Editorial 4 January 2004
A ship that shames us


THE 19th century warship Cerberus, a rusting hulk in Black Rock's Half Moon Bay, is one of Australia's worst heritage scandals.

A community that valued its history would have saved the truly unique vessel, once the flagship of Victoria's colonial navy, long before time and tide took their toll.

HMVS <i>Cerberus</i>
Almost sunk This is our last chance to save
Cerberus, a big part of our maritime heritage.

That Cerberus is on the brink of total collapse, her surviving upperworks and gun turrets only one more storm away from surrendering to the elements, should shame all the municipal councillors, politicians and bureaucrats who were in positions over many decades to organise and fund a restoration that is justified at many levels.

Since her sinking as a breakwater in the 1920s, scores of plans to raise and refurbish Cerberus have come to nothing, always foundering on the question of who will pay. Now we are past the point of no return -- Cerberus will be gone forever unless the community demands action this year.

The Sunday Herald Sun would like to see Cerberus take pride of place in the heart of Melbourne, preferably in the Turning Basin on the Yarra near the Old Customs House, which is occupied by the outstanding Immigration Museum. If she is beyond restoration to full floating condition, then she should be reconstructed as a land-based heritage project adjacent to the Turning Basin.

We propose another bold venture -- lifting the sailing ship Polly Woodside over the Spencer St and King St bridges to take her place alongside Cerberus in the Turning Basin. This significant maritime precinct would then regain its special status in a city that owes its establishment and development to sea-borne trade.

As London has the tea clipper Cutty Sark, the World War II cruiser Belfast and Sir Francis Chichester's yacht on permanent display, so Melbourne would be able to capitalise on its living links with the past if it gave Cerberus the dignity she deserves and took Polly Woodside seriously.