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.

30 April 2015

Latest Exhibition


It’s a great time to visit the museum, there are currently two exciting exhibitions on display. In the Vera Hatton Gallery we have the Gallopoli Exhibition, a collection of images from the Gallipoli campaign.

The other exhibition is a collection of beautiful prints by local artist Lois Johnson, Lois lived in Japan between 1986 to 2007,  she studied and learnt traditional Japanese woodblock painting techniques, her work interprets these themes and subjects through the eyes of a western observer, as part of the display are skillfully carved woodblocks that clearly illustrates the skill involved in making these prints.

IMG_5683Lois incorporates subdued embossing in her artwork, the work is stunning and should not be missed.


28 April 2015

Jervis Bay Snippet.


Evening News Thursday 2 1903

Seagoing tugs ventured up and down the coast looking for incoming vessels to tow into ports, it appears from the story below, the race to secure a tow became very competitive and dangerous.

It was reported in Sydney to-day that a some what exciting incident occurred off Jervis Bay on Tuesday afternoon,  between two well known tug-boats.  The boats involved are the Port Jackson, of Messrs, J and A Browns fleet, and the Advance,  one of the Messrs, Fenwick’s well known tugs.

It is understood that the tugs had been off the coast,  as usual,  looking for a tow,  and their quarry was the Italian ship Beecroft,  a wheat laden vessel from the Argentine for Sydney.

The two tug boats were both racing for the Beecroft – the Port Jackson on the starboard side,  and the Advance on the port side.  The former was about half a length off the Advance,   and looked as if her captain was going to have first say to the captain of the ship.
The Advance,  it is alleged,  then ported,  and came up under the ship’s stern,  to the starboard side,  and,  in doing so,  struck the Port Jackson a sliding blow on the port side,  cutting through an iron band into the hull,  and gliding forward carrying with her part of the band,  and buckling it somewhat,  The Advance it is further alleged,  ported just before,  thus accounting for the sliding blow and buckling of the band.  The Port Jackson was struck almost amidships,  and near the coal bunker. She then steered a bit seaward,  but afterwards straightened up,   and proceeded alongside the Beecroft,  and made terms with the captain.  The Port Jackson,  therefore,  got the tow.

Both tugs were eventually wrecked.

1908 - The Advance: The Tug Advance was involved in another collision of Catherine Hill Bay,  this time while she was engaged in trying to secure the tow for the 4 masted Barque the Iverna on Christmas Day 1908.  No explanation for the collision was forthcoming, other than it there was heavy fog at the time.  the collision resulted in the  Advance overturning,  the boiler exploded and she foundered,  despite the captain of the Iverna lowering boats, and an exhaustive search no crew were found,  the following morning the mate of the Advance floated onto shore and was rescued.

Follow this link to see a Youtube video of the wreck. – very interesting – video link

1910 - Port Jackson:   The Port Jackson went ashore 5 miles North of Nora Head and become a total wreck.  All hands reached shore safely.

If you would like to read more about the fascinating story of Tugs,  follow the link below. 

image Tugboats

by Randi Svensen, 2011.

Early steam tugs oiled the metaphorical wheels of trade by freeing sailing ships to make or leave port in unfavourable winds or by towing them between ports when there was insufficient wind. When oversea ships became powered, tugs assisted these large, unwieldy vessels to manoeuvre in ports, and also provided valuable salvage and fire-fighting services.

Continue Reading

24 April 2015

Anzac Day.

Huskisson Street March –  commencing at 11.00am.

A camera on Gallipoli.
Opens Saturday 25th – 10am.
To coincide with the 100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign, the museum will have an amazing collection of images by Charles Ryan on display – this is another quality exhibition and one you should not miss.


The Museum has a book by Alan Clark about the Waratah Recruiting March that set off from Nowra on Tuesday November 30, 1915, it was the biggest crowd Nowra had ever seen.
It’s a fascinating book with some amazing images from the time.
Available from the Museum’s gift shop.


23 April 2015

Jervis Bay snippet.

