Brisbane River shipwreck Myora a part of city’s history hidden among the mangroves – Curious Brisbane
Each day, hundreds of early-morning joggers and cyclists unknowingly pass one of the Brisbane River’s most intact shipwrecks.
At around 18 metres in length it rests among the mangroves not far from the jazz club at Kangaroo Point.
Kayakers are more likely to spot the wreck as it can only be seen on low tide when the river drops enough to reveal the bow.
The former steamship Myora has remained on the river’s muddy banks despite the major floods, development and urbanisation of Brisbane during the past 60 years.
Amateur history buff Geoff Blackwell said he had always been fascinated by shipwrecks.
“I recently listened to a podcast about the recovery of the wreck of the Arabia, which was a steamship that sank in the Missouri River,” he said.
“It got me wondering if there were any similar stories closer to home?
“While it’s no doubt clearer than it used to be, the Brisbane River still isn’t particularly conducive to seeing much of anything beneath the surface.”
A hard-working little boat
The ship now resting in the Brisbane River once led a busy life up and down the Queensland coast, according to Christina Ealing-Godbold, a senior librarian at the State Library of Queensland.
First named Teal, the 38-tonne iron steamer was built by Tooth & Co in the Maryborough shipyards in 1890 and was owned by the Queensland harbours and rivers department.
A steamship similar to Teal passes the Naval Stores in 1916. (Supplied: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)
Wooden boards that were part of the boat still remain. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)
“The little boat was a hard-working little boat,” Ms Ealing-Godbold said.
“It was originally a pilot vessel in the Townsville harbour right up till 1911.”
She said Teal would come and go from various locations doing a number of jobs.
“In some cases it went out to rescue people when there were other shipwrecks.
“It went to distant lighthouses from Townsville, but it wasn’t really built for ocean going.
“It was more of a harbour vessel as it was 60 feet in length and was a single-screw iron ship run by steam.”
Christina Ealing-Goldbold looked at how the Myora still remains in the Brisbane River. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)
Serving the Queensland coastline
For many years Teal worked as a customs launch, but a more suitable vessel was needed by the harbours department.
In 1913, the ship was sold and renamed Myora. A local newspaper wrote about its extensive service:
“She served her service at Mackay, Maryborough, Rockhampton and Brisbane and came to the end of her life as a government steamer.”
“She came to Brisbane where she was sold to a major company called W Collin and Sons, Brisbane and was a working girl,” Ms Ealing-Godbold said.
“She would run up and down the Brisbane River and do whatever was required for that company.”
Myora’s fast facts
- 60 feet (18.3 metres) long
- Weighed 38 tonnes
- Built by Tooth and Co in Maryborough, Qld
- Deregistered in 1956
- Left in Brisbane River at Kangaroo Point
Source: Queensland State Library
Reporting for duty
In 1936, Myora was sold to two fishermen, G and A Histed, who used it for day trips, Ms Ealing-Godbold said.
“The fishermen had a fishing licence in Mooloolaba and in Moreton Bay. They also ran pleasure cruises and hired her out to fishermen who wanted to do recreational fishing in the bay.”
Myora’s use during World War II is unknown, but often whatever floated was requisitioned.
“We do know that after the war she was sold to the merchant navy cadets and they would train at the base of the Kangaroo Point cliffs, which we now know as the Naval Stores,” Ms Ealing-Godbold said.
“They always needed a boat to train on in the river.”
The wreck sits not far from the Holman Street ferry terminal. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)
Winifred Davenport, author of The History of Harbours and Ports of Queensland, confirmed Myora had been last used and abandoned near the Naval Stores.
She wrote that it was simply left lying in the river in a terrible state in 1956.
“That matches up with the timing when the merchant navy cadets were transferred to the Moreton naval base in New Farm,” Ms Ealing-Godbold said.
Mired in the mangroves
What remains of Myora is located on the banks down from the Holman Street ferry terminal; not even major floods in 1974 and 2011 could move it from its resting place.
“She’s so well hidden down in the mangroves there now and I think that’s why she has stayed there for so long,” Ms Ealing-Godbold said.
“The mangroves have grown through the floorboards and in and out of iron — it’s what stopped the rest of the boat from being washed away in the many floods we’ve had since then.”
Who asked the question?
Geoff Blackwell is a former resident of Brisbane who attended university in the city before moving north to Bundaberg.
He was intrigued to learn more about shipwrecks that could lie around the city reaches after listening to a podcast about shipwrecks in the US.
The optometrist said what he loved most about Brisbane was its small-town vibe combined with big-city facilities.
While you’re here… are you feeling curious?