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.

22 September 2016


These are some of the headlines that announced the narrow escape from disaster of the S.S. Eden in 1909.


S,S, Eden in Eden Harbour – no copyright restrictions.

Today with the aid of modern navigation equipment,  communication and radar,  it's hard to imagine a ship running into the imposing cliffs of Point Perpendicular,  but for the coasting vessels of the early 20th Century given the "right" or "wrong" set of circumstances Point Perpendicular could pose a serious problem.  Point Perpendicular headland is one of the most easterly projections into the Tasman Sea, coasting vessels often sailing and steaming close to shore and without due diligence,  could find themselves on a collision course with these imposing cliffs.

vessel at eden wharf

In this case it was a slightly strange combination of  circumstances that caused the mishap and near disaster of the Luxuriant Steam Ship Eden.

Saturday 18th 1909

Sailing on smooth seas  between Eden and Sydney, the S.S Eden carried  100 passengers including 40 to 50 women and children and around 30 crew, and cargo,  Captain S.Bishop who was temporarily relieving Captain G. Walker, was staying closer in to shore than would normally have been regarded as prudent or necessary.  

The first unusual circumstance.
At the time of the accident striking workers created  a shortage in the supply of coal for the steamers. To keep their ships operating  Captains were forced to burn timber and coal combined.  Staying close to the coast made the journey shorter and would burn less fuel, but with it came increased danger.

The second unusual circumstance.
6.30 a.m  - At the time the S.S Eden was plying the coast at half speed,  there were  bush fires burning around the south coast,  Jervis Bay area,  causing a heavy haze to drift off shore and hang low over the sea,  this combined with a dense fog  obscured the view of objects ahead.

7 - 8a.m  -  Ulladulla light had been shortly spotted,  the Eden cut straight across Wreck Bay and kept close in.

Breakers Ahead - The man on lookout saw the cliffs and rushed aft,  the captain in the wheel house ordered the the engines to be put into full speed astern,  but it was to late,  and the steamer crashing on,  was brought upon the rocks.
Most of the passengers were in their bunks when the impact took place,  others were knocked off their feet.   On feeling the shock which sent a violent shutter  from stem to stern, the passengers quickly rushed to the decks, many still in their night attire to learn what happened.  At first they were greatly alarmed, the 300ft towering cliff face loomed from the haze above their heads,  the impact was violent enough to dislodge large overhanging rocks which came crashing down around the ship,  one piece hit the ships bow plates with such force it became firmly embedded in the ship. Captain Bishop and his officers reassured the excited passengers,  telling them that there was absolutely no danger.  Captain Bishop and his crew acted with great coolness,  the stewards and stewardesses acting under Captain Bishops command served out the life belts, this caused more alarm amongst the passengers,  but the officers reassured the passengers this was done purely as a precaution,  the boats were swung out and lowered to the rail,  but they were never needed.

The Eden responded to her engines and was backed off straight away,  an examination showed that the fore-peak had become flooded,  the bulk head kept the remainder of the vessel perfectly tight. The ship was examined and found to be badly damaged below the water line Captain Bishop  judged the Eden to be sea worthy and without delay headed the Eden away for Sydney.   The wells were sounded periodically during the run up the coast,  and it was found that the water had not extended to the holds, the pumps were not required,  and consequently the cargo was not damaged.

The Eden was fitted with two bulkheads and therefore if the damage had been much greater than it proved to be she would have remained afloat.

Miraculous Escape.
One of the firemen was asleep in his bunk,  and the port anchor,  coming in contact with the rocks,  forced the hawsepipe within a few inches of his head,  he was thrown out of his bunk by the shock of the impact.

Damage Report.
The survey of the Eden in dock showed the damage forward is of a very extensive character,  and the opinion was expressed by experts that the vessel has a very narrow escape from disaster.  The whole forefoot was turned right to starboard,  thus exposing an irregular gap of great dimensions.  The whole of the plates below the 10ft water mark at the stem were either broken or fractured,  and the frames and floors in the vicinity of the damaged stem are in a buckled and broken condition.


REF: http://www.photosau.com.au/cos/scripts/ExtSearch.asp?SearchTerm=089597

Description of vessel.
The Eden was a steel screw steamer of 693 tons gross,  purpose built in 1900,  by Russel and Co of Port Gladscow, for the Illawarra Steamship Company  she was 197 ft long, beam 26.6 ft,  depth 16.6ft, Propelled by two compound engines producing 750 HP.   Luxurious accommodation had been provided for 60 first class and 12 second class passengers,  and all the modern improvements, including elaborate refrigerating plant and a complete installation of electric light.  The main salon and state rooms are unusually large and handsome and tastefully decorated and furnished.

Captain S. Bishop one of the oldest and most careful of the coasting masters was temporarily relieving Captain G Walker at the time of the accident,  but it had been arranged that he should take over permanent command of the vessel.  Captain Walker having been selected to command the companies new luxuriant steamer Merimbula,  which in 1928 went ashore and sunk after running into Drum and Drumsticks near Jervis Bay. Continue reading about the Merimbula
The Eden at this time was laid up in dock,  but was immediately rushed back into service to replace the Merimbula.

Other reported incidents involving the Eden.

1905 - The Eden had previously survived a tremendous gale off the coast of Jervis Bay.  Seeking shelter in Jervis Bay, the Eden entering the bay with great difficulty,  she took four hours to pick up the lighthouse,  Sea after sea broke over the steamer,  smashing the fittings and saloon furniture.  The passenger of whom there were a large number had an exciting time,  and the women suffered severely, weeping and praying all night.   The weather was so tempestuous that the female passengers were not the only ones on board who thought the Eden would never survive the storm.
The Eden sheltered in the bay until the weather moderated and arrived in Tathra  three days late.

1910 - Tidal Wave.
A tidal wave was experienced at Ulladulla on the south coast.  The weather was rough outside,  but the steamer Eden was loading in comparative comfort.  Suddenly huge seas broke completely over the wharf,  carrying 400 sleepers and everything portable with them,  The mooring ropes were snapped and to save herself the Eden had to stand out to sea.  Such a thing has never before been know at Ulladulla.

1921 -- The Eden was used to carry cargo and passengers to relieve Tasmania which was cut off during a seaman’s strike.

1929 - Man Lost Overboard.
A passenger went missing and presumed to have fallen overboard somewhere between Bermagui and Sydney.  Aged between 50 and 60 years,  When the Eden left Sydney the man was on board,  but his bunk was found to be unoccupied and he was no where to be seen.

1933 - The Eden was scuttled at Tathra.

Hawsepipe - A ship’s hawsepipe is the pipe passing through the bow section of a ship that the anchor chain passes through.
Forefoot - The area of a ship’s hull where the keel and stem are joined.
Stem – The most forward part of a ships bow, referring to the timber between the forward end of the keel and the deck.


The red hawsepipe can be clearly seen in the bow of the Lady Denman Ferry.
In this case it’s very small,  but in a larger vessel the pipe can be quite substantial and weigh many kilo’s.




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