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23 February 2018

FMS Salazie disabled near Jervis Bay



August 1910

Saturday 10 - The well known French Mail Steamer (F.M.S) Salazie continuing on her voyage from Marseilles to Noumea left Melbourne heading for Sydney, all went well until just south of Jervis Bay.

Sunday 11 -  the seas were calm it was 11 pm,  when suddenly her engines started to race  followed by a loud explosion caused by the cylinder head blowing off startling everyone on board,  leaving the steamer hopelessly disabled and drifting south.

The Salazie hoisted distress flags to attract the attention of any passing vessel. Passengers were relieved when the S.S Karoola hove in sight and approached the Salazie in response to her signals.  They carefully approached to within speaking distance, after some negotiations the Karoola pulled away and continued her journey north much to the disappointment of some of the Salazie passengers.

karoola a

It appears Captain McDonald of the S.S Karoola asked for a large sum of money to take the disabled vessel in tow. This was refused as captain Riguier of the Salazie felt satisfied that he would not be endangering the safety of his passengers by waiting until assistance could be rendered by one of the Messageries Maritimes Company's own vessels. He knew the mail-liner Sydney and the Pacifique were in Port Jackson. Captain McDonald offered to take off the passengers, a reply came back from the mail steamer that there were only a few Sydney passengers on board, the majority being booked for Noumea and they had decided to remain with the Salazie.

Monday 12 - The Karoola arrived in Sydney and quickly passed on the information to the owners of the Salazie. The agents for the Messageries Maritimes Company instructed the companies steamer Sydney to go to the assistance of the disabled steamer.

Monday 12  - The mail steamer F.M.S Sydney left Sydney ahead of the F.M.S Pacifique in search of the Salazie.
Tuesday 13 -  During the morning the Sydney reached the Salazie which had drifted 157 miles south of Sydney to Narooma.  In an attempt to attach a hawser the Salazie was rammed by the Sydney, fortunately, the impact was not too heavy suffering no further damage, but the Sydney had a boat broken, davits smashed, and a portion of her railings carried away. Soon after the hawser was successfully attached and the tow to Sydney commenced.

  • A message from the pilot at Narooma at 7.35 pm stated:-
    "French mail steamer north at 2.30 p.m. with disabled French mail steamer in tow. A steamer like the Pacifique in company, and tugs Hero and
    Heroic north at 2.30 p.m."
  • She was next reported off Moruya, The wind was west-north-west, moderate, the sea was slight.

The Sydney towed the Salazie as far north as Wollongong before handing over to the mail liner Pacifique, then the Karoola continued her journey south.

Wednesday 14 - Shortly after daylight the Pacifique brought the liner into Sydney.  When the Salazie entered the heads the tugs Gamecock and Stormcock took charge of her and towed her alongside the M.M Co.'s wharf at Millers Point.


Her passengers and mails were taken to Noumea by the Pacifique.

The damage to Salazie's engines was found to be of a serious nature and would take a considerable time to repair.


The Salazie continued in her role as a mail steamer between Marseilles, Sydney and Noumea until January 24 1912 when she broke down during a cyclone on a voyage  from Tamatave to Marseilles and drifted ashore a reef south of Diego Suarez, becoming a total wreck,  The passengers after an exciting experience were landed by the ship's boats. The second officer Mr. Bracco, was however lost overboard.


Specification: The Salazie was an iron steamer of deadweight 2450 tons built in Marseilles in 1883.  Length 130.75 meters , beam 12.6 meters.

Ref:- http://www.messageries-maritimes.org/salazie.htm – Salazie
        https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+10057 - Karoola
        http://www.messageries-maritimes.org/pacifiqu.htm – Pacifique


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