The Barque Edwin FoxCarl Irrgang
P.O. Box 89
Picton, South Island,
The Ship was built in Calcutta, India, in 1853. She was one of the last of the East Indiamen to be constructed. And today she is the very last one of those ships in existence. She sailed first as a fully rigged ship but was changed over to a barque some fourteen years later in Bombay, India, and remained a barque until her demise as a sailing ship late in the 19th century.
Edwin Fox is made principally of teak, with some saul in particular places. All that remains today is a hulk; both decks have been vandalized and the upper portions of the hull are pretty well rotted out, primarily due to exposure to fresh water. The lower hull, however, is still in excellent condition considering all the use and abuse to which it has been subjected over the years. When, in 1986, the ship was removed from the beach and moored to the foreshore in Picton, New Zealand, it was discovered the hull did not even leak! Today (July, 1997) evidence of hogging can be seen and a few minor leaks have developed.
In the early days, and after her first voyage from India to England with, what else, a load of tea, the ship was chartered to the British government and became a transport for troops to and from the Crimean War. Subsequently it was used for the transportation of English prisoners to Fremantle, Australia, and later she was utilized for international trade throughout the world. At a still later date she became active in the movement of emigrants from England, Ireland and Scotland to New Zealand. She made four voyages in all to the ports of Dundein, Wellington, Nelson and Littleton (Christchurch).
When the Clipper ships appeared on the scene and then when the era of the steamship began, ships such as the Edwin Fox became obsolete and many were destroyed. Some, however, were modified to serve as freeze holds for use by the growing mutton industry in New Zealand which did not have sufficient refrigeration space ashore. On 12 January 1897, Edwin Fox was towed into Queen Charlotte Sound of the Marlborough Sound area of the South Island of New Zealand, and she has been there ever since. After serving as a freeze hold for a few year, the ship was shifted across the bay and utilized as a landing site, barracks and later a coal hulk for the adjacent packing plant.
In 1965, in a most significantly deteriorated condition, she was offered to a group of local business men as a museum piece for restoration. For reasons of their own the local governing authority, the Picton Council, refused permission to berth the ship in Picton harbor and it was towed around the point into Shakespeare Bay and beached. She laid there for about twenty years and during that time was seriously vandalized for her teak wood. In December, 1986, permission was finally obtained from the new Council and the ship was refloated and moved to the foreshore for her ultimate preservation and restoration.
Since that time the major problems with regard to completing the project have been the usual three old ones: money, money and money. A modern museum building has been built at the site with government support and now serves as a marvelous addition to the project. The most likely source of funds now is likely to be the New Zealand National Lottery Board. Assuming the requests for funds are successful the first step will be the construction of a graving dock at the same site where the ship is now moored.
In summary, so far the progress of restoration has been seriously hindered by the lack of adequate finance; the primary current objective is to get the ship safetly dry-docked with a roof to keep out fresh water and to enable work to be carried out in all weather conditions; to preserved what currently exists and to carry out in all weather conditions; to preserve what currently exists and to carry out necessary restorative work up to the waterline and stern section but leaving the interior as it is to allow the public to see how the ship was built; and all work will be done so that further serious restoration can be done as finance permits.
If the writer may be permitted a personal observation, it is iterated that all the hundreds of East Indiamen built in the 18th and 19th centuries Edwin Fox is the only one left. As we all know, this period of international sea-going trade was one of the most remarkable periods in the world's history. Little remains today to remind us of those important times and it seems obvious that this one last remaining symbol should not be faced with extinction. It is fervently hoped that not only New Zealanders but other interested and knowledgeable people around the world will rally to save this marvelous manifestation of history. For lack of anything else your moral support and encouraging correspondence to those personnel active in the project will always be welcome:
Today the ship is readily available to visitors next to the Cook Strait Ferry landing in Picton. Thousands of people visit the museum and the ship each year in its lovely setting in the Queen Charlotte Sound.
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