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GEM isa paddle steamer built in 1876 in NSW. It a very early example of a Murray River paddle steamer and after modifications in 1882 it became the biggest paddle steamer on the Murray River. A number of important figures on the Murray River are associated with GEM, and in the early 1960s it also became the first of its type to be restored and put back into operation.
DescriptionGEM was built by Air and Westergard in 1876 at Moama on the NSW side of the Murray River. The 27 metre long hull was planked in red gum, which grew along the banks of the Murray River. Oregon was used for the superstructure to keep the craft light and to keep the draft shallow. In 1882 it underwent a major transformation at Goolwa in SA. There it was cut in half through the mid-section. The two halves were then separated by a bullock team which was used to pull the forward part away from the aft section. A new 13 metre long centre-section was then added to rejoin the vessel. At 40 metres long overall, GEM then became the longest paddle steamer on the Murray River.

The legendary Hugh King, known as 'The Grand Old Man of the River’ was GEM's captain for many years, and the vessel went through a number of changes in ownership during its long lifespan. It also went through a variety of uses, in more or less the following succession: barge, towing vessel, passenger vessel, home and then a boarding house.

GEM was towed up from Mildura to Swan Hill in 1962, the longest tow in Murray River paddle steamer history, and became the opening exhibit at the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement Museum. Here it became the entry-exit building, local art gallery, museum office, caretaker's flat and Australia's first bush-tucker restaurant.

It was also the first paddle steamer to be restored and heralded a resurgence in paddle steamer history, leading to the restoration of a number of other Murray River paddle steamers. As part of the display at Swan Hill it is a major part of the Pioneer Settlement Museum's education program where thousands of students have used it as a part of their study of the Murray River's history. GEM has also been on the Victorian Heritage Register for many years.

(Prepared from material supplied by the Pioneer Settlement Museum)
Vessel Details
Cabin or superstructure material and construction:timber planked
Current status:floating
Current status:non-operational
Current status:on public display
Current status:outside
Deck layout:multiple decks
Deck material and construction:timber planked
Hull material and construction:carvelcarvel-planked
Hull material and construction:timber
Hull shape:displacement
Hull shape:flat bottom
Hull shape:monohull
Hull shape:overhanging stem
Hull shape:plumb transomvertical transom
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:transom rudder
Motor propulsion:paddle steamerpaddle wheelerPSsternwheeler
Propeller:side wheel
Related materials:drawings
Related materials:film
Related materials:models
Related materials:news clippings
Related materials:photos
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:wheel
Current status:museum vessel
Alternate Numbers

Previous Number: hv

Previous Number: HV000119

Previous Number: HV000118

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