Maritime Mysteries and Hidden Treasure of Tasmania – In 1799 a 231 ton wooden vessel was built in Venice, Italy. The huge Barque was owned by a Mr Askew of London. On the 18th April 1827 she set sail from Sydney, bound for Hobart under the command of Captain Cunningham, with several passengers and some general cargo.
Just exactly what happened next, raises more questions than answers.
At dusk on the 28th April 1827, in Storm Bay, the pilot was taken on board in preparation to take her into Hobart Town. By daybreak the next day, she was stranded on the shores of South Arm, at a now trendy surf beach, called ‘Hope Beach’.
With all lives saved, the efforts to salvage the ship became too much for the crew and others from nearby whaling boats. The decision was made to leave her until Walter Bethune, the ship’s agent out of Hobart, chartered the vessel Recovery, to assist, but it was too late, and she was officially called a wreck.
Accusations appeared, stating that the pilot, Michael Mansfield, was drunk but those accusations were dismissed, and it was found that he had simply missed seeing the low-lying coastline in the prevailing conditions.
The story goes, that the ship was delivering the quarterly pay for the Hobart garrison and when the ship ran aground, the soldiers took the copper and silver coins (of varying amounts) and buried them. However, the treasure has reportedly, never been located.
Since the pay was headed to the garrison, it has been said that it had to be kept a secret, and was therefore never even reported as being onboard, officially. Two particular soldiers were suspected of taking the funds and burying it in the sand dunes, but afterwards were transferred to India. One died and the other returned to England. All was forgotten, until an Irish farmer named McKinnon turned up on Kelly’s Point, Bruny Island.
McKinnon had met the discharged soldier, told him the story of the treasure and had McKinnon so convinced that he sold his farm in Ireland, and came to Hobart. He gathered some tools and a miner’s right, jumped onboard the vessel Mary May, and was dropped at Kelly’s Point (the opposite beach to Hope Beach on the Tassie mainland).
Land owner, Harry Denne wandered down to the jetty to assist in the landing of the vessel, and assisted with lifting a large heavy box onto the wharf. Denne became curious and questioned McKinnon about the large heavy box, but never really got an answer.
McKinnon trawled the shores of the eastern side of North Bruny, watched closely by Denne, who he told he was searching for stones used for sharpening cutting tools. The box disappeared the next day, while McKinnon still searched the shores. Denne became more concerned about this curious man, and requested the Brown’s River tropper to investigate, after all McKinnon was prospecting on private land. However, nothing untoward was found and McKinnon went away.
Until 18 months later. Rumour has it he went back to Ireland, acquired a hand written map from the soldier that originally buried the treasure, and more instructions. However after searching Bligh’s Point for time, he gave up and returned to Hobart Town to work as a labourer.
So what happened to the money?
To this day, there’s never been a definitive answer on where the mysterious treasure ended up. So next time you’re travelling down to Hobart by boat, be sure to take a brief look on your way, and imagine, what you would do if you found the missing treasure!! For more information on travelling to Tassie, check out our ‘Visiting Tassie‘ page.
Do you know of some lost treasure, or perhaps an un-researched shipwreck? Do let us know! We love a mystery!
Now we love a modern day Tasmanian link to any story we research, and of course, it’s Tassie, we found one!
Not long after the Hope began to break up on the beach, she was auctioned off. On the 9th May, Captain John Laughton purchased the wreck for just 63 pounds. Captain Laughton previously had the 96 ton Brig Apollo built at Apollo Bay, by Mr David Hoy, North Bruny, in 1826 – but she was unfortunately wrecked at Maria Island only weeks before the Hope wrecked. Interestingly, at the time Laughton and his wife, Elizabeth, were living on Partridge Island, Bruny Island.
On the 10th May, Captain Laughton went by small boat to inspect the newly acquired ship off the beach, however this mission resulted in his death by drowning when the boat he was in capsized nearby. One rumour states the anchor let go off the ship, landing of Captain Laughton’s head.
Laughton’s eldest son Thomas Laughton went on to command the Imperial Government schooner, Eliza, which carried officials between Hobart Town, Macquarie Harbour and Port Arthur, which continued the strong maritime family line.
Captain John Laughton was also AWBF Marketing & Media Manager, Bella Laughton-Clark’s GGG Grandfather.
If you’re after a funny Tasmanian specific tales read – get your hands on a copy of this book, by Wayne Smith.