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.

31 March 2014

Sobraon 1866

part---officers-on-the-sobraonRegarded by many as one of the finest passenger ships every launched.
The Sobraon under full sail must have been an impressive site as it crossed the great ocean between England and Australia carrying passengers in comfort surrounded by luxury.

If you visit the museum you will be impressed by a large brass bell engraved Sobraon 1866.
Accompanying the bell there is a display of paintings by Ian Hansen depicting the Sabraon in varying maritime scenes.
This ship was so impressive a small search across the net will reveal other paintings of the ship done by other marine artists.

painting bell stamp The bell and part of one of the magnificent paintings by Ian Hansen.

An an Australian stamp celebrating this mighty ship.

Ships statistics.
Built by Messrs. Hall, of Aberdeen, to the order of Lowther, Maxton & Co. Launched in November 1866, the Sobraon was the largest composite ship ever built, being constructed of solid teak with iron beams and frames
The vessel displaced some 2131 tons when empty and 3500 tons when loaded, with a length overall was 317 feet, and a beam of 40 feet. The lower masts were made of wrought iron, and the topmasts and lower yards on each
mast were of steel. With all sail set, the Sobraon had a spread of just over two acres of canvas.
SOBRAON could carry 90 first class passenger, 40 second class, and livestock below her decks.

below decks on the sobraon officers on the sobraon parkinsobraonpassengersphotograph sobraon saloon

She traversed the ocean between England and Australia for 24 years and under full sail was capable of covering 2000 nautical miles in a week. She once covered the distance between Plymouth and Melbourne in 70 days.

800px-Sobraon_(ship,_1866)_-_SLV_H99.220-645 Not all journeys were pleasurable for the crew and passengers,
she often ran into storms and high seas on her voyages.
One though stood above all others in severity and a lesser ship may not have made it through.

The most serious incident.
The most serious storm experienced by the Sobraon was in 1889, when running her easting down. She was a little to the north of the Crozet Islands,  and it began to breeze up on a Sunday morning. The glass gave every indication of a real snorter, and by 4 p.m. had tumbled down to 27.75.  By  that time the Sobraon had been shortened down to foresail, lower fore topsail, upper foretopsail reefed, main lower topsail and fore topmast  staysail. The shift from N.W. to S.W. came at 5 o’clock, and the yards were hardly round before the foresail went, and in a few moments there was  nothing left for it.

The sea was running in mountainous ridges, and with the foresail gone threatened every moment to poop her badly. It was too  late to heave to and the ship was kept away before it. After four hours’ battling and over 30 men aloft a brand new foresail was bent and set reefed.

This was hardly done before the fore upper topsail blew away. However, with the foresail reefed and two lower topsails the Sobraon fled before the blast like a startled deer. The squalls every few minutes were terrific and in spite of such short canvas the Sobraon was making over 14 knots an hour.
The sea was all the time running higher and higher and breaking aboard in the most alarming fashion. During the night the greater portion of the bulwarks on the port side was carried away; a boat in davits, hanging 22 feet above the water, was filled by a sea and disappeared, the davits breaking off short,  the main skylight over the saloon was washed away and tons of water found its way below before the open space could be covered over. The amount of water in
the saloon at this time can be imagined when passengers were actually being washed off their feet.

On deck there were many narrow escapes of men being washed overboard, the broken bulwarks being a great source of danger. The mate and three of the men were washed from the main life rail to the break of the poop, and, after being dashed up against the heavy boarding which had been put up to protect the fore end of the poop, managed to save themselves by the life-lines  which had been stretch across. The forward deck house which held the galley and engine room was almost demolished and everything moveable in it was washed over the side.

The storm continued at its height from the Sunday afternoon until Wednesday morning. The passengers, who had been battened down for three days, were in a sorry  plight owing to the quantities of water that had got below and the catering for them under such conditions proved very difficult.

As is usually the case after such a storm, the wind subsided very much quicker than the sea, and for a few hours on the Wednesday night, the wind having dropped completely and the ship losing  way, the rolling was terrific. Fortunately everything held aloft in spite of the great strain on the masts during these few hours.

Other incidents
Twice she caught fire, firstly in 1884 when straw in a hold was accidentally lit by the carpenter, and again in 1888 when coal stored in the fore peak ignited by spontaneous combustion. On both occasions tragedy was averted by prompt action by her crew.
A few unlucky crew fell to their deaths from her rigging, while others survived the fall and resumed work.

sobraon training Renamed and put to a new use as HMAS Tingira.
In 1891 the Sobraon was purchased by the NSW Government as a replacement for the boys’ training ship Vernon.
Sobraon was assigned to the State Welfare Department and refitted for use as a reformatory ship, where delinquent boys were trained in the skills for a maritime career.
Later commissioned into the RAN as HMAS Tingira (an aboriginal word for "open sea") in 1912, and refitted at the Cockatoo Docks, Sobraon continued in service until 1927 when she was sold.



