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 June 2018

Wreck of the Barque Pacific - June 1864

June 1874 was a partricuarly tragic month,  Nowra and the district's farms were being devastated by floods and gales. Two ships were lost at the entrance to the Crookhaven River.  The ketch Sarah Jane was wrecked on the north spit with the loss of one seaman, while the Schooner Pacific went ashore on the south of Crookhaven Heads.

The Pacific.

21 May – The Pacific left Auckland bound for Newcastle for a load of coal. She enjoyed fine weather for the best part of the voyage until approaching the Australian coast.

12 June 10a.m – The Pacific drew near the land,  sighting the Shoalhaven coast,  the weather was dark and hazy, the wind from the E. and S. she hauled off the land and stood S.S.E. under close reefed topsails and foresail.  313 tons, American built, the Pacific was now in the grip of the "perfect hurricane", which carried with it every sail leaving her at the mercy of the wind and waves.

13 June 6 a.m. –  Nothing could be done to save the vessel and she came ashore on the flat rocks near the gap at the north-east end of the Pilot Station Hill Crookhaven.  At the time a crewman "James Grant" was on the foreyard of the ship helping to shorten sail when the ship struck, the sudden impact threw the unlucky sailor over the side of the ship onto the rocks below, killing him instantly.
The body was sewed in canvas and buried with the Union Jack wrapped around it, the crew knew he was an Englishman, he had been shanghaied on board at San Francisco under the name of "Jack".

Dead sailor burried.
James Grant was buried on the hill where the pilot station was later built.  Several local residents including William Armstrong, Mr Alex Munro, and Mr Tom Wellere were asked by the ship's captain, a Mr Chase, to witness the burial. The deceased man was described as being about 5 feet eight inches, blue eyes with five flags tattooed on his chest, an anchor on his right arm, and a bird with a leaf in its beak, over an axe, a saw and an auger on his left arm.

Superstitious pilot removes poor "Jacks" grave stones.

The grave used to be a landmark on the Station, and for many years was cared for by the wives of the pilot men; until in later years one of the Pilots, who was evidently superstitious removed the stones placed on the mound, he leveled out and used every effort to destroy the evidence of a grave being there, he said, "He did not want to live with a bloody cemetery.

The wreck was pushed above the high water mark and was stripped of everything of value. The beach below the Crookhaven Heads was strewed with candles. The vessel was uninsured.
The captain and crew later made the journey to Sydney by the steamer Illalong.


16 September - The vessel was later repaired and refloated by Mr George Dent of Jervis Bay.


12 June 2018

Francis Charles Chinchester lands in Jervis Bay.

Historic Tasman Crossing 1931.


"I wanted to fly across from New Zealand to Austalia. No-one had flown across the Tasman Sea alone, and I had a great urge to be the first to do it."


This remarkable flight in an open plane when aviation was in it's infancy was a very risky affair.  New Zealand airman Francis Charles Chinchester with limited resourses, dared to set off across the Tasman in an attempt to become the first man to solo cross from East to West, and only the second ever cross ocean flight, after Lindberg's crossing of the Atlantic.

chichester stamp-front
An envelope and stamp were released to commemorate the crossing.

March 28 – With limited funds, and a plane needing repair,  he borrowed floats from the New Zealand Permanent Air Force and fitted them to his Gypsy Moth Bi-plane aircraft (Madam Elijah ZK-AKK).  He did this because the plane could not carry enough fuel for the whole distance, which meant he would need to land at islands to refuel during the flight.  

The first leg of his journey saw him land at Norfolk Island, the next was Lord Howe Island, becoming the first person to land at Lord Howe.


April 1 - Successfully landing at Lord Howe, he moored the plane in the lagoon. Overnight there was a storm and awoke the next day to find his aircraft upside down and severly damaged.  He thought the flight was over, but with the aid of Mr. R. Wilson (who was In the Air Force In Egypt during the war) and the inlanders who had never seen a plane before. The wings and fuselage were entirely remade and fitted, this was quite a challenge as there were about 4000 pieces of wood in each wing to be glued back into the right place. There was 92 feet of sewing around each wing and tape to be sewn on the top and bottom ribs, each 41/2 feet long. The float was repaired, the machine repainted, after weeks of effort the engine was reconditioned,  the repairs took around 9 weeks. This was an amazing feat considering there were no vehicles or aircraft mechanics on the island.


