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Press Release: Ships That Shaped Australia exhibition launched at Cape Otway

Issued: 26 September 2011

The Ships That Shaped Australia, an exhibition of 27 paintings of vessels that sailed into our history books has been launched at Cape Otway Lightstation by Maritime Museum of Victoria Chairman Dr Henry Hudson.

Each of the large scale works were painted in the Seventies and Eighties by the late Jack L Koskie, a former lecturer at Deakin University, for his book the Ships That Shaped Australia.

Koskie’s works capture the high drama of early shipping in Australia including American whale boats, the first ship to traverse Bass Strait from West to East in 1801 the HMS Lady Nelson, and the Loch Ard which was wrecked in 1878 trying to sight the Cape Otway light.

Included in the collection of acrylic on board works is HMS Investigator which surveyed Australian waters under the command of Matthew Flinders, SS Casino which was wrecked at Apollo Bay in 1932, and HMAS Sydney, famous for her stoush with the German vessel Emden in 1914.

The most contemporary vessel in the exhibition is Australia II the famous wing-keeled racing yacht which won the America’s Cup in 1983.

There’s also a rare survivor the colonial ketch May Queen, a trading vessel built in 1867, which can still be seen moored at Constitution Dock in Hobart.

At Sunday afternoon’s exhibition launch, Dr Hudson said the collection gifted to the Maritime Museum by the Koskie family represented the artist’s lifelong fixation with all things maritime and his dedication to research.

“He showed meticulous care and attention to detail, he thought it was essential that his paintings reflected the correctness of the ships and the sea. And the set of the sails had to be correct,” Dr Hudson said.

The paintings, which can be seen in the Lightkeeper’s CafĂ© until February were a significant contribution to highlighting and preserving the maritime history and heritage of Australia, Dr Hudson added.

Lightstation manager Paul Thompson said Cape Otway had real links with some of the vessels portrayed in the exhibition such as the SS Casino, a steamship which traded between Melbourne and Port Fairy, and the Marco Polo, captained by the infamous James ‘Bully’ Forbes who passed Cape Otway on numerous occasions carrying up to 700 passengers in a race against time during the Gold Rush era.

“We’re thrilled to have the exhibition, which has only been exhibited twice before, at the Lightstation,” Mr Thompson said.

“It gives locals and tourists further insight into our amazing maritime history, which the Lightstation is very keen to promote and preserve,” Mr Thompson said.

“We’re an island nation surrounded by sea, many of our forebears arrived by ship and for at least the first 150 years of European settlement ships were our lifeline to the rest of the world – our maritime heritage is a huge part of our history,” Mr Thompson said.

Apart from a free souvenir exhibition catalogue, Mr Thompson said the Lightstation had also created a Ship Detective activity sheet suitable for primary school children who could collect clues during their visit to the exhibition.

Pictures show: Maritime Museum of Victoria chairman Dr Henry Hudson with a picture of the Loch Ard which was wrecked near Port Campbell in 1878, at the launch of the Ships That Shaped Australia exhibition at Cape Otway Lightstation. Also included is the cover of the Exhibition Catalogue.

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