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"

1 comment :

  1. Paul Michelle Satchell
    Was this the ship carrying the tiles that washed up on the beach?
    26 April at 17:50 · Like

    Lady Denman.
    Yes Paul...there is some info suggesting they were tiles for St Mary's Cathedral, but this has never been confirmed...I found a few,,,there still popping up from time to time..

    Paul Michelle Satchell
    We used to walk along monument and pick them up in the early 60's.

    Lady Denman
    Yes they were regularly washed up then...if you have any left, you may like to donate them to the Lady Denman Maritime Museum...I just handed in all my wreck relics from my diving days...it's a great museum and records and catalogs and eventually displays the finds...better than sitting in a garage somewhere..ther a valued resource for history and research, and can help complete the story...