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.

23 November 2015

The Cruise of the Wolverene.

Jervis Bay has played a fundamental roll in the Navy's history.
The Navy has and still does use the bay to developed and train their sailors.   It was first entered by the British Navy In August 1791 by Lieutenant Richard Bowen, aboard the convict transport ship Atlantic, part of the Third Fleet, he sailed into the bay and named it in honour of Admiral John Jervis, under whom he had served.

The navy were  regular visitors and used the bay for rest and recreation as well as the all important shot practice

In 1889  the H.M.C.S Wolverine left Sydney Harbour bound for Jervis Bay  to engage in shot practice.  She was a well know warship and had been in Australia  since 1877,  and for some years was the flagship of the Imperial Squadron in Australian Waters.

Progress down the coast was slow,  on leaving the Sydney Heads she encountered relatively calm conditions,  but as she stood out a few miles she encountered a heavy roll, which catching the vessel broadside on,  caused her to tumble about a great deal.

The wind being from the west,  and blowing strongly fore and aft canvas was set,  and this steadied her a little.

A large percentage of her crew aboard formally belonged to the British navy.
These old men-o'-wars -,men showed great aptitude in the performance of their duties,  being noticeable for their activity aloft.


 hms corvette wolverene
 Untitled-1 image



64 pounder.
On the journey south they took the opportunity to drill with the converted 64-ponder guns.
Although they had fine weather progress was very slow,  from 51/2 to 6 knots per hour,  This slow rate was owing to the fact that beneath the waterline the ship is very foul,  having about six months growth on her.

Sunset Friday.
Shoalhaven bight was sighted,  and they dropped anchor in Jervis Bay at half past 9 o'clock.

Nearly one-fourth of the ships company suffered from sea sicknesses during the run down.

Saturday morning.
The weather this day was fine,  she ran out to sea and engaged in shot practice at  a floating target.

A party of officers and the press representatives  put off from the ship,  landed near Hole in the Wall,  and walked across the hill to the Jervis Bay Lighthouse.  The track lay through thick bush, covered with a luxuriant undergrowth of grass, bracken and native flowers,


On emerging from the bush we crossed an open grassy plain for the lighthouse.
The walk across the breezy uplands proved very enjoyable after the monotonous and never-ceasing roll of the ship on her way down from Port Jackson.

We found the light-keeper and his numerous family in the best of health,  and the lighthouse itself and it's surroundings were in excellent condition,  everything being neat and clean.

Looking seaward from the lighthouse the view is extremely grand.  The great ocean stretched away in front looking somewhat desolate and lonely,  while the long easterly swell dashed on the cliffs at our feet with terrific violence threw huge masses of white feathery spray high into the air,  which reflected all the colours of the rainbow as it fell back into the sea again.

Lieutenant Cohen, assisted by Dr. Knaggs and Midshipman Lewington took a number of views of the lighthouse and the occupants off the houses situated on the bleak, lonely headland,  after which we started the return journey,  leaving a number of telegraphic messages to be dispatched to the city prior to bidding the people who live in this lonely spot farewell.


A stiff trudge bought us to the margins of Jervis Bay,  where the cutter was waiting to transfer us to the Wolverene,  lying about a mile away from the shore.

2.15pm  the crew manned the capstan and raised the anchor, to the tune of "Ballyhooley"
in true old-day man-o'-war style.  played by the fife and drum band as the tars beat to their work.

A target was then dropped over the side,  and the Wolverene steamed round while the gun's crews fired at it at ranges varying from 1000 to 1500 yards.  Some excellent practice was made,  the majority of the shots falling on either side of the object aimed at, the general direction of the missiles being good.  Nearly every shot would have holed a vessel.

Riflemen were also stationed on the tops,  and these took long shots at the target: but despite the inducement offered by Captain Hixon of " a pound for every man who strikes it",  they were unable to hit the flag,  owing to the unsteadiness of the vessel.
At the conclusion of the shot practice we stood out to sea,  passing close underneath Point Perpendicular at about 5p.m.   This is a grand headland,  the great perpendicular wall of rock rising out of it's ocean bed to the height if some 200ft.

After clearing the great headland  we stood well out to sea,  obtaining a good view of a fine four-masted vessel,  which,  with most of her canvas spread to the breeze,  was heading for Sydney as our good ship left the bay behind her.

Leaving Jervis Bay.

Darkness now settled over the face of the old ocean,  the only signs of life visible to our eyes being the lights of passing vessels and the rays of the friendly beacon shining forth from the lighthouse on the now far distant cape.

The Wolverene made many trips to Jervis Bay for ‘shot practice” but this particular journey to Jervis Bay was at an end,  this report gives us a valuable insight into the life and times of Jervis Bay and the navy around the late 1880's.

 HMS-Wolverene-the-deck-state-libraryDeck of the H.M.S Wolverene
And what became of the H.M.C.S Wolverene?
In the early 1880's the Wolverene was presented by the Imperial Government to the New South Wales Government as a drill and training ship for the New South Wales Naval Brigade.
The title of the ship was then changed from H.M.S Wolverine to H.M.C.S (Her Majesty's Colonial Ship) Wolverene. The vessel served as a training ship for the Naval Brigade for quite a number of years.
At the end of her service in that capacity the Wolverene was sold to Mr. Peter Ellison, of Millers Point, Sydney.  Later the vessel loaded coal for South America,  and during the voyage her seams opened,  whereupon the vessel put into Auckland, New Zealand,  where she was condemned in March 1895.  The vessel was subsequently broken up in Auckland Harbour.

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