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Shipwreck over 150 years old is lifted off Northland beach in delicate operation

A remarkably intact shipwreck has been lifted off a Kaipara beach in Northland.

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The schooner Daring was uncovered in May, and this week, was salvaged from its resting place. Source: 1 NEWS

Massive diggers were called in to free the Daring, a schooner beached for more than 150 years.

The diggers made a lumbering march across Kaipara sand dunes, an unlikely start of the rescue effort.

"I thought maybe it's in the too hard file," John Street of the Daring Restoration Charitable Trust said.

This 17-metre schooner, beached in 1865 during wild gales, was buried and then forgotten. 

But in May this year, a massive storm uncovered a rare find.

"I think it says that we were well ahead of the eight ball in our shipbuilding technology right then in 1863," Baden Pascoe, a marine historian said.

Once thought too expensive to retrieve, some wanted to leave the Daring to the elements, before a lover of old ships stumped up $1 million.

"I think the lines are incredible, and the workmanship's incredible. And the attention to detail I can't get over," Mr Street said. 

In a delicate situation, operators used the gentlest of nudges to coax the schooner.

But stoppages were frequent.

"I was worried that she may start to split on us. We had a lot of weight on it," salvager Brent Shipman said. 

The smallest digger was kept the busiest, the digger driver declaring: "I'm always in the middle of the crap."

And then, wobble by wobble, the Daring came free.

"I feel pretty happy, yeah. I might have a beer tonight," Mr Shipman said.

The Daring's own buried treasure has been revealed. As the salvagers worked, the ship gave up its secrets. They found a coin, a cup, some clay pipes, some shoes and quite a lot of wine bottle caps.

The charitable trust is now hoping a Givealittle campaign will raise funds for stabilisation and preservation work before the Daring goes on public display. 

"That's one of the things that really excites me is making history come alive, making it part of people's lives. History is so important," Mr Pascoe said.

The old ship's new voyage is just underway.