HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

19 September 2018

Ships in the bay

HMAS Parramatta (154) could be seen crossing the bay this morning, an Anzac-class frigate of the Royal Australian Navy. One of ten warships built for the RAN and Royal New Zealand Navy.
Length: 118 m



Berry's Canal and Comerong Island.


Berry's canal links the Crookhaven River and the Shoalhaven River, and holds a unique place in Australia's history being the first man-made navigatable canal to be constructed.

The canal was made by the hard labour of convicts using hand tools. Overseen by Hamilton Hume under the direction of Alexander Berry in 1822.  Alexander Berry needed a way of moving ships into the Shoalhaven River. The main entrance at Shoalhaven Heads was shallow and dangerous and impassable by anything other than the smallest cutter.

After the two waterways were linked by a small canal the river through time and erosion carved the canal into what you see today, cutting off the peninsula and forming Comerong Island.

The island is still linked to the mainland by the beach but during floods and high seas this link can be broken.  The only permanant way of reaching the island is by sea or by the Comerong Ferry. The banks of the canal are under constant pressure from the river. When I visited the island yesterday bank stabilisation works were being carried out to secure the shoreline.

In times of high floods, the water rushing through the canal emptying out from the Shoalhaven River can become a fast dangerous torrent. At these time the ferry cannot cross the river, stranding the local residents on the island.  On one occasion when we were crossing the canal the water was rushing so fast the ferry was straining the steel cables so much the ferry was struggling to cross the river, making distressing sounds as the cables run between the steel runners, that was the last ferry to run until the river flow subsided.  We came back the next day to find the ferry had a large 5 meter long by one meter diameter sealed concrete pipe jammed under its hull, with council engineers trying to work out how to remove it.

Living on an island seems like a romantic notion.  But sometimes the reality can be quite different.

James Kennedy
After the island was formed by the cutting of the canal, the 700-acre island was claimed by the Crown and later passed it over to the government.  The land was subdivided into farms and sold to various settlers. Mr James Kennedy was the principal purchaser. Kennedy, born in Ireland in 1883 and moved to New South Wales with his parents 3 years later.  In his younger days, he was for some time in the service of Alexander Berry and took a keen interest in farming. He was a true pioneer of the district and much respected for his mechanical aptitude.  Amongst other things, he was part owner of the successful Pioneer gold mine operating at Yawal. He managed the mine for a number of years before it was sold for many thousands of pounds.  He established a large co-operative butter factory in the district and was on the board from its conception. He died in 1918 aged 84.  His name is often mentioned in articles associated with Comerong Island.

1889 - On a less serious note, a resident of the island wrote to the Sydney Mail newspaper asking for a good recipe for putting starch into shirts to make them shine. She wrote:- "I have seen soap and kerosene put in with the starch,  but I don't think it is much of an improvement."

1889 – A butter factory/creamery was operating from the island, which meant there was a steady flow of traffic to and from the island,  the ferry at this time was in a bad state and needed repairs,  the roads leading to the island also needed urgent attention.

1891 – A large flood raveged the island, trapping residents for three days. Large quantities of winter stock feed were washed away along with stock.

1899 – A dairy factory drawing milk from island farmers and surrounding farms existed on the island.
The pastures on the island were regarded as some of the finest in the district.

1904 – The ferry was described as 'being in a very dangerous condition" makeshift repairs were continuously carried out to keep her afloat and operating.

1902 – Large area of the island had been washed away because of steamer wash and during floods, which now threatened to block the entrance to the Berry Canal,  stopping all shipping into the Shoalhaven.

1907 – The original ferry had been operating for 23 years, described as "being absolutely rotten" she was now lying on the bottom of the canal, with no hope of raising her,  stranding residents on the island.  Shoalhaven Council and local residents made submissions to the government for a new ferry. "Island People" were forced to row across the river carrying supplies and their cream, borrowing horses and drays to transport their goods to Nowra.

1907 – Money not exceeding 150 pounds was made available by the governments Public Works Department to the Shoalhaven Council for a new punt to be built, tenders for the construction were sought.


