Quest to identify mystery wreck

By Corowa Free Press

An amateur historian is reaching out to the community in a quest to find any information relating to a wreck of a historic barge that has been found just 30km downstream of Yarrawonga.  

A reader of historian Frank Tucker’s Facebook page first alerted him to the existence of a hulk downstream of Yarrawonga.

“He sent me photos and measurements and a sketch that some work mates of his had made,” Mr Tucker said.

“In mid-June a phone call to a paddle boat skipper mate at Echuca confirmed that the river was indeed very low, so on June 21, 2018, he and I drove to the site of the hulk and found it with not too much difficulty.

“Only the stern post was above water level but the rest of the boat, laying relatively flat, was just under water and full of sand.  

“This allowed us to walk over the entire vessel, only getting wet to the knees.

“We pegged out the shape of the hull with small limbs and stakes, then set about taking accurate measurements at three metre intervals for the length of the hull.  

“We could not find the bow section, perhaps the first three to five feet of the hull but made a calculated guess, going on the shape we already had pegged out to this point.

“The vessel is 30m x 6.4m (98’5” x 21’) and entirely wooden, both frames and planking.

“Heather Rendle of the Echuca Museum and Historical Society put me on to two contacts, one of whom who had visited the site two days previous and was going back again on the following Monday.  

“His friend, after some internet research had come up with a barge name, “Horace” which sank in this locality in 1897 whilst laden with bags of wheat.  Similar measurements, same place.

“When I got home I carried out my own research on the Horace barge and she did indeed sink somewhere near this site in 1897. 

“However, she must have been refloated as she appears in newspaper reports to at least 1917, still working in her capacity as a barge.  She was later reported as being abandoned in Bryant’s (Bryan’s) Creek near Morgan.

“I have since been right through my data bases, twice, (barges and paddle steamers) and extracted all vessels close to 100’ long and of wooden construction.   I then researched these vessels, in my own data bases and on Trove. I cannot find a matching story.”

Mr Tucker, who has been researching vessels for 45 years on the Murray Darling, is hoping that by making this story public local knowledge might come to light to help solve the mystery wreck’s name.

There are at least four, maybe five historic riverboat wrecks on the lake bed of Lake Mulwala and Yarrawonga Mulwala Tourism is keen to formulate a tourist attraction around the wrecks which includes The Pilot PS, Cato barge (previous a paddle steamer and sister boat to the Pilot), Federal barge, Rita PS and one unknown wreckage located when the lake was lowered, which could be the bin barge seen in some historic photos. 

The PS Australien was removed and transported to Echuca by an enthusiast and is in a state of preservation, ready for restoration and rebuild.  It believed the boat is currently for sale.

If you have any information that could be useful for Mr Tucker you can contact him on 0428 242 866 or email [email protected]