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.

30 September 2015

Jervis Bay Spring rise



The Journey to Jervis Bay 1915.
Jervis Bay, which is only known to the great majority of Sydney citizens as the place where the weather comes from.

From Wollongong down to Nowra and even farther south, the district might be named Sydney-In-the-country. Cattle are feeding, butter factories are working vigorously, creameries are in active operation, and huge wagons bearing the names of city firms and full of heavy milk cans rattle along the road, beside the railway line, and everything seems to be going its hardest to feed the hungry city. Of course the South Coast feeds us and more besides, but we are a big customer. This has been a wonderful season. Never before within the memory of that celebrity "the oldest inhabitant," have the rains kept the paddocks green and springlike in 'the middle of February. It is a cheering and heart-encouraging sight to behold the quiet prosperity of all that district.   Men and women go on their way in peace and quietness, unaffected by war and war's alarms.

That Is the first Impression. "These people have never heard of the war."
But the first impression should not be trusted. As in other places, the influence of the great disturbance has penetrated here.  Red Cross work has been vigorously carried on by the Nowra women workers, and the society's funds have benefited by a very large sum from this centre. Even the horses of this part of the South Coast have answered to the world call, for many of them have been chosen as troopers' mounts, to say no- thing of the men who have enlisted.

Leaving Nowra for Jervis Bay, a sturdy little horse draws us in a sulky. Womanlike, and not understanding the degrees of height, I refer to him as "a nice little pony." The horse seems to hear, for he shakes his head irritably and jerks the sulky forward.

"He's not a pony," says the driver; "he's a horse, but he's just under the army standard. If he stood a little higher he'd be at the war now."

The equine self-respect seems restored at that, and the horse pounds along very bravely and steadily.

At a turn-off where two roads fork, stands a tiny fruit stall, kept by a buxom dame who is the wife of an adjacent farmer.
She sells "soft" drinks, cool as if kept on ice, and grapes with the bloom on them. Two or three tiny houses nestle amid the surrounding landscape, which is mostly gum trees, and not another living soul beside herself is in sight. "Does it pay," I ask, and am told that the weekly profits run into two figures. This information, though vague, certainly leaves it clear that stall-keeping, apparently in the uninhabited wild, is profitable. But along this road and the branch road there is a steady stream of vehicles all day long, motor cars, coaches, sulkies, buggies, and bicycles. A few years ago there was nothing but the daily coaches and a few, very few, visitors' traps. The establishment of the Naval College at Captain's Point, Jervis Bay has made the change.

Very glittering and gay are the college lights seen at night from a launch in the bay. Electricity in that part of the world is a rarity. By daylight the place is in the full swing of activity. The college now is administered by two departments, Home Affairs and Defence. Naturally, the former is diminishing in tho number of its representatives rapidly, now that the staff proper have arrived. But there will always be some Home Affairs officials there to look after buildings and so forth. Otherwise, the Defence Department rules supreme. The discipline of tho place resembles that of a man-of-war as much as may be. The isolation of Captain's Point is only realised after a visit to the surrounding districts. It is about six- teen miles from anywhere. This, of course, was purposely arranged for. Another determining factor in the choice of Captain's Point as a site for our navy training ground was that there is an abundant water supply.

What woman does not love a middy's uniform,  gold braid and brass buttons have a never-failing charm. The boys in training look what they are - the pick of Australia. The newly-joined cadet midshipmen are easily distinguished by the untarnished look of newness about their blue serge and gold fixings.

They liked Geelong, but they like this place better. For one reason, it is ever so much more spacious.
The boys go everywhere "at the double," and from one building to another is a good step. This is part of their daily exercise, and helps to keep them fit. Visitors are very frequent at the college gates, but a pass is necessary before inspection is allowed. This "keep-off-the-grass" attitude is quite literally to be understood, for the authorities are trying their hardest to conquer their present enemy, the black, dusty sand of the point, and are coaxing binding-grass everywhere.

76-First-Jervis-Bay-Hotel,-pre-1926First Jervis Bay Hotel – pre 1926 

Memories of warships and whalers cling around Huskisson, the township on Jervis Bay, which, though so small, has been a settlement for over 70 years, in the old R.N. days, when the ships went to Jervis Bay for target practice, there was only one hotel and a blacks' camp. The hotel and the black fellows are there still, but a township has grown up. On the point stands a monument to a young sailor from the flagship, who was drowned in the bay. That and a tiny, red-painted shed, formerly used for storing target gear, are the sole relics of the British Admiralty at Jervis Bay, which is only known to the great majority of Sydney citizens as the place where the weather comes from.



