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19 August 2015

The Steam Ship Dorrigo

The Launch of the S.S Dorrigo 1901

Huskisson in 1901 was a peaceful little community on the shores of Jervis Bay,  perched adjacent to the cool, clear running waters of Currambene Creek.
The community largely survived because of the fishing, timber and shipbuilding industry, tourism was starting to become popular as the bay was slowly being discovered by well healed Sydney people.

On Wednesday 7th of August the peace was interrupted by a great celebration..
Boat-Frame-a An example of one of the many vessels under construction on the banks of Currambene Creek near the time.

After months of work the S.S. Dorrigo was ready to slip into the cool wet element she was made for.
For many months she had been the centre of activity,  workmen toiled long hours,  local hardwood was felled, milled and dressed, and transported to the ship-building yards.  workers assembled her many individual parts,  and she slowly took shape.  Many locals were employed and families supported by the ship building industry,  when a ship was launched  it was a time for celebration and excitement for the whole community.


Launch of the S.S Dorrigo, snapped by Dr. Stoney as she entered the water.

9 a.m was the fixed time for the launch from Mr Hardiman’s ship-building yards.
The whole of the residents of the bay,  together with some from Tomerong and adjoining localities and a coach-load from Nowra,  were present to witness the interesting ceremony.    

The launch took place about a quarter to 9 a.m, it being necessary to take advantage of the full tide.

When everything was in readiness the workmen removed the chocks holding the vessel in her cradle,  a few turns were given to the screw jack at her stem,  the ship was given away,  and she slid gracefully and rapidly from the stocks into the waters of Currambene Creek,  where she proudly floated,  a tribute to the workmanship of the Bay shipwrights and to the enterprise of her owner,  Mr G. W Nicoll,  of Sydney.

A Time honoured custom.
Just as the vessel began to move,  Mrs Nicoll,  wife of the owner, following the time honoured custom,  broke a bottle of Champaign across her bows,  and christened her the Dorrigo,  and wishing her a long and successful career.  The launching was greeted with the hearty cheering from the assembled company.

Built by H. Hardiman.
The S.S Dorrigo is 132ft, long,  24ft, beam and 11ft, depth of hold, and a capacity of 400 tons with machinery and engines.  It has a raised quarter-deck,  80 ft long by 20ft high and a forecastle 2ft high by 20 ft long. She will be provided with accommodation for 20 salon and six steerage passengers.  Well known local ship-building identity George Dent was foreman,  the workmanship reflects the highest credit upon those gentlemen. She is well and faithfully built,  of district hardwood,  decking of Oregon Pine.  While graceful in all her lines.  The Dorrigo’s hull is strongly put together,  and she should be capable of withstanding more than ordinary heavy weathers.  She is intended for the Byron Bay and Northern Rivers trade.

Towed to Sydney.
After some final fitting at Huskisson, she will be towed to Sydney and be fitted up with her steam engines,  machinery and all the prerequisites for modern passenger traffic,, including the installation of electric light.

Substantial investment.
Building a modern steamer out of timber was a substantial investment for the owners,  The Dorrigo had cost somewhere around 2000 ponds already,  once she was  totally fitted out for her trading purposes, the investment was estimated at to be around 9000 ponds.

Largest Vessel built at Huskisson.
The Dorrigo at the time of launch, was the largest vessel built at Huskisson, and the forth vessel built by Mr Hardiman, and it is hopped many more such craft would be turned out at Huskisson,

Dent Family.
It is worthy of note that the Dent Family,  who have been identified with Ship-building at the Bay for 40 years,  have turned out no less than 78 vessels there be of one kind and another.  In his yard,  close by where the Dorrigo was launched,  Mr James Dent now has a decent sized craft on the stocks.  She will be 80ft long and 20ft beam,  and will probably be used in the timber trade,  which is very brisk at Jervis Bay right now.
After the launch at the cost of Mr Nicoll,  his guests were entertained with refreshments.  At 1 o’clock luncheon was spread in an adjoining shed,  temporarily converted into a banqueting hall.   There about 50 persons sat down to an excellent repast. 
The guests wants were attended to by, Mrs Hardiman,  Mrs F. Dent, Miss Woods and Miss E. Elmoos,  who were assisted to by several other young ladies.

Mr Hardiman then called on the company to charge their glasses and drink to the health of Mr Nicholl,  the owner of the steamer. Mr George Dent proposed the health of Mr and Mrs Hardiman,  expressing the hope that the gentleman named would be entrusted with building many more ships on the Currambene.

Mr Hardiman,  in responding thanked everyone and especially his staff who worked beside him in their endeavour to produce such a fine craft.