It’s well worth reading this story, it gives us a fascinating look at Huskisson and the Bay in 1899, shooting, fishing and camping, the hospitality and interaction of strangers.

Shoalhaven Telegraph December 17th 1899,
It details two men’s holiday at the bay and gives us some interesting details of their trip, of Huskisson and surrounds and the relaxed attitude of the time.


My brother, Dr S------, with a busy practice in an inland town of New South Wales, feeling the want of rest and a complete change for a month,  invited me to join him in a fishing trip,  and having visited the bay similarly about six years ago,  I proposed the same place for our tour,  as being in every way suitable.

We left Redfern station on Monday morning early in April by the 8.30 train,  and after a very pleasant journey through the Illawarra country,  reached Nowra at 1 o’clock – in good time for a wash and dinner at a good hotel.

We arranged for a two horse buggy to drive us and all our traps to the bay,  distance 16 miles,  and after purchasing a liberal supply of provisions made a start about 3.p.m.   The road is an excellent one - very suitable for cycling - and the weather being lovely,  we enjoyed the drive immensely.

The village of Huskisson,  as the chief settlement at the bay is called,  is old,  but very quiet and small,  and consists of a public school,  post office,  sawmill,  hotel and store combined,  and a few scattered cottages and fisherman's humpies.  it is prettily situated on the banks of a large creek,  at the entrance of which is a good wharf for the vessels engaged in the timber trade
We drove a mile further on,  to a good camping ground at Moonie Creek,  and at once proceeded to put up our tent and make snug for the night.

I would here like to describe our bunks,  which are easily made,  and are most comfortable.  Two large sacks are placed end to end and stretched on stout saplings,  supported by uprights spread as an angle of about 40 degrees,  sunk in the ground,  and lashed at the top.

We rowed from Huskisson to boat harbour, taking 2 hours.
After a hearty camp tea and smoke,  we turned in early and slept the sleep of the just.  Next morning up with the sun and on to the beach for a swim; then breakfast and on to the village to get a boat,  Most of the craft available are big and heavy,  but we luckily secured the only light one in the bay,  covered in bow and stern, with sail and all gear.  The fishing on the west side is not very good and the water is shallow,  so after a couple of days we decided to cross over towards the heads,  seven miles.  Struck camp,  and started at 9 o’clock on a perfect morning,  no wind__water like a pond__so had to pull all the way,  doing it in just two hours.

A nip of whisky all round.
We met a fishing boat on the way,  and got all information as to camping ground, water, etc,  and parted after a nip of whisky all round,  drunk out of the billy tea lid__as the mugs being buried to deep to find amongst the dunnage.  Before landing we dropped lines in a likely spot,  and were rewarded by some nice squire and bream,  after which we made for the place which was to be our home for the next fortnight or so.

What our correspondent is describing as “Boat Harbour” we now know as “Honeymoon Bay” the Government Wharf is still there in the top of this picture, but with no need for steamers it is much shorter today.

Boat Harbour was our destination,  and it is well named,  being a most beautifully formed little bay,  sheltered from every wind,  with a narrow rocky entrance opening out into a perfectly natural harbour about half an acre in extent,  with a nice beach__oysters galore –level grass banks for the tent__wood and water close__an ideal spot.  We immediately christened it “The Smugglers Retreat, or the “Pirates Lair”  and set to work at once to settle down,  soon feeling very snug and comfortable in our new quarters,  and pleased as having made the change.

Moving goods and chattels.
Although so isolated,  we found congenial company near,  as a couple of sturdy young farmers from the Shoalhaven way had bought cattle down for grazing,  and were camped close by,  sleeping at night in their cart, in straw,  covered by a tarpaulin;  also there were some locals engaged in moving the goods and chattels from the old lighthouse on the South Head (Cape St George) to the fine new one just completed at North Head (Point Perpendicular),  a distance of five miles by road from the new Government Wharf at Benjajine Beach__about a mile north from our camp.  Everybody we met was most friendly and obliging,  one lending a water jar and shark spear,  another a gun when wanted,  others bringing fresh supplies when crossing,  and carrying our letters to and from the post.
loading-wharf-for-point-perp-lighthouseA steamer approaching the  Government Wharf at Benjajine Beach, it was used to supply the Point Perpendicular Lighthouse. 

