Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Tilikum … a Trove Tuesday post.

This post is one I have had in mind for a while now, but has finally been prompted into existence by a recent discussion on a Gippsland History group about the changing entrance to Shallow Inlet.

Fred Pilkington recorded in his “Memories of Sandy Point” that, after some years of gradual tidal undercutting, a new channel had broken through the sand spit, creating a new entrance to Shallow Inlet.  In the process, Fred writes that 100 acres or more of the best of the Reserve were lost.   The new entrance was found on 27th August 1901.

Some months later, on Saturday 1st March 1902, Fred and his brother Dan took advantage of a perfect late afternoon and the company of two neighbours, to take some time off from farm chores and go fishing.  The four men rode down to the Inlet, tethering their horses in the shade of the manuka scrub, before clambering over the loose sandy dunes to their desired spot.  To their surprise, when they crested the dunes, before them was a small three-masted sailing vessel of unusual appearance, aground in the channel just inside the new entrance.  The men watched in some trepidation as the sea was breaking over her decks, until a wave on the incoming tide lifted her clear of the sand and into calmer water.

The unexpected visitors proved to be the Tilikum under the command of Captain John Claus Voss, and his mate Hamilton.  The Tilikum was a Canadian Indian war canoe, carved out of a single piece of cedar 40 years previously, and had been fitted out by Captain Voss to sail around the world in an attempt to win a 500 wager. 
The expedition had started from Vancouver in May 1901, traversing the Pacific Ocean via the islands  to Sydney, and was now en route to Melbourne.  They had encountered severe storms on entering Bass Strait, during which the vessel had sustained damage to its rudder. 

The Argus Thursday 13 March 1902, page 6

Full article can be found at 

The Pilkington men provided hospitality to Captain Voss and his mate for a week while repairs to the rudder were effected, after which the Tilikum proceeded to Melbourne where she was put on display at the Exhibition Building as part of the Eight Hours celebrations.  Ironically, after narrowly escaping disaster on the Shallow Inlet bar, the Tilikum’s  voyage almost ended on dry land when a block and tackle gave way as she was being lifted onto a lorry at the close of the exhibition.  The resulting fall caused extensive damage, splitting the timber lengthways in several places.

The Age Wednesday 23 April 1902, page 4.

Lengthy repairs, sea trials to prove her seaworthiness, and court proceedings to recover damages meant that it was November before Captain Voss could resume his voyage around the globe. 

The Age Tuesday 1 July 1902, page 4.

Captain Voss’s own account of his voyage was published as “The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss”  in 1913.  The book can be found on internet archive:
Chapter X11 relates the Shallow Inlet episode, and gives a great account of crossing the bar. 

There is no doubt from Fred’s “Memories” that the arrival of such a celebrated visitor was an exciting interlude in the life of the small community of Sandy Point and surrounds.   The Pilkington men continued to follow the voyage of the Tilikum with great interest, and Fred maintained some communication with Captain Voss over the next couple of years.  His diary does indicate he was a little put out when Voss’s “Venturesome Voyages” recorded their name as Pinkerton instead of Pilkington!

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 17 September 1904
London. From British Newspapers at
CRUISE ROUND THE WORLD. (1902, March 13). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 6. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from

NEWS OF THE DAY. (1902, April 23). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from

NEWS OF THE DAY. (1902, July 1). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from


  1. What a great encounter that would have been... pity about the name mix up.

  2. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
    Thank you, Chris

  3. Thanks, Chris. There is a court at Sandy Point named Tilikum Court. Most people wouldn’t know of the association, so it’s good to put it out there.

  4. Thanks for this documentation
    We now possess a successor to Tillicum
    She is called Tillicum 1 and lies Lahave River Nova Scotia
    She sailed from Vancouver to nyc
    2019 two years 2011 to NYC
    Russ mead and Heidi Mead

    1. Thanks Heidi & Russ. Would love to see a picture of your Tillicum 1.