Geoff Potter

40 years on: Cherry Venture wrecking on Teewah Beach

FORTY years ago, Saturday, July 6, the Singaporean cargo ship the Cherry Venture buffeted up on to the shores of Teewah Beach during a ferocious storm.

Renowned Gympie photographer Bernie Crawford can still recall the morning after the wild storm when he was given the opportunity to be one of the first to photograph the ship during its first few hours on the coastline south of Rainbow Beach.

Bernie, who was 25 years old at the time, set out with his boss and then-owner of Murray Studios, Kev Collins, to photograph the marooned ship.

"It was odd actually because it looked like the ship just nosed itself into the shore, then once the tide went out it spun around to rest with its side facing the ocean," Bernie said.

Kev had been there the previous day when the ship reached the shore, however it was too late in the day for a good photo.

In the winter of 1973 numerous treacherous storms had pounded the Queensland coastline with damaging winds and choppy seas.

On July 8, the Cherry Venture was going from Auckland to Brisbane when a severe storm started brewing, quickly developing into 12 metre waves and 140kmh winds.

The 1600-ton ship had very little cargo onboard, so the wind gusts and waves tossed her about with ease forcing her closer and closer to the shoreline.

There was little the captain could do but struggle with the wind, so staying stationary seemed the best possible option.

However the force of the wind and waves quickly overcame the two taut anchor cables, with both snapping in quick succession.

Multiple rescue efforts from the Royal Australian Air Force failed due to very dangerous flying conditions and the cyclonic wind speeds.

This was made worse by low cloud which concealed sand dunes, making navigation almost impossible and a fatality in the rescue effort almost certain.

As a result, the Cherry Venture was brought to shore at 1pm that day.

Various attempts were made to refloat the ship, however the ropes used to tow it into the ocean snapped and eventually the idea of ever moving it was dumped.

The Cherry Venture quickly became an iconic tourist attraction for the Rainbow Beach region, with millions of visitors and passers-by stopping to take photos and view the historic shipwreck, before it was finally removed in 2007.

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