When out of bread we made some capital dampers,  and once soared into trying a cake.  The ingredients consisted of flour,  eggs,  sultanas,  breadcrumbs,  sugar,  lemon peel,  salt,  and rum:  and although rather heavy,  it was pronounced a great success.  We made a camp oven out of an old kerosene tin,  surrounding it with hot ashes.

And now with regard to the main object of our trip__the fishing.  We could always catch plenty of bait at the mouth of our little bay__yellow tail and Mackerel:  also garfish,  the later of which we would keep for grilling on the ashes,  and which are most tasty and delicious eaten thus hot and fresh.

The sharks were troublesome as times.
Then off to the Snapper grounds,  good fish being plentiful nearly everywhere.  The only drawback was the sharks,  which were very numerous and troublesome at times.   Before getting the spear,  we lost most of these pests,  together with hooks and sinkers,  but afterwards killed a lot,  averaging 6ft to 7ft long,  and being mostly females with young,  we had the satisfaction of feeling we were doing some good for getting rid of such prolific brutes.  They really spoilt our sport with the red fish,  although we always caught more than we could possibly eat,  besides keeping our friends ashore well supplied.

Our favourite ground was called Dart Point__a mile and a half south__where we never failed to get good snapper,  mixed with squire averaging 3lb to 4lb.  Our biggest fish weighed 14lb,  which we sent tot eh lighthouse; the next 12 lb we gave to the Thetis crew,  who came down with the Marine Board to open the new lighthouse.  Smaller fish of about 6lb we would stuff and bake in the ashes,  or grill slowly.   Some we would steam in plates over a boiling pot,  some fry with egg and breadcrumbs,  and others we made into fish soup. 

One day seeing some fine black beam in the cove,  we tried for them in the evening,  after tea,  and caught six beauties in half an hour,  weighing between 2lb and 3lb each.  These fish being so rich,  are excellent grilled over a clean wood ash,  and are very nice for next days cold lunch in the boat.

We saw no fresh meat for eighteen days,  and with the exception of a wild duck (which we shot on a pretty little creek two miles off) a plover,  parrots,  and oysters__ all of which made delicious stews__we lived almost entirely on fish,  and throve exceedingly on it.

Of course, the whole conditions were responsible for such a satisfactory state of things,  and for those whose tastes lie that way,  nothing could be more beneficial or enjoyable then such an outing.

For those fond of shooting there are Quail near,  but a dog is almost indispensible,  as they lie very close.  Also there are wallabies about.  and a large lagoon is a few miles away,  where swans and ducks can be got.

On the last evening of our stay on the eastern side we had a billy hot rum punch with our friendly neighbours,  and next morning made an early start back to the old camp at Moonie Creek,  where we had arranged for the buggy to meet us a day or two later.

All that remains to be said is that after bidding farewell to all our kind friends,  we left the bay on a most lovely morning as 10. o’clock,  arrived at Nowra shortly after 12,  paid a necessary visit tot eh local barber,  had a good dinner,  and caught the 1.40 train,  arriving in Sydney at 6 feeling an splendid health and condition__sunburnt and happy,  and delighted with a most pleasant, economic and healthful outing.

For the benefit of those who may contemplate a visit to the  same place, I may add the cost of our trip:-
   Second – class return to Nowra, 14/3 each.
   Buggy to the bay, 30/return.
   Boat 5/ a day.
For those not camping,  there is an accommodation house,  as there is     also as St Georges Basin,  some miles further south,  where I understand there is plenty of fishing and shooting,  and boats available._




20 April 2015

Approaching storm - Jervis Bay 2015


When luck is on your side.

“Wreck Bay”,  The name itself was enough of a warning to seafarers about the dangers of straying to close to this part of the coast.  It was a place to be treated  with vigilance and respect,  but despite it’s well known reputation, ships still came to grief on it’s shore.

