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John Oxley Library

Queensland Places - Cape York and Torres Strait Regions - Queensland Government Ketch Melbidir

By JOL Admin | 19 September 2014

The QGK Melbidir was a well-known vessel in the Torres Strait and Gulf regions, operating from around 1900 up until the 1950s. But, in fact, there were three vessels called the Melbidir with the second and third Melbidir replacing the previous vessels.

The first Melbidir was built for the Queensland government, with the vessel’s name said to mean “messenger of peace”. This first Melbidir had a length of around eighty-five feet and was built of kauri pine on a hardwood frame, sheathed with metal. The ship undertook routing inspections for the government throughout the Torres Strait and Gulf regions as well as delivering supplies including livestock, prefabricated buildings and general cargo. Also, the Melbidir took part in various searches for survivors of a number of wrecked ships, including the Douglas Mawson, which was lost in 1921.

The vessel Melbidir II was designed by the Harbours and Rivers Department of the Queensland Government in 1928, to replace Melbidir I which, according to reports at the time, had outlived its usefulness as well as having become unseaworthy. This vessel, an auxiliary power ketch, was built by Mr. Norman Wright and was launched in October 1928 at Brisbane’s Newstead shipyards. Melbidir II’s purpose was essentially the same as Melbidir I, this being general maritime support in Queensland’s northern waters. This included visiting the Torres Strait Islands and Gulf region with cargo and supplies as well as conveying medical staff to these locations when needed.

Melbidir III was built in 1949, to replace Melbidir II, by Johnston & Sons of Cairns. Newspaper reports of the time record that this third Melbidir was to carry out similar operations to its two predecessors, Melbidir I becoming worn out and consequently unseaworthy and Melbidir II being wrecked.

QGK Melbidir, 1935, State Library of Queensland Neg. No. 72490

This image shows Melbidir II in around 1935, with the vessel’s name clearly visible. The figure standing on the prow of the Melbidir may be Mr. John Booker, who was the vessel’s skipper at the time.

Brian Randall, Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.


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