Historical information

This wooden ship's wheel originally had eight spokes but four are no longer in their sockets. One of the spokes has been shaped. Both sides of the wheel have a brass cap over the centre of the hub, covering the wooden hub. The wood is split and cracked, and parts of it have small holes, a sign of being affected by the sea worm. Thick encrustations are on parts of the wheel, showing that it has been on the sea bed for quite some time.

The donor is a Warrnambool resident. Years ago he was cray fishing at King Island, which is in Bass Strait, northwest of Tasmania. His craypot got stuck in a reef so a diver helped him by retrieving the craypot for him. While the diver was underwater he also stumbled across the ship's wheel, which he gave to the donor.

The Bass Strait is a very narrow route that was difficult and dangerous to navigate in the early 19th century, before good maps, communications and lighthouses were installed. The area, including King Island, is the graveyard of many ships that almost made it to their destination of Melbourne along Australia's treacherous coastline. Around King Island alone, many ships and lives were lost.

There is no information about the history of this ship's wheel. Its condition shows that the item has been under the water for a long time. However, there is no evidence that it came from a shipwreck. It could even have been an old ship that could have been scuttled or destroyed as it was no longer useful.


The wheel is significant as a sign of shipping around King Island. It is part of the island's history, and of maritime history. It is an example of an item manufactured by hand.

Physical description

Ship's wheel; segment of a wooden ship's wheel. It once had eight spokes but only portions of four spokes remain. The outer centres of the hub and the reinforcing bands around the hub are brass. The wheel is heavily encrusted in parts. It was recovered from an unknown shipwreck in the waters of King Island.