October 28 1933
Will It Be Located?
Wide interest is being shown in the supposed
wreck of an old Spanish ship in the sandhills west of Warrnambool, as reported
in The Herald a few days ago. Mr J. Mc Kerr, city solicitor, and former member
of the staff of the Public Library, has written, urging the Warrnambool Progress
Association to locate and exhume the vessel for use in the Centenary
There are numerous points that require
investigation, and are dependent for their solution on the exhumation of the
wreck itself. The members of the Historical Society of
Victoria are well acquainted with the tradition of the mahogany ship.
Mr A. W. Greig, a member of the council, said
today that the society recognised, however, that it was impossible to say what
the wreck was, and until money was found to examine it, the story must remain a
WALKED ITS DECK
The first difficulty is that its precise
position is not known. It is buried somewhere in the shifting sand dunes, six or
seven miles west of Warrnambool, and the only clue is a somewhat vague bearing
given by Captain J. B. Mills, formerly harbor master at Warrnambool. Captain Mills
is said to have actually visited the ship and walked its deck, after its
presence had been reported to him in 1836 by two sealers.
The bearing given by him is the "iron
church in line with the Tower Hill peak, well in the hummocks". He gave no
cross bearing. The iron church referred to apparently no longer exists, but its
site must be known, and so there is at least one rough bearing to define the
supposed location of the ship.
Tower Hill is the most prominent landmark on
that part of the coast. It is 300 feet in height, and is a peak thrown up by
volcano agency in the centre of a fresh water lake. It is visible from seaward
as a single conical peak.
WHAT BECAME OF CREW?
What ship might it be? Here again, inquirers
are left in the greatest doubt. It is nameless, and thus there is no clue upon
which to work. It is traditionally known as the "Mahogany ship" or "Spanish
wreck", and it has also been reported to be of
cedar. Captain Mason, of Port Fairy, described it as resembling a large lighter,
but a large lighter is a small ship, and, unfortunately, there are no dimensions
available to determine the length, beam, and depth of the vessel, her particular
rig and build, or what cargo, if any, was in her hold. Another point which has not been touched upon
is the hearsay or legends regarding the fate of her crew.
OLD COIN AS CLUE
One clue to which importance is attached is the
alleged existence of a Spanish coin, bearing the date 1717, dug up from a garden
in Hamilton, to which it had been carried by aborigines, who are said to have
found it near the ship. Further particulars about this coin, while of
interest, would not necessarily prove the wreck to have been a Spanish ship.
it a gold, silver, or bronze coin, a peso, a piece of eight, or a real, and
where is it now?
The time at which the ship was stranded appears
to be based on aboriginal reports. If it were a Spanish ship, a search in the
Spanish ship registers of the period might throw light on its name and its date
of sailing, if it sailed from a Spanish port. Its non-return would probably be recorded,
since its owners would cause inquiries to be made. If a King's ship, its
non-return would be chronicled in the archives of the Spanish Admiralty.
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