Close Encounters. 
The history of the area has many examples of near misses, where decisions laced with years of experience, wrapped in luck saved the ship from disaster.

One such ship was the four-masted barque.
The Drumalis.
Saturday 16 June 1900

The Drumalis found itself running into the full force of a gale that was raging along the coast, and despite their best efforts the Drumalis found itself drifting in the strong currents in close proximity to the land.

First reports had her ashore at Wreck Bay.
Sunday 17th.
News spread fast amongst the community of Huskisson and surrounds about a large ship that had gone on shore at the northern end of Wreck Bay.

Through glasses a vessel could plainly be seen,  but could not be ascertained whether she was riding at anchor, or had become beached.
The Allowrie,  southward bound,  was seen to make for the vessel,  and later on she continued on her journey,  reaching Ulladulla shortly before noon.

It then transpired that the ship in Wreck Bay was the Drumalis,  of some 3000 tons burthern,  a large four masted barque,  finding she was getting dangerously close to shore,  dropped both anchors and paid out the full length of cable.

image Image Public Domain. S.S. Allowrie.

Fortunately the anchors held,  Captain Walker,  of the Allowrie,  seeing the dangerous position of the Drumalis,  offered to tow her out to sea and put her in proper course,  but Captain A.J. Whelan of the Drumalis didn’t think the Allowrie would be capable of taking her out, so declined the offer.  The Allowrie thereupon agreed to bring a wire from the master of the Drumalis  to the ships agents in Sydney,  asking that a tug be sent down to take the ship in tow.
Sunday afternoon a Union Liner also offered assistance,  but as Captain Whelan was expecting a tug the offer was declined.

The message was sent from Ulladulla immediately after the Allowrie reached the port,  and in accordance, there was a tug at once dispatched,  and early on Wednesday,  the steam-tug Champion arrived and the Drumalis was towed from her perilous position.

The Drumalis was on a voyage from Table Bay to Newcastle, 1400lb of ballast..
The captain reported after the incident the Drumalis behaved splendidly during the tempest, and no damage to any serious extent was sustained.


Her Luck runs out

DRUMALIS A TOTAL LOSS. The barque Drumalis which went ashore at Cape Sable recently, while bound from Dunkirk to New York to load for Melbourne or Sydney. now lies about three miles from the shore with the forward   part submerged. Her bottom is badly damaged,   and she is considered a total loss, being expected to break up and disappear as soon as there is heavy weather.

Barque_Manchester example of a  barque public domain.

Public domain image of a 4 masted barque of that time, similar to the Drumalis 

16 April 2015

Next Exhibition opens 25th April.

The Arthur Boyd Exhibition is drawing to a close, this unique collection of artwork has attracted a lot of attention and generated much discussion amongst our visitors.
You only have until Sunday to see this collection – Local Press coverageContinue Reading

The exhibition closes of Sunday the 19th, and to coincide with Anzac Day another outstanding exhibition will open to mark the Centenary of Gallipoli.
A camera on Gallipoli.

These amazing images will have you spellbound.
Image: Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. c May 1915. Two soldiers of the Supply Depot, 1st Australian Division, standing on the beach amongst stacked boxes of corned beef and canned meat. Rows of petrol or water cans are in the foreground.

Jervis Bay Snippet

These small snippets of news appear in local newspapers,   they help paint a picture of the everyday issues effecting local people at the time.
Seems vandalism isn’t just a modern day annoyance.

Shoalhaven Telegraph Nowra February 1928


15 April 2015

Gift Shop

The museum not only has a fine collection of local history relics and information,  but has a wonderful gift shop,  full of interesting things,  if your looking for something different to what’s available around Huskisson, come along and have a look.
We also have a fine collection of local aboriginal artwork for sale…

Jervis Bay Snippet

The Shoalhaven News and South Coast Districts Advertiser – 1905


14 April 2015

The Crest Project


In a scene reminiscent of boat building days gone by,  the boys from the Crest Restoration Team are up early and into their work.