He called on the company to give three cheers for the staff,  this was heartily responded to.


As  can be seen from the details above,  there was a lot of hope for the future prosperity of the local region in connection with ship-building and the timber trade.  Jervis Bay had been purposely neglected by previous governments in favour of the centralisation policy in order to aggrandize Sydney.  But locals believed the time must come when Jervis Bay would become an important commercial industrial port.

If you would like to find out more about some of the proposals that were put forward in regard to industry around the bay,  then come along and look at some of the information on display.  They clearly and graphically illustrate what might have been,  if even one of the proposals ever saw the light of day.

And what became of the S.S Dorrigo?.
1905 – Explosion on board.
On a trip from Coffs Harbour to Sydney and explosion occurred, described as and ‘everyday incident” by the captain to a reporter,  it appears from the article and the evasive manner in which the crew and the Captain tried to avoid questions about the incident,  they didn’t want news of the accident to get out,  but one of the passengers gave the reporter and account of what happened.

He described how around 6.30p.m just off Sydney Heads there was a loud explosion that made the ship shake.  Nearly all hands rushed out on deck to see what happened, and discovered there had been a burst up in the engine room. The captain immediately hoisted his head sail and the vessel kept off the land.
”We were very close to the rocks at one time and the vessel was rolling very much indeed”.

Onlookers on land reported seeing rockets and signals from the Dorrigo at the time the incident happened.

The Dorrigo entered the heads on Saturday morning at 9. 30 p.m. in tow of the Captain Cook.

When the Dorrigo docked bystanders noticed there were broken pieces of a cylinder head laying on the main deck and  many fragments down below there had been an explosion of some kind.
1906 – December 24th – 6 p.m Seal Rocks
The Dorrigo had a lucky escape from disaster when the shaft broke leaving the vessel at the mercy of the wind and the sea,  fortunately she was well off land,  and shortly after the steamer Noorebar responding to the Dorrigo’s distress rockets and lights took her in tow,  the operation was carried out at great risk in a heavy southerly blow. Hawsers were repeatedly broken during the tow until a wire hawser was secured,  Passengers and crew were glad to reach safety, especially at the prospect of spending Christmas night aboard the stricken craft.  The captain was praised at how he handled the stricken vessel.
1910  - Steamer Sold.
The North Coast Steam Navigation Company sold the Dorrigo to Burns, Philip and Co., Ltd’  to be used in Inter-Island work.
1912 February 12th – Fiji.

The S.S Dorrigo was a well known vessel in Australia  during her time with the North Coast Steam Ship Company.  In 1912 the Dorrigo was acquired by the Fijian Government for the inter-island trade. 
On February a cable from Auckland stated that the Dorrigo had been driven ashore on one of the Lan Groups,  Near Fiji.  Little information was know at the time the cable was sent other than the vessel was not in a dangerous position,  but had suffered severe damage.

imageFurther details emerged.
The vessel had been caught up in a fierce hurricane.  The hurricane devastated the islands and the Dorrigo was swept onto the rocks during the height of the storm.  When the ship struck the whole of the front of the bridge superstructure were swept away, and the main top mast snapped off. Captain Mahy was thrown from the bridge to the main deck,  and received injuries to his head,  ribs,  and neck,  as well as a badly lacerated hand.  The ships standard compass was lost,  and the steering compass smashed.

Renamed the Misima.
February 1st 1917 – East Cape Papua - Daily Commercial News and Shipping List.

The vessel went on the reef at Mia Island off East Cape, Papua at 7.30 a.m on February 1st.  Captain Ewen,  who was in command of the vessel,  tried all means to get the Misima afloat.  Anchors and kedges were put out,  but owning to the depth of water these would not hold,  and strong winds  drove her further on to the reef,  the vessels hull was badly pierced by the rocks.

The vessel struck at high water,  and as the tide went down she settled very firmly on the reef.  The Misima is in a bad way,  and will probably be a total wreck.   The passengers were transhipped to the Morinda,  while the crew were landed on the shore to await instructions.  At the time of the disaster the Misima was on her way from the North-east of Papua to Samarai.

She was only recently overhauled in Sydney and was insured by the Queensland Insurance Company and Captain Ewen was making his first trip in her.

map 2So far from where she was built.
February 7th – Brisbane Courier

By the 7th February 1917 it was confirmed by the Marine Department that the Misima was a total wreck on East Cape Papua.  Owned by Burns Phillip and Co., Ltd., and contracted to the Government for the Territory in the Papuan coastal service,  she was a regular visitor to Thursday Island.

Marine Enquiry findings.
After investigation the court found that no blame could be attached to anybody,  and that the master and crew took all proper precautions,  and made every effort to save the vessel.

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