VIDEO | Historic boat the first wreck removed from inlet


Victoria Stone-Meadows


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GONE: The MV Grafton was one of the oldest pearl luggers left in Australia, date unknown. Image: Australian National Maritime Museum.
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A historic pearl lugger left derelict and rotting near the mouth of Dicksons Inlet has been removed from the water and disposed of.

Council and Maratime Safety Queensland (MSQ) have been planning for years to remove wrecks from the inlet and improve the safety of the passage.

Douglas Shire Council Mayor Julia Leu is the deputy chair of the War on Wrecks Taskforce, which identifies and organises the removal of derelict vessels from Queensland’s waterways.

By early January this year, the War on Wrecks had removed 96 wrecks from Queensland waters, with action plans developed or contracts awarded to remove 225 more, including 13 in Dicksons Inlet.

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The first boat removed the scheme from Dicksons Inlet was the Grafton, which has been lying on the Magazine Island careening point for about a decade.

According to the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Grafton was one of the oldest Torres Strait pearling luggers in Australia.

The vessel was built in 1907 by Japanese shipwright Tsurumatsu Shiosaki and was used mainly in the Torres Strait around Thursday Island for the pearl diving industry.

The Grafton remained active as a pearling lugger in the Thursday Island fleet and employed a great number of indigenous crew and divers until World War II.

During the war it was taken over by the Army and used in the Torres Strait area to supply men fighting in Papua New Guinea, as many luggers at the time were.

The Grafton was owned by the Commonwealth Government during the war and was sold back to be a pearler when wartime activities ceased in 1946.

Burns Philp retained ownership until about 1964 when it was sold to Pearls Pty Ltd, which operated the Grafton until 1976 when it was sold and registered to Dianna Hergatt in Cairns.

For years the Grafton changed hands and was renovated a number of times. While history is unclear exactly what happened, it is believed the boat was sunk and raised at least once in its life.

Its final resting place was a careening point on Magazine Island at the mouth of Dicksons Inlet in Port Douglas.

A few weeks ago, the boat was removed from the water and has since been destroyed as the level of decay meant the hulk was unable to be salvaged.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport and Main Roads, which oversees MSQ, said what could be salvaged from the boat was given to locals.

“The disposal contractor provided artefact from the vessel to locals who were requesting them,” the spokesperson said.

“We cannot comment on previous military history however, more recently, it was stripped of masts, other artefact and gear while lying on the Port Douglas slipway about 10 years ago.

“It was then moved across Dicksons Inlet and left to decay, embedded in mud off the Port Douglas foreshore.”

Peter Wright, a skipper in Port Douglas for the last 30 years and a keen maritime historian was upset to know the Grafton could not be saved.

Him and a small group of locals were hoping salvage the boat and put it on display in the town.

“It’s always been our intention get it put up on display like the one in Western Australia at the Maritime Museum,” he said.

“It shows the vessel due regard and respect to put on the hard on the beach where people are able to get an insight into the history that goes back more than a hundred years.”

Mr Wright said he is very disappointed the authorities did not salvage the wrecked Grafton lugger.

“To me this reflects the governments’ lack of regard and respect for maritime history,” he said.

“Port Douglas was promoted in the early days as quiet little fishing village, but now, fishermen are battling to keep their heads above water and to preserve their history.”


Footage by Nick Vasicek. Music by

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