1909 – The Shoalhaven Heads entrance had completely closed by sand up to a distance of about 50 yards, effectively making Comerong Island part of the mainland again.  Fears were expressed by a local resident that if there were a flood the island could be inundated with water, with Crookhaven Heads now being the only entrance for the water to escape from.

1910 – The entrance was still closed with the sand now building up to over a half a mile wide, raising even greater concern about the safety of Comerong Island residents if a flood should occur, as a recent heavy rain flooded some of the paddocks on the island.

The last time the entrance was thought to have been blocked was in 1823 the year after Alexander Berry arrived in the district.


1910 – Erosion along the sides of the canal was becoming serious, Immediate works were undertaken to secure the bank.

1923 – The Shoalhaven Agricultural Societies annual show was concluded with a Mr Rice from the island being awarded the first prize for his display of different varieties of pumpkins he had grown on the island despite the severe drought which gripped the district over the preceding months.

1978 - A Navy Wessex helicopter rescued a family of four from the island after they were stranded by fast rising flood waters.

There are many stories associated with the island, these are just a few.


The island has a few permanent residents and dairy farming is still carried out.  The majority of the island falls under the protection of the National Parks and Wildlife Service,  the Comerong Island Nature Reserve was created in 1986 covering an area of 660ha.

Crossing the canal on the punt named Cormorant, you travel a rough dirt road which winds it's way through a dense forest, passing mangrove and swamps, during heavy rain the track becomes impassable to all but 4 wheel drives, eventually winding its way to the entrance of Crookhaven River. A short walk from the carpark and you reach the long breakwater built in 1910 stretching out into the sea.  Orient Point and Crookhaven Heads Pilot Station overlook the river on the opposite shore.

Early morning you will see the local trawlers coming back into the safety of the river after a nights fishing.


The breakwater was built to try and stabalise the shifting sand bars, which made the entrance so unpredictable for vessels passing in and out of the river entrance. With large north swells the entrance even today can be extremely dangerous and has to be crossed with care.  Over the years many vessels of all sizes have come to grief on the shifting banks, lives have been lost and ships wrecked.

I have covered the Crookhaven Heads entrance in a previous post. A link is provided below to it's fascinating history.

Looking west from the breakwater you will see the Coolangatta Mountain, below which Alexander Berry established the first settlement in the Shoalhaven District.


Pilot Station overlooking the river.

I have been visiting the island since the 1980's
. The forested area of the island has always been lush, dense, wet and green. Yesterday the island was very dry, much of the dense undergrowth had died leaving only the taller shrub and trees, there are places along the road where you can see through to the open sky of the beach, the swamp areas were completely dry. The swamp kangaroos which usually dart into thick cover on either side of the road had no where to hide and could easily be seen, I have never seen the island look so dry, it was quite disturbing.


There are a number of old delapidated dairy sheds on the island.

Continue reading about Crookhaven heads, the Crookhaven heads lighthouse and the construction of the breakwater.

Continue reading about the historic gold mining town of Yawal, west of Nowra.



12 September 2018

Early photo's of Jervis Bay

Bill Todd grew up at Huskisson, his family have a long association with the area.  Members of his family are featured in the beautifully illustrated book on the Shoalhaven available from the museum. Bill kindly lent me a couple of his photo's of when he was a young boy growing up on the bay.

His family owned a house on the waterfront on Elizabeth drive overlooking the Bay.


Bill is the young boy in the photograph dated 1969. The waterfront at this time had been cleared of all vegitation.


This photo is of an old house his family owned on Coulon Street which runs off Frank Lewis Drive near Woollamia Boat Ramp. The house has since been demolished with a new dwelling built on the site.

These photos are from a badly worn and faded photograph of Huskisson. You can see the old boat building sheds on the left of the picture which at one time dominated the Huskisson waterfront.



10 September 2018

The Fish Pond

The fish pond looked very serene this week, a gentle mist rolled across the water, bathed in the early morning sunlight.
Take the time and visit the museum, you won't be disappointed.



