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.

29 May 2019

Ships in the bay

I took these images this morning of HMAS Adelaide passing on the inside of Point Perpendicular. She made an impressive site and dominated the landscape.

While HMAS Adelaide was conducting exercises in Jervis Bay, her sister ship HMAS Canberra was on the other side of the world near Guam conducting helicopter training exercises.

The amazing image below was sent to us today.. It was taken from the ship and shows the Helicopter "Warlock" in the middle of a successful "Hellfire missile shoot."

Continue on to more images of HMAS Canberra from onboard.


27 May 2019

Ships in the bay. HMAS Adelaide.(L01)

Today, HMAS Adelaide, a Canberra-class landing helicopter dock ship, was at anchor near Greenpatch. Her distinctive shape certainly stood out in the morning sun.

An image from inside Adelaide's sister ship

HMAS Canberra.

Continue onto more images of HMAS Adelaide
Continue on to more images of HMAS Canberra from onboard.


12 May 2019

Whale sinks boat in Jervis Bay - One man drowns. 1878

A tragic incident which illustrates the precarious nature of life on a whaling vessel.

The whaling barque Asia from Hobart Town was a regular visitor to the waters around Jervis Bay.  Asia had been at sea hunting whales for approximately 9 months before casting anchor in Jervis Bay in November 1878 to "try out" their most recently caught whale. The process involved the ships smaller boats fastening a whale to their gunnels before hauling the whale alongside the larger ship.  Once alongside the blubber would be stripped from the whale then drawn onboard by large hooks and rigging where the process of boiling down the blubber in large vats to render out the oil would take place. The remaining oil was poured into barrels, this process was called "trying."

Poor "Hyderabad."

First mate Thomas Graham and a small party of men were aboard one of the boats with a whale held fast to its side,  without warning,  another whale stove in their boat by biting it. The crew were consequently thrown into the water and submerged, one of them, named John Cannooard, known by the sobriquet "Hyderabad"  could not swim and was drowned immediately despite the efforts
of the first mate to save him.  In his attempt to save Cannooard, Graham almost drowned himself.  The remainder of the crew were rescued after being in the water for about half an hour.

Floundering in the water near a bleeding dead whale would have been a frightening ordeal. The possibility of being attacked by sharks attracted by the smell was very real. Once a whale was brought alongside a vessel, crews had to work quickly to strip the valuable blubber off the carcass before sharks could do to much damage.

No further information is has been found on this incident. It was quite common for sailors to be buried at sea, or taken to the nearest land for burial as ships didn't have the facility to store a body for any length of time.


6 May 2019

Upturned ketch off Jervis Bay - 1904

An upturned ketch off Jervis Bay adds to the mystery of the missing ketch, Mary Burgess, 1904.

Mid-February - The Ketch Mary Burgess out of the Three Hammock Islands off the north-west tip of Tasmania had been fishing for crayfish off the Victorian coast. The vessel arrived in Queenscliff with a good haul of crayfish for the Melbourne market.  Shortly after they left for the return journey across Bass Straight to their home on the Three Hammock Islands.

Leaving Queenscliff the vessel went missing.  Anxiety was felt by the families and authorities for the safety of the four missing men. The Mary Burgess was sailed by her owner Richard Burgess and his two sons, with another man named Charles Gay at the time of her disappearance.
Two weeks had gone by and there was still no word of the whereabouts of the Mary Burgess. The authorities feared she may have gone down in the terrible gales which hit the coast shortly after she sailed.

Wreckage from a vessel was found at Cape Patton and some believed this may be from the Mary Burgess, however, this was never confirmed.  The  Australian Marine Authority and police made enquiries trying to determine if the vessel had arrived safely back on the Hammock Islands. These investigations proved fruitless.

Tuesday, February 21 - The Barquentine La Bella, under sail about 30 miles east of Jervis Bay passed an upturned vessel about the size of an ordinary ketch. The identity of the vessel could not be determined at the time.  Upon arrival in Hobsons Bay, Captain of the La Bella reported the incident to the boarding officer.

A few days later the mystery was solved.
Mary Burgess had been found safe.

February 24 - The first news arrived via the captain of the steamer Yambacoona who reported he had spoken to the ketch Mary Burgess at Hunter's Island two days prior and all was well.

Captain Richard Burgess seeing reports of his vessel's disappearance in local newspapers called at the office of the Launceston Examiner and stated she was presently moored at Stanley. He added that since the 11th of February the ketch had on two occasions visited that port, but neither visit was reported by the telegraph office.
When asked about the severe storm shortly after leaving Queenscliff, he stated:- "they did encounter the storm but had no trouble in weathering it."

