It was a 20-year journey that led Harley Stanton to become an author.
A family reunion inspired him to search for a photo of the ship his ancestors sailed to Tasmania on in 1855.
Since then, he's spent the last two decades looking for a photo of the Conway.
"I thought it would be great to find a picture. I've searched around the world, in maritime museums, libraries, galleries throughout Australia, in all the maritime museums and libraries here too," he said.
"I've never found the picture, but in the process I decided it was worth a story. So, now I have book."
My Cathedral in the Sea - A History of the Conway will be launched next month.
The book details some of the families who arrived on the same voyage, such as the Barrington family, there is a history of the times, how the ship was constructed, and information about the ship's other voyages.
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The Conway sailed to Australia between 1854 and 1862.
"I found out that this was a pretty stalwart ship. On one occasion she was abandoned in the Atlantic after she was hit by a typhoon and all masts came down," Stanton said.
"And along came another ship on the way to Australia, called the Summer Cloud. And the Summer Cloud took off all the passengers and landed them on Madeira, which is on the Canary Islands."
No one was lost at sea and the changeover was completed in about 12 hours.
"It transferred just on 400 people from the ship, with just one ship. Two days later they landed at Madeira where the English consult had to put them up for about five weeks on the island," Stanton said.
"They tried to scuttle the ship, but along came another English boat and they decided to salvage it. They sailed it to Madeira.
"I've got newspaper clippings from that voyage which show what a surprise [salvaging the boat] was, because by that time news had got back to London and the insurance agency had already paid out on the ship because they thought it had sunk."
Stanton said he has a number of favourite things he has found out about the ship since starting the search.
"One thing I've become well aware of is actually the challenge and the dangers at sea. Sometimes the ship would be lying idle in the doldrums in the middle of the Atlantic and then at other times it would be going at great speed," he said.
"Sometimes people would get washed overboard and there was absolutely no hope of them being collected again.
Part of the book details the diary of one crew member which talks about a young man going overboard.
"It talks about people on the ship hearing this great grumbling when somebody had been thrown from the rigging. And then they weren't able to be found. His name was Elias," Stanton said.
"Then they end up end up taking his is pack and his goods to the captain and the captain records the detail in his logs. So that was one of the interesting stories."
There have been a lot of highs and lows during the search for a photo. One low, is the confusion that another ship called the Conway still survives.
"That ship still survives, and people have sent me pictures of that ship thinking it's a picture of my Conway," Stanton said.
A highlight of looking for the photo was being able to visit where the ship was made at Brunswick in Canada.
"There was only one more ship they got in that yard after. They had several pictures of a ship being built in the shipyard, but not the Conway," Stanton said.
"I really enjoyed the visit to Saint John, the maritime provinces in America and in Canada, I should say that that time they would call it British North America, because all the difficulties in relation to Britain and North America and not being settled.
"It's a wonderfully interesting place to go. They've got in their maritime museum there ... lovely records and displays and the tools that the men would use.
"It was just a real education to me because I haven't had a lot of maritime experience. And so it was just interesting to be able to have that opportunity."
The Conway transported about 2000 people to Australia, with about 400 people coming on each voyage.
"The last voyage to Australia came after the Atlantic incident 1962. She brought about 130 female well-educated women to Queensland," Stanton said.
"At that time, Queensland had almost doubled the number of men than it did women. But they weren't looking for educated women."
Most of the Australian voyages left from Liverpool. The ship docked in Hobart in 1855.
"A lot of people who came to Tasmania ... would actually go work on the east coast on some of the properties that were up there," Stanton said.
Stanton said there had been a lot of interest in the book already from Queensland maritime museums, and in Tasmania.
"I've actually had people writing to me over the last five to 10 years, saying, when's your book being published? When's your book being published," he said.
"There is a lot of interest in the [Canada chapter]. And they're also very interested in it for family history, because of the 2000 families, or 2000 people that came, many of them were from families from Scotland, from Ireland, from England."
Stanton said one of the interesting things is why people were trying to leave those places.
"There was the potato famine in Ireland, in England poverty, and then in Scotland the landowners were trying to get rid of the people who were squatting on their property. "
He said there was a lot of pressure to find somewhere people could actually do better than what they were doing in England, Scotland and Ireland.
"That was one of the motivations for people to actually get out of there," he said.
There are just two copies in the state, but that is expected to change quite soon; 1000 printed copies printed will arrive in Melbourne this week.
"It's self published. So it's been very costly," he said.
Former ABC journalist Chris Wisbey will launch the book on November 14 at the Hobart Maritime Museum. Stanton hopes to hold a signing at Petrarch's book store soon.
"I guess it really is a reflection on one person's passion to try and find a picture and not ending up with a picture, but having a book is quite a contribution to our social history," he said.
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