"All the tinfulls of nuts, bolts, washers, screws and parts must be used up. If anything was left over, I nosed around the engine until a place was found for it."


June 7 – Leaving Lord Howe he flew into a torrential storm, in an open cockpit he was soon saturated, the storm was so bad he flew completely blind, unable to make out the surface of the ocean and ruining his only chart.  Flying out of the storm he used a school atlas and worked out he was on a course for a point south of Tasmania.   
He quickly turned towards the Australian coast, greatly concerned about his fuel situation.  An engine defect compelled him to steer a course giving favourable wind conditions.  He sighted the Australian coast, then the Shoalhaven River came into view, he next sighted Jervis Bay, where five war ships were the only sign of life. At 3.30 pm Chinchester landed in Jervis Bay alongside the seaplane carrier, HMAS Albatross, near the Naval College. It had taken him 6 hours and 15 minutes to cover the 500 mile journey at a average speed of 70 miles per hour.


Great anxiety was felt by those waiting on his arrival in Sydney, fears for his safety mounted as a report from the steamer Kurow had sighted him at 1.30 pm 80 miles due east of Sydney.  Fears were allayed when news of his safe landing at Jervis Bay came through.


H.M.A.S Albatross.

Navigation – Compasses then were unreliable in small planes, so he learned astronomical navigation used by ships and tried to adapt it to flying. His only method of fixing his position was to take sun sights with a sextant.  As a solo pilot, this was a difficult thing to do in a moving aircraft, as he needed to fly the aircraft at the same time.

"I had to use the sextant fast, setting the plane into a dive so as to get the sun above the tank with the horizon below the wing beside the motor, and immediately I had the sun touching the horizon in the sextant I jogged back the control to climb, while I recorded the sextant, watch and altimeter readings."

He could not have hoped to land in a more fortuitous place,  H.M.A.S Albatross had only arrived in Jervis Bay a few days earlier for exercises.

A greatly surprised Captain Feakes of the Albatross.
Welcomed him aboard – "Dr Livingstone I assume....At any rate you have managed to discover the only aircraft carrier in the Southern Hemisphere."

The navy proceeds to lift Mr Chinchester and his plane aboard Australia's first aircraft carrier, HMAS Albatross,  where he was made comfortable by the officers.  Mechanics onboard HMAS Albatross overhauled his seaplane.

Mr Chinchester assisting in the lift injured his hand when he caught it between the plane
and the side of the ship.  He severed the top of one finger and sustained a serious cut to the hand.
He was immediately admitted to the ships hospital for treatment.

pic of man

Francis Chinchester was a remarkable man, his life story is well worth reading.


His remarkable life, Continue reading - http://www.a-e-g.org.uk/sir-francis-chichester.html
Gypsy Moth -
Stamp -

There are some discrepancies in the date he landed at Jervis Bay. Many stories have him landing on Jervis Bay on the 10th of June, but my research via newspaper reports which were printed on the 8th of June 1931,  have him landing on the 7th of June.

Beaten in his attempt to fly solo across the Tasman.

StateLibQld_2_112972_Guy_MenziesJanuary 1931 - He was beaten by an Australian, Guy Lampton Menzies.  Menzies flew from Australia to New Zealand in the same plane Kingsford-Smith had used during his record crossing from England to Australia.


7 June 2018

A rare look below the decks of the Lady Denman Ferry

Built in 1911 by shipbuilder Joseph Dent the Lady Denman now rests in a world class museum close to where she was built on the banks of Currambene Creek Huskisson.
The video gives you a rare look below the decks of the Lady Denman Ferry.  Constructed from locally felled timber one can only marvel at the skill and craftmanship of the builder and his crew.

The work by dedicated volunteers over many years to secure the Lady from deterioation can be seen amoungst the broken pipes, and rusting valves, she has seen better days.