13 April 2015

Dandenong Storm 1876 – City of Melbourne.

The gale is described as a hurricane with mountainous seas.
The storm that caused the devastating loss of the SS Dandenong and took 40 poor souls with her when she foundered in huge seas off Jervis Bay was also responsible for many other disasters right along the eastern sea board.

Other vessels caught in the same storm were lucky to survive the horrendous conditions,  some suffered badly but were able to make safety before they were also lost.

Battling wind gusts of 150 miles per hour, an mountainous seas, the storm left a trail of destruction and destroyed ships large and small.

The Steamer - City of Melbourne.
One such vessel the steamer “City of Melbourne” on a journey between Sydney and Melbourne encountered the full force of the gale south of Jervis Bay and returned to port with two boats and all her deck cargo washed overboard,  the engine room hatchway stove in,  the saloon flooded,  and the steer gear injured.  The race horses Burgundy,  Robin Hood,  Poacher,  Nemesis,  Etoile Du Matin,  Eros,  Sovereign,  Lecturer and  Sylvia Colt were killed.  Chrysolite and Redwood were saved but badly cut.   Passengers and crew were badly beaten, continuously hand bailing as the pumps failed at the height of the storm, water flowed into every part of the steamer, windows were stove in,  passengers did their best to stay calm and with the crews help were managing,  misery and freight, death and destruction had become part of the crew and passengers struggle for life in these miserable hours,  fighting against the elements trying to stay alive.  The gale is described as a hurricane with mountainous seas.


The graphic depiction of the crew, passengers and horses fighting for life aboard the City Of Melbourne at the height of the storm.

A passengers account.

Below are the details as appeared in the New South Wales Agriculturist and Grazier 1876.
Told here by a gentleman who was a passenger by the steamer on the occasion. It chronicles the struggle the passengers and horses endured.
It’s a compelling read.