28 September 2015

Trouble - Jervis Bay - 1924

 She appeared a pitiful picture,  suggestive of a ship whose heart had been broken.
vessel Ref : State Library of NSW.



The large 1750 ton Japanese steamer Honolulu Maru,  in command of Captain Kamataka, with 63 men and officers were bound from Melbourne to Sydney  carrying a cargo of 1400 tons of zinc plates, stowed in four holds was caught in a fearful storm south east  of Jervis Bay. 



April 4th 1924  - The gale hit so fast and with such force it caused the zinc plates to shift,  the ship developed a list of 40 degrees.  Examination of the cargo determined there was no chance of shifting the cargo in the horrendous conditions.

Deluged by overwhelming seas, she found herself in a perilous state.

The crew worked frantically to secure the ship,  the wireless operator put out a distress SOS call which was eventually picked up by the British Cruisers Dauntless. The Warship H.M.S Dragon on her way from Hobart was dispatched immediately to relieve the Dauntless.

The Dauntless battling huge seas was the first ship on the scene,  she stood by the Honolulu Maru and was prepared to render assistance if things turned for the worse.
She was badly beaten herself during the ordeal and was put into dry dock for repairs once she was back in Sydney.

HMS Dauntless in dry-dock at Cockatoo Island Sydney.

 File:HMS DAUNTLESS (7600690914).jpgHMS Dauntless -Ref: https://www.flickr.com/photos/anmm_thecommons/7600690914/

HMS Dragon SLV AllanGreen.jpgH.M.S.Dragon Ref: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HMS_Dragon_SLV_AllanGreen.jpg#/media/File:HMS_Dragon_SLV_AllanGreen.jpg

The Dragon was nearly fully extended,  she has a top speed of 29 knots,  and was furrowing some of the worst seas the squadron had ever experienced at 24 knots, she covered 120 miles in 6 hours to get to the scene.  

The Dragon had it’s own problems during the journey, mountainous seas washed right over her,  appearing to almost swallow her,  5 men were nearly washed overboard and it was only a miracle that they were saved.
One seaman A.b. Brown fell over the side,  but was able to clutch at the sounding boom,  and saved himself,  receiving a crushed finger.  He was eventually pulled in by the legs by another sailor.

The steamers captain Kamataka lay on the floor for two hours after being knocked unconscious when a mountainous sea hit the vessel and he was thrown against the bridge box.
Other sailors aboard the Honolulu Maru were also injured during it’s struggle.
Sailors aboard the war ships also suffered injuries.

H.M.S Dragon arrives at the scene.

Attempts were made to get a hawser between the vessels, one attempt saw the line get caught under the propeller of the Honolulu Maru. Another line became enmeshed in the bows of the Japanese steamer,  and the men on the Dragon speak with pride of the spectacle of one of the Japanese seamen crawling over the side of the ship with a rope around his waist and freeing the line.
The Dragon sent eight rockets to the steamer, with lines attached,  but the wind was in the wrong direction,  and they could not reach the vessel.

The Captain and the crew of the Honolulu Maru had expectations their ship would turn turtle at any time.
Trying to walk on the vessel was almost impossible, she was on such a steep list and moving so much in the sea,  the men  moved about in fear of sliding off,  they had to hold onto anything they could with one hand while trying to negotiate the ship and work with the other.

Both vessels were shipping mountainous seas,  with each roll the men were nearly up to their knees in water

The Dragon  kept vigil all Friday night over the steamer which was wallowing like some broken thing in treacherous seas. The Dragon swept the steamer continually with it's great searchlights and stood by prepared for any emergency.

As soon as the situation was relayed to the authorities the Sydney tugs Champion and Heroic  left port in the full force of the gale,  even old sailors didn't think they had a dog's chance of getting through the monstrous seas with blinding squalls. 

One skipper of many years of life at sea said he never saw such seas and weather. But he expressed his faith as such.

"Good boats those tugs,  long since proven staunch and true,  and their skippers and crew are splendid seamen"

April 5th. The Champion picked up the Dragon and the Honolulu Maru off Jervis Bay.  To add to the already dangerous situation,  it was found with such a list the Honolulu Maru would not steer

The decision was made to attempt to get a hawser to the strained vessel to initiate a tow,  to attempt this in the horrendous condition was a daunting task, with great risk and difficulty they managed to secure the hawser.  At midnight on Saturday the Champion  managed to tow her battered charge to a safe anchorage inside Jervis Bay.

She appeared a pitiful picture,  suggestive of a ship whose heart had been broken. She had a terrible list and a long, ugly roll.

