Wreck a whaling era relic

Tayler NealeAlbany Advertiser

After a decorated history that stretched across the globe, steam whale chaser Cheynes II ran aground on a sandbank in Princess Royal Harbour 25 years ago.

The steamboat was built in Middlesbrough in 1947 and was originally named Thorbryn and operated as a whale chaser out of Norway.

It was not until the 1960s that Cheynes II made its way to Albany, according to Albany Historical Society maritime research officer Roger Cunnington.

“In 1963 the vessel was purchased by the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company of Albany and renamed Cheynes II,” Mr Cunnington said

“From 1963 to 1978, Cheynes II harpooned and captured sperm whales along the continental shelf off the southern coast of WA and towed the carcasses back to the Whaling Station in King George Sound.

“Cheynes II returned from her last whale hunt on November 21, 1978, the day on which Australasia’s last whaling station was closed.”

The vessel was sent to the Hobart Maritime Museum, then, in 1982, it was chartered by a private scientific expedition to Heard Island.

“Due to adverse weather conditions experienced during the voyage, more fuel was consumed than had been calculated,” Mr Cunnington said. “Cheynes II finally reached Heard Island, however the expedition result was unsuccessful and she was forced to return to Australia.

“With very little fuel left, the crew salvaged steel bars from Heard Island, from which sails were rigged to enable the vessel to sail back to Australia.”

A former trawler then met the boat about 600 nautical miles offshore and towed her to Albany.

Mr Cunnington said Cheynes II’s final chapter included an attempt to turn the boat into a restaurant.

“She was sold to an entrepreneur with the adventurous idea to transform her into a floating restaurant,” Mr Cunnington said

“However the restaurateur filed for bankruptcy and the project was terminated before the refit was completed.

“The Albany Port Authority towed her to a mooring which was clear of the main shipping channel.

“During a gale in 1992 her moorings broke and she ran aground on a bank on the east side of the harbour, where she remains to this day in a seriously deteriorating condition.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails