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.

26 April 2014

Wreck of the Walter Hood

walter-hood On this day 26th April 1870.
Tragedy, fear, death and survival the story of the last days of the clipper ship the Walter Hood.

Diving the Walter Hood.

bendalong-map wreck-site

The Walter Hood is a well known dive site located just north of Bendalong, It's a shallow dive, in 3 to 5 meters of water. I first dived this wreck around 1976 with well know wreck diving legend, John Sumner. As you glide across the scant remains of the wreck it belies the violet circumstances and tragic event that took place in 1870.
If you stand on the isolated beach in any sort of sea, it’s easy to imagine the turmoil and fear the passengers and crew must have felt as they fought for their lives in what must have been a lonely place, because not much has changed in the immediate location since that time, it’s still isolated even now, with the nearest community of Bendalong some distance away.
The wreck is classified as an Historic Wreck.

“Capable to walk the water like a thing of life”.
Built for the Australian and China trade, The fine Clipper was designed for fast sailing, she was described as a long sharp vessel suggesting a first class steamer, capable to walk the water like a thing of life". The Walter Hood epitomized the level of excellence achieved in the leading Aberdeen ship building yards. She did the trip from Aberdeen to Sydney in 80 days.
The vessel being one of the favourite and most regular traders between London and Sydney during its 17 year association with the Colony.

Almost 100years after Cook passed this very spot she was wrecked.

bell The loss of the Walter Hood.
News of the wreck reached Sydney by telegraph on Saturday morning, coupled with the calamitous news that Captain Latto and eleven other persons were drowned, while thirteen remained on the wreck, to whom no assistance could be rendered from the shore, and that ten had been saved.

April 24th – A Sunday Afternoon, she ran into a heavy gale and increasing seas from the east.

25th – Monday Morning - the gale continued and tore her fore and main topsails away, The sea was running mountainous high and a seaman named Wilkins was washed overboard and drowned.

26th - Tuesday - Heavy rain and large seas combined with gale force winds.
4pm. Land was sighted, the foremast was blown to pieces meaning the Walter Hood did not have enough canvas left to beat out to sea.and it was by this time evident to all on board she would go ashore.

26th - 7.30pm the ship struck the shore, the crew struggled to keep the ship from driving hard by dropping an anchor which appeared to be holding. By this time Captain Latto had sustained broken ribs and another crew member were severely injured.

27th - Wednesday -  With the situation becoming worse by the minute and the ship starting to break up, brave attempts to get a line ashore by some of the crew saw them drowned in the attempt.

28th - Thursday - The ship now firmly held on the reef was starting to break up around those on board, Cargo littered the sea, more attempts to get a line to shore, saw more seamen drowned.

29th - Friday - The sea started to abate, Two coloured men attempted to get to shore..one drowned, while the other finally made land and safety, followed by two more, before two more were drowned in the attempt.
Captain Latto, who had been recovering in his cabin and badly injured, ventured on to what remained of the deck, but reentered his cabin and was drowned, being washed out of his cabin and tangled in the broken wreckage while trying to retrieve the ships papers.


Starving, desperate, pitiful survivors.
By this time those on board had been without food since Tuesday and were in a dreadful exhausted state. As a last resource of sustaining life, a small dog was killed, and his blood and part of his raw flesh used for food. In the afternoon a large number of people were observed on shore.

The crew passed a miserable night on the wreck and were becoming quite helpless from exposure, want of rest and food, and consequent exhaustion.

30th  - Saturday - The only portion of this once mighty ship left was the stern with 13 survivors clinging for life…….The sea started to abate.

The Illalong Steamer had been directed to the scene, she arrived and one of here lifeboats drew alongside the wreckage and the poor souls were soon assisted into the boat.

“All of those who were drowned, with the exception of the captain and cook, were lost in attempting to get to the shore. Alexander Wilkie had been washed overboard and drowned before the ship struck.

The bodies were then interred together, in one large grave. Mr. Parsons, the Wesleyan minister, read the burial service, and afterwards delivered a very appropriate address.

Of the 35 on board the Walter Hood there were 23 survivors.

If you visit the area you will find a stone memorial erected in 1927, standing over the mass grave erected for the victims just behind the beach. The memorial to the Walter Hood is at Cudmirrah Fauna reserve.
The original timber Black Butt carving was burnt in a bush fire

Many spectators arrived and fought over the most costly articles of wreckage. Casks and bottles of alcohol were stoved in and consumed, looting added to the mayhem.
There is much, much more to this tragedy, but that is another story for another time.

Denman Display.
part9 The Lady Denman Museum has a collection of relics from the wreck handed in by different people and make fascinating viewing.

The Walter Hood was 937 tons, Built at Aberdeen in Scotland by Mr Walter Hood who's name she bears.
Wooden Clipper Ship.
L.172'2' -B.30'2" - D.20'9"

22 April 2014

Voyager Park Memorial.

int1 On this day 1972 April 21
The opening of Voyager Park, Huskisson as a memorial to the Voyager disaster (10th February, 1964) by C J Hines, RSL State President.

The Museum has a display and audio visual presentation of the tragic circumstances surrounding the collision.

Continue Reading.

Pigeon House Mountain.

Captainjamescookportrait2On this day April 21st. 1770
”I saw a remarkable peaked hill which resembles a square dove house with a dome on top and for that reason I named it
“ Pigeon House "

I'm sure everyone who has travelled the Shoalhaven has seen this distinctive mountain jutting from the landscape behind Ulladulla.
It was first described and named by Captain James Cook aboard the Endeavour in 1797.

Pigeon House Mountain (Aboriginal: Didthul - Didthul, a word meaning "woman's breast",
is a mountain at an elevation of 720 metres (2,360 ft) situated in the Budawang Range that is situated within the Morton National Park.

Many people incorrectly assume that Pigeon House Mountain/Didthul is a volcanic plug; in fact it is sedimentary in origin, laid down in a marine environment during the Permian age, 260mya when Australia was close to Antarctica.

pidgeon house Mt by Paul Newman pidgeon house Mt by Paul Newman the climb Thanks to Paul for these great images of Pigeon House taken today the 22nd April by Paul Newman.
This shows the summit as you approach from the track, and the ladder network which makes the climb a lot easier than when it was first climbed in 1822.

Endeavour 1


April 25th 1770

Cook sighted Jervis Bay aboard the  HMS Endeavour on 25 April 1770 (two days after Saint George's Day) and he named the southern headland Cape St George.
Once Cook had found the East Coast of Australia he was searching for a safe place to send a boat ashore, but the wind and coastal terrain hampered his efforts as he travelled north. He named and passed Cape St George and on April 25th he recorded the entrance to Jervis Bay but Cook couldn’t enter the bay as the wind was still unfavorable.
He named Point Perpendicular, Long Point and also named Red Point “as some part of it appeared that colour” he went on with his search for a landing place along the coast.

A quote from Captain Cook
"I had the ambition to not only go farther than man had
gone before, but to go as far as it was possible to go."

Cook was the first to map the coastline of eastern Australia, New Zealand and many islands of the Pacific. He sailed further south than any explorer before him.


Visiting tall ship.

ship-2001-in-bay-A I was looking through some of my old photographs and came across this image of a tall ship at anchor just off Huskisson
It was taken in 2001.
Would you know the name of this ship???

18 April 2014

Moonlight over Jervis Bay


Another picture taken with a long time exposure.
10pm and the moon was out, the blur of the water and clouds is because they were moving during the the long exposure, leaving the stationary objects (rocks) in focus.

15 April 2014

Moonlight - Jervis Bay


This shot is a 40 second exposure at 10pm using just the moonlight to illuminate the landscape.

Sailors Grave ?

On this day, 15th April 1892

Why is it called Sailors?
I have talked to people that have lived in the local area for more than 20 years, that don’t know why the wave and the point is known as Sailors or that the grave exists.

In memory of Robert Johnson.
If you take a walk along the new boardwalk that winds it’s way around the headland of Tapalla Point Huskisson, next to the path you will come across a single grave site of the Seaman Robert Johnson who Drowned on the 15th April 1892 aged 19 years.
Robert Johnson was serving on the First class cruiser, HMS Orlando, built in England in 1886.

Circumstances surrounding the accident.
The flagship yesterday returned to her moorings in FarmCove. She has been away several days at Jervis Bay for  target practice, and while there a fatal accident occurred.  On Friday last, between 3 and 4 p.m., while one of the ship's boats was proceeding from the shore to the ship, a  heavy sea running at the time swamped her. All the occupants, with one exception, were picked up. An ordinary seaman, named C. Johnson, a native of Yorkshire, sank,and was not seen again. An attempt was made with grappling-irons to find the body, but without success,owing to the heavy range in the bay.

tapalla-point At the time of the accident, the Orlando was involved in training operations in the bay and was at anchor near Tapalla Point.

Johnson was initially buried near the beach but upon the matter being brought before the notice of Flag Captain
Dicken, of the Royal Arthur, that officer raised by subscription amongst the naval people a sufficient sum
to have the body of young Johnson removed to a point which overlooks the anchorage of the men-of war.

hmsorlando The Orlando and the Boxer Rebellion.
In the whole record of the operations in China there is nothing more stirring than the splendid effort made by Admiral Sir E H Seymour to relieve the Peking Legations at an early stage of their beleaguerment. In the mixed force under the Admiral's command there was a strong detachment of ordinary seamen from HMS Orlando. When within 23 miles of Peking, the force had to retire, as it was utterly impossible to cut a way through the masses of well-armed Chinese troops between it and the capital. In the retirement, leading seaman George of the Orlando specially distinguished himself by his gallantry in towing junks full of wounded out of the enemy's fire For this splendid action George was given the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, and was also presented with a gold medal by the United States Government.

hmsorlando PET BILLY THE GOAT orlando2

HMS Orlando was sold for scrapping on 11 July 1905 to Ward of Morecambe for £10,000.


On this day 1943
HMAS STUART, (destroyer), rescued the crew of an Anson aircraft which crashed into the sea off Port Perpendicular.



The first two B/W images are from Movietone News footage shot by Eric Bieve.

p1 plaque  
Outside the Museum you will find a display dedicated to the Air Crews and Ground Staff that gave their lives during training in World War 2 in the Shoalhaven Area including the propeller from a Beaufort Bomber

9 April 2014

Launch of the Maclaren King 1923


I was asked (as I seemed to have satisfied the owners, and I knew the sea was salt) if I would like to take over the "Maclaren King"
Many of the ships built at Huskisson, whether they were big or small sailed out of the bay to destinations far and wide.

The Maclaren King, was a schooner that left the bay in 1923 bound for Papua via Sydney, Brisbane and Townsville across the Coral Sea to Samurai island in Papua New Guinea for the Anglican Mission.
It’s main task was to support the missionaries, delivering mail, supplies and passengers.
The name of the schooner honoured two pioneer Australian missionaries to Papua New Guinea--Revs. Albert Maclaren and Copeland King.

australian war memorial photo -

Wartime HistoryDuring the war, she was used by the Australian Army. Armed with a 50 caliber machine gun and 20mm cannon for anti-aircraft defense.
During mid July she arrived on the north coast of New Guinea to deliver supplies to the Papuan Infantry Battalion (PIB) stationed in the area. While anchored off Buna, the ship was unsuccessfully bombed by a Japanese seaplane.

During November 1942 the ship's 50 caliber machine gun drove off attacking Japanese aircraft, claiming one shot down off Goodenough Island.

The story of Captain Fred Rennels who steered her to Papua is one of adventure.

