Enterprizing replica-ship at Warrnambool

The replica tall-ship Enterprise passing Warrnambool's Middle Island for Port Fairy. Picture by Jenny Fawcett 19 Nov 2015
The replica tall-ship Enterprize passing Warrnambool’s Middle Island for Port Fairy bay. Picture by Jenny Fawcett 19 Nov 2015

Watching the replica tall-ship Enterprize tack its way today out of Warrnambool’s Lady Bay  is a stark reminder of  the dangerous conditions  Europeans experienced voyaging aboard small-ton vessels bound for Victoria’s coast.

There seemed a fair swell up though the Enterprize left Lady Bay in what is relatively calm conditions for this stretch of the coast, and though  someone aboard commented she was steaming along at a  ‘comfortable 3.5 Knots’, there was  time enough to watch  her pass by Middle Island (where the Oddball movie theme has its origins) on her way west past Pickering’s Point.

Picture of the replica Enterprise. by Jenny Fawcett 2013 at Geelong
Picture of the replica Enterprise. by Jenny Fawcett 2013 at Geelong

The Enterprize is on a five day voyage from her berth in  Melbourne to the  seaport village of Port Fairy on  Warrnambool’s west, but she seems a couple of days ahead of schedule as the Port Fairy visitor centre said today  the Enterprize was not expected until 5 pm Saturday.

Archibald and the Enterprize

The original Enterprize is acclaimed by many for bringing the first European ‘permanent ’ settlers to Melbourne though I doubt Indigenous Australian’s share the that feeling, as this was  at time their ancestors  were robbed of traditional lands, by the pioneering Europeans who had long and carefully  planned the event.

For well over a century it was also wrongly believed the  Enterprize which brought Europeans for the pioneering settlement of Melbourne was wrecked at Warrnambool, and that her remains lay buried in Lady Bay.

Paper source: TROVE, NLA, The Argus 1850.
Paper source: TROVE, NLA, The Argus 1850.

The ‘Enterprize wrecked at Warrnambool’ myth started in the 1880’s  when Portland, Port Fairy and Warrnambool began to explore its European history. The myth in particular was perpetuated by Warrnambool museum curator Joseph Archibald, an ex-policeman and father of J. F Archibald of the Archibald Prize, Australia’s most famous portraiture prize as well as a succession of local newspaper editors.

Enterprize Wreck Report Warrnambool 1850

However it was a different Enterprize – a 68-ton coastal trader with a cargo of  local spuds and wheat from Port Fairy and Warrnambool  which  came ashore at Lady Bay, before a south-westerly September  gale. in 1850.

That Enterprize was on the ‘western ports’ run and usually under the command of Captain A.T. Farley,  when she end up broadside ashore and bilged on Warrnambool’s foreshore.  She rode out the gale but at 1 pm on the 22nd September 1850 she began drifting to shore where she lost her rudder and swung broadside onshore.

Aboard the Enterprize. picture by Jenny Fawcett taken 2013 at Geelong
Aboard the Enterprize. picture by Jenny Fawcett taken 2013 at Geelong

As Warrnambool settlers watched helpless from the Lady Bay beach, it was an Indigenous Australian named as  ‘Buckawell’  in European newspapers  who was the only person brave enough to swim out to the vessel in the merciless rough seas.

By Buckawell’s  getting a rope aboard he saved the lives of all aboard ship, yet no local landmark is testimony to his actions and unlike  European settlers who saved live from drowning in those days,  there was no public accord and financial reward for Buckawell.

The 68-ton Enterprize’s register was taken from Warrnambool to the police office at Port Fairy (as there was no local station at Warrnambool in 1850) and she went up for auction.

The  original  Hobart-built, 55-ton Enterprize which carried the Europeans to settle at Melbourne in 1835 had been long wrecked, at New South Wales, and it is for this vessel which the Enterprise replica is named.

The replica ship Enterprize in Warrnambool's Lady Bay 19 Nov 2015. Picture courtesy of Jaime Williams
The replica ship Enterprize in Warrnambool’s Lady Bay 19 Nov 2015. Picture courtesy of Jaime Williams .

One of her crew in 1836 was John Peter Armstrong, for whom Armstrong’s Bay below Tower Hill is named, between these coastal bays of Port Fairy and Warrnambool.

The  crew of today’s Enterprize will experience the coastline which Armstrong traversed in 1834, when he was brought over to take soundings for the establishment of the first whaling station at Port Fairy.

It was the only time Armstrong spent on this part of the coast, he retreated to Launceston to a failed hotel venture before working his way in 1836 to Port Phillip and the formative settlement there.

Picture by J. Fawcett
Picture by J. Fawcett

Today’s Enterprize  is the first square-rigged commercial sailing ship built in Melbourne for well over a century, and according to the not-for-profit Enterprize Ship Trust, the vessel was built to preserve a significant part of Melbourne’s history.

The modern Enterprize is certainly an opportunity  to experience the remarkably-cramped quarters of life aboard ship in the 1830’s, when weather alone could see passengers bobbing round Australia’s rough southern seas for weeks longer than anticipated as these little floating bath-tubs battled their way between barely discovered colonial ports.


The replica tall ship Enterprize  will be in Portland on Friday before sailing for Port Fairy on Saturday, with an estimated berthing time of 5 pm. Visitors should make haste though, for she is due to sail again early Sunday morning.


Enteprize Geelong 2013 picture by Jinny Fawcett  Searching for the Enterprize on Warrnambools Shore 1936