Although  she was now inside Jervis Bay she was still in a venerable position. Concerned about the sea coming more into the bay, the vessel was moved to a more protected area.

The war ship Dragon stood close by.

A gang of stevedoring hands was dispatched from Sydney to re-stow the cargo of the Honolulu Maru, she would then be taken to a safer anchorage.

Despite the ordeal, on inspection no damage was found to have occurred.
April 11thThe Honolulu Maru sailed safely into Sydney Harbour.


" Thus two proud ships battled with seas which know no fidelity to those who sail them,  and which in their bitterness and caprice and giant strength will betray a proud cruiser as readily as a hardy old carrier furrowing the trade routes."


An officer
'we never thought the Honolulu Maru would get into port'  "Everything was, of course in readiness to save the crew.  We were tossing about in the roughest seas we have ever struck on the cruise"

 a637724h Ref : State Library of NSW.

24 September 2015

New exhibition starting soon.


go here  for more information  -    http://www.jervisbaymaritimemuseum.asn.au/what-s-on.html 


Jervis Bay strange morning light

The bay was cast in a strange light this morning,  storm clouds were moving fast across the horizon,  one moment Point Perpendicular was clearly seen the next it had disappeared behind menacing rain filled clouds.

September Flowers

Despite the cold snap spring is still in the air within the museum gardens.

IMG_1546 IMG_1565 


They got “bushed”

1913, horses were still the main source of transport, time moved at a much slower pace, and people coped with long journeys in uncomfortable wagons and on horseback.

A traveller could hire a horse or a horse and buggy, or pay to be taken by a buggy driver from Nowra to Jervis Bay.

The trip from Nowra to Jervis Bay could take 4 hours or more depending on the conditions.

Here is a short but interesting story about four young gentlemen from the City,  who’s trip to Jervis Bay turned into more of an adventure than they expected. 

Ben Louttit’s passenger coach Huskisson.
The Ulladulla and Milton Times 1913.

A party of four young gentlemen from the city were on a visit to Nowra last weekend,  and thought to visit the Federal Naval port at Captains Point.  Each mounting a steed from the stables,  they got as far as Jervis Bay,  when they dismounted,  and left their charges,  not tethered,  on the boarder of some thick scrub whilst they hopped to obtain a better view of the Bay waters.  When they returned their horses had decamped,  The amateur horsemen commenced to scour the scrub country in search of their quest when the got “bushed” and failed to locate the horses.

Eventually they found their way,  after many miles of weary travel,  to a settlers home,  whom they prevailed upon to muster their steeds.  They returned to Nowra late at night – after the settler had rounded up the horses – without reaching their objective – Captains Point.


Local News 1893

The Kiama Independent, and Shoalhaven Advertiser

Meaning: Ultimo - In or of the month before the present one.

21 September 2015

Jervis Bay -The beach was strewn with dead cattle

The Argus Thursday 18 June 1908,
An attempt to swim some starving Victorian cattle ashore at Jervis Bay ended disastrously, nearly 50 animals being drowned. They were brought by the steamer Wyrallah. The beach was strewn with the carcases of the animals, which were no doubt too weak to reach the shore alive.

image S.S.Wyrallah – Lakes Entrance Victoria
Ref: Image Public Domain.
Museum Victoria Collections.

145 feet on the keel, with a beam of 22 feet, depth of hold 13ft. 6in., and is registered at about 400 tons


The loss of livestock on voyages between ports wasn’t an uncommon occurrence,  there are many reports of terrible losses of livestock associated in early coastal travel.
The Wyrallah incident was a little unusual in as much as the cattle drowned while trying to get them ashore.

218 cattle die on the S.S Anerley
Prior to the Wyrallah in June 1900 there had been a horrible incident where over 200 cattle had been killed on the steamer Anerley when she ran into a hurricane on a trip between Newcastle to Durban,  they had either been dashed about the ship, suffocated when battered down the holds, or washed overboard.  The Anerley laboured so bad her rails rolled completely underwater at times.
The crew were locked in a battle for two days not only trying to save the bullocks but the ship itself.
Just off Jervis Bay the storm abated and the crew took to throwing the carcases overboard.
Only 65 bullocks were left alive, but some were so badly injured they were destroyed before reaching Melbourne.


19 September 2015

Old houses of Huskisson

Until recently this old house has been hidden away behind thick bushes.
The changing face of Huskisson.
Since I took the  image above of the house on Duncan St, it has been demolished and at present all there is,  is a sorry looking empty block. 19th October 2016.

18 September 2015

Whale Bone and Horn

This image shows the detail of an amazing model on display at the museum.


