Scotts Head Public School's prank replica of the Zhou Gan Tou

One of the actual funnels from the Zhou Gan Tou stands in the garden at the school to this day
One of the actual funnels from the Zhou Gan Tou stands in the garden at the school to this day

There was the landing of the Zhou Gan Tou and then there was the arrival of its cardboard doppelganger two years later ...

The latter was a Scotts Head Public School project that took local media and the community by surprise, set tongues wagging and won the school a major accolade in a national competition - and all in the name of recycling.

Eighteen years on retired principal Angie Evans recalls what she says was the "crowning moment" of her entire career with enthusiasm and laughter.

"It all started at a P C meeting where we were throwing around ideas for the 2001 ARC Recycled Cardboard Competition," Angie said.

"I remember it so clearly - Susie O'Brien asked us what was the town's biggest moment - of course! the boat ... and boy there were moments I rued the day I said yes to that!"

What followed was an enormous undertaking - months of creating a cardboard replica of the Zhou Gan Tou, to scale, out of cardboard - and all of it a secret that every child, from Kindergarten to Year 6, kept.

"None of those kids spilt the beans ... I thought that was pretty damned good!

"It was really amazing - we kept it in the garage across the road from the school. It was a full-on replica with all the pieces, everything had to be drawn, cut out and painted.

"The kids made cardboard people from the boat, which they put around the caravan park and we scripted media interviews.

"Then we snuck it down to the beach really early in the morning, two years to the day - George Marshall towed it behind his tractor - and we rang the local paper, the radio stations and TV ... they all came down.

"We had already told the Federal Police, so it wouldn't create any problems. We went on Totally Wild (a Network 10 afternoon show). Other principals gave me heaps - they told me I'd do anything for enrolments, haha."

The project was completely documented and sent off to the competition, where it was runner up ... however when the organisers came to present the prize Angie said they were shocked.

"They hadn't fully understood the scale of what we had done, nor that we were a tiny little school in a little coastal town.

"They told us we should have won and gave us all these extra prizes like a colour laser printer and digital cameras which was incredible at that time."

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