A MYSTERIOUS emblem found on a south-west beach has re-ignited speculation from the Mahogany Ship Committee about how the item came to be there.
The committee is now attempting to get hold of aerial technology that would use radars to see beneath the sand dunes and perhaps find a wreck to settle the legend as fact or fiction once and for all.
Mahogany Ship enthusiast and Terang resident Ross Poulter has been on a quest to find evidence of the wreck for 15 years.
Like many searchers, Mr Poulter has been unable to prove the ship's existence, but using a metal detector at five "wreck sites" between Levy's Point and Port Fairy he's found what he believes could be interesting clues.
On beach south of Tower Hill he found an emblem, believed to be brass, which online research has revealed is possibly a sconce.
The item, which Mr Poulter believes would have mounted a candle to a wall, has a distinct pattern which he has linked with Dutch sconces online, some dated to the 17th or 18th century.
"What I think it is is a nautical sconce, and the captain probably had it back in the old days," Mr Poulter said.
"It's extremely old and a magnificent find."
What we have got is an usual item in an unexpected location.John Sherwood
The age of the item has led him to speculate whether it came from a shipwreck but Mr Poulter does not necessarily believe that ship was Dutch.
"Back in the old days England, Portugal, Spain were swapping around items, they had goods from other countries," he said.
Nearby Mr Poulter has also found dozens of 19th-century coins in a 40-metre area, which he believes were left behind by early European settlers who picnicked on the beach.
"I'm hoping this is an area where they came and had their picnics because there is something in the sand dunes just out the back of it which is very intriguing," Mr Poulter said.
The Mahogany Ship Committee's John Sherwood, a believer there is fact to the legendary wreck, said he was not qualified to identify what the item was.
"What we have got is an usual item in an unexpected location," Dr Sherwood said.
"It is important I think first of all to establish where it has come from, where it is part of, and that may then give us clues about how it got where it is. Is it from a shipwreck, or discarded memorabilia?
"It seems too ornate and well made to be casually thrown away."
The first reference to a wreck in sand dunes east of Port Fairy was reported in a Portland newspaper in the 1840s and there were more than 40 reported sightings leading up the last in the 1880s by a Mrs Manifold.
Port Fairy's John Mason recorded a memory from 1846 of a wreck he saw between Port Fairy and Warrnambool which he described as "cedar or mahogany" but at the time of his writing in the 1870s he said sand could have buried it.
Recollections of the make of the timber and design of the ship fuelled theories about a Portuguese presence on Australia's east coast that would pre-date Captain Cook.
Dr Sherwood said the most important key to solving the mystery was finding a wreck.
"What we need to do is locate a wreck and then look at how it is constructed, do a radio carbon date on the timbers if we can find some and try and narrow down where the ship could have come from," he said.
The Mahogany Ship Committee is now trying to loan a drone carrying a ground penetrating radar unit to help scan beneath the sands for evidence of a buried wreck.
"The dunes are about 10 metres above sea level and a maximum of 20 metres, we need to see to at least sea level to locate the wreck," Dr Sherwood said.
For now he said the committee was seeking feedback on the item from the community. "It would be really great to get confirmation from other sources if we can," Dr Sherwood said.
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