The work continues.

For a larger viewing follow this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3cXDUArqJ0


5 June 2018

The Barque Sapphire and the Barque Narramissic 1874

The sea near Jervis Bay and the clear waters of the bay ran red with the blood of the whale industry.|

Whaling was a dangerous and unforgiving enterprise.

When a whale was spotted, ships would begin the chase, trying to draw near enough to lower their boats, manned with hard weather-beaten men, armed only with a hand-propelled harpoon, determination, and hopefully, luck. If they managed to catch and kill this great leviathan the men would now have to tow the whale by sheer back-breaking effort back to the waiting ship.

Death and injury was a common occurrence for the chasers, but the danger didn't stop there, when the whale was drawn on board, danger was ever present.

Sailors survived on limited rations in cramped quarters aboard creaking ships, as one sailor expressed, "we worked like horses and lived like pigs." Timber decks soaked in the fluid from processing whales were extremely slippery, men came down hard onto the deck, men slipped overboard to the waiting sharks drawn by water running with blood, men could be crushed by the weight of blubber being hauled into copper cauldrons in the try-works, they suffered deep lacerations from the sharp tools used for processing the whales.
Everything, including the men were covered in whale oil, all this aboard a ship pitching and rolling on an unsettled sea, hot oil from processing cauldrons could spill onto the fires, this could easily spread engulfing the ship and the crew, many ships left port and were never seen again.

When the processing was complete which could take 6 hours or more depending on the size of the whale, the crew would scrub and clean the ship as best they could,  despite their best effort, ships sailing downwind would always know when a whaling ship was approaching by the smell.

Collision at sea.

There were dozens of ships plying the coast chasing whales, collisions between ships occurred.

One such incident occurred 30 miles south of Cape St George between the whaling barque Saphire and the barque Narramissic.

10 September 1874 - The barque Narramissic left Newcastle bound for Melbourne and ran into heavy weather and was forced by leaks into Sydney Harbour.

20 - September 3am - The barque Narramissic left Sydney Harbour continuing her voyage to Melbourne, 30 miles south of Cape St George, in the pitch black the silence was shattered by the violent sound and vibration of two timber ships coming together.

The Hobart Town barque Sapphire,which was not displaying any side lights, struck the Narramissic with her flying jib-boom on her mizzen chains. The Sapphire lost one boat and her spritsail yard.  The Narramissic had her stanchions and gaff carried away, her covering board and spritsail were also damaged, five of her crew, thinking she was about to sink, jumped on board the Sapphire, leaving the master and three men to bring her into Jervis Bay, where repairs would have to be carried out before she could sail again.  The Sapphire came into Jervis Bay the following day.

The Narramissic stayed in the bay for 4 weeks wind bound because of terrible gales which had damaged other vessels caught at sea.

Once the repairs were finished the Narramissic sailed out of Jervis Bay continuing her journey to Melbourne.  She ran into more heavy weather, the second mate and a seaman named Christopher Tomkin went aloft to secure the yard-arm of the upper main topsail, which had got adrift from the gaskets. The sail caught Tomkins, who was 36 years of age and a native from Berwick, England, and knocked him overboard. A life-buoy was thrown to him, and the master hove a line to the drowning man, which he almost clutched but did not catch, the vessel drifted away from him, the weather being so bad as to preclude the possibility of rendering
him any assistance.

The Narramissic's voyage had been cursed with near disaster and tragedy.


The whaling barque Sapphire was a regular visitor to Jervis Bay,

1872 December - she put into Jervis Bay after a 10-month voyage from Hobart Town to recruit. She had taken 28 tons of sperm oil.

1875 February  - during a 14-month voyage she came into the bay to try-out 9 tons of oil,
the total take of oil for the trip was 21 tons.

By 1885 the romance of going to sea chasing whales was starting to decline, many whaling ship owners found it difficult to secure suitable crews and were forced into taking anyone that offered himself.  The Sapphire was involved in an incident when as was customary at the time, the owners would advance the willing a small sum in advance of the voyage.  Taking the advance these larrikins would often spend the money, then not join the ship as required when it was time to sail. The police would be called and these reluctant absconders would be arrested and taken aboard the ship.


