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.

19 June 2018

Wreck of the Barque Pacific - June 1864

June 1874 was a partricuarly tragic month,  Nowra and the district's farms were being devastated by floods and gales. Two ships were lost at the entrance to the Crookhaven River.  The ketch Sarah Jane was wrecked on the north spit with the loss of one seaman, while the Schooner Pacific went ashore on the south of Crookhaven Heads.

The Pacific.

21 May – The Pacific left Auckland bound for Newcastle for a load of coal. She enjoyed fine weather for the best part of the voyage until approaching the Australian coast.

12 June 10a.m – The Pacific drew near the land,  sighting the Shoalhaven coast,  the weather was dark and hazy, the wind from the E. and S. she hauled off the land and stood S.S.E. under close reefed topsails and foresail.  313 tons, American built, the Pacific was now in the grip of the "perfect hurricane", which carried with it every sail leaving her at the mercy of the wind and waves.

13 June 6 a.m. –  Nothing could be done to save the vessel and she came ashore on the flat rocks near the gap at the north-east end of the Pilot Station Hill Crookhaven.  At the time a crewman "James Grant" was on the foreyard of the ship helping to shorten sail when the ship struck, the sudden impact threw the unlucky sailor over the side of the ship onto the rocks below, killing him instantly.
The body was sewed in canvas and buried with the Union Jack wrapped around it, the crew knew he was an Englishman, he had been shanghaied on board at San Francisco under the name of "Jack".

Dead sailor burried.
James Grant was buried on the hill where the pilot station was later built.  Several local residents including William Armstrong, Mr Alex Munro, and Mr Tom Wellere were asked by the ship's captain, a Mr Chase, to witness the burial. The deceased man was described as being about 5 feet eight inches, blue eyes with five flags tattooed on his chest, an anchor on his right arm, and a bird with a leaf in its beak, over an axe, a saw and an auger on his left arm.

Superstitious pilot removes poor "Jacks" grave stones.

The grave used to be a landmark on the Station, and for many years was cared for by the wives of the pilot men; until in later years one of the Pilots, who was evidently superstitious removed the stones placed on the mound, he leveled out and used every effort to destroy the evidence of a grave being there, he said, "He did not want to live with a bloody cemetery.

The wreck was pushed above the high water mark and was stripped of everything of value. The beach below the Crookhaven Heads was strewed with candles. The vessel was uninsured.
The captain and crew later made the journey to Sydney by the steamer Illalong.


16 September - The vessel was later repaired and refloated by Mr George Dent of Jervis Bay.


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