past Exhibition


Location marker iconUltimoTime iconCLOSED IN 2024

One of the most iconic objects in the Powerhouse Collection, the Catalina flying boat Frigate Bird II features in a new exhibition of previously unseen collection objects and archival material documenting its pioneering flight from Australia to Chile.

The exhibition highlights the scale of the aircraft and allows its impressive engineering to be examined up close.

I was fortunate enough to be able to fly with my father aboard the Frigate Bird II, a Sunderland flying boat, a few years after his South Pacific crossing with Frigate Bird II. Travelling in a flying boat of that kind, with its comfort and space, was such an incredible experience compared to air travel today.
Sue Arnott, daughter of Taylor

Object No. 85/112-45
Photograph of Catalina flying boat crew, 1941

In 1951 the Catalina piloted by Sir P G Taylor made history by completing the first flight across the South Pacific Ocean and the first return flight from Australia to South America.

Departing from Sydney’s Rose Bay, Frigate Bird II made many stops on the way to Chile, including at the Pacific Islands of Noumea, Fiji, Samoa, Cook Islands, Tahiti, Mangareva, French Polynesia and Easter Island.

Taylor was a pioneer of early aviation in Australia, captaining several first ocean crossings by aircraft alongside aviators Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm, who made the first flight across the Pacific Ocean in 1928. Taylor gained a heroic reputation after saving the lives of his crew on the failed Southern Cross flight from Australia to New Zealand in 1935.

The exhibition includes new acquisitions from the Taylor family, including a selection of photographic images from the Australia-Chile flight, a navigation instrument set, a handcrafted photograph album presented to the crew in Chile, flags flown by the Catalina in Australia and Chile, the remnants of a uniform cap destroyed by the aircraft’s propeller during wild conditions departing Easter Island on the outward journey, and a Thermos flask used by Taylor to transfer oil to the failing engine of Southern Cross during its doomed 1935 flight.