ex-HMAS Sydney home to buried treasure

Here’s a modern-day tale of buried treasure sure to warm the cockles of yer heart!

As Birdon’s disposals team set about breaking down and recycling the ex-HMAS Sydney they were contacted by a retired shipyard worker, Paul Nickelson, from the other side of the world.

He said he had heard the news of her retirement via Facebook and was “saddened to see that those days are over, similar to the retirees here who built it” but wanted to share a bit of history “that might be of interest and amusement to your personnel”.

A fellow employee of Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, Alex Otero, had mused online that “if my memory serves me correctly, there is a small bottle of Jack Daniel’s, wrapped in pipe insulation in the forward starboard leg of the main mast” on the Sydney.

So our team set off to find the hidden treasure! What the uncovered was an American silver dollar as well as a of MacNaughton Canadian Whisky from 1982.

Birdon Disposals Manager Trent Raines said maritime tradition dictates that a coin is set at the bottom of a mast of a new boat – for good luck.

This tradition is said to have its origins in the ancient Roman custom of placing coins in the mouths of men killed in battle. One theory is that, due to the dangers of early sea travel, the coins were placed under the mast so the crew would be able to cross to the afterlife if the ship were sunk. The coins were supposed to pay Charon, the mythical ferryman, for transporting the dead across the River Styx.

The presence of the whisky is not so easy to explain – other than it may have been intended to ease their passing.

Despite the lure of drinking the whisky, Birdon’s team had the memorabilia framed and authenticated. It has now found a permanent home in the Navy Heritage Museum.

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