This column's obsession with mystery objects along the Hume Highway seemingly has no bound. First we had the saga of the Menangle Tree House (Imagine if this was your cubby, June 30), the true origins of which surprised many (it turned out to be a century-old water tank). Then, before the dust had settled in the paddocks surrounding this remarkable reservoir, these pages were awash with emails from readers perplexed as to the purpose of clusters of bizarre-looking poles erected along the highway near the Victorian border (A glider's best Friend, August 4). These 20-metre-high structures turned out to be part of an elaborate network of ropes, tunnels and poles to allow native animals, including possums and gliders, to safely cross the road.
Now, following my admission last week (Treasure Hunters, September 29) that I've fallen victim to the addictive craze of geocaching (a modern-day version of the traditional scavenger hunt), has come a new wave of emails, asking me to get to the bottom of the mystery of a nine-metre yacht concealed among pine trees near the busy highway. The yacht, which apparently contains a hidden cache (a small cylinder containing swappable and trackable items for geocachers), is located just a kilometre or so from the Hume Highway in the landlocked Penrose State Forest between Sutton Forest and Marulan.
To add a further twist to this case, ''the rusting vessel has been in the forest for over a decade and it has been moved on at least three occasions,'' cacher Nigel Chauncy says. Thomas Schulze continues: ''And not just dragged a few metres,'' he says, ''but picked up and hauled over half a kilometre and then partially dug into the ground.'' Schulze photographed the out-of-place yacht in 2008.
Although the yacht harbours a logbook where geocachers can boast they've found it, why such a big boat is hidden in a pine grove a couple of hours from the nearest sailable water has left all who have set eyes on the rusting hull completely baffled. One rumour is that it was dumped in near-new condition in the forest by a jilted wife after she caught her husband cheating.
Earlier in the week, on a trip back from Sydney, although I unfortunately didn't have the coordinates of the yacht with me, I called into Penrose State Forest to search for the yacht anyway. How hard can it be to find a big boat dumped on the side of the road?
Well, without coordinates, among a maze of forest roads and in fading light, it turns out quite hard, if not impossible.
Next weekend, I plan to return to the forest in daylight, armed with the exact coordinates (assuming it hasn't inexplicably moved again) and attempt to solve this case once and for all, but in the meantime if you know the origins of the Penrose Ark, or you can shed any light on who is shifting it around the forest and why, then please let me know.
Penrose State Forest: Accessible via the Penrose Forest rest area on the southbound lanes of the Hume Highway, about 1.5km south of the Sutton Forest Service Centre.
Traumatised Tree: Thanks to everyone who wrote to explain that, Traumatised Tree III, the geocache hidden in Weston Park which featured in last week’s column, is so-named because the tree appears to have a fence running right through its trunk. Ouch.