An ungraceful end.
After serving the people of Australia and the Navy so well for so many years you would have thought this mighty ship would have deserved a more glorious end to her story, attempts to preserve her as an exhibit were made, but as these last few pictures show, her fate ultimately saw her moored at Berry’s Bay until 1941, and with the onset of war, she was scrapped and broken up.

sobraon berrys bay sydney harbour 2 sobraon berrys bay sydney harbour 1935 ex HMAS Tingira the cradle of the RAN SABRAON


28 March 2014


pic2 The portrait exhibition will be open on Monday 31st.
The ladies from the exhibition team have been hard at work hanging and arranging the fantastic collection of images.,
The exhibition has received a fantastic response from artists and photographers.
Old and new images grace the walls of the gallery.

Opening hours are from 10am-4pm daily.


27 March 2014

T.S.S Merimbula – On this day 1928

If you take a leisurely walk out to Bosom Beach near Currarong following the signs to the Merrimbula ship wreck, you might expect to see something that resembles a ship.  What you will find is a small pile of twisted, rusted steel.  The remains strewen across the rocks belie the once beautiful steam ship T.S.S Merimbula which carried passengers in luxury and comfort along the coast.

1928 The last voyage of the T.S.S Merimbula.

T.S.S. Merimbula was a large twin screw steamship belonging to the Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Company. Launched on 25th Novermber 1909 the steamer was the largest vessel ever ordered by the company. She was a luxuriously appointed ship, able to carry 80 first class and 20 second class passengers on regularly passages between Sydney and Eden.

March 26th -
With Captain O’Connor at the helm she left Sydney for Bermagui and Tathra.
She sailed into increasingly bad weather.


March 27th Merimbula runs aground.

Just before 1am travelling at 14 knots, 3 miles to the west of her set course the 13 passengers were woken by the grinding impact of the vessel driving onto the rocks at Abraham’s Bosom where she stuck fast. In heavy rain, the engines were stopped and everybody arrived on deck. The crew battled to free the lifeboats which had become stuck. Rescue rockets were fired but failed to attract attention. The Captain believed the vessel was in no immediate danger and sent the passengers back to the lounge, still with their lifejackets on. There they spent the remainder of the night drinking coffee and eating sandwiches. Rain continued the following morning as the lifeboats were lowered. No lives were lost and the passengers were rowed across to the mouth of Currarong Creek where they found shelter in a fisherman's hut. Currarong in those days was very remote and Captain O'Connor and the crew walked across Beacroft Peninsula to the lighthouse at Point Perpendicular. He then telephoned the Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Company in Sydney to advise them of the grounding.
35 passengers and crew had been safely landed.

Merimbula Survivors camped
Merimbula survivors camped.

28th March -
Assessors arrived at the wreck site and concluded there was a remote chance of refloating the vessel.

29th March -The next day the Merimbula it was determined the vessel was no going to be salvagable, the salvage operation was cancelled.


5th April - An article appeared in the newspapers telling of the sudden appearance of souveneer hunters entering the wreck via the gaping hole torn in her bows, clambering over the wreck "like crows round the carcus of a beast"
No one was left to protect the cargo and other valuables, men women, girls and boys entered the wreck and it was a case of the first there got the pick.
In the bush within a mile of the steamer were stacked piles of pilfered goods, rum, wisky, motor tyres, sewing-machines, prams, tables – everything that was not screwed down. Car loads of stuff have been removed. Men and women crawled into the heart of the ship and carried away toys, fruit, books, brooms, and even casks of beer. There was no one to stop them.

6th April - The remains were sold at auction for 300 pounds to Mr. A.W.Carey, of Melbourne, the cargo was not included in the sail.  The new owner gambled on the vessel being salvagable.
The new owner now had to advise the owners of the cargo that it must be salvaged within a week.

By the artice above it doesn't sound like much would be left.

After some time the battered remains  slid beneath the sea, The gamble didn't pay off as the ships back broke and slipped down the reef into deep water, now only the bow section remained visable on the rocks.
The loss of the Merimbula marked the termination of the Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Company's passenger services, and subsequent to 1928, they confined their activities only to cargo services.


Passenger report.
One woman said that after the mishap, “The first half hour's alarm and excitement, resembled a picnic more than a wreck. Immediately the captain gave the signal that there was no cause for worry, the passengers overcame their fears, and, after having a drink of coffee, played the piano and sang until morning then taken ashore, and put in the day in small huts, occasionally used by, fishermen. In order to maintain the cheery atmosphere, Mrs Sparks, the steamer's relieving stewardess, played records on the gramophone until the cars arrived from Nowra”.Lifeboat arriving with survivors
Lifeboat arriving with survivors.