Sloop HMAS Yarra

The naval sloop HMAS Yarra would have been a familiar shape on the horizon for the residents and visitors to Jervis Bay in the late 1930's.


HMAS Yarra was a Grimsby-class sloop of the Royal Australian Navy which came to the bay on many occasions to conduct training exercises leading up to the second world war, sometimes alone,  other times as part of larger operations involving the Australian fleet.


Lost Anchor - Buffeted during a gale.
1936 August. - Anchored off HMAS Creswell she was caught in a strong northerly gale which reached speeds of 50 mph.  She rocked so violently a timber whaleboat tethered beside the ship was splintered to pieces within minutes.  A heavy swell whipped up by the gale came across the bay tossing the Yarra  so violently she lost one of her anchors when the chain snapped.  With this, the captain ordered full steam and the sloop sailed across the bay seeking shelter in the lee of Point Perpendicular. 

HMAS Canberra, also in the bay had her boat boom carried away in the violent storm, other boats were in danger of being smashed by the cruiser. Two divers were dispatched from HMAS Canberra to recover the Yarra's anchor, the operation was carried out in very difficult conditions.


Ken Stephens a young seaman on the Yarra fell overboard. 
         Stephens: -  "I went to put my foot on the Jacobs ladder", he said.  And found it was not there."

An open boat was immediately lowered and his shipmates had a difficult and dangerous time effecting the rescue. Stephens collapsed when he reached the deck and received medical attention.

1938 - The Yarra had a further association with Jervis Bay when H.B. Farncomb, a graduate from the Jervis Bay Naval College was appointed the captain of the Yarra.

War service.
1942 - War was raging across the Pacific.  HMAS Yarra was involved in rescuing 1800 troops from the liner Empress of Asia after she was dive-bombed by the Japanese and set on fire, Captain
W. H. Harrington by commendable seamanship took his ship alongside the blazing liner allowing the troops to come aboard. Meanwhile, the Yarra's gunfire helped save other ships in the convoy.


1942 - May,  HMAS Yarra was sunk during action with the loss of 138 including the Captain and all officers, they were killed in the action or died subsequently on the rafts. The action was described as one of the most gallant in Australian naval history.

Navy Minister Mr Makin described the gallantry of the HMAS Yarra's crew in fighting a far superior enemy until she was sunk.

  'At dawn on March 4 while escorting 2 merchant vessels and a minesweeper from Java to Australia the Yarra and her charges were attacked 350 miles south of Java
by three Japanese heavy cruisers and 4 destroyers. Against such odds, the battle lasted less than 30 minutes and the Yarra and her convoy were sunk.
The Yarra after trying to save the convoy by ordering a covering smoke screen fought to the end and went down with colour flying. Only 13 of her compliment
were saved after spending 105 hours in the water.

Take the time to watch this short well made documentary about the courage of the captain and his crew against overwhelming odds.



7 September 2018

Port Hole inside and out

One of three vessels currently on the grounds of the museum is the Port Hole.  Built by the Settree family at huskisson in 1952 .  Used as a salmon fishing trawler, later becoming a charter fishing vessel.  She passed through the hands of many owners until April 2013,  when Kevin Polley donated PORT HOLE to the Lady Denman Heritage Complex, now the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum.

Fund raising for restoration of all the museums vessels is an ongoing process. If you would like to donate to this cause pleases contact the museum  - enquiries@jbmm.asn.au - (02) 4441 5675


5 September 2018

Huskisson wharf.

Two photographs from the Jim Collett collection. Date unknown.

Huski Wharf G Gibson's Hire boats

Daphne at Huski Wharf
Simply titled Daphne at Husky wharf.


MV Sycamore

Today our regular visitor to the bay was stationary in front of Point Perpendicular making for an easy photograph.  MV Sycamore, a part of Jervis Bay's rich maritime history.



Continue reading about MV Sycamore.
Continue reading about Ships in the Bay.


