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From the Resene News – issue 1/2003

Foxy lady - The barque "Edwin Fox"


The barque Edwin FoxLaunched in Calcutta, India on 5th October 1853, the barque Edwin Fox is the ninth eldest ship in the world, the sole survivor of the "East Indiaman" class of sailing ship and the only surviving sailing ship that brought migrants to New Zealand.

The Edwin Fox is a lasting link with British maritime history being London-owned and based for nearly all her working life. Her first commercial voyage was under charter to the British Government to carry French troops to the Crimean War in 1854. Interspersed with her world-wide voyages as a merchantman, she transported 280 convicts from Britain to Fremantle, Australia, survived collisions, groundings and dismastings and became one of the most profitable ships in the fleet of James Dunbar, her London owner.

Maritime heritage experts from around the world regard the ship's survival as miraculous as she survived a perilous career as a merchantman plus British conversion to a floating freezer ship in 1885 to service New Zealand's burgeoning frozen meat decade. In this role, she was towed to various New Zealand ports before arriving at Picton in 1897 where rail wagons delivered freshly slaughtered sheep carcases for freezing and storage. She was winched out into deeper water so that Shaw Savill ships could load their cargoes for their voyages to Britain.

When the freezing plant was later relocated ashore, her charmed life continued. A large hole was cut in her side for her new role as a coal hulk from which coal delivered by coastal colliers was transferred to the boilers ashore by tramway.

Later, while she lay beached at nearby Shakespeare Bay, local citizens armed with chainsaws attacked her teak decking nearly all of which became firewood. Miraculously, the frames and hull survived this onslaught. However, there's little doubt that had she not been salvaged and returned to Picton, the Edwin Fox would have disappeared almost without trace.

As a stripped down coal hulk, she was bought by the Picton based Edwin Fox Society for 1/- in 1965 and beached in Picton Harbour while over $1 million in funds were raised to rescue her. Thirty three years later, she was floated into a purpose-built dry dock where she is now safe and secure and further protected by a newly constructed roof over the dock.

In a departure from the trend towards restoration of historic artefacts, the aim of all the rescue efforts is to preserve the Edwin Fox remains for all time as they are, using a chemical treatment programme.

Following the reduction in the timber moisture content, the treatment programme began in April 2001 utilising the services of members of the Wellington-based Maritime Archaeological Association of New Zealand. The preservation process involves spraying the surface areas with special chemicals and drilling a series of holes into selected heavy timbers into which a preservative gel is injected under pressure to prevent 'tunnel rot' which can run through the core of a beam without revealing any external signs of damage. When the preservatives have been applied, Resene TimberLock timber preserver/conditioner will be used as a consolidant to seal the entire timber surface area.

The hull of the barque Edwin Fox

The completed preserved hull will be displayed in Picton allowing all port visitors to reflect on one of the eldest members of the shipping fraternity.

Owner: Edwin Fox Society (email: edwinfoxsoc@xtra.co.nz), Chairman: Tony Mortiboy
Resene: John Kilby, Account Manager - New Business

 

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