From my research, the mystery of the upturned vessel east of Jervis Bay was never solved.

Ketch Mary Burgess wrecked.
October 22 1916 - The vessel was moored in Wineglass Bay, Freycinet Peninsula on the east coast of Tasmania when a gale blew up, she slipped stays and was thrown onto a lee shore and was totally wrecked. The master of the vessel did all he could to save the vessel, but his efforts were in vain.

Built and launched on Hammock Island in 1902.  53 feet on her keel, 81ft overall, 17ft 6 inches beam and 7ft 9inches depth
She was built with a 20ft by 6ft well and was fitted with a motor aperture if required from hardwood, pine and teak. Described as a presenting a yacht like appearance with fine lines. She was built for deep fishing owned and operated by Mr Richard Burgess.

The Barquentine La Bella mentioned above was tragically wrecked in 1905 at Warrnambool with the loss of seven men from her crew of twelve.

Continue reading about the  Barquentine La Bella.



29 April 2019

Vessels in the bay.

This nice looking coastal vessel goes by the name of 'Next Chapter" she has been in the bay for a few days.    Dimensions: 16metres x 7 metres.

Next Chapter - Photo Rob Slater April 2019


27 April 2019

Old Huskisson 1959

The building with the chimney was the local billiard room which originally stood on Owen Street between the old BP garage and the Huskisson Pub. 

Copyright Jervis Bay Maritime Museum


Nowra Park House 1880s

We received this old photograph of Nowra Park House by Dee.  Dee's family has a long association with the Shoalhaven district.  Dee recently sent us some very interesting information about Comberton Grange located on the banks of Currambene Creek near Falls Creek.

Rob, here is a photo my mother took of Nowra Park c 1950/60s with my dad, on left and the owner. Sorry don’t remember his name. It was built in the 1880s for MacKay.

Thanks, Dee for the wonderful photograph.


23 April 2019

The Dent investment.

1904 - George Dent senior was rapidly approaching his nineties but could still swing an axe that would put many a young man to shame. Described as the "grand old man" of Jervis Bay he was quoted as saying " the hull is sound as ever, but the spars are going."

1864 – Ideal for shipbuilding the plentiful supply of spotted gum near Huskisson attracted George Dent Snr to Jervis Bay.  Setting up his shipbuilding operation on the banks of Currambene Creek George rapidly gained a reputation for producing ships of all sizes to the highest standards.  By the 1890s the Dent family were well established in Huskisson.   George and his sons couldn't rely on shipbuilding alone to support their large and growing families.

The family realising early that tourism was a growth industry which could turn a handy profit, built and ran some of the earliest guest houses in Huskisson.  Members of the family were involved in the transport industry running passenger services to and from Nowra.   They ventured into the profitable Grass Tree gum collection industry which thrived in the area around 1885.  In 1896 the Dents operated a sawmill near Huskisson employing 35 men.
Tragically in 1910 James Dent 64, was killed while harvesting timber.  Members of the family served on the local Clyde Shire Council Board based at Tomerong, they were involved with many decisions which shaped Huskisson in the early years.

The Dents built the present day Huskisson Pictures as a community hall for the local people in 1913.  By the 1930's the large family, men, women and children were involved in all aspects of the Huskisson community.  Cricket, tennis, fundraising, peace day celebrations, community dances, school functions, market stalls, members of the family served on the local church committee helping to organise and run many fundraising events.  They operated fishing vessels taking tourists around the bay.  They helped build the first pedestrian crossing over Moona Moona Creek.    1902, They became involved in the newly formed Jervis Bay Railway Extension League, urging the government to have the railway extended from Bomaderry to Jervis Bay. The Lady Denman Ferry, the iconic centrepiece of the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum was built by the Dents in 1911. They were community spirited and risk takers, entrepreneur's, in the true sense of the word.

One of the more challenging business ventures the Dents invested time and money in was stranded ships.

When a vessel became stranded on the coast, efforts were made to recover anything of value before the remains were sold at auction by the underwriters. The Dents attended auctions and bought some of the stranded ships in an effort to turn a profit from the salvaged cargo, fittings and machinery.  It was a very risky business, many investors lost money because the ship would sink or be torn apart by storms before anything of value was saved.

1890 -  S.S. Riverina.

