Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


An enterprise in cultural vandalism

The recent wanton destruction of one of Tasmania’s most historic vessels has drawn attention to the State Government’s complete abrogation of its responsibility to protect our marine cultural heritage.

Wednesday saw the demolition of the ketch Enterprise (1902), located at the Sea Life Centre in Bicheno. The vessel had been on permanent display since she was purchased from her former master, the late Bill Price. Enterprise was one of only three remaining examples of a Tasmanian trading ketch left in existence, the other two being the May Queen and Terralinna.

The Enterprise was built at Purdon’s yard in Battery Point by George Lucas, with the design based upon the New Zealand scow. She was built with a nearly flat bottom and retractable centreboard to allow her to navigate shallow Tasmanian rivers and ports for the purpose of loading timber. The vessel also starred in the 1926 film version of ‘For The Term of His Natural Life,’ filmed at Port Arthur.

Tasmania once boasted a ‘mosquito fleet’ of more than one hundred similar vessels, which were the lifeblood of commerce for our island state. May Queen is now a static floating museum piece of international significance, while Terralinna remains privately owned, with a planned future restoration.

With the loss of Lenna in NSW last year ( the fourth last trading ketch), and now the Enterprise at Bicheno, the state is left with only the two aforementioned vessels as representatives of this once famous fleet.

Tasmania has myriad legislation protecting its terrestrial cultural heritage, indigenous or colonial, from demolition or unsympathetic alterations. The lunacy of the present lack of legal protection afforded to historic vessels is highlighted with Commonwealth legislation protecting any shipwreck more than 80 years old.

How can it be the government can maintain a register of historic shipwrecks and prosecute those who violate them, but not actual ships? The Act is usually administered through the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. The state even employs a marine archaeologist to assess and conserve such sites. There is presently no such legislative framework, at any level of government, to protect such vessels either still at sea or ashore.

Other recent losses include the former harbour ferry Excella, river steamer Melba, steam dredges Macquarie and Leven, plus the scow Cathkit.

This isn’t to say Tasmania hasn’t had some success stories, such as the barque James Craig, now in Sydney, or privately owned vessels, such as the yacht Premier, but they are in the minority.

The present situation leaves other historic vessels, such as the Olive May and Lady Jillian, vulnerable to destruction rather than subject to a heritage protection order, as would be attached to a building of the same significance.

Until there is an appropriate legislative framework to protect and register historic vessels in a similar manner to buildings they will remain at the mercy of developers or indifference.

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  1. Charles

    January 14, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    Having just read this blog I reckon you can now add the Defender .. another classic coastal trader for which the State government donated a large sum back in the 80s to help restoration, but which was then taken to Queensland by its then owner to slowly deteriorate and sink, and subsequently to be broken up.

    The Lady Jillian will be the next to rot in its probably illegal mud berth in Launceston.

  2. crud

    August 3, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    maybe it ended up in the chipper at triabunna.

  3. Mark

    August 3, 2009 at 12:18 am

    I have always wanted the Huon Council to lobby for the May Queen to be returned and displayed at Franklin. It was built there and the Wooden Boat display now resides in Franklin. The Hobart Docks have plenty of ships without the necessity of the May Queen laying idle.

  4. Dave

    August 2, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    I so agree with the author’s comments on this, as I was saddened to read about this vessel’s destruction as reported in last Saturday’s Mercury. But, in neither the article in the paper or the above is there any explanation as to why it was felt necessary to destroy this boat, and with an excavator !

    Having seen this vessel on many occasion while passing through Bicheno, I am purplexed. Was there an issue of public safety, ie. that the boat was in danger of collapsing on someone passing by it. Where the masts likely to have collapsed and/or if so was this the only issue.

    I just don’t understand why for instance, if it was in so poor condition it wasn’t donated to someone/organisation with perhaps the means/experience and desire to save it. Even if this meant leaving it on land rather than even the possibility of it gracing the water once again.

    What a sad ending.

    It just seems such a wanton and appalling destruction of our maritime heritage, which the author quite rightly notes above there is so little left.

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