Fred Rennels came from England in 1922, moved to Wreck Bay living off the land with the Aborigines, then to Huskisson working as a carpenter building the Maclaren King, to becoming the Captain, bound for Papua New Guinea.
It’s quite a tale and one worth reading.


other references.

6 April 2014

Mynora wrecked - on this day – April 6th 1864


         Steamers Headland looking north from St Georges Head, Steamers beach is inside the headland to the left.

Monday 4 April - The new wooden paddle steam ship the Mynora built for the Clyde, Moruya and Wollongong trade, cleared Sydney heads bound for Moruya where she arrived safely the following day.

Tuesday 5 April  - She set sail back to Sydney carrying cargo, crew and passengers that included 9 children, two ladies, two natives from India and one Chinaman.  Slowly easing her way north the Mynora became enveloped in a thick fog, unable to make out her position,  the captain was unaware that disaster lay dead ahead. 
Wednesday 6 April 1am - In what must have been a terrifying shock for all on board, the Mynora struck a small reef off St Georges Head. The master Captain Barter backed off the reef and continued his journey north, the Mynora was making water very fast. The Captain fought to keep her afloat but to save the lives of all on board the Master drove her on shore at a small beach 3 miles north of the reef, now known as Steamers Beach, where she became a total wreck.  While the boat was lost,  all of the passengers and crew on the Mynora were saved.

Looking south across the beautiful Steamers Beach where the Mynora was wrecked 150 year earlier.

Overland walk.

The women and children walked overland 5 miles to the Cape St George Lighthouse where they were kindly received and treated by Superintendant Mr Lee.
The rest of the crew stayed with the ship and saved a portion of the cargo.  When news of the disaster reached Greenwell point, Captain Sullivan of the S.S Hunter hearing of the misfortune started on the following morning to the scene of the disaster, and took off the male passages, then proceeded to the lighthouse station, Jervis Bay, where she took off the females, and left again for Sydney.

This was the second loss in a few months for the Illawarra Steamship Company,  unfortunately for the owners the Mynora, she was uninsured.

Ship Details.

Mynora name -  (the native name of the township on the Moruya River)
117 ton wooden paddle steamer
120ft x 17ft x 31ft deep
Built at Pyrmont in 1863 for the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company
who serviced the South Coast Trade from 1858 to the early 1950s.
By 1864 the company was operating a fleet of at least four ships


Google Earth


5 April 2014

On this day – April 5th 1812

George_William_Evans_Explorer,_1780-1852,_NLAThe crossing of the Shoalhaven River - George Evans wasn’t the first, despite his claim.
The explorer George Evans claimed to have been the first white man to cross the Shoalhaven River 1½ miles west of the present location of Nowra. Evans was on his way north from Jervis Bay.
The crossing by Evans and his party took 6 hours.
However, he was not the first.
Survivors of the “Sydney Cove”, wrecked on Preservation Island Tasmania, walked to Port Jackson in 1797 (see May 15th). They must have crossed the Shoalhaven River about April 26th/27th of that year.
And survivors of the cutter “Nancy”, shipwrecked south of Jervis Bay walked to Port Jackson in 1805 April 20th.
So George Evans wasn’t the first, despite his claim.

This situation does not diminish George W Evans other great exploits – Read more

But this leads us to more remarkable story’s of survival along our coast.

The tragic and harrowing story of the Sailing Ship the Sydney Cove.
Built: Calcutta.
Type: Square rigged merchant ship.

An example of the type of ship - Alexander’ (Marine Artist Frank Allen)

Leaving Tasmania on 10th of November 1798 she encountered heavy seas in December and started to leak.
She ran into more bad weather and the severity of the leak meant the pumps had to be manned continually.
The ship struck more bad weather and the leak had become unmanageable ad the bailing efforts couldn't cope. By February the 9th 1797 with water up to the lower-deck hatches, and in imminent danger of sinking, Hamilton decided to ground the stricken vessel on an island north of Tasmania, now called Preservation Island, in the Furneaux Group. He chose a sheltered location, so everyone was able to get ashore safely and most of the cargo was saved, too. Salvaged rum was stored safely out of the crew's reach, on nearby Rum Island.

