TWO DECADES AGO: The Zhou Gan Tou and the Chinese Nationals on board featured on the front page of The Coffs Coast Advocate on April 13, 1999.
TWO DECADES AGO: The Zhou Gan Tou and the Chinese Nationals on board featured on the front page of The Coffs Coast Advocate on April 13, 1999. TREVOR VEALE

Scotts Head remembers its beach landing

SCOTTS Head is this week marking the 20-year anniversary of when the village made national news after the landing of the infamous Chinese tug boat Zhou Gan Tou with 59 illegal immigrants on board.

The town of 895 people is remembering that unexpected day on Saturday, April 10, 1999, when the rudderless tug came ashore on a storm.

Scotts Head tug boat 20 years on: Two decades ago 59 illegal immigrants were detained after the tug boat came ashore.

An exhibition of relics from that memorable day will be a talking point at the local club.

"These poor buggers from southern China were told to dress up so they looked incognito when they came ashore," Club Scott's director Victor Mankin said.

The Department of Immigration took a couple of days to round up the 59 illegal arrivals from southern China.
The Department of Immigration took a couple of days to round up the 59 illegal arrivals from southern China. Trevor Veale

The thing was they were all wearing suits, and you know what the dress code's like around here thongs, stubbies and boardshorts. You could pick them a mile away," Club Scotts director Victor Mankin said.

"They were all around a town, a few made it into Kempsey and up to 30km away then it all hit, police, security, Border Force, Immigration, helicopters.

"A chopper landed next to the bowling club and there were guys jumping out all fully loaded. It didn't take them long to round them all up."

On display in the club is the cable that was attached to the damaged rudder, which allowed the vessel to run ashore onto the beach during a large storm that day.

After the rusted, beached vessel was later scrapped, the funnel was dedicated to the town, remaining on show in the street as a reminder to the day the village was the talk of the nation.

As part of this week's historic display many Scotts Heads residents have also recalled the events of the crazy day and locals have donated memorabilia for the showing.