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‘We want to share the story — good and bad’

An Australian woman’s 30-year connection to the replica HMB Endeavour has seen her follow the ship around Australia and New Zealand, to promote the educational nature of the ship.

Now retired, the 59-year-old former teacher from Fremantle Debbie Gibson has one big ambition left, to sail once again on the ship. The only problem is, she gets seasick.

“I have done some small voyages, nothing of the magnitude of Sydney to New Zealand,” she said.

“I don’t do well at sea but I’ve done voyages out of Western Australia and the trips we do in Sydney Harbour, but I leave the big sailing to the professionals and the people who don’t get so seasick, like me.

“It’s a very expensive journey, its nearly $300 a day to do a voyage — maybe next year. It will be my last hurrah. Next year, 2020, I will be 60 during our Cook 250anniversary, where I will follow Endeavour from Botany Bay to Cooktown then around the West coast to Geraldton, Fremantle, Bunbury, Albany, Esperance, and that will be my swansong because I’m retired and I want to do something to finish off with.”

Her connection to the replica started at the ship’s birth in Fremantle, Australia, in 1988.

“I’m an educator and a historian, and when I was teaching I went down every month to photograph the build of the vessel — so I’ve got all the photographic memorabilia of the ship being built.

“That was right from when the keel was laid, until launch day, when it sailed off to England in October of 1996. It set off to the UK and we had our head boy and head girl at the helm, taking it up the coast from Fremantle.”

Since then, she had remained involved with the ship and still volunteered as a guide for port-based tours around Australia.

“I’ve been a guide for nearly 20 years.”

Her love of the ship is twofold — around its historical accuracy, and what the replica voyages represent to those who sail on her.

She admires the history of the ship itself, “being built from the ground up to be as authentic as a replica ship can be to the original plan”.

“The authenticity to the original is, I think, the best in the world for that era of vessel.

“In Australia there are people who love to hate history, and then there are people like myself who love history.

“She’s a ship of reconciliation that brings the story to the people and we want to share the story — both good and bad.

“We’re not hiding from the truth.

“To me, the vessel lives and breathes and we have to be thankful we have this vessel in history and are able to use it as we do.

“So, for me it’s more about the ship and what it creates for people. It creates opportunities, it creates this idea that people do come together from around the world to experience how it was in the 18th century to sail.

“I spoke to a gentleman today, he had sailed from Tauranga, he says it’s one of the hardest things he’s ever done. It’s no easy deal being at sea on a ship that rocks and rolls and doesn’t have all the luxuries of today.

“I really, really appreciate the craftsmanship that went into creating the vessel. It took six years, a lot of money and a lot of blood, sweat and toil. The fact it got off the ground at all and out of the boat shed is a miracle in itself.

“We just want the world to appreciate the ship for what she is.”

SAILING AWAY: HMB Endeavour replica volunteer guide Debbie Gibson — from Fremantle, Australia — was showing off the educational aspects of the ship at Gisborne’s inner harbour yesterday. Picture by Paul Rickard