A yacht with a thirst for history

Photo: Julia Sumerling/SilentWorld Foundation

A yacht with a thirst for history

Photo: Julia Sumerling/SilentWorld Foundation

Purpose

A yacht with a thirst for history

Superyacht SilentWorld is on a mission to further the knowledge of Australia’s maritime past.

By Dominique Afacan | 5 July 2018

In many ways, owning a superyacht is all about discovery. Whether sailing to the frozen Arctic for the first time or dropping anchor at a deserted beach in Komodo, there is no shortage of new territory to explore when you have a private boat to take you anywhere you please. SilentWorld enjoys its fair share of global travel too – and is currently cruising around Tahiti – but for her owner, true discovery lies beneath the surface, prompting him to launch the Silentworld Foundation back in 2007.

A yacht with a thirst for history

SilentWorld. Photo: Julia Sumerling/SilentWorld Foundation

A yacht with a thirst for history

SilentWorld. Photo: Julia Sumerling/SilentWorld Foundation

“The owner wants to discover and preserve Australia’s maritime history and in doing so set up the Silentworld Foundation,” explains Captain Michael Gooding, who has been working with the owner for eight years. “He just loves it, he has his own small private collection of Australian artifacts and he’ll tell stories about each piece that he’s bought from various auction houses and things.” Last year the yacht embarked on a 10-day expedition around Queensland’s Kenn Reef, uncovering four shipwrecks along the way and winning the Voyager Award at the Australian Superyacht Awards in the process.

This sort of voyage of discovery isn’t easy – the Foundation employs two full-time marine archaeologists, and they work together with the Australian Maritime Museum, looking at newspaper clippings and researching to work out where possible wrecks might be. Then, it’s a case of coordinating the right time to go. “What happened back in those days was that the boats couldn’t see the reef in the dark – and by the time they saw it, it was too late,” explains Gooding. To safely reach the side of the reef where those ships would have gone down, SilentWorld had to avoid the winter trade winds and instead travel in December or January to start their search.

A yacht with a thirst for history

Photo: Julia Sumerling/SilentWorld Foundation

A yacht with a thirst for history

Photo: Julia Sumerling/SilentWorld Foundation

Once in situ, the team used a host of different methods to find what they were looking for. “We towed magnetometers behind the boat to look at magnetic anomalies in the earth’s surface – that gives you some indication of things like anchor chains or canons,” explains Gooding. More recently, drones have also been used to capture visuals from the air. “Because of the age of the wrecks, you will start to see a different coloration if you look at the water from the air – they call it black reef,” says Gooding.

Once a wreck is found, the atmosphere on board is electric, though Gooding points out that this is by no means a sophisticated treasure hunt – the aim of the trip is to raise awareness – and to preserve everything they find. “We’ll make sure that if there’s a wreck down there that it’s identified and doesn’t get plundered,” says Gooding, “though in saying that, most of the time, because of their age, there are just things like anchor chains, anchors and canons left.”

A yacht with a thirst for history

Photo: Julia Sumerling/SilentWorld Foundation

A yacht with a thirst for history

Photo: Julia Sumerling/SilentWorld Foundation

That’s not always the case, however and Gooding recalls a recent flurry of excitement when the team discovered a bell. “We had a number of marine archaeologists on board and even thought they’d seen bells that had been bought out of the water – none of them had ever seen one underwater. Everyone went ballistic. We were over the moon. The last person to see that bell was someone on the ship in the 1800s.”

As a dive master, Gooding is able to get down and see the wrecks for himself and has found that he too is developing an interest in maritime history. He recently went to the effort of tracking down the manuscripts of Phillip Parker King, an early Australian explorer, and was able to follow some of his trails into the Northern territories. “King talks about sailing up past the cascades and the waterfalls there – he says you can hear them but you can’t see them – and that is exactly what we experienced. It’s like this little hole in the wall – we saw exactly what he saw back in the 1800s,” says Gooding.

A yacht with a thirst for history

Photo: Julia Sumerling/SilentWorld Foundation

A yacht with a thirst for history

Photo: Julia Sumerling/SilentWorld Foundation

It’s not the first time Gooding has had a brush with shipwrecks and maritime history – in the early days of his career, he worked for a dive expedition company and would go out to the famous wreck of passenger and freight steamer Yongala every week. He found that, alongside the rich history of the site, there was an added thrill too, connected to what the wreck had turned into under the water. “For me, it’s as much about the marine life that inhabits the wrecks now as it is about the history. Yes I like the story but I also love the fact that these sites becomes marine sanctuaries too – they evolve and have a new life.”

Of course, the boat isn’t always in expedition mode, and the owner uses it frequently for family travel. “Every year our itinerary changes – typically, we’ll spend five or six months of the year in Sydney where the owners live, a few months somewhere in the Pacific and then one month we’ll do an expedition. For me it’s a great mix as I get to come to places like Tahiti and Sydney but mix it up with some exploration,” says Gooding. Their next expedition – set to take place in December – awaits.

Sign up for updates




Do you work in the superyacht industry? YesNo
I would like to receive updates from Superyacht Life