The Mahogany Ship, Warrnambool in Victoria, Australia
The Mahogany ship, so called because of the hard, dark wood that the wreck is reportedly constructed from, was first sighted amongst the sand dunes near Warrnambool and reported in the early nineteenth century. The wreck was described as being high above the water line and being the remains of a vessel weighing between 100 and 300 tons, depending on source.
'Riding along the beach from Port Fairy to Warrnambool in the summer of 1846, my attention was attracted to the hull of a vessel embedded high and dry in the Hummocks, far above the reach of any tide. It appeared to have been that of a vessel about 100 tons burden, and from its bleached and weather-beaten appearance, must have remained there many years. The spars and deck were gone, and the hull was full of drift sand. The timber of which she was built had the appearance of cedar or mahogany. The fact of the vessel being in that position was well known to the whalers in 1846 (1836) when the first whaling station was formed in that neighbourhood, and the oldest natives, when questioned, stated their knowledge of it extended from their earliest recollections.
My attention was again directed to this wreck during a conversation with Mr M'Gowan, the superintendent of the Post-office, in 1869, who, on making inquiries as to the exact locality, informed me that it was supposed to be one of a fleet of Portuguese or Spanish discovery ships, one of them having parted from the others during a storm, and was never again heard of. He referred me to a notice of a wreck having appeared in the novel "Geoffrey Hamlyn", written by Henry Kingsley, in which it is set down as a Dutch or Spanish vessel...' - Letter by Captain John Mason of Port Fairy to the Melbourne Argus, April 1, 1876.
Was April Fools Day celebrated in Australia in 1876? I truly hope it wasn't, the above letter may prove to be one of the best clues in a treasure hunt that has lasted over 150 years. Under sand dunes near Warrnambool, Victoria, may be the wreck of a Spanish or Portuguese Galleon.
There have been many sightings, or at least claimed sightings, of the Mahogany ship at Warrnambool over the years. Many searches of the area have been conducted, but the wreck has not been seen or located in modern times. The State Government of Victoria offered a reward of $250,000 to anyone who could find the wreck, but the bounty was withdrawn a year later, unclaimed.
The Stradbroke Island Galleon
Another claimed Australian galleon wreck site is at Stradbroke Island, near Brisbane in Queensland. The story of the Stradbroke Island Galleon is similar to that of the Mahogany ship and was first reported in the 1860's. A local archaeologist, Greg Jefferys, found an Elizabeth I hammered coin, dated 1597, in the Eighteen Mile Swamp area of North Stradbroke Island in 2007. The story of the discovery of this sixteenth century coin in Australia received world wide press attention.
The Whitsunday Islands Galleon
Another reported Spanish galleon wreck site in Australia. Other web sites say that silver Spanish coins and artefacts were found here in the late nineteenth century.
Carronade Island Cannons
The Carronade Island Bronze Cannons were found on an island in Napier Broome Bay in 1916. Scientific analysis later proved that cannons dated from the eighteenth century and were manufactured in Indonesia and, therefore were not proof of a Spanish or Portuguese presence in the area.
The Geelong Keys
In 1847 an amateur geologist named Charles La Trobe found a bunch of keys at Limeburners' Point near Geelong, Victoria. Charles La Trobe believed that the coins must have been there for 100-150 years. Others suggested a sixteenth century date. The current whereabouts of the keys is unknown.
It has been suggested that the stone ruins at Bittangabee Bay (in the Ben Boyd National Park near Eden, New South Wales) might prove to have been left by early Spanish or Portuguese visitors. However, it is now believed that the ruins date from the the middle of the nineteenth century and no earlier.
Australian Myths and Folklore?
How many of the wreck stories and early European settlement stories are a result of local myths and folklore is almost impossible to say, but some of the stories listed above warrant further investigation, sadly we are located some 16,000 miles away which makes finding newspaper reports and talking to the local metal detectorists and local history buffs very difficult.