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.

27 June 2017

Government pilot steamer, S.S Thetis.

imageCopyright free. https://www.flickr.com/photos/anmm_thecommons/8966369784

S.S.Thetis was built in 1868 for the New South Wales Department of Public Works.

A regular visitor to Jervis Bay, she was most famously involved in the search for the S.S. Dandenong which floundered off Jervis Bay in 1876 with the loss of 40 lives.

1870 - The Thesis was sent out to examine the coast off Jervis Bay, The brig Spec from Melbourn had passed a piece of wreckage consisting of the roundhouse of a ship.  It was painted red on the top, and sliding hatch,  the main boom of the vessel was lashed to the house,  and what appeared to be the bodies of two men were lashed to the boom. More wreckage was spotted a few days later.  The Thesis could not find the wreckage.

1870 - She visited the bay and opened telegraphic communications with Sydney.

1870 - She called into Jervis Bay to inspect the Cape St George lighthouse which required the officials to leave the ship near Bristol Point and travel by foot overland. After the inspection, they headed to the wreck site of the ill-fated Walter Hood just north of Bendalong. The Walter Hood was wrecked during a heavy gale in April of the same year.
The gale drove her onto rocks, 12 souls perished with the survivors fighting a desperate battle for survival as the remains of the vessel broke apart around them.  At this stage there was no wreckage showing above the water,  the hull appeared to be lying right in the breakers, a diver was sent to inspect the wreck but because of the breakers, he was unable to make any careful examination of her remains.

1873 - Thesis came to the aid of the steamer Hero which had been reported missing,  but she had put into Jervis Bay short of coal. The Hero had her top-gallant forecastle washed away during a severe gale.  The Thesis supplied the Hero with coal. The passengers of the Hero presented Captain Logan with a purse of Sovereigns because of his efforts to keep them safe during the gale.

1896 - The Thetis arrived in Jervis Bay with members of the Marine Board for an inspection of the Cape St George Lighthouse. It was found to be in good order and left for Kiama and Wollongong.

1898 - The Thetis was fitted with nets and was sent on a mission to test the fishing grounds along the coast,  she intended to work the grounds off Jervis Bay but a boiler pipe burst and she returned to Sydney for repairs.

1898 - Arriving in Jervis Bay she trawled nets but the trial was deemed almost useless, with masses of seaweed and worthless fish secured being fourfold the number of edible fish.

1899 - During one excursion to Jervis Bay the Thesis was involved in an experimental fishing technique, where a series of electric lights were attached to a wire netting cage,  with a view of trawling for fish at considerable depth. The experiments failed during the day in deep offshore waters,  with some of the lights breaking.
Experiments were then conducted at night in Jervis Bay. The steamer anchored in 6 to 8 fathoms of water lowering the cage with the lights, the lights were so powerful they illuminated the whole of the water around the vessel, and though it was not possible to see the fish swimming near the globes they could be observed a short distance above the lights.
The cage was left down for about and hour and a quarter,  and upon being drawn to the surface the globes were found to be intact,  but there were no fish in the cage. The gentleman who invented the apparatus is of the opinion the lights were so strong the fish could at once see the cage.

1899 - The Thetis arrived in Jervis Bay carrying an official of the Works Department for the final inspection of the new Point Perpendicular Lighthouse before the official handover to the Marine Board. The officials were landed at the Government wharf at Benjajine Beach near present day Honeymoon Bay before walking to the lighthouse on the service track.


S.S Thetis at the loading wharf for Point Perpendicular Lighthouse

1900 the Thetis while on a voyage to Wagonga River
to investigate complaints about the way the fisheries were being worked was forced into Jervis Bay by very heavy weather. She anchored near the Miranda Lagoon, described as a large sheet of water running back about a mile,  ( as far as I know there is no lagoon inside Jervis Bay called Miranda,  there are two possible places, one being Moona Moona Creek the other being Hare Bay, that could be described as a lagoon with the dimensions described below.)

The lagoon was described as being an average width of two chains. ( A chain is a unit of length. It measures 66 feet or 22 yards)  A large sandbank was formed across the mouth and a Mr Want directing that a channel should be made to connect it with the waters of the bay.  All hands were engaged in the work,  and after some considerable labour a narrow passage was cut,  and in a very short time, the mouth widened to thirty or forty feet,  caused by an immense volume of water forcing it's way out. The lagoon was found to be alive with mullet, bream, eels and myriads of small fish. 
They were surprised to find such and array of fish living in such brackish water highly charged with vegetable matter.

It was presumed that the entrance had been closed for some considerable time and the cutting of the channel to admit a free passage of water to and from the lagoon would be of great value to the fish in these waters.

Shortly after the Thetis resumed her voyage.

Continue reading about the Walter Hood  - http://jervisbaymaritimemuseum.blogspot.com.au/search?q=walter+hood
Continue reading about the Dandenong -  http://jervisbaymaritimemuseum.blogspot.com.au/search?q=dandenong


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