4 June 2018

Old houses of the Shoalhaven.


The remains of this old farm house stand on a farm near Pyree.


The slab timber house is easily seen from the road on the way to Culburra near Pyree.


27 May 2018

Tomerong, centre of local government. 1908

1906 The small community of Tomerong was thrust into the public eye with the formation of the district Clyde Shire Council.

1908 The first meeting of the council was held in the newly erected Council Chambers.  At this time Tomerong was considered to be a central location between Nowra and the Milton/Ulladulla districts. All road carriage travelling north or south passed through Tomerong.  It was also in close proximity to a steadily growing Huskisson on the shores of Jervis Bay.

Any petition signed by fifty householders could initiate the establishment of a Municipal Council. The Council could implement rates and tolls to finance roads, bridges, hospitals, water supplies, cemeteries and other public facilities.

The newly established Clyde Shire was vast in size and commenced from Crookhaven Heads skirting the southern boundary of the South Shoalhaven Municipality to Falls Creek. It continued north-west following the southern boundary of the Nowra Municipality to the Shoalhaven River and then to its junction with the Endrick River. Following the Endrick to its source, the line continued south across the ranges to a point south of Budawang Mountain. The southern Clyde boundary followed the creeks east from north of the Clyde Mountain to a point near Durras. The eastern boundary followed the coastline north back to the Crookhaven Heads but excluded the Municipality of Ulladulla. The Clyde Shire was surrounded (anti-clockwise) by the South Shoalhaven Shire, Nowra Municipality, Cambewarra Shire, Wingecarribee Shire, Mulwaree Shire, Tallaganda Shire, and the Eurobodalla Shire.
Ref: http://home.exetel.com.au/tomerong/history2/index_files/Page840.htm

The arrival of his Excellency the Governor of NSW, Mr Harry Rawson.

Harry Rawson governor nsw 1908

October 1908 - Tomerong residents and school children were busy preparing the small village for a special occasion. His Excellency the Governor of N.S.W. Mr Harry Rawson was coming to town.
Local people erected a large arch across the road,  festooned with ferns and flowers, through the centre of the arch were the words "welcome" also covered in flowers. Above that coloured flags were flying in the breeze, long colourful ribbons tied at the top of the arch and anchored to various points helped to support the structure..
It must have been a very special occasion for the children of the district, I'm sure they would have never seen anything quite like it before.

People from all over the district travelled to Tomerong for the occasion. The men donned hats and dressed in their best suits, the women wore long flowing dresses typical of the time.
The children looked wonderful in their best clothes,  and many of the young girls wore hats decorated with ribbons.

222-Tomerong-township-welcomes-governor 1908 Visit by governor hawkens road looking north.

The official party arrived, as the Governor left his vehicle to address the waiting children he noticed a local woman Mrs Canavan seated in a wheelchair at the corner of the playground. The Governor proceeded to cross over and introduced himself, shook her hand and expressed his sympathy at her plight. This brought a hearty cheering by the children which echoed through the surrounding bush.

These close up images are very revealing which are easily overlooked in the larger image.



Huskisson View

Below is a photograph from the museum's collection looking across the "Huskisson Camping Reserve." Robert Johnsons Grave can be seen fenced by pickets.



24 May 2018

Bridges washed away south of Nowra - 1936

The Shoalhaven climate has certainly changed, even in the 40 years I have been living here permanently, the area had dried out considerably. The Shoalhaven was once known to Sydney siders as " The place where the weather came from." because of the amount of rain that came from the south.

Following is an account of the flood damage inflicted on the district between Nowra and Wandandian.

March 1936 The Nowra district was in the grip of torrential rain, wide areas of the district were subject to flooding.  At least three bridges had been washed away on the highway making
the Princess Highway south of Nowra impassable.

Holidaymakers and locals coming from Sussex Inlet trying to travel north found
themselves marooned because the bridge at Cow Creek had been washed away.
Guesthouses in the area were full of stranded motorists returning to Sydney.

