Yes, I'm a bit lazy and
Yes, I like this story enough to drag her back up to the front!
She was born of the detritus of World War II. Dismantled tanks, trucks, railway track were melted down into billets and blooms, beaten out into panels and riveted together to create a new monster.
She was an apocalyptic, piratical vision for the protesters of 1977, men and women who lurked in Zodiacs behind Michaelmas Island in the predawn gloaming. They saw the whalechaser steam past, her high Antarctic prow bristling with the barbed spine of a cannon, and Johnny Lewis said to his partner in the fight against whaling, "I don't care if I have to swim 30 miles back from the Shelf. There's no way I'm ever gonna get on that ship." *
In the 1860's, Svend Foyn, 'model puritan capitalist' citizen of Tønsberg and nearing retirement, designed an innovative ship that revolutionised the whaling industry. The slower, more bouyant Bow whales were now becoming scarce in Arctic waters. The ‘Captain Ahab’ style hunts - stalking whales in wooden whale boats, with hand held harpoons and the mother ship under sail nearby - were unsuccessful with the quicker whales and those who uncooperatively sank to the bottom upon killing.
Foyn wanted faster, steam powered chasers that were quick enough to chase down those open ocean cetaceans that had so far escaped the eye of the gunner. He invented a cannon fired harpoon with an explosive head and winches for playing and hauling in the kill. For his troubles he was granted a ten year monopoly by the Norwegian government.
"Revolutionising the industry' is always a graveyard epitaph when hunting animals, certainly it was dark days for the whales. Within thirty years, the whale population in the Finmark region was decimated. Thus the Antarctic epoch began in earnest.
The Norwegians commissioned Thorbryn and her sister ship Thorgrim to be built by the English. With the fleet of chasers and a factory ship, they worked the Antarctic grounds every season for fifteen years, travelling from the northern hemisphere to the white south and back again.
Thorbryn ended up here in Albany in 1963, purchased by the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company and renamed Cheynes 2. Theirs was a daily hunt, rather than the months at sea. They chased down and harpooned the toothed sperm whales that cruised the deep waters off the Continental Shelf.
The men were hard, pragmatic, multicultural (in a white kind of way). They were top of their game - well disciplined, high status, fat wallets.
It all fell to bits not long after soldiers came back from Vietnam and sometimes I think they must have felt the same way, redundant from the jobs they were most respected for and being derided for doing it in the first place. World opinion had turned against them. It's just the way it is.
Cheynes 2 had a stint as a star exhibit at Hobart's Maritime Museum until maintenance became an issue. She was 'requisitioned' on a scientific expedition to Heard Island that was beset with drama, documented in the movie The Ship That Shouldn't Have. She returned to Albany under sail.
She became the Boy's Own wet dream for several entrepreneurs who just wanted to save her - and rightly so. Who wouldn't want to own a decrepit Norwegian whale chaser?
The stairway you can see is where I first met Bob. He was the 'strange long haired man playing guitar'. This is the stage when Cheynes 2 was to be converted into a floating restaurant in time for the America's Cup and went spectacularly broke instead. Bank repossessions followed.
Then one day, when everybody seemed to have thrown up their hands about the Cheynes 2 - tethered to the deep water jetty in a shameless state magnificent dilapidation, complete with the grand velvet booths and a stainless galley restaurant kitchen, a four poster velvet and jarrah bed in the wheelhouse and the rivets rusting off her sides - she broke her moorings in a wild storm and landed on the rocks.
After that, her destiny was ordered by the harbour master of the time. She was towed straight across a major shipping lane and laid on the sand bar at Quaranup where she still is today. Thousands of pigeons call her home. The engine room is full of water. You have to be careful not to step on eggs and chicks, or to put your foot through her crumbling decks. One day she will fold in on herself and dissolve into the sea.
*This quote paraphrased from Chris Pash's book 'The Last Whale.' I'd give you the page number but I've lent the book to Old Salt!