31 August 2018


Because of a difficult problem with the blog site I have been unable to see any comments being made about any of the posts. I only found these today, sitting in the spam folder instead of the inbox. It's good to know other people are interested and appreciate the history.

Jen Littlechild's - MV Desikoko.
Hello, my father was assigned to Desikoko for a time during WWII.
He used to tell stories of being incognito & scouting the islands for Japanese radio transmitters, but never mentioned the islands. We know from his army records he arrived in Milne Bay, but no mention of Desikoko. The story has always been a fascination, wanting to fill the gaps. So interesting to read about Desikoko's connection to Rabaul, as my husband & I visited Old Rabaul Town 4 years ago, the day after the last erruption, & the whole place was in clean up mode. We stay at the Rabaul Hotel with Suzie, & explored the history & area for a week. We also went to Milne Bay & the Trobriands. Even if I had no idea exactly which islands dad had sailed to I got a good feel for the people, geography & history.
I would love to know if you have any more details of Desikoko's activities during WWII, & we must come  & visit the museum ONE day

Thank you
Jen Littlechild
Continue reading about the Desikiko.

Pemupukan Kacang Tanah has left a new comment on your post "Wrecked Navy Yacht.":

You took amazing photos.
Continue reading about the wrecked yacht.

Wrecked on Bowen Island.
Pemupukan Kacang Tanah.
Good post! thanks for sharing.
Continue reading about being wrecked on Bowen Island

Warwick Donnelly coments on - Nerriga
We suspect that these photos are of the home and blacksmiths shop of Thomas Donnelly. He is recorded as being both a blacksmith and a carrier, running a coach and mail service between Braidwood and Nowra from around 1870 and thew 1890's. He lived in Nerriga and married Elizabeth Ann Hollands in 1871. The Hollands family lived in Nerriga at the time, having moved there from Sutton Forest.
We are researching the Donnelly family background back to James Donnelly who arrive as a convict in 1798. Thomas is our great grandfather and James was his grandfather.
We would like to make contact with the current owners of the property and get any further information about the Donnellys and the Hollands in the Nerriga area, if anyone can help.
Thanks. Warwick Donnelly.
Continue reading about Nerriga.

Julian Armstrong  - The sinking of the SS Dandenong off Jervis Bay.

Very interesting. I have just found out that my 3x Great Uncle was a survivor of this terrible wreck, and his account of the disaster was perhaps the first passenger account to be published. I have attached a transcript from The Evening News (Sydney), 15 Sep 1876 (TROVE online newspapers).

Statement of Survivors

Mr. J.M. Hartley, a cabin passenger, tells us that there were three boats attached to the Dandenong, but that a considerable time elapsed before the first boat could be lowered— half-an-hour, he thinks — but the time very likely appeared to him longer than it really was. He also thinks the ship was not properly supplied with pumping apparatus, which was fitted to be worked
by steam. The passengers and crew worked hard to keep the water under, but finding the water was gaining on them rapidly, desisted, and the captain then gave orders to lighten the ship, and hoisted signals of distress.

Mr. Hartley is of opinion that Captain Irwin considered their only hope of safety lay in transhipping the passengers from the steamer to the barque; but nearly the whole of the passengers were afraid to trust themselves in the open boat. Mr. Winship, of Newcastle, was among those who refused to get into the boats. This reluctance is to be accounted for partly by the imminent danger of death in the boats, and partly from the hope that they could be saved in the captain's boat.

The first boat that left was smashed to pieces when near the vessel, but three or four managed to climb up the side by the aid of ropes. Mr. Hartley, like all the others, had a very narrow escape. He was almost unconscious in the water, but held on to a rope that was thrown him with that tenacity that can only spring from desperation. Somehow he managed to get the rope looped around his arm, and this enabled him to hold on a little longer. The last thing he remembers is being caught by the hair of the head and by the heels, and dragged on to the deck of the barque.

He speaks very highly of Captain Walker and the officers and crew of the barque Albert William, who showed the rescued passengers every possible kindness — gave up all their bunks, and remained without shelter themselves. Mr. Hartley has lost all he possessed. He was coming over to Sydney to start in the ironmongery trade. He was in business in the boot and shoe trade, opposite the Post Office in Melbourne.”