Many motorists, some with women and young children had to walk about 5 miles to the nearest shelter
at Wandandian. Temporary creek crossings were made by felling trees and making bridges of the logs.


A recently completed concrete bridge at Wandandian suffered major structural damage when concrete pillars moved when the surrounding ground was washed away causing the bridge to sag about 4 feet

Mr Alfred Brooks of Strathfield via phone from Wandandian said.  - "Crossing the bridge scared more than one of us, we crossed on foot, we thought the whole structure was going at any moment." It was feared the Wandandian Bridge would have to be blown up and entirely rebuilt.

The many "service cars" which ran daily trips for travellers between Nowra, Jervis Bay, Milton and Ulladulla, were detained at Milton and Nowra.

Flooding affected other areas as well, Port Kembla reported widespread flooding. seven inches fell within a few hours, houses had a foot of muddy water through them. Port Kembla and the commercial Hotel were inundated with water, the later having 15 ft of water pumped from its cellars.

Lake Illawarra was 4 feet above normal level and was still rising rapidly as rain continued to fall.
The Shoalhaven River rose swiftly and the farmers in low-lying areas were forced to move stock to higher ground.

These sort of incidents were fairly common occurrences,  bridges, creeks and roads had many times in the past been badly affected by flooding rains and rapidly rising rivers, fortunately, the infrastructure now much better able to cope with the flooding rain. And it happens a lot less frequently than in the past.


23 May 2018

The brigantine Adonis 1890.

Mystery still surrounds the sinking of another beautifully handcrafted timber ship built by the Dents on the shores of Currambene Creek Huskisson.

The brigantine Adonis was built at Jervis Bay by Mr. Dent in 1874.
She measured 108 tons, 92ft 4 inches in length, with a beam of 20ft 7 inches, and 8ft 3 inches depth of hold.

copyright free example of a brigantineExample of the fully rigged brigantine Leon from the era.


21 December 1890  - Captained by John Richards with a crew of 6, she was on a voyage from Wollongong to the Richmond River laden with coal, the vessel was making good and all was going well. She was placed around 10 miles distant from the shore, the night was dark, the weather was light with a north-east wind, and a strong easterly swell.

22 December 11 p.m.  - Able seaman Ludwick Myer was lying awake in his bunk, hearing the sounds of water on the floor he struck a light and saw that water was coming in freely, he quickly went aft reporting the ship was full of water to the captain. The pumps were immediately set to work, but they could not cope with the inflow, the captain ordered all crew to the deck and make the boats ready. At the captains order the man at the wheel put her hard aport, the water by then was over the forecastle deck.
The crew came on deck saying the water was rising fast, they sounded the pumps and found there was over 3ft of water below and rising fast. The crew tried to get her onto land but without avail.  Realising there was nothing they could do to save the ship the captain ordered his crew to abandon ship the crew launched the lifeboats and managed to leave the ship safely landing at Crowdy Head at daylight.

15 minutes after abandoning the ship the Adonis sank out of sight.
Official Enquiry.

1 January 1890 - during the official inquiry into the founding of the Adonis the captain and crew explained how they always looked upon the ship as a "thoroughly staunch and seaworthy craft".  The only explanation for the loss may have been if one of her planks was faulty.

Marine Board Findings.

7 January 1890 - The board deliberated on the abandonment of the Adonis, they found the abandonment was justifiable,  and there was no evidence on which to found a charge of default against the master, Captain Richards.

She was owned by Mr. Patrick Hogan and was insured.

A brigantine is a two-masted vessel with her foremast fully square rigged and her mainmast rigged with both a fore-and-aft mainsail (usually a gaff sail) and square topsails (and possibly topgallant sails).

An interesting fact about the Adonis.
Many ships were adorned with classical figure heads, but by the 1870's they went into decline and the last NSW made classical figure heads were a female bust for the schooner Venus of 1873 and a male bust for the brigantine Adonis of 1874.
REF: Ships figureheads in Australia.


