Collector Nathan Smith in front of his burnt-out shed which contained priceless artefacts from the Maheno and Cherry Venture shipwrecks. The fire last Friday morning destroyed a lifetime collection of maritime relics.
Collector Nathan Smith in front of his burnt-out shed which contained priceless artefacts from the Maheno and Cherry Venture shipwrecks. The fire last Friday morning destroyed a lifetime collection of maritime relics. "It was terrifying the way it went up so insanely quick," Mr Smith said. Craig Warhurst

Priceless relics reduced to ashes

PRICELESS maritime relics collected from the Maheno and Cherry Venture shipwrecks have been reduced to ashes after a fire gutted a storage shed last week.

Next to nothing could be salvaged from the private museum, which was kept in a near-new six metre square timber cladded shed on a Bells Bridge property.

Maritime collector Nathan Smith had amassed a huge collection of antiques and artefacts from old ship wrecks, which he said filled most of the building.

Officers responded immediately last Friday morning but most of the shed was destroyed by the time firefighters arrive. Amongst the few remains was a melted brass porthole — a stark reminder of the intense heat that firefighters battled against in vain to save the historic pieces.

A lifetime collection of maritime artefacts all went up in smoke for Nathan Smith last week.

Amongst the extensive collection destroyed in fire were antique musical instruments, detailed ship models and a lifetime of personal documents and photos.

“It was terrifying the way it went up so insanely quick,” Mr Smith said.

“I had just dropped off a box of photo frames at the shed 15 minutes before I saw flames shooting from the roof. I didn’t smell any smoke.”

The intense heat from the fire melted the drain pipes on the house about 15 metres away and an old river boat between the buildings was moved in the nick of time.

“The boat was seconds from flash point — another 30 seconds and it would have gone up,” Mr Smith said.

“I have my neighbour Keith to thank for that. He came running over and helped me drag the old boat while the paint on it was smouldering. He literally saved us. If the boat had’ve gone up we would have lost everything”

Looking for the positives, Mr Smith said he had recently retrieved his vintage Fender guitar from the shed to put new strings on it and 200 historical photos were moved to the house for research.

“It could have been far worse. As far as insurance goes, it won’t replace what’s lost but it’s better than nothing.”

Lost in the fire was a scale model of the Maheno which Mr Smith had been working on for five years and was 10 hours from completion.

He had been compiling a book about the shipwreck as well as organising a display for the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the Maheno on July 9 in Hervey Bay.

“I’ll still press on but it won’t be as big or as flash as it was going to be. It will still be impressive though.”

It was believed the fire was caused by an electrical fault.

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