15 December 2005

Cerberus to have uplifting experience

Thursday, 15 December  2005 

Reporter: Florenz Ronn

photo of Cerberus

Cerberus, pictured before it listed in 1991, is to be stabilised and lifted to its previous height.

Peter De Gruchy photo with permission from Friends of the Cerberus.

photo of Cerberus now

Cerberus, seen here photograhed in 2004.

With permission by Friends of the Cerberus.

Her Majesty's Victorian Ship ‘Cerberus’ was purpose built for Port Phillip Bay to guard against foreign invasion. Launched in 1868, it was one of a fleet of 16 powerful ships, which evolved because the British naval presence was located in far away Sydney. As one of the most powerful warships in the Southern Hemisphere it was not only protecting Port Phillip Bay, but also all the gold leaving Victoria.

Named after the three-headed dog of Greek myth who guards the underworld, she was renamed HMAS ‘Platypus I’ in 1921. Declared surplus in 1924, she was sold and stripped of any of the fittings. In 1926, her hull was purchased by the city of Sandringham and sunk as a breakwater for the Black Rock Yacht Club at Half Moon Bay, where she remains in a deteriorated state. Since the major collapse in 1993, she has not only continued to collapse, but has tilted seaward.

Now, the HMVS Cerberus has received a National Heritage listing. Peter Tully is from the Friends of the Cerberus Incorporated and he joined 774 ABC Melbourne’s Lindy Burns, explaining the impact of the listing on the Cerberus. "What it means, is that it now opens the door for us, and also the other people who have been involved heavily in trying to do something about the Cerberus, such as groups like the National Trust, Heritage Victoria, and a marine engineering firm GHD, for us to talk seriously to Federal and State Governments about funding."

The National Trust and Friends of the Cerberus Incorporated jointly nominated Cerberus for inclusion on the National Heritage List, the highest heritage listing for items unique and of extreme significance to Australia. "No longer is it a nice little curious thing that Melburnians and Victorians like, but it now has Australian heritage value," continued Peter Tully, "and that’s recognised and we now have a very good springboard to try to obtain funding to preserve her and stabilise her."

Cerberus can no longer be moved. She is now a fixture at Black Rock and she will always remain there. She is rapidly sinking into the seabed, and unless stabilisation works are done, the two turrets on her upper works will fall through the main deck beams. It could collapse at any time. The armour is keeping all her upper works together. But the ten inches of armour on her turrets are an enormous amount of weight pressing down on her hull, which, after almost 80 years as a breakwater, have rusted away. It is because of her sound construction that she has lasted as long as she has.

To preserve her, Peter Tully explained that she would literally be lifted out of the water and have an underwater cradle put underneath her, before being put back down. "She would be lifted some three to four feet on what she is now. So all her upper deck would come back above the waterline level, and she’d look like a vessel once more," he said.