“ The City of Melbourne left Sydney at midnight on Saturday, the 9th inst., in charge of Capt.  Paddle,  who,  during the temporary absence of Captain Brown,  had arranged to take charge of the vessel for the trip.     All went well and smoothly at first,  excepting that it was discovered that the boat was rather inconveniently crowded.
   On Sunday morning the wind was blowing hard into our teeth,  and the sea was high,  each moment seeming to get more angry and vicious,  and on looking ahead there was little to reassure us in the thick black clouds in the distance.  Possible little attention would have been paid to this had not Mr. Fisher's trainer,  Morrison,  expressed his misgivings and solicitude for the horses under his charge.   A little later on it became plain to all that we were in a terrible storm,  and then many began to bewail the fact that they had neglected the warning of their friends in Sydney,  who had predicted there would be a heavy gale along the coast,  and advised a postponement of the trip.
   About the wheel and steering apparatus were carried away,  the quarter master having a very narrow escape of being washed overboard;  and the vessel having lost it's guide,  began careering round and round,  describing large circles.   By the aid of tackles and the capstan a steering apparatus was rigged,  and four men under the charge of the chief officer,  were told off to work the capstan.   This answered admirably,  and left little to regret except that it took an officer and four of the hands out of the small crew.
   The vessel was once more put on it's course,  and continued so until after six p.m., when order were given to round her up and bring her under the wind.  There was now no land visible,  a heavy mist or haze setting in and obscuring every object.   We were therefore given to understand that we were going to run to sea,  in the hope of picking up the land on the following day and returning to Sydney.  While all this was going on, three horses Eros,  The Poacher and a filly Gwendoline had broken loose,  and after experiencing several heavy falls on the deck,  the first-named fractured one of his legs.  Prostrate and heavy seas continually sweeping over them,  they were left to perish,  as they did, as they did between the hours of nine and ten the following morning.
   When the steamer was put about and ran before the wind it was great relief to both man and beast,  and many took the opportunity of gaining a few hours' repose,  but when in due course of time she was again bought around,  and had to face the hurricane,  our troubles recommenced.
   On Monday a quantity of iron and something like three hundred cases of oranges were thrown overboard,  and the boat was evidently lighter and more buoyant than she had been,  while the water in the waist of the vessel had a better chance of escaping.  A heavy sea broke in the skylights of the saloon,  and very soon every cabin was ankle-deep in water;  and notwithstanding that the lights were battened down,  seas were constantly finding their was into the saloon by other means.  Every birth was saturated,  and those who sought rest did so with their cloths on,  it being necessary to retain both boots and caps,  in order to be ready for and emergency.
   On Monday the Metropolitan winner,  Nemesis,  broke loose,  and after floundering about on the deck for some hours,  finally got into a corner of the vessel under the bulwarks and the galley,  eventually being drowned by the heavy and constant seas washing over her.  At that time Robin Hood,  Etoile du Martin,  and Burgundy were all down,  the two former yielding their last breath about three p.m.,  where as Burgundy lingered on until after six p.m.,  when he also gave up his last gasp.  Shortly after the hour of noon that fine colt Sovereign fell down,  and he was likely to interfere with the Silvia and Chrysolite colts,  it was determined to pull him out,  after considerable difficulty,  was effected.  Nothing could be done for him that had not been tried,  and at half-past 6 he made the eight victim to the fury of the storm.    
     Monday was truly a day of misery.  The saloon was rendered worse by the lazarette being opened for the purpose of bailing out the water,  which left a strong sticky smell,  as of a bad spirit.  The bailing was effected by passing buckets along a row of men stationed between the trap and the entrance door,  which not unfrequently when left opened, let in more water than was passed out.  boots, shoes and socks had long been abandoned,  and passengers were walking about with their trousers tucked up,  while the water scoured the saloon looking for some place to exit.  
     During all these trying hours the ladies acted courageously,  though all but one kept studiously to their births,  where they were attended to by the best of stewardesses.  On Monday evening the vessel was again put before the wind,  which was a great comfort and relief to all,  and a short sleep was snatched;  but when she was bought up and her head was again put to the wind,  our troubles re-commenced.  The sea now seemed to be raging more than ever,  and the violence with  which the vessel was struck frequently staggered her;  while the decks, saloon,  and cabin,  were as constantly flooded.  About three a.m. a heavy sea stove in one side of the engine-house and extinguished three fires out of of four,  and the boat seemed to make but little progress for some minutes.  At last the screw began to work again,  and it's revolutions quickened.  It was not until the following morning the cause became known;  and it was just as well that it was not known at the time,  for it would have only added to our troubles. 
      Early in the morning the Silvia colt died,  and about ten am land was sighted,  which afterwards turned out to be the North Head.  No one can tell with what joy this fact was made know,  and after running by the Heads the vessel was laid on the Melbourne course,  and taken in without the slightest hitch or trouble.
      An hour before Crysolite colt had fallen,  but by the aid of some forecastle passengers,  who raised him,  and held him up,  rubbing him with cloths all the time,  his life was saved”.




10 April 2015

Timber Trade, Jervis Bay, 118 yeas ago.


Forestry syndicates had just been granted large tracts of forest around Jervis Bay.  

Much has been written about the importance of the timber industry to the Shoalhaven and local communities,  Tomerong, Huskisson and Wandandian all survived because of their links to timber  back in the early 19th century.
I found this interesting article from the Sydney Mail in 1897,  118 years ago, that expresses concern, based on the condition the forests found themselves in after past forestry practices,  and how we needed to look after them for the future.


Timber Getters about to start their daily grind in New South Wales
Sydney Mail 1919.


“While not disposed to complain of any revival in the industry or any development of the natural resources of this country,  there is a note of warning which ought to be heard upon this question of forestry.  What has been done to ravage the former splendid forests of New South Wales is known to everybody;  what was done to Cedar of the coast would have been done to the Red Gum of the Murray only for Government vigilance.  And now we see what is proposed in the way of getting all the vendible timber out that yet remains in the possession of the crown.