One of the more profitable ships the Dents bought was the S.S.Riverina, a three-masted screw steamer of 2801.0 (imperial tons), 

27 January 1 am -  In hazy conditions bought about by bushfires in Gippsland, the Riverina was running at full speed when she ran ashore onto Island Point east of Cape Everard. The shock from the impact was terrific and came without warning for the passengers. The forward lookout screamed out a warning " breakers ahead" and despite the captain putting the steamer into full astern, she struck almost immediately. The captain tried in vain to reverse the steamer off the rocks by putting her into full astern but the steamer was stuck fast. The ships carpenter sounded the hold and found water rushing into the engine compartment and number two hold.  Captain Prehn ordered the boats to be lowered taking the passengers safely away from the ship which was found to be stranded 150 yards from shore. The crew set about making a makeshift camp with food and water for the frightened passengers. Signals of distress were fired and soundings were taken around the vessel, finding 12 feet aft. The ship's officer was dispatched in a boat to intercept any passing vessel and give them notice of the stranding.  The steamer Wendouree arrived at the scene at noon, some of the passengers were safely taken onboard and she set sail for Sydney.
Despite the ship resting in a very exposed position she was still stable and standing on an even keel.  This allowed salvage teams to recover much of her cargo. She weathered a storm during her time ashore and came through relatively unscathed, allowing the salvage work to continue.

The Auction.

14th February 1890 - There was a large attendance at the John Fraser and Co.'s rooms when the wrecked steamer was put up for auction. There was an estimated 400 tons of cargo still on board and the biddings commenced as 500 pounds and increased by 50-pound bids in rapid succession until the vessel was knocked down to Mr Dent for the sum of 1050 pounds.


27  February - Mr Dent arranged for the steamers Trident and Sophia Ann to head to the Riverina which was still upright and intact despite the recent heavy weather. 

28th February - The steamer Sophia Ann arrived at the scene but due to very poor weather had to run for shelter back to Eden where she stayed for a few days. She was joined by the steamer Trident, and in calm weather arrived at the scene of the stranding together.

Dent and his team of workers quickly went about their business recovering a large quantity of cargo. He carried with him a powerful portable boiler and engine which was put on board the Riverina to facilitate the lifting of the heavy machinery which was submerged in 12 feet of water but could be seen at low water. Three divers had to feel their way in the discoloured water to secure the machinery and the cargo which was submerged in the vessels hold. 

The only cargo remaining dry were cases of currents and some vinegar.   With Sophia Ann alongside the men recovered valuable winches, anchors, chains, sails, and other furnishings.

The ship was badly damaged, immediately under the stokehold was a large hole through which Captain Laidman says " a Sydney tram could go through."

The weather co-operated allowing Dent and his men to make good progress. They had to work as quickly as possible to recover as much as they could, should a severe southerly storm develope,  the vessel could break up.  The decks of the ship had not sprung and she was still upright but moved about in an unnerving manner whenever a strong wind from the south blew.

The Dents investment was paying off. 

After everything of value was salvaged the vessel was abandoned becoming a total wreck.

18th March  - Marine Board Enquiry.

The board found the wreck was caused by the wrongful act of Captain Prehn. His certificate was suspended for six months.

The vessel had on board a cargo valued at £32,000, fully £20,000 of which is insured in Sydney offices, as follow: — Australian General £6000  -  Alliance Marino, £5000; Pacific Company, £1800; Sydney Lloyds, £3000 ; New South Wales, £600 ; China Traders, £400 ; South British, £200 ; North Queensland, £1200, and the remainder  in other offices

Continue reading about the Dents.


12 April 2019

HMAS. Canberra

We were sent these amazing images onboard HMAS Canberra taken shortly before she sailed for duties in Shrilanka, India and beyond.
The helicopter featured is a Sikorsky Seahawk. The Seahawk can handle anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), naval special warfare (NSW) insertion, search and rescue (SAR), combat search and rescue (CSAR), vertical replenishment (VERTREP), and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC).

I recently designed and fitted an emblem to the side of the helicopter at HMAS Albatross.
Each helicopter crew has their own insignia, this one fly's under the insignia "Warlock."

Drawn and finished - Rob Slater 2019


9 April 2019

Large Steamers - Small inconveniences - 1858

Timing and patience were a necessity in days gone by.

The first steamers to ply the south coast were relatively small nimble craft.  Their small size and shallow draft helped when crossing the shallow basins and rivers mouths where sand bars often created problems for the larger vessels.

