, this outdoor space on the edge of the harbour is the museum’s newest space for events. With expansive views over Cockle Bay and King Street Wharf and is offers the best views of Sydney’s western skyline.

The Terrace has been developed with funding from the Australian Government’s Public Sector Modernisation Fund. Through the Fund the museum has also invested in light-weight solar panels, HVAC system upgrades, roof repairs and removal of hazardous waste from HMAS Vampire.

In opening the spaces, The Hon. Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, said, ‘As Australia’s national museum of the sea, the National Maritime Museum is a drawcard for visitors from around Australia and overseas.

‘The Morrison Government is proud to have supported these important new spaces, which open the Museum up in new ways to the spectacular Harbour whose story it tells. With the opening of the Sydney Harbour Gallery, the Museum can now progress that story into our own times and show the profound impact of modern technology on the life of the Harbour.’

*About the National Maritime Collection

The National Maritime Collection contains a rich and diverse range of historic artefacts and contains over 140,000 objects.

Collection themes are based on Australian’s changing relationship with the maritime environment, its seas, coastlines and inland waterways, and aims to reflect the maritime history and contemporary maritime experiences of all Australians. The museum aims to preserve, make available, develop and disseminate information relating to Australian maritime history and as a result each item in the National Maritime Collection is digitised in our collection management database. A selection of these have been made available for members of the public to search.

To search the Collection visit