AN historic Antarctic workboat, the Macpherson Robertson, has been found restored to its former glory in Valentine.
As the Newcastle Herald reported last Saturday, a group of Antarctic veterans was searching for the 60-year-old vessel, which they believed may have been in the area under another name, the Porpoise.
Turning to the Herald for help with finding the boat, Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions Club secretary David Dodd said he was over the moon to find the 25-foot wooden craft alive and well and in the water at Valentine, and again bearing the name Macpherson Robertson.
Its owner, Trevor “Nipper” Henkel, of Tingira Heights, said he was well aware of the vessel’s significance, but had no idea it was considered lost.
“I said to my wife, Jenny, look at this, our boat’s in the paper, it’s a lost boat, but it’s not really lost, we know where it is,” Mr Henkel said.
Quite a few other people knew where it was, also, and Mr Dodd received a handful of emails in short succession telling him where he could find the boat.
The ANARE Club’s Queensland representative, Trevor Luff, who had driven south from Noosa as part of the effort to find the boat, dropped in to the Henkels’ house on Tuesday, and looked over documents and photographs that Mr Henkel had amassed since he bought the Porpoise in 2008.
Like Mr Dodd, Mr Luff was ecstatic the vessel had been found, and had been looked after by someone who loved it and recognised it for its historic worth.
Mr Henkel said his interest in old wooden boats had been sparked by a friend who kept one on the Myall Lakes. He bought the boat “on eBay, a sunken vessel with a seized motor, sight unseen”. He and some friends did the initial repair work, which included rebuilding the motor, and then he obtained a permanent swing mooring in the protected bay at Valentine.
Mr Henkel said he learned about the Antarctic connection during the purchase negotiations. Ironically, this was the boat’s second time in this region. Under the name Porpoise, it had plied a trade on the Hunter River as a prawn trawler, having been sold by the government after it finished its Antarctic duties in the late 1970s.
Although a previous owner had rebuilt it above decks with a new higher cabin and a rear shade deck, Mr Luff said it was still “very obviously” the same boat that had operated in Antarctica.
“It’s a beautiful vessel,” he said.
Mr Henkel said it had cost a considerable amount of money to rebuild and repair, but he and his wife loved taking it on overnight trips around Lake Macquarie.
“It gets a lot of looks,” Mr Henkel said.