The South Australian Maritime Museum preserves the oldest nautical collection in Australia. In 1872 the Port Adelaide Institute began a museum collection to complement its library and its educational and social programs. That collection grew over the following century reflecting the seafarers and the ships that visited Port Adelaide. It is now held in trust at the South Australian Maritime Museum.

The Maritime Museum’s collections ranges from the Port Adelaide Lighthouse that was first lit in 1869 to a plaque that explorer Matthew Flinders left at Memory Cove in 1802 to mark the loss of eight seafarers. It includes figureheads, nautical instruments, bathing costumes, shipwreck artefacts, paintings, models and vessels.

Our scope is the maritime heritage of South Australia from the coast to inland waters. The collection of over almost 20,000 objects and over 20,000 images is at once a window to the heritage of the local community and to the ships of the world.

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The Mosquito Fleet - South Australia's Ketches

Ketches were coastal traders brought to South Australia by Europeans from 1836 that evolved into designs that suited the southern coast. The vessels had two masts and simple sets of sails so they could be managed by crews of three seafarers, and flat bottoms so they could navigate shallow waters. They were dubbed the 'Mosquito Fleet' because they buzzed across the shallows to the jetties that dotted the southern coast. The collection includes hundreds of objects connected with the ketch trade and individual ketches that worked out of Port Adelaide.