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.

Gunner Argent's cat o' nine tails

Cat o' nine tails issued by the Royal Navy belonging to Edwin Argent who served as a gunner on the Protector.

Edwin Argent sailed to Australia with Protector in 1884 as a gunner-master and continued to serve aboard the ship in South Australia. He served as Chief Gunner on Protector during the Boxer Uprising in China after a brief period back in England where he re-qualified in gunnery duties. Following Federation, Argent served in Sydney and returned to South Australia in 1914 as Lieutenant. The whip is part of a collection of objects owned by Argent bequested to the Museum which also include a dress sword, navigational instruments and texts, and a diary he kept during the ship's voyage to China in 1900.

Creator: Royal Navy 

Associated locations: China, Port Adelaide, South Australia 


Caption: Cat O'Nine Tails

AccessionNo: HT 2010.0692

Height: 500 mm

Diameter: 50 mm

Material: wood, hemp, woollen fabric

Date Created: c.1890s

Physical Description:
Wooden baton sheathed in red and green woollen fabric with rough hand stitching. Decorated with four bands of rope work Seven hemp stands form the tails of the whip.

The gunboat Protector was ordered in 1883 and built at a cost of £65,000 for the South Australian Government following a decision to establish a naval force for the protection of the colony’s coasts and harbours.Protector was soon embraced by South Australians and over the next fifteen years she became a familiar sight in coastal waters undertaking training cruises and port visits. In 1900 Protector was offered to, and accepted by, the Imperial Government for service in China as part of the Colonial Naval Forces raised to rescue foreign legations in Peking from anti-Western and virulently anti-Christian Boxer Rebels.

The cat o nine tails originally belonged to Chief Gunner Edwin Argent aboard the HMCS Protector, South Australia’s colonial warship, during the late 19th and early 20th century. Argent was the donor, Ted Beesley's, great grandfather. The cat o'nine tails has always been in the family and was handed down to the donor by his father, Keith Argent Beesley (Edwin Argent’s grandson), many years ago.