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.

13 September 2016

Crookhaven Heads.

Wrecks and Melancholy.

image1822 - Alexander Berry entered the Crookhaven River with the Royal George,  a vessel of 500 tons,  charthered by him in London. Berry found the entrance to the Shoalhaven River was to dangerous and impossible owing to the shoals with which the entrance was dotted.  He entered the Crookhaven River and proceeded to cut the first canal to be formed in Australia  three quarters of a mile in length joining the Crookhaven to the Shoalhaven River,  the canal has since grown to be wide and deep making the bar crossing at Crookhaven Heads  the main entrance for vessels of all descriptions into the Shoalhaven River.
Being safer than the Shoalhaven River entrance didn’t mean the Crookhaven River entrance didn’t pose it’s own problems.  As can be seen by the list below there is history of catastrophe and and lucky escapes associated with crossing the bar.

This is by no means a complete list, there are other stories to find and tell.

Even now in these so called “modern times” when lifesaving and communication equipment are readily available, vessels and people still get into difficulty crossing the bar,  sometimes with tragic endings.

1858 – The Schooner Mountsbay. Once the news of the wreck was known, Captain M’Cue of the Steamer Nora Creina,  sent out his lifeboat,  manned by a portion of his crew and two volunteers ashore,  who were accompanied by Mr. Barker,  mate of the steamer and Mr. W.C. Morrison of Greenwell Point.  Fortunatly these parties saved all the cargo but the schooner became a total wreck. - All hands were saved..

1853 – Wooden Ketch Susan. From Broulee, 27 tons, went ashore during a heavy gale – reports indicate all hands perished.

- The Barque Solon
, 565 tons with Captain H. Rohde left Sydney at 10a.m. bound for Geelong with a cargo of 35 tons of coal, 35 tons of hay and a quantity of ships stores.
The vessels head was kept offshore in the S.E wind. The S.E wind started to develop into a gale and all sail was reduced until she was under close-reefed topsails and reefed courses.   A heavy easterly swell continued to set in,  and the ship continued working to the southward until morning at about 3 a.m.  when breakers were discovered,  every inch of canvas the vessel could bear was at once set,  and endeavourers made to claw her off the land, but without effect,  and shortly after she was lifted bodily onto the rocks,  her head being at the time to the southward.
The ship was driven over the outer batch of rocks into deep water,  but she was still separated some distance from the main land. The vessel broke up rapidly,  and the crew with great difficulty saved their lives,  with the exception of one lad,  named Louis Lase a native of Britain,  who was unfortunately drowned.
Daylight revealed the vessel had gone ashore at the south side of Crookhaven Heads.
The hull split into three parts,  with the sea making a clear breach over the ship,  there was little hope of saving anything beyond spars and part of the rigging and sails.

1864 - The Barque Pacific, During devastating floods and gales that inundated the farms and towns of the Nowra Shoalhaven region, two vessels were lost .  The 313 ton American Built Barque Pacific,  property of Mr.. William Wright, of Sydney, under the command of Captain Chase became a total wreck at Crookhaven heads. The beach below the Crookhaven Heads was strewed with candles.
One man was lost after jumping from the ship onto the rocks.

1864 – The Ketch Sarah, from Sydney was lost at Crookhaven Heads during the same storm as above - one man was lost after being washed from the helm.

1873 – The S.S. Coolangatta, paddle steamer, 87 tons, during floods and in ballast she parted from one sea anchor and dragged the other.  She was swept out of the river and capsized,  the crew escaped with great difficulty in their boat. She was later picked up, bottom upwards and during an attempt to tow her into the Crookhaven River and right her,  she sank in deep water.

1880 – The Schooner Henrietta.
In ballast between Sydney and the Shoalhaven went ashore in squally conditions on Wednesday night at 11.pm,  by Thursday she had parted amidships and became a total wreck.   all the crew were saved.

1893 – The Result
, 56 tons, built at Wangaroa N.Z in 1882, on a dark and overcast night the Result under full sail went ashore, near Crookhaven Heads, Master Walter Graham, and the crew were saved and were engaged in dismantling the wreck. The marine board found captain Graham guilty of careless navigation and suspended his licence of three months.