Ships description.

Having a length of 209' 6", (63.86m) breadth of 32' 2" (9.8m) and depth of 21' 1" (6.43m). A fast speed of 14 knots was achieved through twin triple expansion engines. At the time the Merimbula was described as the most beautiful vessel to steam Australia's waters.
She had state rooms, large dining areas and a social hall which could be enjoyed by 106 passengers, along with an exquisite body and superstructure (11,011 gross tonnage).The vessel, however, was found to be unstable in some sea conditions. To increase stability, a large number of cast iron blocks were placed in the hold.

On boarding a high degree of luxury awaited the passengers of the Merrimbula.




Not much can be seen of this once grand vessel, over the years the exposed remains of the bow have all but disappeared from the rocks.

947-SS-Merimbula-wreck 946-SS-Merimbula-wreck Wreck of Merimbula 23.2.10

Venture beneath the surface and you will discover another story.
Just off shore you will find the remains of the vessel on a sloping reef where it came to rest after slipping back into the sea.
The remains are located adjacent to the north side of the reef which extends from Whale Point. Wreckage can be located in 4 meters of water and extends out from the reef to a depth of approximately 13 meters.
You will find sections of the hull plating, an anchor, engines, as well as large winches, and most impressive are the boilers rising from the bottom.
Pictures showing what was left of the bow of the beautiful vessel, as it gradually disintegrates over time.

merimbulawinch One of the winches
photo courtesy of NSW Environment and Heritage.

I first dived this wreck around 1979, it was a fun easy and interesting dive, on one particular dive we had a large school of giant King Fish circling above and around one of the boilers, we collected a few lobsters amongst the strewn wreckage. If you intend to dive this location, check the weather, the area is exposed to nth and east swells and winds, and can be dangerous.

Historic Shipwreck
The Merimbula is a gazetted Historic Shipwreck, under Section 5 of the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976. The listing applies to the shipwreck and all relics associated with the shipwreck.Currarong8aa

Lady Denman display
The museum has a collection of objects salvaged from the Merimbula, as well as historic photographs and information on display. Most notably a beautiful set of large timber doors from the kitchen.
The picture below is one of the door knobs off the door…you will have to visit the museum to see the rest…


Continue on to more images taken recently.

. http://www.michaelmcfadyenscuba.info/viewpage.php?page_id=117
. http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/81115432
. http://www.southcoastregister.com.au/story/999653/wreck-that-ended-our-age-of-steamers/
. http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/?irn=212159#ixzz2wfLIoz3r

25 March 2014

Mystery objects.

mysteryobgect1 mysteryobject2 Can you identify these objects.
Seen here are a couple of close up photographs relating to one of the displays in the museum.
Do you know what display and object they belong to ?

Feel free to leave a comment below.

The mystery has been solved, and in quick time, I will have to make the next one harder.

  • Greg Rickard I'm sure there's a trick to this but I'll have a go; the left one is a boot and the right, a porthole?

  • Admin: yes! the first one is a boot, and yes, the second is a port hole of sorts?....but what are they used for???

  • Carol Sheen: diving?

  • Greg Rickard I think Carol Sheen is correct. I'm saying porthole and an old style brass diving helmet and the boots are also used for diving and contain lead weights on the bottom? My great grandfather was a pearl diver and wore this type of gear.

  • Admin: You are both right.
    Visit the museum to see this amazing piece of equipment, and a here is a remarkable photograph showing how it was used.

    diving-suit diving-suit---Tim-Wray


  • New exhibition opens 31st March

    The successful Galamban exhibition has now closed and a new exhibition will open on
    March 31st and run through to the 11th of May

    Portraits-exhibition Portrait Exhibition
    This should be a very interesting exhibition, a collection of artwork and photographs of portraits in different media.
    A collection of old and new, from the past to the present.
    Portraits, if done well can draw you into the picture and give you an amazing connection with the person or people depicted.

    10am – 4pm. 7 days
    In the Vera Hatton Gallery

    24 March 2014

    Surfing the Spit – Jervis Bay

    479-Huskisson's-rock-swimming-pool,-1960s 1960’s style.
    This scene has been repeated hundred’s of times.
    If you go to the Spit at the entrance of Currambene Creek when we have some swell rolling into the Bay, you will see local and travelling surfers riding the waves across the Spit.
    These days it’s the Stand Up Paddle Boarders who have claimed the Spit as their own.

    This photograph captures a group of Long Boarders enjoying themselves around 1960.

    Currambene Creek

    Another timeless image in the Museum’s collection
    655-Early-view-of-Currambene-CreekLooking north, the spit can bee seen on the right.


