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.

10 June 2016

The age of Steam and Sail.

There was a period in maritime history when steam driven vessels and sailing vessels were in a state of transition.  Sail had been the only means by which large loads of cargo and people could be transported from place to place relativly easily and cheaply.

Steam engines were a slow development around the 19th century, mostly used for river journeys in small boats, as the technology improved, timber was replaced with coal as fuel to drive the steam engine. Smaller more powerful engines were developed and were being used by “coastal steamers”.

Many of the first coastal steamers still carried a full set of sails, they were known as ‘auxiliaries”.  The engines were used to drive large paddle wheels attached to the sides of the vessel,  but their efficency depended a lot on the conditions they encountered during their journey.

Was the 150 ton “Sophia Jane”,  Built in England in 1827,  equiped with two 50 horse power engines, she sailed to Sydney Australia in 1831, and was the first coastal steamer to be used in N.S.W.  The vessel was a regular visitor to Jervis Bay and South Huskisson.


Ian Henson's painting of the Sophia Jane loading Wool at the wharf near South Huskisson, this painting can be seen at the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum.

Another paddle wheel (sail) steamer to operate along the south coast was the 117 ton wooden paddle steamer,  P.S. Mynora.  She went ashore in 1864 just south of Jervis Bay on the beautiful “Steamers Beach”,  which is named after her. 


By the 1860’s compound steam engines were introduced and the paddle wheel was replaced by screw propellar propulsion.  A drive shaft went directly to the stern driving propellars.  This development meant steam vessels could travel greater distances more efficently.   Sail was still relied upon to cut running costs and could still be more efficient in the right conditions. 

There were many Australian built timber steamers plying the Australian coast,  they required quite a lot of coal  to run the engines.  Besieged by bad weather the steamers could run out of coal and be forced to use their sails.

On occasion Jervis Bay was a convenient place for steam/sailing ships to seek refuge in foul weather.image
The story in the previous post of the Balclutha is a perfect illustration of the use of steam and sail to save a vessel.

Over time steam became the prefered means of propulsion,  the ships became larger, ports provided coal so the ships could restock their holds along their journey, their capacity for carrying coal increased,   passengers could now travel in luxury.

Steamers didn’t have to rely on favourable winds, they were able to leave port in almost any conditions,  the end of the great sailing ships was drawing to a close…

Shipbuilders along the coast had to adapt to the changes, and the shipbuilders operating at Jervis Bay started to produce steam powered vessels of all sizes.

A beautiful example of this was the S.S HILLMEADS 206 gross tons,  Length:126'4" x Width:27'5" x Depth:9'2". She was a wooden twin screw steamship, driven by  2 compounded engines producing 28 nhp.
Built as a passenger-cargo vessel by E Pritchard at Jervis Bay New South Wales in the Joseph Dent ship yard on the banks of Currambene creek in 1907 for the Numba Steam Shipping Co Ltd.
The vessel worked the trade from Sydney to Moruya, Bawleys Head and and Batemans Bay carrying passengers and timber.

S.S Hillsmeads – continue reading.

Some of the many vessels built at Huskisson.
1874 – The Australian - Wooden Steamship/schooner
1874 - Fleetwing – Steamer, builder James Hardiman.
1876 - Maggie – Steamer, builder Joseph Dent Jnr.
1879 - Heka – Steamer, builder George Dent Snr.
1881 – Meteor – Steamer, James Dent.

There are many more and their story and their stories are yet to be told.


No comments :

Post a Comment