The mystery of Hinchinbrook

Hinchinbrook Island


By  Jessica van Vonderen - ABC


Finally tonight, to North Queensland, where Cyclone Yasi has uncovered a mysterious shipwreck. A group of boaties made the discovery on an isolated beach on Hinchinbrook Island. And according to experts, the wreck could be up to 150 years old. Josh Bavas reports.

DAVID PEARSON, Boatie: And no doubt people died here so it is our history.

JOSH BAVAS: It's a hidden paradise a lonely island; once the home to indigenous tribes and explored by British travellers. But along this stretch of beach lies an unsolved mystery.

PHIL LOWRY, Boatie: Me and me mate were cruising off shore about 100 metres and I could see the water breaking just where the ribs and that were sticking out of the water and I could see the shape of the boat so we knew what it was straight up.

JOSH BAVAS: It's a wreck nearly 150 years old. But nobody knows what boat it was, where it came from or what it was carrying.

PADDY WATERSON, QLD Heritage oficer: It's possible it could come from anywhere. A lot of the ship building techniques are reasonably similar around the mid 19th century. There'll be some nuances and we can perhaps look at those. 

JOSH BAVAS: Cyclone Yasi tore through this region churning up a tidal surge and washing away tonnes of sand. These locals wanted to see what it did to their secluded spot.

DAVID PEARSON: This is our island. We've lived here all our lives. We've been on these beaches all our lives and we wanted to see what damage the tidal surge had done.

JOSH BAVAS: Shortly after, they stumbled across the petrified wood and have been scratching their heads ever since.

MEN TALKING: What do you reckon fellas ? Good find or what ?

PHIL LOWRY: It's been preserved because it's been under the sand for so long (pause) and now with it being uncovered I wonder how much longer it will last especially if the big seas come and break it up you know.

JOSH BAVAS: Small samples taken by the Department of Environment are being crossed referenced with shipping records in London.

JOSH BAVAS: Someone else who might be able to shed some light on the new find is Ed Slaughter. He spends most of his time sifting through and documenting treasures like the salvaged material from the 17-79 Pandora wreck.

ED SLAUGHTER, Assistant Curator, QLD Museum: Yeah, it's exciting, it's detective work. It's something that I'll always be interested in doing and it's important for the resource of Queensland and for the history of Queensland to determine these things.


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Hinchinbrook North Queensland QLD Museum Department of Environment