The south coast between Sydney and Moruya was developing quickly driven by agriculture, the mainstay of most rural communities, but times were changing, other industries, tourism, coal and the blue metal trade were beginning to develop driving the need for faster larger ships along with better port facilities to service the growing fleets of shipping companies like the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company. (ISNC) that serviced the south coast of New South Wales, from 1858 to the early 1950s. They carried livestock and passengers and became know as the "pig and whistle line."

Robinson Basin at Kiama opened in 1876, became an important port of call for the new steamers. The excavated stone from blasting the basin was crushed and used for road construction and set into motion the development of the blue metal industry in the Kiama region, which still exists today. 

Belmore Basin at Wollongong was another important port south of Sydney. The smaller easily manoeuvred shallow-draft steamers suffered less trouble entering the basins and the rivers. The Crookhaven, Clyde and Moruya rivers all posed a challenge for the coastal steamers.

The Illawarra Steam Navigation Company almost having a monopoly on the south coast shipping industry commissioned larger ships capable of carrying more cargo and passengers.  The larger, faster more stable steamers could accommodate passengers in greater comfort making sea travel a quicker, pleasant option for reluctant sea travellers.

The Bega, 567 tons)  Illawarra (II), 533 tons and 190 feet in length and Kameruka at
515-ton were examples of large steamers performing a
weekly service along the south coast of NSW.

Paddle Steamer S.S.Illawarra (11)  533 tons and 190 feet in length
S.S.Bega -  567 tons

S.S.Kameruka - 515-ton
The new deeper longer draft steamers accentuated the problems for the captains and crew entering river mouths.  Captains had to pay particular heed to the changing tides or risk going aground or wrecking the ship possibly drowning all on board.

The passage south.

Passengers leaving Sydney could enjoy a perfectly calm voyage with little or no swell.  Arriving at the entrance of the river all could appear calm and apparently easily negotiable,  only to be greeted by the "stand-off" signal flag displayed on the flagstaff of the pilot station positioned near the entrance of the harbour. The vessel was then bound to standoff, and wait until the pilot considered the entrance safe to enter,  this came about simply because the vessels arrival coincided with low tide.  The vessel had no option but to wait offshore,  or as more frequently happened continue on to the next port or seek shelter and wait for hig tide. The reverse was true when the steamers tried to leave the river mouth. The shifting bars caught many steamers in there grip.

Experienced captains would if possible time their arrival for the high tide, sometimes waiting at Wollongong or Kiama for up to three hours, which was preferable to tossing about in the swell before leaving for the Crookhaven. If a berthing position wasn't available they would be forced to continue their journey.  Vessels sometimes anchored in Shoalhaven Bight to await the tide change.

Other vessels arriving at the Crookhaven and seeing the 'standoff" signal would continue on to Jervis Bay where they would spend the night anchored in the calm and protected waters near Hole in the Wall. On the most part, it is reported the inconvenience was treated with good humour, especially when the men on board indulged in fishing, with many good catches of snapper reported. Once the tide changed they would continue their journey back to the Crookhaven.

A myth surrounding this story has the Crookhaven Station pilot, Captain Craig, only allowing steamers to enter after passengers and crew had caught a certain amount of fish. Of course, this was pure coincidence.

Another benefit of the delay, a fine haul of fish for friends and family patiently waiting at Greenwell Point.

Dredging and building breakwaters went someway to relieve the problem, but over a short time, the ever moving sandbars returned, the problems for the ISNC, the steamer captains, and their passengers would once again require patience.

1883 - the ISNC steamer Illawarra was frequently detained in port for hours waiting on sufficient water to enable a safe crossing of the Crookhaven bar,  the wait on a swaying vessel caused many passengers, men, women and children to suffer seasickness.  The situation was becoming unbearable for local business people and travellers who were forced to rely on one or two bar-bound steamers to conduct their commerce. The situation motivated local businessmen to push the Minister for Works to urgently extend the railway line from Kiama to service the people and industry of the south coast.

There are many examples of steamers caught on the sand bars at Crookhaven Heads, I have listed many in a previous post - Continue reading.

By 1895 newspaper reports under the heading "Bar Harbours" appeared showing the current soundings at many bars along the east coast.


By 1912 despite constant dredging by the Public Works Department the problem at Moruya was so bad and dangerous,  the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company stopped all passenger service to Moruya landing all passengers at Batemans Bay. They started
a motor car service delivering passengers between Batemans Bay and  Moruya leaving the bar crossing to cargo steamers only.

The situation still goes on today, the steamers and manned south coast pilot stations have all but disappeared, small and large pleasure craft still have to treat any bar crossing with care and respect.