Vol 1 No 3 Summer 2008-09

RESTING IN THREE METRES OF WATER off Melbourne’s Half Moon Bay is a unique relic of our naval history – the HMVS Cerberus. This National Heritage Listed shipwreck is in need of some tender loving care, which it’s about to get thanks to $500,000 from the National Heritage Investment Initiative.

Announcing the funding to the National Trust of Victoria during a visit to the site, Heritage Minister Peter Garrett said the Cerberus was once Australia’s most powerful warship.

“Named after the mythological threeheaded guard dog, her heavy iron structure was the prototype for steampowered battleships,” he said.

“After protecting Victoria from potential attacks for over 50 years, in 1924 she was declared surplus by the Navy and sold to a salvage company. Too tough to scrap, the remaining hulk was purchased for 150 pounds by the Sandringham Council and scuttled at Half Moon Bay.

“But in 1993 the hulk suffered a major collapse, and since then has been sinking at a rate of about 16 millimetres per year.

“The $500,000 we’ve provided is foundation funding for a stabilisation project, which would see the Cerberus partly raised and then supported on an underwater platform.

“Work began in 2005, with a Heritage Victoria grant to remove four 18-tonne guns. The next phase involves building an overhead jacking frame and the underwater supporting platform.

“This is a complex job. The section of the vessel to be lifted is a massive 1900 tonnes, minus the guns. The extraordinary amount of iron and the state of the partially collapsed hull means a sustained operation is vital.”

Friends of the Cerberus President, John Rogers, said the money would help get the project going. “We are now much closer to achieving the first stage of saving the Cerberus,” he said.

“From her arrival in 1871 Cerberus and the men of the Victorian Navy protected Victoria, not only until federation but beyond. After federation the Cerberus served in the Australian Navy – of which she is the only surviving inaugural ship. She’s also important internationally, for as well as being the forerunner of the modern battleship, she’s the only surviving Monitor class warship.

“In order to raise public awareness of the importance of Cerberus and Australia’s colonial navies, Friends of the Cerberus has reconstituted the ‘Victorian Navy’. Although the original Victorian Navy could send 16 ships to face an attacking force, the new Victorian Navy only has one slightly worn Monitor. Making up for this, the new Victorian Navy has hundreds of enthusiastic members.

“Individuals and organisations can help save the Cerberus by joining the Victorian Navy at www.cerberus.com.au/friends. Memberships for individuals range from a choice of free ranks to our most popular rank of Commander for $100.

Memberships for organisations range from Gun Raft for free up to Line of Battleship ($500) and Monitor ($1,000).”

More information about the Cerberus is available at:
www.environment.gov.au/heritage/ places/national/hmvs-cerberus and www.cerberus.com.au

“Aptly named, the old ship prowled around the bay for half a century, a watch dog with fearful barks from her 18 tonne muzzle loaders, a veritable ‘Old Ironside.’ She was the cradle of the fleet – the nursery where two generations of sailors learned their art and craft.”

Melbourne Herald, 8 June 1926