Thanks for your site, I will endeavour to visit your museum soon.

Julian Armstrong, Narooma NSW
Continue reading about the S.S. Dandenong

Jeff Laffite Jones  -  "The mystery of Scrimshaw":
This is the recently discovered secret of my family and ancestors. The secret was carved by my 7th great....great-grandfather on a scrimshaw Powder horn and passed down from father to son for 200 years. I am the first son to decode and decipher the secret and prove it (The Skeleton Horn)The scrimshaw powder horn was carved by my great....great-grandfather Chris Jones. The horn was carved with 309 masonic cryptic anagrams & picture puzzles that tell the secret of my family. My great...great- grandfather is George Washington's only son. Scott F. Wolter of the History Ch. paid for my DNA test to prove it's true. I am Viking descent Washington-Osborne, 72nd generation to Odin and Thor. Ref. ( The Pedigree And History Of The Washington Family: Derived From Odin, The Founder Of Scandinavia, B.C. 70 (1879) by Albert Welles) Kessinger Publishing's
Continue reading about the Scrimshaw

Daniel Reilly – "The tragic death of Thomas Speechley.":
A moving story from yesteryear with time marching on. Thank goodness some of the details are being preserved by your work.
Thanks Danny

Continue reading about Thomas Speechley

Akhila - "HMAS Creswell":
informative post! I really like and appreciate your work, thank you for sharing such a useful facts and information about base bay management strategies, keep updating the blog.
Continue reading about HMAS Creswell.

Anonymous - "Southern Pencillings - By the Raven.":
I enjoy what you guys are usually up too. This kind of clever work and coverage!
Keep up the fantastic works guys I've included you guys to
our blogroll.
Continue reading about Southern+Pencillings

Prince Arora - "The S.S. Wollumbin":
The blogs are really appreciable and one can trust the knowledge and information provided in the writing. The article you do produce on a weekly base really the best.
Continue reading about the S.S. Wollumbin

Chew Bacca - "Reported in the Brisbane Courier Mail 9th June 1891":
To bad about Miss Moss.
Continue reading about miss+moss


Chew Bacca - They both admitted they had eaten the unfortunate wretch” 1801
Those were the days!
Continue reading about .They both admitted they had eaten the unfortunate wretch.

Chew Bacca - "Violent, unrelenting spectacle across the headland":
wow! great photo.. must of been great to witness that in person
Continue reading about the Violent Spectacle.

Chew Bacca - "Woollamia Church….1934":
Awesome! kind of looks like Henry Thoreau's cabin at Walden pond in Massachusetts
Continue reading about Woollamia Church 

Chew Bacca - "Super Moon":
We enjoyed the same moon over here in california for a few evenings! Didnt know about the reasons for the occurence thanks for the information. Great photos!
Continue reading about the Supermoon 

Chewbacca - "Moona Moona Creek":
So cool! good to see these images being digitized and saved for the future
great history
Continue reading about Moona Moona creek.


30 August 2018

Jervis Bay's mystery wreck.

The mystery of the sunken wreck at Callala Bay.

When I was a young boy and holidaying at Callala Beach, on occasion my father took me fishing on the rocks at the northern end of the beach.

Sticking from the water on the southern end of the reef was a large, rusted cylindrical object.
Dad told me it belonged to a ship which was sunk by the Japanese during World War Two, and what you could see was all that remained, this was pretty exciting news to a 10-year-old.

Many years later in my early 20's while diving the reef looking for lobsters I came across the rusted remains sitting in shallow water amongst the kelp. There wasn't much left by this time, but you could still make out the cylindrical shape with a hole in the side. My imagination took hold, and had me wondering if this was caused during the "battle with the Japanese."