Made by a French prisoner of war out of whale bone and horn in the 1800’s.
Forty six gun Royal Navy Frigate.
It’s approximately 400mm long - Photographed through glass.


Impure soaps kill more than intoxicating liquors

Shoalhaven Telegraph 1896 – Quite a dramatic comparison between using soap and drinking. I'm not sure if this would have the effect as intended.  The result might lead to more smelly people that would rather drink than wash.

Advertising 1899

Shoalhaven Telegraph 1899

15 September 2015

A tragedy of the sea – 120 miles East of Jervis Bay

The loss of the Barque Atacama - 13 lives lost. 
A harrowing ordeal.

Shoalhaven Telegraph -


The scene depicts the forlorn moment the sailors had to abandon the Atacama
Town and Country Journal 1898

The Atacama under the command of Captain Spruit since 1878 principally trading around the Australian coast to California and Puget Sound.
Built in 1975 by J.Smitcen – Alblasserdam - Netherlands.
Atacama 1298 tons gross
Length 194.5ft
Breath 40.0 ft
Depth. 25.10ft
Owner – Messrs Cowlishaw -
January 29th - Leaving Newcastle  bound for San Diego, the Atacama sailed with favourable light easterly winds and fine weather.

Saturday February 5th - The wind changed to a north-north-west,  and at 2p.m. suddenly veered to the south,  with a fresh breeze.  The vessel was all right,  and making the usual amount of water. 
Being a wooden ship,  and having been high out of the water for some time,  there were naturally crevices that did not close up,  but as she went along they soon closed,  and we were daily making less water in consequence.
The ship was going under easy canvas – three lower topsails and foresail – when the wind flew to south-ward.

Sunday, 6th. – The weather was much the same – but the barometer was rapidly falling.  At noon we took in the foresail and travelled very easy under the three lower topsails.
8 pm -  on inspection 2ft of water was found in the well,  the windmill and main pump were continually employed, but failed to decrease the water as expected.   The Captain made the decision to return to port if possible.

Monday, 7th – 4a.m., the vessel was turned through the wind (wearing ship) and headed for Sydney, some 540 miles distant.  The wind was blowing south,  with fresh gales.  The pumps were kept continuously going.  The ship was rolling very badly because of the high seas and the decreasing wind.  The foresail and maintop sail were set to help steady her.
9 a.m, The decision was made to try and get up steam on the donkey engine,  but no sooner was the fire underway than a heavy sea tumbled on board,  tore one of the eye-bolts out of the deck,  and the other three out of the framework of the donkey.  Thus the whole thing was adrift,  it took a round turn and smashed against the port bulwarks.
4 p.m, The donkey was in place and lashed securely.  they managed to get up steam, however It broke down after 2 hours of work, and the crew had to fall back to all hands on the pumps.  With the main pumps and windmill at work,  the water still kept gaining.
The wind had shifted to the north-west,  making it impossible to make for port.

Tuesday, 8th – the ship was found to have run 42 miles in 24 hours,  and Sydney was still 420 miles away.  The wind had changed to a moderate westerly,  and despite all efforts the inflow of water steadily increased.
4 p.m – there was 7ft 6in of water in the hold.
9 p.m – The wind had freshened for the north-west,   The barometer showed steady at 28.80,  and the  water in the well was 8ft. All hands were tired out with the continuous pumping since Sunday.

Wednesday, 9th – The men took it in turn for four to go below and 8 at the pumps.  The wind was now strong from the north-west.  It was decided to provision all there boats and get them ready for launching in case of necessity.
3 p.m – the water was over the coals forward and aft,  and the ship was rolling very much.
4 p.m – there was 11 ft of water in the
hold,  and it was gaining rapidly.
6 p.m – the boats were put out.
7.30 p.m – after sounding the hold, and finding 12ft 6in of water the crew left the ship.
2 a.m - The boats lay near the ship all night,  the wind veered to the south-east,  by daylight nothing was to be seen of the ship,  and the boats made sail for Sydney.

There were three boats in all.  At starting fine weather prevailed,  with easterly winds.

Saturday 12th – Observations showed they had made 240 miles.  By this stage the boats had separated and were out of sight.
By afternoon the wind had increased from the east,  and a heavy sea had filled the captains boat,  the men had more than they could do to keep her bailed out.
11.05 p.mThe boat turned turtle,”  throwing everyone into the water. 
One of the five.  a lad named Allen, 15 years of age, was lying in the bottom of the boat wrapped in a blanket sunk at once and was not seen again.  ,  .
The rest clung with great difficulty  in the tossing sea to the keel of the boat, but presently another large wave righted the craft,  and the men clambered into the water filled boat.

