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Published March 1st 2013
SS Maheno - a diverse destiny
If you have travelled the eastern beaches of stunning Fraser Island, you will have undoubtedly come across the great hulking mass that lies partially buried in the sand. If you have yet to go, make sure you stop and pay your respects to this noble Scottish lady.
With her rusting exterior and bent metal frame the waves wash over her continuously. The SS Maheno escaped scrap metal heaven to retire herself to this, her last resting place.
Starting her life as a cruise steamer ship, with the capacity for 420 passengers, a refrigerated cargo hold and electricity she left her home in Scotland and sailed to New Zealand. She travelled the Tasman Sea, carrying passengers aboard the luxury cruiser. It wasn't long afterward though that she would be drafted into the war effort and used as a hospital ship.
At the young age of 5 months, she lost her cruise ship exterior. Her 400 foot length was painted white with broad green stripes along the sides and large red crosses alerting all that she was indeed a hospital ship. She carried 5 doctors, orderlies from the army medical corp and a contingent of nursing sisters and chaplains. They were kept busy in 8 wards and 2 operating theatres.
Maheno was based out of the Moudros naval base of the Gallipoli campaign beginning Aug. 25, 1915. She would see much action sailing between Gallipoli and Moudros or Malta and Alexandria, Greece. She journeyed back and forth to New Zealand, spending much time in between England and France. Always ferrying the wounded, she led a worthy life until she was returned to her former owners.
After 30 years of service, she was sold to a Japanese salvaging company in 1935, that were to tow her to Japan where she would be used as scrap: not a very dignified end to a noble yet luxurious lady.
With the Maheno in tow, they set off from Sydney, only to have their efforts thwarted by a cyclone. Maheno escaped her chains with 8 Japanese sailors aboard. With no propellers she was adrift, finally coming to rest on the shore of Fraser Island. Unable to set her free she was stripped of her fittings and used for numerous training exercises and target practice.
She now lies today on the beach where the pacific waves wash over her and numerous admirers come every day to take photos. Though she is no longer of service her virtuous actions and numerous journeys to save countless lives should not be forgotten. It is only fitting that she spend the rest of her days basking in the sun and sand on Fraser Island. More information can be had at www.fraserisland.net/shipwrecks and the placards that the Department of Parks and Wildlife have up at the sight.
When you see her take a moment to honour the SS Maheno and her deeds as you wander the glowing sand where she rests today.