By 1976 I belonged to a wreck diving club in Sydney called Canterberry Underwater Divers.  A good friend and diving buddy John Sumner was a foundation member of the club, he was a leading authority on wrecks and part owner of a wreck salvage business.  John was what you would call "obsessed" with wrecks, in particular, their bells.   His obsession saw him put together a comprehensive shipwreck index of all the wrecks around the Australian Coast.  I did many dives with him on wrecks over many years.

By 1983 I moved permanantly to Callala Beach with my family.  John was visiting and we launched the boat at Callala Bay and headed out across the bay for a dive, passing the reef I drew his attention to the old boiler remains, to my surprise he told me he believed it was the remains of an old Sydney Harbour Ferry, at the time he didn't know any other details about how the ferry ended up wrecked on the point, and like the boiler slowly disappearing beneath the waves, thoughts of the boiler disappeared  from my memory.

Many years later the remains came up in a conversation with an old resident of the bay. He told me the boiler belonged to the Sydney Harbour ferry Lady Hampden, but he didn't know any other details.

- Was this the vessel dad told me had been sunk so dramatially by the Japanese.?

Recently doing research into the bay, I came across information about the Lady Hampden.


The Lady Hampden was a timber vessel built at Balmian in 1896 The 'Lady Hampden' was the fourth in a series of 'Lady' vessels. They were ferries that characterised the refined operation of the double-ended type, just like the Lady Denman on display at the Museum. These ferries formed the mainstay of ferry operations and act as a legacy for Walter Reeks, an Australian based naval architect who was a leading pioneer in the design of the double-ended ferries. The off-centre funnel of ‘Lady Hampden’ made her unique on Port Jackson.  She was one of the first propeller driven ferries that began to replace the paddle steamers.

The real story.

The Hampden was sold to the Royal Australian Navy, and during World War 2 was anchored at the entrance to Jervis Bay to act as a decoy. 

- By this stage I was starting to think dads story was true, the story continued.

During a storm she broke away from her moorings and was washed across the bay ending her days on the reef where she slowly disintegrated.

- So dad's story was just that, a story,  - The old saying, "never let the truth get in the way of a good story.' comes to mind,  especially when your trying to impress a 10 year old, a bit of an anti climax really.

or was it?

Not totally convinced I had found the final piece of the mystery, I did some more research and came across information on the Australian War Memorial website, which stated the Lady Hampden was sunk in 1943 as a naval target during World War II."  no mention of Jervis Bay, or being used as a decoy, or being lost in a storm,  so for me the mystery of the old wreckage remains just that, a mystery.

I still like my fathers story the best.

If you have any further information about this mystery please contact me here.


23 August 2018

S.S. Meteor 1881


Much regret was expressed in shipping circles when it became known that the well-known coastal steamer Meteor had foundered on the North-West Coast of Tasmania.

The 33-ton Meteor was a timber coasting steamer built at Jervis Bay in 1881, 65.8 ft x 14.2 ft x 5.4ft. driven by a 16hp engines, pushing her along at 71/2 knots.
Built by James Dent for George Dent Senior. She was purchased at Sydney by Mr. F.O. Henry. of Strahan, for the trade between Sydney and Trial Harbour.

Early days.
Under the command of Captain John Leask, she made several trips on the Launceston-West-Coast trade, and afterward under the command of Captain W .J. Taylor, who chartered her from the owner.
She was then leased by Mr. G. J. Haylett, and experienced engineer, who was in charge of the engine room at the time of the disaster, captain Richard Greene was in command, and two ordinary seamen made up the compliment. During her life, the Meteor was a busy vessel, doing a brisk trade on the North West Coast, each trip had full cargoes.

The first anyone knew of the disaster was when a notice was posted on the shipping board outside the Telegraph office.

:- Burnie. 8 a.m.   Meteor foundered about 7 miles from Burnie.

The owners of the vessel the Don Trading Co. received a similar notification from Mr. G. J. Havlett, who had rented the vessel. The wire being supplemented by the satisfactory news that no lives were lost.

Leading up to the loss.

