THE DEFENDER’S TIMELINE
2016, January: Sunken ketch likely total loss
2016, March: United effort on ketch salvage
The destruction of the ketch, Defender, is one of the greatest maritime tragedies in history, its former owner bitterly declared.
This week Launceston shipping manager Les Dick confirmed Defender, a 120-year-old tall ship, had been dismantled in Townsville.
It was found sunk at its moorings in January 2016, and after several attempts to refloat the ship, it was finally raised in December last year.
The 36-metre topsail ketch was built of gum in New South Wales in 1895 for trade between Tasmania, the Bass Strait islands and Victoria.
Mr Dick, who owned the ship from 1982 until last year, twice restored the ship.
For the past decade it was working as a cruise vessel on Queensland’s Whitsundays.
In February last year Mr Dick sold the historic ship for $2 to Brett Devine, who was working to refloat and restore the sunken ship.
But after a lengthy legal battle with the Queensland Government, a contractor was sought and the ship refloated.
Mr Dick said the ship had been dismantled.
”It’s the biggest tragedy that has happened – I can’t remember when a bigger maritime tragedy happened,” he said.
“No one from the historical ship society, not one of them has stepped in to say hey… you can’t do that.
“I am absolutely bitterly disappointed this has been allowed to happen.
“There was absolutely nothing wrong with the boat whatsoever.”
The ketch was almost lost to fire in 2008.
Keen to keep a piece of Tasmania’s maritime history alive, Mr Dick restored the ship ready for its return to Tasmania in 2014.
“I spent all the money I had, five years of my life [restoring it],” he said.
Its sail to Tasmania was delayed and in January 2016, it was found sunk at its Townsville mooring, vandals suspected to blame.
Mr Dick is now facing another battle against the Queensland Government, which has indicated it would seek to recover salvage costs.
“They reckon they will hunt me for the cost of all of this – whether or not that works, I don’t know,” Mr Dick said.
A spokesman for Transport and Main Roads confirmed “the vessel has been disposed of”.
“Items of historic significance were acquired by the Townsville Maritime Museum for conservation and eventual public display,” he said.
“This included the entire wheelhouse, a section of the bow, the anchor, rudder and propeller as well as portholes and decorative plaques.”
The spokesman would not comment on salvage costs.
“As this matter is currently before the court we are unable to comment further,” he said.