18 May 2018

Freighter in trouble off Jervis Bay - 1954

Fine weather and an offshore wind combined to save the British freighter Saint Edmund's from coming ashore on the coast near Jervis Bay.


Tuesday 18 May - The 7,174-ton British freighter Saint Edmunds with Captain P.Ditton in command and 40 crew was on a voyage from Adelaide to Newcastle to load wheat for India.

11.30 am - In calm seas she suddenly came to an unexpected stop, an investigation found she had lost her propeller.image
The Jervis Bay Lighthouse keeper reported seeing her drifting only 10 miles off Jervis Bay. He said the ship was in no danger at that time.  Fortunately the weather was calm with a slight offshore westerly blowing which kept the vessel off the shore.


6.45 p.m - The Waratah Tug Company tug Woona, left Sydney harbour and was expected to cover the 87 miles to Saint Edmund's by first light. image

Wednesday 19 May - Tow lines were attached and the journey to Sydney was undertaken.
saint edmund

Crew members on the ocean going tug Woona adjusting the tow lines attached to the Saint Edmund's

Thursday 20 May
  - The disabled Freighter was towed safely into Sydney Harbour and berthed at No 1 Circular Quay before going into  Mort's Dock for repairs.

Crew members when interviewed about the incident said the ship would certainly have gone ashore if it wasn't for the offshore breeze.

The freighter was expected to resume her voyage to Newcastle the following Monday.


16 May 2018

Greenwell Point road–then and now

The first photograph is of myself and my mother in 1961 on the long straight road leading into Greenwell Point. The second photograph was taken on the 13th May 2018.



I remember this road so well as a child, coming down from Sydney and seeing the trees forming a long shady tunnel, it was so cool on this part of the road in summer it was always a highlight of our trips to the south coast. 


15 May 2018

Old Woollamia

This fascinating photo shows Jim Louttit (brother of Ben) and Dick Prosser outside his hut at Woollamia.  The Louttit's were a well known family in the Huskisson district.


As early as 1913 Ben Louttit ran a daily coach service between Huskison and Nowra which proved very popular with the rapidly growing population.

Ben Louttit's passenger coach Huskisson.

By 1917 Ben was running a daily lorry service, which was well used by the local fishing industry for transporting their catch to Nowra.

Ben Louttit continued the daily motor lorry service into the 1930's.




14 May 2018

The death of Thomas Speechley

Sydney Evening News Friday 18 Nov 1904.

Soon after the tragic death of young Thomas killed by an exploding Navy shell he was playing with many articles appeared in Sydney newspapers from correspondents covering the official enquiry.

The navy denied it shot live shells on to the shore, saying they set up floating targets at the entrance of the bay, and only occasionally towards Bowen Island, regarded by the navy  "as an uninhabited place." They also said the shells were full of sand and were nonexplosive,  Asked why sand ?, The officer explained they were once filled with water, but this was replaced with sand as the weight was closer to a live shell.
They could not explain how a live shell could have been found where it was.

The article below was written in response to the statements above.

With reference to statements published in Thursday's "Evening News" regarding the Jervis Bay explosions our Nowra correspondent writes:
_ "Where the shell exploded is on the opposite side of the bay from Bowen Island at Point Perpendicular, the site f the new lighthouse and hundreds of shells are to be found on that side.  Of course, the population on either side is sparse,  but a  good many pleasure seekers often visit the spot.

'In many places around the shores of the bay tracks of these shells can be found.   They often tear up the ground for yards cutting a deep trench,  and afterward rising higher, and striking further on.  It's all very well for officers of ships to say they never fire towards shore, excepting towards " an uninhabited spot known as Bowen Island." If they did fire towards the island they would as likely as not hit the main shore on the south side, or fire on to the high seas; but everyone in the vicinity of Jervis Bay  knows that it has been the custom of the men-o-war to steam backward and forwards at the 'hole-in-the-wall.' and fire at a target opposite, which means they must hit the northern shore.  In proof of this, shells are often picked up miles from the entrance to the harbour."

Continue reading about Thomas Speechley, his lonely grave and his association with Jervis Bay.