Historical information

This lifebuoy is part of the lifesaving equipment from the sailing ship the Falls of Halladale. It is filled with cork and covered with canvas and reinforcing bands. The name of the ship and its origin is printed on the lifebuoy. It has been sealed with several coats of white paint.

A lifebuoy, or life-preserver, is used as a buoyancy device to keep a person afloat in the. It is usually connected by a rope to a person in a safe area such a nearby vessel or on shore. The lifebuoy is thrown to a person in distress in the water, allowing the rescuer to pull the person to safety. The lifebuoy is a made from a buoyant material such as cork or rubber and is usually covered with canvas for protection and to make it easy to grip.

The first use of life saving devices in recent centuries was by the Nordic people, who used light weight wood or cork blocks to keep afloat. From the early 20th century Kapok fibre was used as a filling for buoys. Light weight balsa wood was used as a filler after WW1. In 1928 Peter Markus invented and patented the first inflatable life-preserver. By WW2 foam was combined with Kapok. Laws were passed over time that has required aeroplanes and water going-vessels to carry life-preservers on board.

The Falls of Halladale 1886-1908

The vessel ‘Falls of Halladale’ was a four-masted iron-hulled barque, launched in July 1886, by Russell & Co of Greenock, Scotland and owned by the Glasgow Falls Line, which named its ships after Scottish waterfalls. The ship was built for long distance cargo trade. The Falls of Halladale was one of the last windjammers that sailed the Trade Route.

The ship was on its way from New York to Melbourne via the Cape of Good Hope when, after 102 days at sea, its journey suddenly ended. During the night of November 14, 1908, in calm seas with some coastal fog, an ocean swell raised the vessel up then let it down on a submerged reef wrecked at Curdies Inlet, Peterborough. The ship was stranded and the Port Campbell Rocket Crew were sent for, to perform a rescue. However by the time they arrived, all on board had already travelled by lifeboat to the nearby beach at the Bay of Islands. The sight of the slowly disintegrating ship on the rocks attracted many sightseers.


This lifebuoy is significant for its association with the famous ship the Falls of Halladale.

It is significant for its association with lifesaving equipment used on board vessels in the early 20th century.

The Falls of Halladale shipwreck is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register (No. S255). She was one of the last ships to sail the Trade Routes. She is one of the first vessels to have fore and aft lifting bridges. She is an example of the remains of an International Cargo Ship and also represents aspects of Victoria’s shipping industry. The wreck is protected as a Historic Shipwreck under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act (1976).

Physical description

Lifebuoy; round white canvas ring, joined with hand stitching. Stencil with inscription is printed in black on first and third quadrant. The canvas has been repainted in white but avoiding the inscription in the lifebuoy. A hanging board for display is attached with white rope. Lifesaving equipment from the Falls of Halladale.

Inscriptions & markings