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 November 2016

Prince Alfred disappears without trace.


Another melancholy entry in the book of reports of wrecked, foundered, missing vessels and thier crews in the coasting trade along the south east coast of Australia.

The Prince Alfred.
Built in Balmain in 1866 she was a 56 ton timber ketch, 74ft 9in long, beam 18ft 3 in, depth of hold, 6ft 8 in. She was docked three years earlier,  re-metalised and otherwise overhauled. Owned by a Mr.. Dickson and  Mr.George Brown.    George Brown was making his first trip on the vessel as part owner and master.   Prior to his personal investment in the vessel he had sailed her for 18 months.

She left Sydney on the 22nd May 1891, in good ballast and trim,  bound for Mosquito Bay, in Bateman's Bay, to load lumber and back with a crew of 4, Captain Charles Brown, master;  James Kirklaldy, mate;  native of Newcastle N.S.W ;  L. Pascal, cook, native of France, 32 years of age;  and J. Gilbert,  able seaman, native of England,  27 years of age.  Captain Brown leaves a wife and two children.
Lucky for one, unlucky for another.
Mate James Kirklady had replaced Mr. S. Page, only two days before because of unforeseen circumstances, , unfortunately for himself,  he left a wife and small child unprovided for in Sydney.

Approaching Jervis Bay she ran headlong into increasing gale force southerly winds, driving a  large dangerous swell.   At the time the “May Howard and another unknown schooner” were in her company, all three vessels endeavoured to run into Jervis Bay for shelter,  only the May Howard succeeded.  The Prince Alfred and the other unknown vessel finding it impossible to enter,  shaped for Sydney, running before the gale the unknown schooner reached Sydney safely,  the Prince Alfred never arrived,  and concerns were quickly raised about her safety.

The last sighting.
Some time later she was seen by  Captain Craighead,  the master of the schooner "Result" on the first of June off Jervis Bay battling the severe gale.  After this she was never seen or heard of again.   Wreckage was later found on the 5 islands near Wollongong which was though might have come from the Prince Alfred, but this was never confirmed.

The Marine Court Inquiry concluded she had foundered in the heavy conditions which prevailed at the time, taking the 4 men with her to a watery grave.  The ketch was insured for 500 pounds.

This same storm claimed many vessels along the south east coast,  including the much bigger
SS. Taramung.  Continue Reading.  which also went missing near Jervis bay.

A ketch is a sailing craft with two masts. The distinguishing characteristic of a ketch is that the forward of the two masts (the "mainmast") is larger than the after mast (the "mizzen").
The Mosquito Fleet.

Known as the Mosquito fleet because of there relatively small size, the working sailer of the Australian coast is undoubtedly the ketch.  Formerly it was the cutter, but the great mainsail, unless with a strong crew, proved so unwieldy and difficult to handle in heavy weather that gradually the "ketch" or "yaul-rig" became the vessel of choice.





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