Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Mahogany Ship

There's a local story that began in 1836, which has generated considerable interest across the last 175 years.

Two Port Fairy whalers, having lost their boat and a companion in rough seas, were walking homeward along the beach from the direction of Warrnambool (approx 30k distance) when they came across the timbers of an ancient ship sticking out from one of the dunes, near Kelly's Swamp in Armstrong Bay.  It's not uncommon for the dunes to be eaten into after heavy storms and a king tide or two, nor for them to grow again as the south-westerly winds dries out the sand and blows it back across the beach, so it wouldn't be unusual if this wreck, which had never been noticed before, was suddenly revealed.

According to research by Jack Loney (The Mahogany Ship, 6th edition, Neptune Press, 1985), the wreck - estimated at being approximately "100 tons burden" by another witness - was sighted on a number of occasions in the drifting dunes until the last sighting in 1880, but one person stood on its deck and discovered the timber was like iron, while another is reported as having taken a length to build a mantelpiece.

While the story is much bigger than there's room for here, more information can be found on the net and here's a link to Wikipedia, if you're interested.  The reason I've brought it up today is because I saw the mahogany ship down at the jetty the other day - no kidding.

Well, a replica.

Local man, Graeme Wylie, recently completed building a 70 tonne working model of a 15th century Portuguese  caravel based on the Mahogany Ship, and the boat was launched a couple of weeks ago.  We occasionally get tall ships arriving in port, but not often are they built locally to reflect a local legend.  It's quite a stunning sight and Graeme Wylie plans to undertake some significant ocean voyages before long.

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