Sydney_Cove_Plaque-14922-23400A desperate walk to safety.
17 set off only 3 men survived the journey.
A party of 17 men set off on the 28th February in the ship longboat to reach help in Port Jackson 400 nautical miles (740 km away}. Ill fortune struck again and they were wrecked on the mainland at the northern end of Ninety Mile Beach.

Their only hope was to walk along the shore all the way to Sydney, a distance of over 600 kilometres.
They had few provisions and no ammunition, and fatigue and hunger lessened their number as they marched. Along the way they encountered various aboriginal people, some friendly and some not. The last of the party to die on the march was killed by a man named Dilba and his people near Hat Hill. Those people had a reputation around Port Jackson for being ferocious. Matthew Flinders and George Bass had feared for their safety when they encountered Dilba the previous year.

Nearly 60 days after starting the walk in 1797 the three survivors of the march, William Clark, sailor John Bennet and one lascar had made it to the cove at Wattamolla and, on 15 May 1797, with their strength nearly at an end they were able to signal a boat out fishing, which took them on to Sydney.

This remarkable walk was the first known European exploration of the south eastern coast of Australia and marked the first contact between Aboriginals and Europeans in this area.

Of course this is a condensed story for the full story of this remarkable true tale explore the links below, It’s a tale well worth reading.


The Cutter Nancy.
sloop-silo-2The Nancy was wrecked on 18 April 1805 near Jervis Bay, Australia.
The Nancy was a wooden sloop of some 20 tons constructed in 1803 on the Hawkesbury River, New South Wales by Kable & Co. It arrived in Sydney on its maiden voyage on 17 October 1803. On 18 April 1805, the Nancy commanded by Captain Demaria was just off Jervis Bay when a violent squall hit the area. The Nancy's mainsail split and the ship could make no leeway. Everything on board was washed overboard and then the ship struck a small sandy beach between two headlands. The ship promptly broke up with one crew member, Richard Wall, from Exeter, drowning. The remaining crew walked to Sydney, arriving on 1 May 1805

An interesting story.
“The same morning the hull parted, and shortly after went to pieces, the continued violence and rapidity of the surf preventing any part of the cargo from being saved; and such few articles as were washed ashore were carried off by the natives, who, though they offered no personal violence, had become too numerous to be resisted. One of the people, whose conduct Mr. Demaria, the master of the vessel, notices as being in all respects opposite to that of his brethren, cheerfully undertook to conduct his distressed party round to Jervis’s Bay [Jervis Bay], for which place they set out on the morning of the 20th, and reached it the same evening; and net morning perceiving that the natives, possibly with no other design than the gratification of curiosity, were clustering round them from all directions, it was considered most advisable to commit themselves to the Providence that had thus far bountifully preserved them, to make the best of their way for Sydney by pedestrian travel. Destitute of provisions, without a musket, except one that was useless and only borne to intimidate the natives, the proposal was readily concurred in, and after a terrible journey of eleven days, lengthened much by the inundated state of the country, they attained the much-desired object on Wednesday night last, crippled by fatigue, and reduced to the last extremity by actual want.”


4 April 2014

Lady Denman – On this day

LD-in-Currumbene-CreekNO WAY TO TREAT A LADY
April 3rd 1983.
After the epic adventure and endured the harrowing tow from Sydney the Lady rested temporarily inside Currambene Creek in sight of where she was built 71 years before at the Dent Slipway.
While arrangements were underway the Lady Denman Committee was subjected to a lot of criticism for leaving her this way.

But the dedicated Denman committee spearheaded by John and Vera Hatton had a vision and were not deterred and their hard work and determination resulted in what today is a unique, fascinating and inspiring Maritime Museum and one of the Shoalhaven’s greatest assets.

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