Canadian whisky found in Australian navy mast

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Crowsnest - Fall 2017 / October 31, 2017

By Darlene Blakeley

It was a strange place to find a miniature bottle of Canadian whisky.

The bottle, hand-marked April 10, 1982, was recently discovered in the forward starboard leg of the main mast of Her Majesty’s Australian Ship Sydney, a guided-missile frigate named after the state capital city of New South Wales.

The frigate was one of six modified Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates ordered from 1977 onwards, and the third of four to be constructed in the United States.

We know that the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) have close ties, but it was actually an American who placed the whisky in the main mast when the ship was being built at the Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, Wash., in 1982. Future crews of the ship had no idea it was there.

The bottle remained hidden for 35 years until earlier this year when Sydney, decommissioned in 2015, was towed to Henderson in Western Australia to be scrapped.

As part of the Sydney disposal activities, the RAN was contacted through the HMAS Sydney association that an individual from the United States who was involved in the construction of Sydney had placed a bottle of Canadian whisky wrapped in insulation tape inside the mast during construction.

“I was not sure if the story was valid or if the bottle still existed 35 years later, thus have been waiting to get an opportunity to inspect,” said RAN Captain Brad Smith. “This has now been done and the story is true. I think this is a fantastic story to finish the HMAS Sydney story.”

Although it is not known why the shipyard employee placed the bottle of whisky into the main mast, Capt Smith thought it would be a great idea to contact him in order to send along a bottle of Australian whisky or Bundy rum (a dark rum produced in Bundaberg, Australia) in a personalized bottle “35 years after his very personal gift.”

The Canadian whisky bottle will be send back to Sydney where it will be placed in the RAN Naval Heritage Collection for display.