Peter Ronald’s fossicking among old shipwrecks as a teenager uncovered relics from an era when sea tragedies were common.
He and his mates started with snorkels and then made their own scuba diving gear to explore the depths off south-west Victoria and recover maritime history treasures.
However, instead of snaring the relics for private collections or selling the metal, he wanted them saved for public interest.
In subsequent years he lobbied for new government legislation to protect the wrecks which for years had been looted.
Now his collection is safely stored at Warrnambool’s Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village where he was the first employee when it opened more than 30 years ago and later became manager.
The last of his maritime wreck relics was donated to the village last year before he moved from Warrnambool to Tasmania.
About 30 treasures from his collection will be shown in a tribute exhibition which opens next Tuesday evening.
A highlight is a diamond ring recovered from the Schomberg wreck off Peterborough. It sat hidden inside an encrusted goblet until discovered during a cleaning process.
When former premier Sir Rupert Hamer was told during a visit to Warrnambool it wasn’t on display for fear of a surge in looting of wrecks, his government soon afterwards introduced protective legislation.