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13 April 2015

Dandenong Storm 1876 – City of Melbourne.

The gale is described as a hurricane with mountainous seas.
The storm that caused the devastating loss of the SS Dandenong and took 40 poor souls with her when she foundered in huge seas off Jervis Bay was also responsible for many other disasters right along the eastern sea board.

Other vessels caught in the same storm were lucky to survive the horrendous conditions,  some suffered badly but were able to make safety before they were also lost.

Battling wind gusts of 150 miles per hour, an mountainous seas, the storm left a trail of destruction and destroyed ships large and small.

The Steamer - City of Melbourne.
One such vessel the steamer “City of Melbourne” on a journey between Sydney and Melbourne encountered the full force of the gale south of Jervis Bay and returned to port with two boats and all her deck cargo washed overboard,  the engine room hatchway stove in,  the saloon flooded,  and the steer gear injured.  The race horses Burgundy,  Robin Hood,  Poacher,  Nemesis,  Etoile Du Matin,  Eros,  Sovereign,  Lecturer and  Sylvia Colt were killed.  Chrysolite and Redwood were saved but badly cut.   Passengers and crew were badly beaten, continuously hand bailing as the pumps failed at the height of the storm, water flowed into every part of the steamer, windows were stove in,  passengers did their best to stay calm and with the crews help were managing,  misery and freight, death and destruction had become part of the crew and passengers struggle for life in these miserable hours,  fighting against the elements trying to stay alive.  The gale is described as a hurricane with mountainous seas.


The graphic depiction of the crew, passengers and horses fighting for life aboard the City Of Melbourne at the height of the storm.

A passengers account.

Below are the details as appeared in the New South Wales Agriculturist and Grazier 1876.
Told here by a gentleman who was a passenger by the steamer on the occasion. It chronicles the struggle the passengers and horses endured.
It’s a compelling read.


“ The City of Melbourne left Sydney at midnight on Saturday, the 9th inst., in charge of Capt.  Paddle,  who,  during the temporary absence of Captain Brown,  had arranged to take charge of the vessel for the trip.     All went well and smoothly at first,  excepting that it was discovered that the boat was rather inconveniently crowded.
   On Sunday morning the wind was blowing hard into our teeth,  and the sea was high,  each moment seeming to get more angry and vicious,  and on looking ahead there was little to reassure us in the thick black clouds in the distance.  Possible little attention would have been paid to this had not Mr. Fisher's trainer,  Morrison,  expressed his misgivings and solicitude for the horses under his charge.   A little later on it became plain to all that we were in a terrible storm,  and then many began to bewail the fact that they had neglected the warning of their friends in Sydney,  who had predicted there would be a heavy gale along the coast,  and advised a postponement of the trip.
   About the wheel and steering apparatus were carried away,  the quarter master having a very narrow escape of being washed overboard;  and the vessel having lost it's guide,  began careering round and round,  describing large circles.   By the aid of tackles and the capstan a steering apparatus was rigged,  and four men under the charge of the chief officer,  were told off to work the capstan.   This answered admirably,  and left little to regret except that it took an officer and four of the hands out of the small crew.
   The vessel was once more put on it's course,  and continued so until after six p.m., when order were given to round her up and bring her under the wind.  There was now no land visible,  a heavy mist or haze setting in and obscuring every object.   We were therefore given to understand that we were going to run to sea,  in the hope of picking up the land on the following day and returning to Sydney.  While all this was going on, three horses Eros,  The Poacher and a filly Gwendoline had broken loose,  and after experiencing several heavy falls on the deck,  the first-named fractured one of his legs.  Prostrate and heavy seas continually sweeping over them,  they were left to perish,  as they did, as they did between the hours of nine and ten the following morning.
   When the steamer was put about and ran before the wind it was great relief to both man and beast,  and many took the opportunity of gaining a few hours' repose,  but when in due course of time she was again bought around,  and had to face the hurricane,  our troubles recommenced.
   On Monday a quantity of iron and something like three hundred cases of oranges were thrown overboard,  and the boat was evidently lighter and more buoyant than she had been,  while the water in the waist of the vessel had a better chance of escaping.  A heavy sea broke in the skylights of the saloon,  and very soon every cabin was ankle-deep in water;  and notwithstanding that the lights were battened down,  seas were constantly finding their was into the saloon by other means.  Every birth was saturated,  and those who sought rest did so with their cloths on,  it being necessary to retain both boots and caps,  in order to be ready for and emergency.
   On Monday the Metropolitan winner,  Nemesis,  broke loose,  and after floundering about on the deck for some hours,  finally got into a corner of the vessel under the bulwarks and the galley,  eventually being drowned by the heavy and constant seas washing over her.  At that time Robin Hood,  Etoile du Martin,  and Burgundy were all down,  the two former yielding their last breath about three p.m.,  where as Burgundy lingered on until after six p.m.,  when he also gave up his last gasp.  Shortly after the hour of noon that fine colt Sovereign fell down,  and he was likely to interfere with the Silvia and Chrysolite colts,  it was determined to pull him out,  after considerable difficulty,  was effected.  Nothing could be done for him that had not been tried,  and at half-past 6 he made the eight victim to the fury of the storm.    
     Monday was truly a day of misery.  The saloon was rendered worse by the lazarette being opened for the purpose of bailing out the water,  which left a strong sticky smell,  as of a bad spirit.  The bailing was effected by passing buckets along a row of men stationed between the trap and the entrance door,  which not unfrequently when left opened, let in more water than was passed out.  boots, shoes and socks had long been abandoned,  and passengers were walking about with their trousers tucked up,  while the water scoured the saloon looking for some place to exit.  
     During all these trying hours the ladies acted courageously,  though all but one kept studiously to their births,  where they were attended to by the best of stewardesses.  On Monday evening the vessel was again put before the wind,  which was a great comfort and relief to all,  and a short sleep was snatched;  but when she was bought up and her head was again put to the wind,  our troubles re-commenced.  The sea now seemed to be raging more than ever,  and the violence with  which the vessel was struck frequently staggered her;  while the decks, saloon,  and cabin,  were as constantly flooded.  About three a.m. a heavy sea stove in one side of the engine-house and extinguished three fires out of of four,  and the boat seemed to make but little progress for some minutes.  At last the screw began to work again,  and it's revolutions quickened.  It was not until the following morning the cause became known;  and it was just as well that it was not known at the time,  for it would have only added to our troubles. 
      Early in the morning the Silvia colt died,  and about ten am land was sighted,  which afterwards turned out to be the North Head.  No one can tell with what joy this fact was made know,  and after running by the Heads the vessel was laid on the Melbourne course,  and taken in without the slightest hitch or trouble.
      An hour before Crysolite colt had fallen,  but by the aid of some forecastle passengers,  who raised him,  and held him up,  rubbing him with cloths all the time,  his life was saved”.




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