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Tall ship’s tall tales on display

05 Feb 2018

Tall ship’s tall tales on display Image

By Meg Hill

According to those working on Alma Doepel’s restoration, the ship’s history is full of weird and wonderful stories that strike one as fiction, but hold up against historical examination.

You can explore these different stories in Alma’s 115-year-long history in a free weekly discovery tour at Victoria Harbour from January 31 until March 28.

Tours meet at the Library at The Dock cafe and start with a short presentation, before walking to the ship and then heading for a behind-the-scenes look at the boat-restoration space.

The discovery tour focuses on the ship’s three years as AK82 Australian Army ketch during World War Two with an exhibition space replicating the inside of the ship.

When the war reached New Guinea, the Australian Army transformed the ship and used it to carry supplies and troops to the islands.

According to museum studies student and Alma Doepel volunteer Jessica Curtain, Alma was not your average army ship.

“A lot of these men had never been on the sea before, it was a real ragtag operation,” Ms Curtain said.

The ship is currently undergoing restoration, with an estimated $600,000 still needed for completion.

Restoration director Peter Harris is adamant that restoration is necessary, as opposed to turning the ship into an on-land exhibition.

“Exhibition ships decay, they don’t grab people’s attention. The restoration and continued use of the Alma Doepel is history for the future,” Dr Harris said.

“Sailing a tall ship is also an important experience. It’s important for young people to build leadership and teamwork skills.”

Testament to this is evident in the Alma’s history well after its time as a war ship.

Volunteer Ken Gayner told Docklands News about a young man who worked on the Alma as part of a community service order well over a decade ago.

The man recently visited the ship’s restoration base with a woman he had met on the ship and their two young children.

“That’s a perfect example of the importance of the Alma, and that’s just one of many stories,” Mr Gayner said.

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