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Cerberus still Watches


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Like Cerberus, the watchdog to hell, Her Majesty's Victorian Ship, HMVS Cerberus, a Monitor Class vessel, was the only ship in the Royal Victorian Navy. Its prime duty was to patrol and keep watch over the Heads (entrance to Port Phillip Bay). Like a submarine, it had ballast tanks to fill with water to partly submerge itself, just inside the entrance to the bay so that only the conning tower and two gun turrets were above water, thereby presenting a smaller target to invaders.

It was ultimately scuttled and today lies near the harbour at Black Rock as a break water for the sailing club and beach. Its current position roughly emulates its 'battle profile' with its hull submerged and sits on the sea bed. The guns were dismounted and dumped overboard. They now lie on the bottom in shallow water.

Of the three boats (125's) going past, the leading one is mine, that I recently gifted to a young teenager so he could sail. Close scrutiny will reveal two boats, both with the same number, 2662. The rear boat had an accident with its mainsail so mine lent a spare sail for the day.

Leica M9 & 90mm Cron.

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I have a sad story from this place, John. For many years we lived just a couple of streets back from Half Moon Bay and I'd often go down there to photograph (as you have done). One evening approaching sunset I was photographing from the beach towards the Cerberus with my Hasselblad on a tripod and a guy emerged from the water just in front of me in a full wetsuit, with a bag of mussels or some kind of shellfish. We acknowledged each other with a nod and I went back to my photographs and didn't really pay him anymore attention. The next morning the same face I'd nodded to was pictured in the papers with a story of him having disappeared and a large search was mounted, focussing on the Cerberus where it was known that he often went diving for shellfish. Stories emerged that he'd had debts, run off with a girlfriend and all sorts of things. Well, three months later someone found his remains wedged under the wreckage where he'd gotten stuck that night and drowned. How they hadn't found him that next day is a complete mystery.

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Phil, I too have many stories about the Cerberus. I used to swim inside it as a teenager and duckdive down to swim out through the hole in the side. Madness, but we were young. I also believe I am the only one to fire (a Lee Enfield .303) at the ship, not in anger, but as target practice from Tennyson St Beach. I had painted a target on the conning tower. I then paddled out on a surf board to inspect my accuracy. Ultimately winning the 1000 yard shooting trophy at Williamstown rifle range.

I was also cained by a teacher who served on Cerberus as Midshipman who learned to defend himself using canes as practice for cutlass attacks when boarding vessels. Real pirate stuff. Sounds fanciful now, but all is true. Many more stories, but not here and now.

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