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YouTube stars Rob Parsons, Levi Triffitt, Hugh Calvert uncover lost grave of John Stannard

Rob Parsons and Levi Triffitt discovered the burial site of John Stannard. Picture: Paul Scambler
Rob Parsons and Levi Triffitt discovered the burial site of John Stannard. Picture: Paul Scambler

Three passionate prospectors have discovered a piece of history hidden in remote rainforest for nearly a century.

Huon piner John Stannard was buried in Tasmania's now forgotten goldfields after drowning in the Jane River in 1901.

But one of the last times someone found his grave, and documented it, was nearly a century ago.

According to reports in Launceston's The Daily Telegraph, 19-year-old Stannard was walking along a tree trunk to retrieve a log, when he ended up under the water.

He had been in the area with his three mates since 1899, felling trees and collecting logs.

One of those mates was on the other side of the river when he turned around to find Stannard with only his head above the water.

He called out for helped as Stannard disappeared, running to the spot and jumping in.

But that was when he got tangled in a tree, nearly losing his own life.

Their two other friends joined in on the rescue mission, but by the time they got Stannard's body out of the water he could not be revived.

They succeeded in the terrible task of getting the body to camp, three miles distant.

A 1901 Daily Telegraph report

One of the four men trekked through wild country to get to an iron store about 65 kilometres away, so he could send news of the tragedy over the radio to Queenstown. It took him about 12 hours.

Stannard was later buried by two police constables who made a coffin from King Billy pine, and performed the burial.

The last documented photo of Stannard's grave by Tasmanian journalist, and photographer Michael Sharland, as part of a collection of images from a trip to the Jane River. Picture: Libraries Tasmania

The last documented photo of Stannard's grave by Tasmanian journalist, and photographer Michael Sharland, as part of a collection of images from a trip to the Jane River. Picture: Libraries Tasmania

The next documented discovery of that grave was when journalist, photographer, and conservationist Michael Sharland visited the river in search of the thylacine in 1938 - 37 years after Stannard died.

The area became known as the forgotten goldfields, and the site was consumed by wild forest, with nobody officially recording the location of the grave again after Sharland - until now.

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Levi Triffitt, Rob Parsons, and Hugh Calvert joined forces and made not one, but two attempts at trekking through the wild south west to find Stannard's final resting place, 120 years after his death.

The rough terrain would not be their only challenge.

The keen YouTubers knew the grave was near the Jane River, and that three Huon Pine trees had been planted around the grave.

But they could not be certain what remnants of the burial site remained.

Two sawblades originally stood behind the site, and a Huon Pine seedling was planted at three corners of the grave, however part of the Huon Pine cross placed above the grave had been stolen since Stannard was buried.

The limited information did not stop the three adventurers from taking on the mission.

They equipped themselves with enough knowledge to feel confident in finding the site.

They had a small window to tackle the challenge. Winter meant flooded rivers, and limited access. While in Summer, the area was known for tiger snakes. But off they went, giving themselves six days to locate the grave.

Devastatingly for them, their first trip was not a success.

"We greatly underestimated how hard it would be to get down there in the time frame we gave ourselves," Mr Parsons said.

The first trip, it just wrecked us, we went so hard from sunrise to sunset, we all basically staggered out of there, I crawled most of the way, my right leg was ruined, my knee wouldn't bend, I couldn't lift it so I was dragging it over stumps.

Tasmanian prospector Rob Parsons

"We walked 24km in one day, and I couldn't bend my leg, I was just dragging it."

They did not give up hope, though, and after months of waiting for the right weather, they made their second attempt. Sadly for Mr Calvert, physical injuries sent him home after day one.

Mr Triffitt and Mr Parsons decided to travel via the rivers, using pack rafts to save their energy for searching for the grave on foot. That was when they ran into more trouble, when Mr Triffitt's raft burst.

The weather had turned, they were soaking wet, cold, and considering turning back.

BURIAL SITE: A Huon Pine cross was erected at the grave site of John Stannard. Picture: Libraries Tasmania

BURIAL SITE: A Huon Pine cross was erected at the grave site of John Stannard. Picture: Libraries Tasmania

And it was only day two.

"It's the most beautiful place in some respects, but it's very unforgiving because it's hard to navigate through," Mr Triffitt said.

Despite the hurdles, the men pushed on, and continued their journey.

They were grateful they did.

Just as they were about to call it quits, they discovered the grave site on the fourth day of their expedition.

So how did they know it was Stannard's grave buried under a blanket of moss and tree roots?

When we got there and we did find it, there were still three Huons, they would be 120-years-old, and the back plate of the headstone was still there, and part of one of the crosscut sawblades was sticking out of the ground.

Tassie Boys Prospecting star Levi Triffitt

"It was insane because we had already searched the whole area, we were on our way out, we had given up," Mr Parsons added.

Levi Triffitt and Rob Parsons when they discovered the grave. Picture: supplied

Levi Triffitt and Rob Parsons when they discovered the grave. Picture: supplied

The pair filmed their expedition, and since sharing their achievement online they have been inundated with messages of support, including stories from distant relatives of Stannard.

Now, Mr Triffitt and Mr Parsons want to see a new memorial created at the site, and have reached out to the relevant authorities to research how they could make it happen.

While they don't have a clear plan yet, the pair were determined to see it happen, even if that meant they had to make the headstone and carry it back to the site themselves.

"A lot of people have asked if we can get another headstone in there, and that's kind of our next mission, it is a bit of lost history," Mr Triffitt said.

"It would be awesome to get a replica in there, I think it should happen," Mr Parsons added.

This story Prospectors discover piece of forgotten history on banks of remote river first appeared on The Examiner.