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H.M.V.S. Lonsdale 1905. 
Naval Historical Society
H.M.V.S. Lonsdale, 1905. The boat is being controlled by a crew member in the pill box conning tower, against which the two sailors are resting.        Naval Historical Society.

he search for this, as yet unnamed (currently believed to be the H.M.V.S. Lonsdale), torpedo boat commenced early in 1980 and culminated in success in July 1983. Our interest had been aroused by reports from local fishermen of a torpedo boat which, around 1920, had been abandoned on the beach at Queenscliff. Because this area has in the past experienced, and still is, a natural reclamation of land from the sea the site is now almost a kilometre inland from the present shoreline, in fact a number of buildings have been erected on this reclaimed land.

It was realised immediately by the Association that this should make an ideal project for those members who did not possess diving qualifications, and also that wives and children could also become involved. Unbeknownst to us, until our first major search, we had also aroused the interest of the residents of Queenscliff. In a very short time the M.A.A.V. team was totally outnumbered by locals, mostly of the older generation who remembered the 'boat', carrying buckets, shovels and spades, and also included a couple of dear old ladies with tiny fireplace shovels. Those who didn't possess an implement kept taking them from us young ones so we wouldn't get worn out.

It doesn't take too much to visualise the scene later in the day, each and every person knew exactly where the 'boat' was and all the others were wrong, the place looked like a minefield and still no 'boat'. But we had made friends, had a great day, and most importantly everyone had enjoyed themselves.

Whilst further minor digs were carried out, research continued as to the disposal of the torpedo boats by the Department of Defence or Navy. The Naval Historical Archivist, Mr. J.M. Mackenzie, has been extremely helpful in relation to the historical records and we are indebted to him for his assistance in obtaining much of our information. Unfortunately the records relating to the disposal of torpedo boats are not as helpful, there is no indication of a torpedo boat having been abandoned at Queenscliff, in fact the records are to the contrary, and only evidence of one being left on nearby Swan Island. This, by the way, is not the torpedo boat 'Countess of Hopetoun' mentioned elsewhere in this report. The locals were of course adamant that a torpedo boat lay buried in the vicinity of the search area.
A Back-hoe made short work of a 1999 dig for the Torpedo Boat. Photo Malcolm Venturoni.
A Back-hoe made short work of a 1999 dig for the Torpedo Boat. Photo Malcolm Venturoni.

Over a period of time the areas indicated by the locals had been searched quite thoroughly, with grids excavated 2 metres apart to a depth of 1.5 metres, including the spaces between these areas. Twelve months after the project commenced we contacted Mr. Stan Rowe, a lecturer of Deakin University's Department of Earth Sciences, in relation to carrying out a magnetometer survey, he kindly consented and the survey commenced shortly after. Unfortunately, and we were pessimistic to start with, the magnetometer survey did not meet with success. We had already located the buried remains of an old pier in the search area and a great deal of iron, in the form of bolts, had been used in its construction, also the whole area had been used as a general dumping ground for all types of refuse until recent times. Further complicating the magnetometer readings was the presence, above ground, of iron fences and pipes etc., still nothing ventured nothing gained.

The pill box conning tower is exposed. Photo Malcolm Venturoni.
The pill box conning tower is exposed. Photo Malcolm Venturoni.

We assumed at this stage that the torpedo boat was buried sane distance below the 1.5 metre depth at which we had ceased during our searches, this was the level of the water table and further digging was impossible. So we checked the whole area again, firstly by digging down to the water table and then probing with a stainless steel rod a further 1.5 metres. Because of the difficulty in pressing the probe down to the required depth we decided to fabricate a water lance or probe. This consisted of a 2 metre long steel tube of 10 urn outside diameter, with an inside diameter of 5 urn, which was connected by hoses to the high pressure water supply contained within the Marine Science Laboratories about 100 metres away. We lost a good deal of pressure over the distance traveled through the hoses but nevertheless it proved quite effective, the problem being not in probing down but getting the damned thing back out. Quite often we had to quickly disconnect the ryco fitting and remove water supply before it disappeared from view taking the hose with it.
A Back-hoe made short work of a 1999 dig for the Torpedo Boat. Photo Malcolm Venturoni.
A Back-hoe made short work of a 1999 dig for the Torpedo Boat. Photo Malcolm Venturoni.

Having completed the probing of the search area without success we decided to commence searching along the 1920 shoreline, we were gratefully assisted in determining the area and direction of this by Mr. Harry Reed of the Ports and Harbour's Marine Survey Office. At around this time, March 1983, our operations had to be greatly stepped up because the State Government decided that the Queenscliff Maritime Centre should be situated on the area of our search. If the torpedo boat did in fact lay buried in the vicinity we certainly didn't wish to build the museum on top of it. The survey continued, in a northerly direction, along the old shoreline until July 2, 1983 when the water probe stopped suddenly and gave a metallic ring, further probing indicated a large metal object between 1.5 and 2 metres below the surface. Prior to this, because of the effectiveness of the water probe, we had ceased digging down to the water table and instead lengthened the probe by 1 metre. With shovels back into operation we had in no time exposed the 'conning tower' and gained our first glimpse of the elusive torpedo boat. Two long years of searching, backaches and blisters, just so we could find ourselves a torpedo boat so we could give ourselves the problem of identifying it.

A Back-hoe made short work of a 1999 dig for the Torpedo Boat. Photo Malcolm Venturoni.
A Back-hoe made short work of a 1999 dig for the Torpedo Boat. Photo Malcolm Venturoni.

Other than continuing research, further work has been shelved on the site, at least for the present. An article placed in the local newspaper during the year, requesting information from the public, proved very successful. A number of people have made contact and sane of these have donated photographs. One of these shows the 'boat' half buried in the sand with a young girl standing beside it and was taken in the 1920's, she still lives in Queenscliff and we will be interviewing her shortly.

It appears from our observations and measurements the vessel is a 2nd class torpedo boat but as there were two similar vessels, the Nepean and the Lonsdale, it does not seem likely that a positive identification will be possible.

Thank you to the following for the assistance given on this project: Harry Reed, Debbie Arnott, Terry Brooks, Sally Brooks, David Carroll, Denis Cahill, Dale Patterson, lain Nixon, Libby Vickery, Alan Bremner and Carl Ebbels.


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