But there remains another question,  and in view of the immense denudation of Norwegian,  Russian,  Canadian,  and United States forests during the last half-century it is important.  What are we doing,  if we are doing anything,  to re-afforest part of our country?.

Otherwise the time will come when the inhabitants of New South Wales may be as much injured by the spoliation of the ancient forests of the land as are the people of great regions in North America or Russia,  where timber of any kind became scarce,  where the influences of the climate are checked by forests,  and where the country begins to understand the labour of creating the resources that had been wasted”.

You can read the complete article below.


The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser

London Syndicate

It was a syndicate from London, timber merchants with an extensive interest in Australian hardwoods that was offered the land near Jervis Bay.   This project was welcomed by many who had been told that 100 to 200 men would have been employed in the enterprise,  with 100 being employed almost straight away to build the 20 mile railway link with feeder links and 1000ft wharf facilities at Jervis Bay, where large steamers would be able to come along side and load direct to England.

The land extended from Jervis Bay to the Wandandian hills,  a total of 20,000 acres,  this area had already been logged many years earlier. The company intended to log 24.000ft a day, or 6.000.000ft per annum.

Huskisson was the site chosen for the wharf,  and at the same time there was much excitement at the possibility of coal and shale deposits in the same area,  with the possibility of the mining industry developing in these parts.

Opposition and concern.

Concerns were being aired in the press as the above article demonstrates about the deplorable state the North Coast forests were in after the Cedar Getters had finished ravaging the forests,  showing no regard for the future.
Now the southern hardwood forests faced the same threat,  but this time people and the media started to ask questions and demanded answers from the Government and the syndicate about how they planed to manage the resource and the land, and what was going to be done to re-forest the areas effected.

The syndicate abandons the project.

The whole project was eventually abandoned,  there were a few reasons, the Government was asking,  (in the companies opinion”,  excessive royalties for the timber,  local opposition from smaller local operators, and unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view, the final nail in the coffin was much simpler,  to build their railway it had to cross private land and the owner refused to let them use his land for the purpose.

One can only imaging what this beautiful area might have looked like if this project went ahead and coal had been discovered.

There  are other articles related to this industry within this blog site,  to access those go to the search bar on the right, and simply try in the search box the word “timber”, this will take you to any reference of timber on the blog.

8 April 2015

Jervis Bay.

Longish time exposure, very early in the morning..

W.D Atlas founders off Jervis Bay.

‘It was a case of every man for himself”

The terrible loss of life associated with the self propelled bucket dredge off Jervis Bay in on the 20th May 1966.
The Atlas had sailed from Whyalla in South Australia bound for Sydney,  a destination it never reached.
13 men drowned in huge seas aboard a vessel designed for river use and not the open sea.
With her high superstructure she was known to roll alarmingly even in moderate seas.
All went well until she reached the coast off Jervis Bay, where she ran into heavy seas accompanied by gale force winds.
By 10pm and hove-to of Point Perpendicular the dredge listed badly.
Conditions had deteriorated so bad they put a may day call out.
The captain had called ‘stand by the lifeboats”  but the ship sank by the head so fast only one boat was able to be launched.
Jumping into the pitch black the men could not see a thing, screams and shouts were mixed with the sounds of the driving rains and gale force winds, ‘it was every man for himself”

Gordon Fairbairn, fireman-greaser owes his life to one of his drowned companions.
Floundering in the icy seas for 10 hours he managed to keep afloat at one stage by clinging to the body of a drowned shipmate.

Sam De Vries, a 25 years-old seaman of Whyalla threw the raft over the side and was able to swim to it and pull into it by his hair his companion,  25 year-old seaman Jeffery Mulder of Victoria. From there they drifted about 10 miles north before being rescued more than 10 hours later.

Two other seaman, Gordon Fairbairn, 30,  and Richard Macrae, 30, were rescued by helicopter.