She left the Mersey on her usual visit to coastal ports and arrived at Table Cape, she took in a full cargo of produce for Emu Bay for transshipment. Very severe easterly weather was encountered on the voyage. After arriving at the Bay and being unloaded it was found she was leaking badly.  Some of the cargo was found to be spoiled by water.

After discharging she was taken back to Table Cape and hauled onto the slips, shipwrights were employed to make the necessary repairs.  A new false keel was added, the rudder post was found to be damaged, the leak was caulked and iron works carried out, the work was completed with the application of a new coat of paint.  She was considered by those on board to be fit for sea.

Her last voyage – April 1893

8 a.m. Wednesday  - During the morning she was loaded with 301 bags of potatoes valued at 50 pounds.

9.30. p.m. Thursday - In fine order, she left port for the Mersey, Davenport, the weather was beautifully fine,  and the sea very smooth.

10 p.m. - The bar at the Cape was cleared, shortly after one of the crew Mr. Smart, went below for a piece of tobacco and heard a noise of water rushing in amidships.  He immediately informed Captain Greene.  Engineer Mr. Haylett, went to the engine-room and discovered the stoke holes making water freely.  The men were ordered to the pumps, the vessel carried three appliances on deck for pumping, these were quickly employed.
One seaman in the company of the captain started bailing out water with buckets, "in which task they all worked like trojans" feeling their lives depended on their efforts.

The captain turned the vessel believing she would make it back to the Bay, the men worked hard to save her, the pumps were kept going until the water reached the furnaces and extinguished the fires. The sails were hoisted, but not a breath of wind was stirring, and the vessel commenced drifting in a north-easterly direction at the mercy of the waves. The men hoisted distress signals in the form of torches fixed to battens in the hope of attracting the attention of passengers on a passing vessel, but in this, they were again unfortunate.

12.30pm - Orders were given for the pumping and bailing to cease and attention was directed to lessen the weight of cargo by throwing all the deck cargo overboard, hopefull giving the vessel a better chance of floating, this action also proved futile, she was filling fast.

In defiance of the perils that menaced him.

3.am - Some six or seven miles abreast of Emu Bay she had settled well into the sea which commenced to wash over her decks, she was rapidly sinking. The crew took to the lifeboat which had been lowered from her davits when it was discovered the vessel was making water.

The captain would not leave his ship, and though the crew implored of him to do so, he was determined to stick to his ship till her timbers disappeared, in defiance of the perils that menaced him.

The vessel rocked like a huge cradle on the breast of the waves, water washing clean over her. She listed to starboard and dipped back to port alternately, the ironwork shivering at every motion. The suction caused by the sinking vessel was imperiling the lives of the crew manning the lifeboat still clinging to the side of the vessel.  Captain Greene remained faithful to his post, and at times was half covered by the waves.

3.30 a.m - The end was reached when the vessels head was lifted high out of the water, and the Meteor suddenly disappeared below the waves stern first. Captain Greene was thoroughly exhausted and rescued just in time.

The men quickly hauled away from the sinking steamer.

The occupants of the boat then shaped for Emu Bay.  A heavy fog has settled low over the sea making it impossible to make out the shore.

6.30 a.m - After three hours of hard pulling, in bitterly cold, the sound of a steamer's whistle was a welcome sound, and though they couldn't discern any light, they were directed to the port of Burnie by the ship's whistle.  To compound their difficulties they were attacked by a huge shark off Blackmans Point, which was soon beaten off.

7.30 a.m - After a wearisome voyage in a boat leaking like a sieve, requiring constant bailing, the crew landed at Burnie in an exhausted state.  The seamen managed to save their clothes, but many other valuables were lost.

The vessel was insured in the New Zealand Insurance Company for 750 pounds. Those connected to the vessel said the amount will not cover the loss, the cargo was uninsured.

When constructed she was regarded as a finely built vessel, 8 years of hard continuous service with little trouble proved that to be the case.

"Rotten old Tub"

"At the time of the sinking men best qualified to venture an opinion described her as a "rotten old tub," absolutely unseaworthy: and had seen her best days. The fact of the vessel not having met her fate long ere this has been a matter of wonderment among those who had seen her recently."

