S.S. Marloo sighted!
Queensland’s Fraser Island is World Heritage-listed and renowned for its wealth of rainforests, freshwater lakes and undulating sand dunes that await visitors to discover.
Situated in the Great Sandy National Park just about 250kms north of Brisbane, it’s handily-placed for both adventure and relaxation.
But a recent discovery by two local flying enthusiasts has highlighted the fact that Fraser Island has just as many sights of interest to be found beneath its surrounding sea, as on dry land.
The naturally beautiful island also has the dubious reputation as one of Australia’s most plentiful locations of shipwrecks.
In total, the waters around Fraser Island are home to wrecks of 23 ships, which made it their final port of call between 1836 and 1935.
Some of these historic wrecks – although always there – are not usually seen, due to being covered by sands that are shifted by tidal movements.
Rare Sighting from the Past
But recently one of these shipwrecks loomed out of the shifting sands to make its first appearance to human eyes for almost two decades – more than 100 years after it first sank below the waves.
The wreck of the luxury liner S.S. Marloo, which sank in 1914, was spotted by Trevor and Gayle Kee while on one of their weekend pleasure flights over the island.
Their unexpected sight of the heritage-listed shipwreck - lying in about nine metres of crystal-clear water surrounded by meandering sharks and manta rays - attracted keen media coverage, with their discovery featured in a number of newspapers.
The S.S. Marloo, a steel steamer of 2,268 tonnes, was originally built in 1891 in Newcastle-on-Tyne in the UK, and first operated as Italian luxury liner Francesco Crispi, before being bought by the Adelaide Steamship Company for Australian coastal services.
On 17th September 1914, while sailing between Mackay and Brisbane, she struck a submerged reef off Fraser Island and began taking on water. The captain managed to beach her on the island and fortunately all her 38 passengers and the crew were brought safely ashore. The shipwreck is a rare sight these days, only occasionally exposed by tides and erosion.
A Legacy of Shipwrecks
Fraser Island’s first shipwreck was the Sterling Castle in 1836, which struck a coral reef while en-route from Sydney to London.
Its most famous wreck is probably the Maheno, which foundered off the island in 1935. Previously plying a regular route between Sydney and Auckland, she was also commissioned as a hospital ship in Europe during the First World War, serving in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
Maheno was being towed with her sister ship to Japan to be scrapped when her tow rope snapped during bad weather off Fraser Island and she drifted onto the beach. Her proud history came to an even more ignominious end when the wreck was used for air force target practice in World War Two.
Others Fraser Island shipwrecks include the Seabelle, a schooner sailing from Rockhampton which was lost in 1857; the Panama, an American sailing ship sunk in 1864; the Ottowa, which went down in 1879; and the Aramac, which foundered in 1904.
And another of note is the Investigator - the ship of famous explorer Matthew Flinders, who was the first recorded European to land on the island.
Playing to Discover and Learn
For Trevor and Gayle, who own TG’s Child Care, one of Australia’s leading early learning Pre-school, Kindergarten and Long Day Care providers, their discovery of S.S Marloo brought to life their educational philosophy of: “Playing is Learning.”
“We’re passionate about flying and see it as a valuable leisure resource to have fun while learning more about the heritage of our local area – seeing things from the air gives a different perspective and a fresh experience,” said Gayle.
“All this really chimes with our approach to early education, where we encourage children to learn through play and discover a life-long love of learning.
“We were absolutely thrilled to find the wreck of the S.S. Marloo looking so solid and intact after all those years, and delighted that so many people were enthusiastic.
Trevor and Gayle recently moved to the nearby Hervey Bay area to open TG Child Care’s Urangan Long Day Care and Kindergarten service.
They fly their two-seater Vixxen light aircraft on regular pleasure flights around Fraser Island and surrounding coastline for a different perspective on the region’s landscape and history.
In addition to the Urangan campus, TG’s Child Care has five others in New South Wales: in Armidale; three in Wauchope; and in Uralla.
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