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6 August 2015

Loss of the Spec - Gerringong

You would think the loss of a large sailing ship and some of it’s crew members would attract a great deal off attention in the city press of the day,  but in many cases the reporting of the tragedy would only be a few lines added to the shipping column of the Sydney papers…

As you would expect regional papers close to where the disaster happened, usually included much more detailed information about the incident.

The loss of the Schooner Spec and two of it’s crew was one of those cases.
Sydney newspapers only devoted a total of three lines of text to the loss,  hidden away in the back of the newspaper in amongst general news items,  the story could be easily missed,  fortunately the local newspapers covered the story in a more comprehensive manner, allowing us to put together these details of the wreck.

 The Kiama Independent and Shoalhaven Advertiser 1865

It is with the greatest regret that we find ourselves called upon this week to publish the particulars of the loss of the schooner Spec off the coast in our immediate neighbourhood,  and the death of the skipper and one of the two seamen who were employed on board.

The Spec which had been freighted in Sydney with merchandise for some of the storekeepers in Kiama and Broughton Creek,  had discharged a large portion of her cargo at this port;  and after leaving had proceeded on her way towards Shoalhaven,  as far as Black Head,  Gerringong,  when she was struck by a sudden squall with such violence it threw her on here beam ends,  when she filled and within five minutes has sunk beneath the waves.

The Spec at the time of the accident was about a mile and a half from the land.  One of the seamen named Edward Ross,  was fortunately enabled to swim to land,  which he reached,  as might be expected in a very exhausted condition.  He was received with all possible kindness and humanity by Mr. Kirby, and related the last he saw of his comrades,  one of them was on the bow of the sinking vessel,  and the other swimming for the shore which he proved unable to reach.

The name of the skipper we understand,  was William James Dawson.  The seaman, a foreigner,  who was lost,  was commonly known by the name George.  On receipt of the intelligence of the accident,  Senior sergeant Johnson,  and the other members of the police stationed here,  left in all haste for Gerringong.

Since the above was written,  the police have returned,  having searched the beach carefully for a considerable distance,  without finding any trace of the bodies of the unfortunate men,  or of the wreck.  Captain Dawson we understand, was a married man whose wife and two or three children residing in Sydney,  and are by this sad event bereft of their support and left in a state of destitution.

For their relief it is intended to appeal to the sympathy of the public by means of subscription lists, which will be found at the banks and principal stores in town.  The other unfortunate was a Prussian by birth,  and was married but had no children.

Spec Schooner – 17 tons, 13.1 meters in length – 3.5m meters beam – 1.6 meter in depth,  Owned by G. Robertson Nicoll,  built 1865 – Registered at Sydney.

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