Fortunately, the night was calm. Had it been otherwise it is doubtful any of those on board would have reached land.

The Meteor had escaped disaster on a number of occasions.

Feb 24 1991 – While negotiating the Pieman River if it had not been for the coolness and courage displayed by Captain Leask, the wreckage of the Meteor would have marked the graves of the whole crew.  While crossing the bar which was comparatively smooth the steamer was caught by one sea that carried her completely out of the very narrow channel. The ship would not answer her helm, was swept within 10 feet of the breakwater some 50 feet high, as the wave receded, a grinding noise was heard and the vessel heeled over to the railing, but fortunately slipped off the rock that had pierced a hole in the forward part of the hull. By great management and a certain amout of luck the Meteor fast filling with water, was brought back into the channel, entered the heads and was run aground in the river.
The cargo was brought ashore by the efforts of men running between the ship and shore, a distance of 200 yards, covered by about a foot of water, all trying to save as much of the cargo as possible. The work continued throughout the night till 2 a.m the next day, when the tide was at it's highest,  the steamer by this time was submerged to the top rail.
On the next low tide the steamer was temporarily repaired, pumped out and refloated.

For any seaman the most feared catastrophe which can happen to a vessel is to catch on fire.


October 1889 – While lying under Hunter Island disaster was averted by the quick action of Captain Leask and his crew. The captain and crew had gone below to dinner and noticed smoke coming into the cabin. They rushed on deck and found all in flames. Through quick action they got the fire under control. Captain Leask suffered burns to the arm while fighting the fire. The damage was confined to the deck, while fighting the fire a portion of the cargo, chaff, was thrown overboard while still burning.  She was returned to Formby for repairs.

Captain John Leask was born on the Shetland Islands before travelling to Australia in 1861 . He was a well repected seafaring captain and died at Port Adelaide in 1898

No image of the vessel has been found, if you can help or add to the story please contact me at


22 August 2018

Jervis Bay

Simos Afloat Fishing Charters . 
Ron Simpson has been operating his professional fishing charter/tour business for over 20 years, making him one of the longest running charter/tour operators working from Jervis Bay.
This morning the bays light looked amazing as he headed towards the spectacular Point Perpendicular on another fishing, and sightseeing adventure.



21 August 2018

A short tour of the Ferry Well.

This area of the museum is not available to the public at the moment.  In the near future access to this area will be open to visitors, enabling people to inspect this spectacular vessel close up. It will give the museum a great opportunity for a new display area, something which has been lacking for many years.

This video gives you a brief look at the amazing hull of the Lady Denman.


15 August 2018

Ships in the bay

MV Sycamore is a regular visitor to the bay, she can be seen on average every couple of weeks conducting helicopter training exercises.
This morning she cruised along the northern shores of the bay into a strong North West wind and the rising golden sun.



Continue to more images and information about MV Sycamore.


13 August 2018

John Bolton

Another fascinating image from 1933.
Workmen on board the John Bolton in the process of water proofing the deck timbers. Tapered gaps in the deck planks would be filled with fibre, cords, and pitch in a process called caulking.  The fibre was usually Oakum,  (hemp fiber soaked in tar) derived from Jute,  the pitch was usually tar.  The process was highly skilled, not enough fill and the ship would let in water, to much and the planks could split apart. Wooden caulking mallet was used to carefully tap the fibre into the groves with caulking irons, caulking irons are chisel-like tools with flared blades they varied in shape, they could be sharp,  blunt or made with grooves known as creases, each had a specific purpose.  The steady tapping from the wooden mallets could be heard all over Huskisson and was refered to as "singing".


Examples of the timber mallets and irons used in the photograph can be found on display at the museum, as well as many other tools used in building ships.


The area the tools are displayed in at the museum was built in the same manner used to build wooden ships by Alf Setree the last of the wooden boat builders in Huskisson.


I have covered the launch and followed the workings of the John Bolton in a previous post, a fascinating tale, well worth a read. Continue reading.