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Emmaville Iron Boat

Vessel Number: HV000741
Vessel Dimensions: 4.24 m (13.9 ft)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
The Emmaville iron boat is an iron plated open boat, built in either NSW or Queensland at an unknown date. Its use remains unconfirmed, and must be subject to some considered speculation but it could have been used on a man-made lake or dam associated with the extensive tin mining dredge operations in the area, as well as being appropriate for use as a ferry on local rivers during times of flood.
DescriptionThe iron plating is riveted to angle bar frames that are widely spaced along the hull. The lapped plating forms a clinker appearance. It is double-ended along the lines of a ships lifeboat, and has tanks at either end, with room for two thwarts. There are wooden floorboards over the frames in the hull bottom. The double-ended lifeboat hull shape is relatively easy to construct. It hints at a non-shipwright person copying a known shape to build a simple vessel, whereas the more common transom-sterned skiff or dinghy hull shape seems typical of a shipwright, as seen on the examples of metal craft built for Coen and Maytown in Northern Queensland.

It may have been used as a flood boat. There was a wide application and use of flood boats throughout NSW and Qld. The police force were often tasked with their management, and records show the governments issued many tenders for flood boats to be delivered to the local police force in various river regions on the coats and inland. Volunteers also took on a role forming brigades to launch and man the boats when needed.

Early newspaper reports indicate the Severn River near Emmaville was subject to flooding and show that they had a boat at two different locations. Further to the north near Tenterfield and the east at the top of the Clarence there are records of floods and related flood boats.

It is also possible to relate the craft to the tin mining operations in the area. Tin was first discovered on Strathbogie Station in 1872 and the settlement was called Vegetable Creek after the Chinese market gardens which developed to service the mining population. It was renamed Emmaville in 1882 after the wife of the then state Governor Lord Augustus Loftus.

For a considerable time tin mining has needed water as part of the process. Often the gravel deposits are located at or below the water level in the stream, and they are brought up by a dredging method. The dredge can be located on the side of a stream, or floating in an artificially created pond and dam. The dredge excavates the gravel and then the soil, sand, and stones are separated from the tin ore which is then transferred for further processing.
The large dredges operating in a pond need a boat for access and to help adjusting lines when it is repositioned. Historic images show that there was at least one example of a large dredge and pond mining facility in the Emmaville region but in the image it had a punt shaped vessel.

It is therefore possible to connect the boat to the tin mining. A visitor to the Tin Mining museum in the 1990s was informed by a guide that the craft had been brought to the museum from one of the local tin mining operations that had closed down.

A separate understanding was that it had been found by Forby Porter when checking his gully’s flood gates after a flood, and he had the boat pulled free and brought it to the museum.
At present without definitive information it can only be said that it may have been a flood boat that was adapted to the purpose, and it may also have been a simple boat built by the boilermakers and blacksmiths associated with the dredge. Further research may uncover more accurate detail about its purpose and use in the region.

The craft is now located inside the Emmaville Mining Museum and on display as part of the region’s heritage.

Vessel Details
Current status:on public display
Deck layout:open
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:oar
Hull material and construction:iron
Hull shape:canoe stern/double endedDE
Hull shape:monohull
Hull shape:round bottom

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