TRITON is a wooden pearling lugger built in Queensland in 1952. It was built by Alf Hansen and Harold Collis in Cairns, and owned by the South Sea Pearling Company. It was used in the Torres Strait pearling grounds. It has a strong connection to the Torres Strait Islander community through the Nona family from Badu Island who were the last to own TRITON before it came back to Cairns. Until 2016 TRITON was the last pearling lugger in 3C survey and was actively participating in commercial fishing. It is soon to be overhauled and rebuilt and will be able to continue in operation.
TRITON A82 is 90% through her full restoration and conversion to original configuration. In current AMSA survey she will return to work in November 2018 following the completion of electrical, hydraulic, machinery and running rigging and new sails
TRITON was built in 1952 and was also owned by members of the Nona family of Badu Island who changed the name to YANCY TAUM and had an alternate pearl license number of A2.
TRITON is a wooden carvel planked hull, over steam bent framing with a transom stern, showing typical details and configuration of the 1950s built Thursday Island or Torres Strait style of lugger, and is amongst the last of the type to be built for the trade.
Harold Collis spoke with Gary Kerr in the 1970s and his comments and recollections were published by Kerr in his book Craft and Craftsman of Australian Fishing.
“ ln l952 l came down to Cairns and started work for Alf Hansen, building luggers. The first one we built was for John Witts who owned a small pearling fleet at Thursday Island. Hansen was employing me, but I was the foreman at the yard informing him how it should be done, up to a point. Hansen designed the first one, the TRITON, and he came to ask me if it was alright, which it was, except for a slight alteration here and there.
His main interest was in designing a boat that was easy and economical to build, and yet be suitable for the job it was built for. We did not use the solid frame method that was used on TI boats, but used steam bent ribs.
It was every bit as good a form of construction, or even better. They turned out so good and economical that Hansen got an order for another three for Witts. Hansen was a man that knew timber from A to Z, and knew all about the cuts of timber and its different qualities, and how to cut knees and that sort of thing. He didn't use any timber from down south, he built his boats out of local blue gum, rose gum, and kadagi. Later we used water gum, which was another timber from the Cairns district. Hansen tried to design a boat that would be considered a standard pearling lugger, which is impossible, everyone had a different idea of what a perfect lugger was. He drew them all out on paper, and then when we were lofting the moulds we used to figure out how it should go, and between us we worked it out to a pretty fine art, they had the nicest hollow heel I've seen on a boat.
‘They were powered by a 4LW and 5LW Gardners and were ketch rigged. The first one, the TRITON, was 50 feet long, but the others, the BRITON, WINSTON and SONGTON were 52 feet, with about 13 foot beam, and 6 feet 6 inches draft. Because they were to be crewed by Islanders, everything was kept as simple as possible, they were only fitted with hand pumps, and the engines were started by hand.
The pearling boom in the 1950s slowed for a period then picked up again in the 1960s with some of the remaining luggers being employed collecting live shell for the cultured pearl industry at Thursday Island and Broome. Others found work in the fishing industry, and managed to keep operating for a decade or more afterwards.
TRITON is recorded as undertaking trochus fishing first, then pearling at Thursday Island from 1957-58, followed by pearling out of Cairns from 1959-62. It is noted as laid up in 1963 before operating again from 1964-67 at Thursday Island. In 2002 it was at Cairns, and understood to have been sold again at that time. In 2006 it was understood to have been operating as a shark fishing boat out of Cairns.
The period 1964 to 1967 was when it was being operated by the Nona family on Badu Island in association with the Queensland department of Native Affairs. It was called YANCY TAUM NONA and had the number A2.
In late 2017 much work had been done by Blackbird International, the owners since 2016:
• New engine room fit out including fire proofing
• New 5LW engine and gearbox
• New prop shaft
• New wiring throughout
• Original mizzen mast rebuilt
• Original mizzen boom and gaff rebuilt
• Main mast from lugger GRAFTON rebuilt
• Main booms and gaff from lugger GRAFTON rebuilt
• New standing rigging including installation of dead eyes eliminating steel
• New aft and main cabins built including internal fit out
• Paint and finishes being done
Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Australian South Sea Islander visitors to this site should be aware that images and information used on this site contains images of deceased members of our community.