We took a trip to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, now located at the old rail yards in Invermay, just north of Launceston’s city center.
The QVMAG has an amazing display of relics salvaged from the wreck of the SYDNEY COVE, a ship that went down off Preservation Island in the late 1700’s.
The short version of the amazing epic goes something like this:
The East India Company controlled all western trade in SE Asia in the late 1700’s, and had decided that to trade with the new colony in New South Wales was uneconomic. The market was too small, and it was too dangerous to get there. As it had a monopoly on trade, no one else could trade without the EIC’s permission. A couple of fella’s decided to get permission and become an agent. They buy a boat, a shoal draft, Indian built copy of a British design. Loading it up with mostly rum and cheap china, they set off for Australia from their base in India. They sail south until they hit the roaring forties, hang a left, and go around the bottom of Tasmania on their way up the coast. The travel this route because:
1. They can’t go through Bass Strait because it hasn’t been dissevered yet. That was Bass and Flinders in 1798.
2. They can’t travel down through SE Asia and then down the coast of what’s now Queensland because of the SE trades. Them old square fighters didn’t go that well against the wind.
So, on their way up the coast, they get blown about in strong weather, and find themselves tangled up in the islands of the Furneaux group, specifically Preservation Island, south of Flinders Island. They where already leaking badly so the captains decides to put the boat aground, but and the wave action pounded the boat and she partially sank. Being shoal draft, they are close to shore. They get most of the Indian crew and all the British officers ashore, and start unloading all the cargo they can salvage. They make a home on the island, which is pretty bloody sparse, small and windswept, while 17 of the fittest blokes make for the colony more than 400 nautical miles away to get help.
They get slammed by bad weather coming out of the Strait and get shipwrecked on what is now 90 mile beach. They get out and start walking the 600 kilometer stroll across completed unsettled south Eastern Australia. Only 3 blokes from the original party of seventeen reach the colony nearly a year later.
The colony of Botany Bay sends two ships to rescue the other still on the island. They get down there eventually, take on a load of cargo and survivors, but not all can fit. They reckon it’s going to take another trip so half stay behind. Of those two ships, only one makes it back to the colony, the other is never seen again, lost with all hands.
The other ship ends up makes three more trips south by itself to pick up the remaining survivors and what’s left of the cargo. The cargo goes up for auction. Remember it was mostly grog and cheap china… And even then, some of it was lost in the ship wreck. Even so, there is such a shortage of rum in the colony that the profits from the auction were enough to cover the cost of rescue, send the surviving crew back to India, and make enough profit that the fellas back in India that bought the ship in the first place are happy to keep sending ships.
That’s the short version…. the long version can be seen here.
…and, of course, no museum is complete without dinosaurs!