    Aerial view of Huskisson that shows the Settree boat yard on the banks of Currambene Creek.

    Cows Grazing.
    I love the cows grazing on the footpath, you don’t see that anymore!

    The cows are grazing on the corner of Sydney Street and Field Street near the picture theatre.

    22 March 2014

    The Coolangatta, Shoalhaven connection

    On this day: March 22 1974
    REMAINS ON BEACH A cyclone which hit Queensland uncovered the remains of the Brigantine Coolangatta and deposited them on North Kirra Beach. The Coolangatta had been driven ashore 130 years earlier and wrecked in 1846.

    Ref: photograph and article.

    Coolangatta's story 1846.
    She had been sitting at anchor for 5 weeks unable to enter the Tweed due to silting in the bar.
    At the time she was carrying two convict prisoners (George Craig in irons, and William George Lewis), ready to load red cedar logs at the Tweed River for Sydney.
    Ironically it was a severe cyclone that tore the Coolangatta from her anchors and drove her onto the shore. Captain Steel was ashore at the time and unable to get back to the ship because of the sea conditions. Their attempt to row their small boat through the surf saw them stranded on the beach when the boat was damaged in the surf.
    ”As the cyclone intensified the ship was torn adrift, the prisoners freed, and all aboard “saved themselves by swimming through the surf at the imminent risk of their lives”...”

    coolangatta-mapThe captain, crew and prisoners reached the pilot station at Amity Point on Stradboke Island having walked from Point Danger along the beach. They were fed nightly by friendly Aborigines, the journey of 70 miles took six days.

    In 1883 government surveyor Henry Schneider when sent to “plan a town at Point Danger” saw the wreck and named the adjacent “Coolangatta Creek” in field notes.
    It is believed that this naming was responsible for the name given to the new township of Coolangatta when the first allotments were auctioned in 1884.”

    The connection to the Shoalhaven. alexander berryAlexander Berry.
    The Coolangatta was built by James Blinkcell in 1843 for Alexander Berry whose property, Coolangatta Estate, adjoined Coolangatta mountain located on the northern bank of the Shoalhaven River.
    Berry first visited the Shoalhaven in January 1822 taking the cutter Snapper into Crook Haven (formerly Shoals Haven on the charts) from which he proceeded overland to examine the country on either side of the river. The rich alluvial soils and natural grassy 'meadows' led him to choose the Shoalhaven as the site for an estate and he returned in June 1822 to occupy it.
    The Estate still exists and is now a first class winery and restaurant that uses the original buildings, well worth a visit.

    “For my headquarters I fixed on the north side of the river at the foot of a hill called by the natives ‘Collungatta’. I located the 10,000 acres grant in this locality”

    ‘Collungatta’ was the Aboriginal word for fine view, a description that Berry found difficult to dispute.

    1925 it was exposed by another storm only to disappear beneath the sand once again. The old wreck was located by rutile miners, 30 feet below sand level, in 1954.  In 1973 the Queensland Government tried to blow it up as it was proving a hazard to shipping and surfers – unsuccessfully.  On 22 March 1974, another cyclone dumped it high on the beach and souvenir hunters quickly removed what the sea and the Government had been unable to destroy in 127 years.

    Ship Description:
    brigantine 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).
    Coolangatta; Brigantine; 88 tons; 19.2 x 5.2 x 2.7 m

    ”But we neither wished to elbow any one, nor to be elbowed”
    Ref: Biography – What a life, it makes interesting reading.

    . http://www.couriermail.com.au/archive/news/coolangatta-owes-its-name-to-a-surveyor-with-a-sense-of-history/story-e6frep3f-1225852127161
    . http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/disaster/maritime/display/92189-coolangatta-shipwreck
    . ref:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coolangatta,_Queensland#Schooner_Coolangatta
    . Coolangatta estate

    20 March 2014

    Floating Dock A.F.D.17

    on-slipLongest ocean tow in history.
    Our research so far has gone a long way in confirming the anonymous information sent to us describing the floating dock you see in the picture supporting the Ferry?
    as the Admiralty Dock A.F.D.17.
    The dock was involved in the longest tow in maritime history, starting from Reykjavik Fiord, Iceland to Sydney in 1945.
    Enduring Atlantic gales, German Submarines and long hard hours of difficult sea conditions for the crew.

    A.F.D 17 was based at Cockatoo Island until 1964 when it was scrapped.
    Read more.

    Used around the world, these types of floating docks were a vital part of the war effort during WW2
    They were responsible for performing major repairs and keeping many allied war ships sea worthy.

    Enlarge the images to read an account of this amazing sea journey.


    Enlarge to follow the epic journey.world-map-with-map-of-AFD17

    Ref: Google Books
           Royal Navy Research Archive