Figueroa was the hero of the voyage.

The Captain. - “I went down a considerable depth under the water,  I did not attempt to swim, for swim I could not”,  Boatswain Joseph Figueroa saved my life”.

imageThe captain was washed off the keel twice after it had capsized, and out of the boat once after she was righted, going over on the port side and coming up on the starboard side…being rescued on each occasion by Boatswain Figuaro.
Figuaroa lashed the Captain to the boat.

Figuaroa – “ I was very tired”, he said: “but all the others were worse than I was”,  “I unshipped the rudder and tried with it to splash water out”.

Thrilling adventure and cruel privations
Sunday 13th – The men were hit by a furious gale,  terrific squalls,  heavy rain and mountainous seas,  which rolled indecently over the small boat – full of water all the time. The conditions of things continued until Wednesday Morning.

Tuesday 15th  - The men had been in a water filled boat for three days and 18 hours,  with nothing either to drink or eat.

Captain Spruit - “ I kept 2 buttons in my mouth the whole time on account of the thirst”, “ my god it was an awful time”.

The weather finally moderated.

Wednesday 16thFigueroa bailed out the boat and hoisted the sail and steered for shore.  He had actually sailed the small boat with the little main sail 220 miles in two days.
They saw a distressed ship in the distance (the Industrie) and they made for her,  trying to cut her off,  so as to get on board.
11.30am – Fendwick’s tug-boat, the Leveret, came up to take the “Industrie” in tow,  but seeing the small life boat under sail,  Captain Robert Boyce of the  Fendwick,  headed for them first,  taking the survivors on board and providing them with their first food and water since Saturday.

It wasn’t possible to hoist the life boat on board the Leveret,  so they took her in tow,  but during the night she tore her bows out and got adrift.

Captain Spruit - “Boatswain Joseph Figueroa was always a good man,  and I cannot speak to highly of him”, “ Pinto, another Chillian with us in the boat,  was very bad,  and would have died, I believe had we not been rescued when we were”.

image J.Figuaro – J.Pinto -   The Sydney Mail.

A dogs life at best.
Speaking of the Lad Allen,  the Captain explained that he was 15 yeas of age,  and it was his first voyage,  He tried to persuade him not to go the sea,  and told his parents it was a dog’s life at the best,  and that he was very silly,  but he would go,  having set his mind on it.

Captain Spruit – “He had every confidence in the ship – was, in fact,  quite proud of her – and regarded her as a strong, fine vessel. he had been in her two years and a half”.
She got strained on her last voyage going around the Cape of Good Hope,  but was thoroughly overhauled in Sydney and the captain felt sure she was  “a right as nine pence”.

Thursday 17th
Hundreds of people rush to the Quay to meet the shipwrecked crew.

”The news of the tragedy caused a sensation in Sydney, the news spread like wildfire,  and hundreds of people rushed to the Quay,  where the tug usually berths,  to meet the shipwrecked crew.
11.30am – The tug ranged alongside,  Captain Spruit was a well known Sydney ship-master, was recognised on the deck with three others.  It needed only a glance to show that they had passed through a terrible experience”.

Two boats containing 12 men still missing.
On receipt of the news of the disaster the Marine Board took prompt steps to search for the crews of the two missing boats,  in case they had successfully weathered the elements. The pilot steamer Captain Cook proceeded at once to search for the boats.  The Ajax from Newcastle was also ordered to go in search,  and all the coastal look–out stations were advised to keep careful watch for any signs of the unfortunate men.

The search proved fruitless and the missing men were never seen again.

image Robert Sheiner Steward on the Atacama - The Sydney Mail

A strange Coincidence.
With the abandonment of the Atacama,  Gertrude Spruit aged 14, a daughter of the captain had a dream,  in which she saw the whole scene,  down to the smallest details and related it to her mother.  so when the father was driven home,  the family were not surprised. Another notable thing is that Captain Spruit kept a diary throughout,  so that if his body was found the notebook would tell the story of the Atacama.

Ships crews were made up of men from all over the world

During the Marine Board inquiry there was much discussion about the seaworthiness of the Atacama and the responsibility of the owners and Captain for taking an unseaworthy boat to sea risking life and property.
Conflicting evidence from the ships surveyors and repairers added to the drama…an article in the Bulletin at the time found the newspaper in the courts fighting a case of libel.

  Missing boat found

image Friday 3rd June 1898 – Albury Banner and Wodonga Express

Meaning - A painter is a rope that is attached to the bow of a dinghy,
or other small boat, and used for tying up or towing.


image Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate - 28 February 1898