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9 June 2016

Captain Brown quietly and quickly told his passengers of the imminent peril.

The story of the Balclutha clearly illustrates the transitional period between steam driven ships and sail. In this case both modes of propulsion were inadequate to save the vessel by themselves, but by the skillfull use of both disaster was averted.

With the recent run of large swells hitting our shores, causing damage to coastal ports and vessels right along the south coast, I though it very timely to post the remarkable story of the S.S Balclutha and her lucky escape 152 years ago from disaster.  The captain and  crew displayed amazing courage and skill as they endured unimaginable hardship in their endeavour to save the ship and passengers, and finally arrive safe inside the welcoming  headlands of  Jervis Bay.




 State Library Queensland.

9th June 1864.
The A. S. N. Company's steamer Balclutha left Rockhampton on Monday, the 6th instant, with fine weather, expecting to reach Sydney on the following Friday. The first portion of the voyage was in every respect agreeable, and until after passing Cape Moreton nothing occurred to indicate that a change in the weather would take place.

10th June.
On Thursday night however, Captain Brown thought it prudent to deviate from his usual course
, and to stand off the land.  On the following morning, the gale increasing, the sea rolled up in mountain waves, higher and higher, he kept further away from our ¡ron bound lee shore, and was consequently well out to sea, to this circumstances alone must be attributed the ultimate safety of the steamer.

For several days the land of course was not sighted, a dense mist hemmed the steamer in on all sides and the consumption of fuel was so great that all the coal on board was exhausted, and it became necessary to use every available means to keep up the steam, and for this purpose spars, fittings, and even casks of tallow were burned.

11th June.
The wind had increased to a perfect hurricane,
but all fore and aft sails were set, steam got up and the vessel heading S. SE. was again plunging madly in the heavy sea,  in the hope of clearing the dreaded shore.

12th June.
Daylight at last came and all eyes were anxiously cast to leeward,  but still no land in sight.
The engines are again stopped,  and the vessel kept under fore and aft canvas.
The foredeck house was cut up quickly into pieces, and soon passed down to the stoke hole, when at noon land was sighted,  all hope seemed now gone.

The gale moderated a little,  by which time the land was only 2 miles distant.  The ship being unable to work off,  steam was got up.
4 pm..
Captain Brown tacked,  and she came round,  and headed to sea,  the wind suddenly shifted to S. the steamer heading E. to E.N.E.
Large quantities of water broke on board,  but that was disregarded in the excitement consequent on her rapidly leaving the dreaded shore.
The engines stopped – wood and coal all done; sail however was kept on her until 8pm; when as suddenly the welcome light on Cape Jervis was decried bearing N.N.E.
The weather had moderated, by daylight Jervis light bore north.

13th June - 8am.
The captain made sail and kept the ship away,  and with some dunnage from the after-hold and bulkheads hastilly pulled down steam was again got up.

After this portions trip the Balclutha entered Jervis Bay on Monday morning, about 10 o'clock.

So perilous was the position of the steamer, shortly before her arrival to Jervis Bay, that the captain had resolved to beach her at Brush Island, near Bateman's Bay, and the anchors were ready, and everything prepared for so doing, when to their great relief, the wind suddenly shifted, and they were enabled to clear the land and make Jervis Bay.

Captain Sullivan, in the Hunter, steamer, had put into Jervis Bay on Saturday morning,and yesterday brought on the passengors by the Balclutha, about thirty in number.

The conduct of Captain Brown and Mr. Hills, the chief officer, who never left the deck for three days and nights,  and indeed the whole crew is spoken of by the passengers as beyond praise,  and as a slight token of their asteem for their untiring exersions displayed and skill with which the vessel was handled,  they have presented Captain Brown with fifty guineas, Mr Hills with fifteen guineas, and the second officer with 10 guineas.

Ship Type: Iron passenger-cargo steamship
Tonnage: 433grt (1868: 456grt, 262nrt)
Length: 145.0ft (1868: 202.0ft)
Breadth: 26 feet (1868: 23.3ft)
Draught: 9.5 feet

Last seen 1881 by the steamer CAHORS, observed in tremendous seas  on a trip between Sydney for Melbourne with a cargo of coal. Presumed sunk. All 22 crew missing.



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