The full story of the ketch Venture long remained a mystery as her official record shows she was purchased by a Mr Ealefeldt in 1897.
It was not until the documents were researched that it was found the official register was incorrect.
In reality, the buyer was a Mr Ehlefeldt, a well-respected and prosperous businessman in Forster; he operated Albert von Ehlefeldt and Sons Universal Providers store in Little Street.
Accounts of the Venture are confusing as there were two vessels of that name - both built in 1897.
The vessel with registration ON08576 was built in Singapore and registered in Darwin; she commonly operated in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The vessel with registration ON106141 was built by James Belfield at Cape Hawke and registered in Sydney in May 1897.
The Venture was built for James Mills, a Samoan with interests in the Torres Straits.
Mills had borrowed money from Ehlefeldt to settle with Belfield.
As Mills was unable repay the debt, Ehlefeldt seized the ship.
The seizure of the Venture did not suit her builder James Belfield, who had not been paid by James Mills.
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A dispute arose between Ehlefeldt and Belfield regarding ownership of the Venture and the sheriff was instructed to sell the vessel.
She was sold to Ehlefeldt for £102 in July 1897.
Belfield was paid and Ehlefeldt continued to operate her until 1902.
Ehlefeldt employed John Frederick Gogerly as the ship's master, and the Venture commenced shipping timber to the Sydney market as forward loading, when he needed supplies for his business.
Captain John Gogerly weathers the Maitland Gale
John Frederick Gogerly took on legend status in early May 1898 when, as captain of the Venture, he was caught in what was later known as 'The Maitland Gale'.
He left Forster heading for Sydney and anchored off Elizabeth Beach when the weather began to deteriorate.
Gogerly's only course was to up-anchor and run bare-poled before it, and as the storm worsened he sent his companion into the hold and wrapped himself in oilskins against the weather.
When complimented on his escape, Gogerly replied: 'There's not enough water in the Pacific Ocean to drown me.'
He tied himself to the tiller, and fought the storm for three days.
Time passed when the little boat did not return and people in Forster began to mourn the passing of Captain Gogerly.
Astoundingly, Gogerly sailed the damaged vessel into the Clarence River on May 10 and finally returned to Forster on May 22.
When complimented on his escape, Gogerly replied: "There's not enough water in the Pacific Ocean to drown me."
Sale to Burns Philp & Co. Ltd and then to James Mills
In September 1901, Ehlefeldt advertised Venture for sale and she was purchased by Burns Philp & Co. Ltd. in 1902.
She commenced trading to Thursday Island under the command of Captain Beyer.
Into the picture steps the Samoan, James Mills, the original owner before the vessel was seized by Ehlefeldt.
As far as can be ascertained he bought it in late 1902 from Burns Philp, and de-registered it only for it to be re-registered in 1903.
Venture lengthened yet register tonnage slightly reduced
Originally the official register shows the vessel as 39.2 feet in length with a register tonnage of 23.17 tons.
When the Venture was re-registered in 1903 the length had increased to 54.5 feet while the register tonnage had decreased to 21.06 tons.
One can only speculate why the length would be increased by around 15 feet and the register tonnage (1 register ton = 100 cubic feet) decreased, but it seems likely that the living quarters for crew (or indentured labour for work on coconut plantations) were increased at the expense of cargo.
Operational in the Torres Strait and Papua
What is clear is that after repair and lengthening, James Mills took her to the Torres Straits for general use in the pearling and coconut plantation industries.
By 1911, she had been leased to an operation in Papua.
James Mills operated from Naghier Island, situated in Torres Straits, about 30 miles north of Thursday Island.
Mills had his home, consisting of three five-roomed houses, a large coconut plantation and pearling station, on the south-east portion of the island.
It was reported that by 1911 he had 25,000 coconut trees bearing, and 10,000 young trees coming on; he also had five boats in the pearling industry, and the ketch Venture was leased in Papua.
By 1913 the Venture was back in the Torres Straits.
Demise of the Venture
The last recorded event indicates that the Venture was lost on a reef in early January 1914.
On December 10, 1915, just two years after the loss of the Venture, James Mills died.
It would appear that Mills did not report the loss of the Venture as there is no mention in the register and no records of shipwrecks in Australia.
For more shipping history from the Manning and Great Lakes, click here.
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