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Sheffield plate salver recovered from the wreck of SS GOTHENBERG by William Collin

Date: c 1870s
Overall: 40 x 307 mm
Medium: silver plate
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Salver
Object No: 00044502

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    HistoryThe salver is a significant addition to the Captain William Collin Collection, already held in ANMM Collection. Collin was a pioneer of Queensland coastal and river trade in the second half of the 19th century. He was notable for marking the passage through Torres Strait with buoys, for the Queensland Government, and well known for his skill in marine salvage of ships sunk off the dangerous Queensland coast. The salver, with its commemorative inscription, was a trophy which he apparently kept as a relic of his achievements. The wreck of the passenger cargo steamer SS GOTHENBERG was among the worst disasters off the Queensland coast. In his memoirs, Collin recounted his salvage operation, performed with a wrecker's licence from Queensland Customs. He did not find the gold which had been recovered soon after the wreck. The salver is a very significant relic of this episode in Queensland maritime history.

    Extracts from: J. Loney, Australian Shipwrecks Vol.3, 1982.
    The three masted steamer GOTHENBURG, under charter to the South Australian Government to carry mail and general cargo between Adelaide and Darwin, was returning to Adelaide in February 1875 with 126 passengers and crew, and a general cargo which included a strong box containing gold worth about 40,000 pounds sterling, stored in the captain's cabin.

    By 23 February the GOTHENBURG was moving down the Queensland coast inside the Barrier Reef, under sail and steam, in squally conditions with poor visibility. Unknown to the captain and crew, floodwaters from the Burdekin and Wickham rivers resulting from a tropical cyclone moving across northern Queensland were steadily pushing the GOTHENBURG to the east off her normal course.

    At 6pm the next day when just south of Townsville she slid gently on to a coral reef and resisted all attempts to free her. At first little concern was felt for her plight, but then almost warning she began taking water and heeled sharply as the stormy sea surged over her, exgtinguishing the fires in the engine room and sweeping passengers overboard.

    As the steamer commenced to break up in the raging seas dozens of passengers and crew fought desperately for their lives, and by morning only her battered masts protruding a few feet above water showed where she lay.

    Of the 126 persons on board, 102 lost their lives.

    On 15 March a salvage party led by diver J. Putwain recovered the gold from the captain's cabin and over the next few weeks several groups searched the wreck for valuables.

    The GOTHENBURG was a steamer of 501 tons gross built in 1854 and owned by McMeokan, Blackwood and Company. Captain R.G. Pearce.

    Declared Historic Shipwreck 1981.
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