1899 – The entrance was becoming a very big problem,  large swells had cut away a mangrove flat on the northern entrance and debris and silt were making the bar imposible for the steamers to cross except on very high tides…this was causing delays to shipping and with the improvements to the railroad between the Shoalhaven and Sydney the need to spend money to fix the problem wasn’t as high on the local and federal governments adjenda as it might have been in the past.

1901 - The Ketch Chippewa 26 tons, wrecked at Crookhaven Heads during a heavy gale – reports indicate that all hands were lost,  she lay in about 60ft of water and attempts were made to salvage her,  but when the cables gave away, she went to pieces. .

1907 - The S.S. Allowrie,  grounded at Crookhaven Heads on the 30th.  But since floated off  and apparently undamaged.


Allowrie crossing the bar 1905.

1908 - S.S. Moruya, built in Preston England she is a twin screw steamship of 525 tons,  belonging to the Illawarra and South Coast S.N. Company Ltd.. went aground at Crookhaven Heads,  she remained fast, but she wasn't in a dangerous position and was floated off the next day.

imageS.S Moruya. REF: https://www.flickr.com/photos/powerhouse_museum/8029078562

1907 – Rocket Brigade, was stationed at Crookhaven Heads. Continue reading

1908 – The S.S. Peterborough, 159 tons, built by Atlas Engineering Co., Woolwich, New South Wales for the Shellharbour S N Co Ltd.  grounded near Crookhaven Heads,  but was not in a dangerous position and was refloated on the next high tide.

S.S. Peterborough. 

1909 - The Ketch Wave. The well know ketch Wave went aground at 3.30p.m inside Crookhaven Heads while attempting to beat into the river.  As the sea was smooth,  the vessel was in no immediate danger and was floated off at high tide.

1901 - S.S. Ben Bolt. wooden steamer, 83 tons grounded at Crookhaven Heads,  she was refloated at the next high tide..

1910 – Building a breakwater.  With fears of the entrance becoming totally unpassable because of silting the decision was finall made to build a breakwater to help alleviate the washing away of the Commerong Island Point,  at the time these photo’s were taken the bar was almost completly blocked to steaming vessels.

1- Hoisting stone from pontoon to breakwater.
2 -Mode of tipping the stone.

image3- Crookhaven pilot station opposite the breakwater.
image4 - Quarry from which the stone is obtained. It is about 200 yards from the shoalhaven bridge,  and the stone has to be hauled about twenty miles to the breakwater.
5 – Crookhaven Lighthouse.

1911 – S.S. Coomonderry
– 147 tons steel steam ship, Aground as Crookhaven Heads - at this time the entrance to the river was very badly silted, going from, and coming into the river posed many challenges without the added pressure of the river becoming to shallow to cross except on dead high tide.  After being grounded Captain Willes was so concerned he wrote a report to the South Coast Steam Navigation Company, Ltd; outling his fears.

"I consider the crossing is almost as shoal as it was after the January flood,  and if immediate steps are not taken the Coomonderry will only be able to cross at very high tides.   In the present condition I do not think we could manage it at the neap tide at all.  As it is,  on high tide we can only cross in at high water,  instead of three hours before,   and this will be a serious thing to be so delayed.   There is no tug at Crookhaven Heads,  and when a steamer gets into trouble she must depend upon her own steam and anchors"

Full-size imageS.S Coomonderry – In rough seas off Bernie Tasmania.   She was originally a steamship but was converted to a fore and aft schooner.
Stranded on the shore in Bernie Tasmania.

1912 – The S.S. Brooklyn, Wrecked at Crookhaven Heads, crew of 8 saved...continue To previous post about the S.S. Brooklyn.

1924 – S.S. Bodalla – Grounded on rocks Crookhaven Heads. Continue Reading below. 

1934 - The S.S. Unique, Wooden screw steamer,  84/58 tons. steaming from Sydney, she Sprang a leak and foundered off Crookhaven Heads,  Crew of seven saved

1936 - A launch,  skippered by Mr. Hope Bartlet and accompanied by his mechanic, Mr. Frank Ball, left Crookhaven River at night,  soon after leaving the entrance the weather changed,  the sea began to rise in front of a developing north east gale,,,motoring for some time without making any headway and starting to ship a sea or two,   it was decided they should return to the safety of the river.  Trying to enter the river in total darkness, the launch ran right up onto rocks smashing a hole. The men managed to find safety by scrambling across the rocks and getting ashore,.  The vessel became a total wreck.



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