Acquired to deal with the perceived threat from the Russian Pacific fleet, Gayundah and her sister ship Paluma were the first vessels ordered by the Queensland Government for the colony’s Maritime Defence Force. Their names are aboriginal words for ‘lightning’ and ‘thunder’ respectively.
In 1884 HMQS Gayundah was built by Sir William Armstrong Mitchell and Co. of Newcastle upon Tyne, at a cost of 35,000 pounds. The steam engine was built for speed and could reach 10.5 knots. She could take on enough coal to travel 1300ks at a time.
The Gayundah arrived in Brisbane on the 27th March, 1885. She was fitted with masts and guns, she carried sails to assist her during the long journey. Thereafter Gayndah’s chief duties were the protection of Moreton Bay and training ship for the Queensland Maritime Defence Force.
After Federation, the Gayundah was retained by the Australian Navy as a training ship, now the HMAS Gayundah. She was the first Australian warship to successfully use wireless telegraph.
The ship’s aerial was kept aloft by tall bamboo pole lashed to the foremast. The historic message was received in Brisbane and read: ‘Gun drill continued this afternoon and was fairly successful – blowing squally and raining – prize firing tomorrow. Marconi insulators were interfered with by rain but easily rectified and communication since has been good. Good night.’
She was then used as a guard ship and patrol vessel during WW1.
In 1921, after almost 40 years of serving our country, she was sold to Brisbane Gravel Pty Ltd and used as a sand and gravel barge on the Brisbane River. She sank at her moorings at Melton Reach in October 1930 but was soon raised and back at work. Early in 1958 she was towed to Bulimba Wharf in Brisbane and stripped.
On 2 June 1958, after seventy-four years afloat, Gayundah was beached off the Woody Point cliffs on the Redcliffe Peninsula to serve as a breakwater structure.
Article by – Jules Williams