How an unmanned boat travelled 1700km from Botany Bay

With the battered hull covered in a sea of barnacles, an old fishing boat washing up near a Norfolk Island pier last Thursday raised the eyebrows of islanders.

Even the local police were questioning whether the upturned 6.5-metre aluminium dinghy may have braved the elements for years, or even a decade.

And after a day of theories from excited locals, police were able to use an engine number to trace the boat, along with its engine, to solve the growing mystery.

The vessel had overturned in Botany Bay in July - there were no reported injuries during the incident - before beginning its long and tortured journey north.

And when it crashed into Cascade Bay on Thursday, it had travelled nearly 1700 kilometres - the distance between Melbourne and Brisbane.

"It is just like one speck hitting another speck," a Norfolk Island police spokesman said on Friday.

But the chances are greater than some may think.

One local said another a 13-metre vessel, which had also overturned at Botany Bay, had crashed into the island about eight years ago.

"We initially thought this one must have been in the water for a lot longer, just looking at the plant life on it," the spokesman said.

"But it has travelled that far in six months."

A crane which was being used to rebuild Cascade Pier was used to haul the battered boat off the rocks.

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