Thursday, March 24, 2005


Yongala remembered


By David Cussons
March 22, 2005

Curator Viv Moran with the ships bell from the Yongala.

The 23 March marks the anniversary of one of Australia's worst maritime disasters.On this day in 1911 the passenger and freight steamer the Yongala sank during a cyclone off the Townsville coast, with the loss of 122 lives.

The 94th anniversay of the tragedy will be commemorated in Townsville with the launch of a new gallery at the local Maritime Museum, including a memorial garden.

The gallery will be opened with a ceremony attended by descendants of some of the passengers who lost their lives on Yongala.Maritime Museum curator Viv Moran says while she's managed to track down some descendants of the Yongala passengers, it hasn't been easy. The passage of time and the mystery of the dissapearance has made following the trail of those who lost their lives, difficult.

While the loss of the ship during the 1911 cyclone is indesputable, there's no way of knowing what really happened.

A replica of the Yongala is a feature of the Maritime Museum's display.

The ship was last sighted heading into the brewing storm by a lighthouse keeper on Dent Island in the Whitsunday Passage north of Mackay. She never arrived in Townsville and was reported missing on the 26th of March. The only body ever found washed ashore was that of the racehorse Moonshine, which was being shipped north to compete in the Townsville Cup. Only fragements of wreckage were found along north Queensland beaches and despite searches at the time, and a reward, no sign of the wreck could be found.

The Yongala literally sank without a trace.It wasn't until 1958 that the wreck was officially located, 48 nautical miles south east of Townsville and 12 nautical miles east of Cape Bowling Green, lying in about 20 meters of water.

These days the Yongala is best know as one of the north's best dive sites, with an international industry based around visiting its final resting place.

But Viv Moran says she hopes her exhibition will help Yongala visitors better understand the significance of the site.

"I'm a diver myself and it is a great dive site. But it's also a part of the social history of north Queensland and a reminder of a tragic event that claimed the lives of 122 people."


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