Queenscliff set to exhume torpedo boat

BURIED: HMVS Lonsdale in its heyday.

By NOEL MURPHY

A torpedo boat used to guard Melbourne from any possible Russian or French attack in the late 19th century is set to be exhumed from the beneath the sands of Queenscliff.

HMVS Lonsdale, named for Victoria’s first governor, who kept a house at Queenscliff’s Shortland Bluff,  is buried a metre deep on reclaimed land about 300 metres from the foreshore. Part of it is on Queenscliff Maritime Museum land, the rest on the town’s buoy depot land.

Almost $10,000 in federal cash will go toward work by the museum, with Flinders University students, to excavate the Colonial Victorian Navy boat _ a sleek, long craft built in England in 1882.

The Lonsdale, together with sister ship, the Nepean, HMVS Cerberus and the first-class torpedo boat Countess of Hopetoun,the Lonsdale was part of a first line of defence for colonial Victoria.

Fortifications at Point Nepean, Fort Queenscliff, South Channel Fort and Popes Eye were part of this defence as well.

The Lonsdale’s life was short, though, and by 1912 she was obsolete and withdrawn from service.  She was eventually beached as a breakwater behind the houses in Beach Street.

From the early 1930s, the flow of water in and from Swan Bay was altered by the development of the ‘Cut’ and the Lonsdale  eventually became buried due to the build-up of sand from this and other changes to the harbour.

The hulk location is now a considerable distance from the seashore which continues to change due to shifting sands around the harbour and ferry terminal.

Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson announced the funding of $9600 toward the Lonsdale’s excavation.

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