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.

19 August 2016

Wreck of the William Coombe

April 1931.

Three Italian Fishermen had a lucky escape when their 39-ton steam launch William Coombe was driven ashore on one of the three small islands north of Jervis Bay known as the Drum and Drumsticks.

Steaming through a heavy sea their trouble commenced when a steam pipe burst, rendering the vessel inoperable and unmanagable.  An anchor was put down straight away,  but it soon carried away in the heavy sea, in a few minutes the William Coombe had drifted onto the rocks.   It soon became apparent she had been badly holed,  and the three fisherman,  Sam Puglesi,  David de Costo and his son,  took to the life boat.  Before they had reached the small beach nearby the vessel had disappeared.  Then they commenced the long walk to Nowra,   but they were overtaken by a motor lorry which conveyed them to Nowra.

The mens limited knowledge of english made it difficult for the police at Nowra to ascertain full details of the floundering.

The William Coombe was a timber vessel built at Drummoyne in 1929 by William Griffiths, valued at 5000 pounds.  She had been specially designed for schnapper and lobster fishing and was elaborately equipped with fishing gear.  She was also fitted with wireless and electric light.  She was owned by Cam and Sons, trawler owners of Sydney, but was  chartered to the Puglesi brothers who made Nowra their headquarters.  The vessel was insured.


Located north of Jervis Bay the rocks themselves have a dramatic history,  once shrouded in controversy as local residents fought to have the area protected from being used by the Navy and Airforce as target practice.  Because of the bombing the pinnacles have been reduced from their original height.

T.S.S Wandra.
More famously known because of the total loss of the T.S.S.Wandra which ran aground on the rocks and became a total wreck on the 15th November 1915. 

Today the area is more widly known for a large seal colony that uses the rocks as a haul out.   This has been a relatively new occurance as the seals only appeared as a permanent colony over the last few years.  If you would like to experience this beautiful location the Jervis Bay tour operators run regular trips there in their fast boats.




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