Piece of town's history washes up Down Under

A 150-year-old ship wreck has been found off the coast of Australia – and it turns out it was originally built in Whitby.

A man walking on a beach at the town of Yaroomba, near Queensland, came across a large section of hardwood ribbing, believed to belong to the Kirkdale, which was lost off the coast in 1862.

The boat was originally designed as a wood carvel brig in Whitby in 1856 and the discovery was spotted by ex-pat Robert Jefferson, who was born in Whitby but moved to Australia 40 years ago.

He spotted the story in his local paper, the Coolum Advertiser and sent it on to relatives in the town.

The massive section of curved hardwood ribbing was uncovered from its sandy grave by a combination of high tides and rushing creek waters as a result of torrential rainfall the area suffered recently.

The man who found the large 200 kilo piece, Scott Patterson, told the Coolum Advertiser he thought instantly it was from the Kirkdale because of a plaque at a barbecue area near the beach.

The plaque states that the Kirkdale, a twin-masted, 251 tonne sailing ship some 30 metres in length, came to grief just south of Point Arkwright on the afternoon of July 19, 1862.

It initially sailed into Launceston in May 1862 before setting sail for Colombo, Ceylon via the Torres Strait.

On arrival at Cooktown however, Captain William turned the Kirkdale around and for reasons unknown ran aground off Yaroomba Beach.

Despite the ship being gutted by fire, the captain and four crewmembers managed to escape by boat and make their way to safety.

On being sent a photo and given a detailed description of the ribbing, Senior Curator of Maritime Heritage at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, Peter Gesner, stated that there was no doubt in his mind the wood section discovered on the beach was from the Kirkdale.

“The location it was found in, along with the fact that there were copper clench bolts and tree nails used to join the planking to the ribbing tells me this was from a ship built last century,” said Mr Gesner.

“It’s no secret that after heavy rains, sections of the Kirkdale do sometimes become uncovered on Yaroomba Beach, but this is the first time a piece has been recovered intact because, by the time we usually get there, it has disappeared under the sand again,” he added.

A local councillor is now trying to start a campaign to preserve the piece of wreckage and mount it next to the plaque in Yaroomba.

If you know anymore about the history of the Kirkdale contact Carl Gavaghan at the Whitby Gazette on (01947) 829907.