In 2010, I interviewed Jennie Phillips of Southport about her discovering the remains of Moreton Bay’s legendary Spanish galleon. I recorded our conversation in my book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (which is now out of print):
‘In about 1968/69, my husband, Bill, and I had been fishing in our boat at Jumpinpin with our two small children. On an impulse, we landed on North Stradbroke Island on the north bank of the bar, and decided to take a walk along the ocean beach. We also had a fishing mate, Peter, with us. The children being very young, Bill and I had to carry them, and so we had probably gone only about half a kilometre along the beach and were walking in the sand hills amongst the light undergrowth such as Pigweed, when Peter received what he thought was a bite on the foot. We all gathered round for a look at the wound (and a rest – the kids were getting heavy by that time), but found that Peter’s ‘bite’ was actually a puncture from a sharp object.
‘Naturally we searched amongst the dunes for the sharp object, and found an old square nail sticking up from a piece of weathered wood about 2 inches by 4 inches in width. The nail was green with verdigris, indicating that it may have been copper or brass. More surprising was that there were a lot of other pieces of wood protruding through the sand. It then became obvious from their distribution that that they were tips of the ribs of a wooden ship. They had all been burnt off from bushfires over time.
‘We scratched further amongst the sand and then found a couple of metal coins, which from their appearance were either of Spanish or Portuguese origin. We could even make out part of a date 15??
‘Could this have been the legendary Spanish Galleon whose remains we had just stumbled upon? If only we had a camera!
‘We kept the coins and resolved to return in a few weeks time, armed with a camera to record our find for posterity. Unfortunately a cyclone hit the coast just after our visit, and when we were able to return to the spot, the elements had rearranged the dunes, and the sands had once more reclaimed their treasure. We still had the coins, though, which we placed in an old tin box with a lot of other coins and curios that we had collected over the years. Unfortunately, a ‘friend’ of ours took the collection along to a collector for a valuation, and returned to us empty handed with the news that the box and its contents were worthless. We suspect that he had gambled whatever he was paid for them.
‘And the Spanish coins? Their fate is unknown – swallowed up, like the Spanish galleon in the sands of time.’
Recently at our local Probus Club, one of our members, Graham, happened to mention that he, too, had seen the Spanish galleon. In about 1934, as a young lad, he had been fishing with his father in Swan Bay on the southern tip of North Stradbroke Island. They had then waded through swampland to the sand dunes on the eastern side of the island. There they came across a timber skeleton of a ship some 60 to 90 feet long. Only the wooden ribs remained. Its position seemed to corroborate that described by Jennie Phillips.
What a pity they didn’t have mobile phones with cameras back then.