Mystery of ship's figurehead revealed
By REN LANZONrlanzon@gladstoneobserver.com.au
THE mystery of the wooden lady found in a cave on Keppel Island 40 years ago appears to have been solved at last.
Gladstone Maritime History Society president Ced Janson, who took temporary possession of the figurehead only two months ago, believes he has solved the mystery.
"It is the figurehead from the Jenny Lind, the barque that came to grief on the reef outside of Gladstone 105 years ago,' Mr Janson said.
The Jenny Lind is one of the more famous wrecks of the Central Queensland coast. Mr Janson said he received an email on Wednesday from Swedish Jenny Lind figurehead expert Karl Svardskog telling him:
'It is quite possible that the figure is from the Jenny Lind.'
Jenny Lind had been a famous singer in her day and became the subject of a number of figureheads carved by American John Mason.
Mr Janson said the ship that came to grief at Wreck Rocks off Gladstone in 1850 was described as having a figurehead which was a bust of a women.
He said it stood to reason the figurehead of a ship named Jenny Lind should have a carving of the singer.
Mr Svardskog sounded a cautionary note as the singer 'rarely used jewellery' whereas the Gladstone figurehead had such ornaments.
However, Mr Janson said despite the jewellery, the style of the carving and of the dress was almost identical to another Jenny Lind carving apparently from the same maker, American carver John Mason.
He said he spent many late nights researching the figurehead and was "excited" to have finally cracked the mystery.
Mr Janson came in possession of the figurehead after The Observer introduced him to Jim Byriel who found it in a tidal cave on Keppel Island 40 years ago.
Mr Byriel had made several attempts to discover which ship the carving was from but with little success.
In mid-September, almost on the day that the Jenny Lind had come aground, Mr Byriel had agreed to lend the figurehead to the maritime history society to display in its museum.
The Observer was not able to speak to Mr Byriel, but Mr Janson said that when he phoned him on Wednesday night, Mr Byriel was obviously pleased with the news.