Piece of Queensland maritime history saved from eBay sale

Divers inspect historic vessle the Lady Bowen. Photo: Kevin Coombs lady bowen porthole

A century-old piece of Queensland maritime history has been rescued and returned to its rightful owners – just before it could be snapped up on eBay.

A weathered, solid brass porthole from the sailing ship Lady Bowen, which sunk off the Far North Queensland coast near Mission Beach in 1894, was due to be placed on the online auction site when it was discovered by Commonwealth officers.

Premier Campbell Newman has returned the artefact to Cassowary Coast Mayor, Bill Shannon, who took possession on behalf of the residents of Far North Queensland.

“Shipwrecks are valuable reminders of what happened in the past and the Lady Bowen was an important part of history in this area,” Mr Newman said.

“It is very rewarding to be able to return this valuable artefact to the local community. I don’t know how much it would have sold for on eBay, but the historic value of the porthole is priceless.”

Environment and heritage minister Andrew Powell said more than 1400 ships are believed to have been wrecked or abandoned along the Queensland coastline and the majority had not been located.

“For the Cardwell community, the return of the Lady Bowen’s missing porthole and continued conservation of local buildings such as the former Cardwell Divisional Board Hall are signs of community pride and resilience,” he said.

“I look forward seeing this porthole on display in the Cardwell and District Historical Society’s Museum.”

The Lady Bowen was originally built as a paddle steamer before being converted to a 69 metre sailing ship in about 1890.

It foundered on Kennedy Shoal, between Mission Beach and Cardwell, during heavy seas in 1894 before sinking.

All 12 crew survived and made landfall on Cardwell’s beach before reporting the incident to southern authorities via the Cardwell Telegraph Station.

The vessel was not seen again until it was rediscovered by north Queensland divers in 1996.

The recovered porthole will be registered on the Australian National Shipwreck Database.

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