By the 23rd May the massive air and sea search for the missing crew members was officially called off.

image The Canberra Times, Monday 23 May 1966


image The rescues were carried out under extreme conditions, two 723 Squadron Iroquois helicopters from HMAS Albatross were scrambled in 45 knot winds to search for survivors,    they hovered a few meters above 10 meter waves and winched 4 exhausted survivors from the wreckage.

VendettaHMAS Vendetta responded to the signal and battled her way through
the mountainous seas to the search area. As the ship steamed towards the dredge, rising seas and high winds made conditions extremely difficult in her boiler rooms.
During the early hours of Saturday 21 May, the ship was struck by a huge wave, and sea water poured into "B" Boiler Room and Engine Room, resulting in flooded bilges, damage, and power failure. In addition, the weather conditions made it impossible to relieve the watchkeepers in the boiler room for some time.

Following the mercy dash, the Naval Board approved the immediate promotion of Leading Engineer Mechanic WJ Robinson to Acting Petty Officer,
as a result of his presence of mind and devotion to duty under arduous circumstances whilst in charge of Vendetta's "B" Boiler Room

W.D.Atlas – 747 ton twin screw bucket dredge.
Length 197.2ft;  Beam 41.2ft;
Built 1949.



I found this song about the loss of the W.D.Atlas.

The ‘W. D. ATLAS’
Lyrics and Music Harry Robertson
Arranged by Evan Mathieson

The ‘Atlas’ was a dredge that sailed from Whyalla town,
And set a course for Sydney, with its hatches battened down.
It sailed into a cyclone out on Jervis Bay
The waves they tossed, the ship was lost, that 20th of May.

Dark and stormy was the night and the sea was cold.
Did the cargo start to shift in her rusty hold?

A seaman to his Mother wrote, and in the letter said,
“This ship is like a coffin, Mum, there’s a dirty trip ahead,
And while we need the money, my mind is filled with doubt,
But the clearance papers are aboard and we are shipping out.”


Since the ‘Atlas’ made that trip, enquiries have been made.
Were the men who manned her seamen to their trade?
Did her doors and hatches fit ’til they were watertight?
Was the ‘Atlas’ overloaded?Was her engine room alright?


Was her steering faulty before that fateful night?
Did water stop the boiler fires from burning clear and bright?
Did heavy bucket tumblers roll the decks beneath the waves
’Fore the ‘Atlas’ sank and carried thirteen seamen to their graves?


Who will ask the questions?Who will tell the lies?
How many seamen will be drowned before we realise
That a dredge that’s built for river use, should not be sent to sea’
Til she’s put in first class order,with a safety guarantee?


© HarryRobertsonand subsequently ©1995 Mrs Rita Robertson, Brisbane, AUSTRALIA.
Registered with APRA/AMCOS www.apra-amcos.com.a


7 April 2015

Wreck of the Steamer Tweed, built at Huskisson.

February 9th 1893 The Steamer Tweed ends her days on a north coast beach.
A wooden boat of 185 tons,  built by G.W. Hardman at Jervis Bay during the great maritime strike of 1890.
On her last voyage she was loaded with heavy railway material,  and was in command of Captain M.H.French,  with Captain J.H. Hunter,  as the first mate.   The Tweed which had 30 passengers aboard at the time,  had been unable to land her passengers at the old jetty.  There was a flood in the Richmond at the time.  The Tweed,  the Byron (which in later years foundered off Newcastle) also the the old Coraki, (which also came to grief on the Manning Bar) took shelter in Byron Bay.  The gale veered round to the north-east and the same night,  and then to due east.  The captains of the three steamers decided to clear out.  Unfortunately,  when the gale was at it’s height,  at about 4a.m., the Tweed’s rudder carried away,  and the little vessel was helpless. Captain French steamed for shore and beached his vessel on the sand.  In getting ashore,  Mr Connah injured his leg,  and captain French,  after spending 10 days endeavouring to refloat his charge,  received serious injuries when the purchase block broke,  part of it recoiling and striking him in the stomach.  This bought about his death on 27/2/95 at the age of 44 years.

As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, by the 13th February the Steamer had been abandoned.


As reported by the Hobart Mercury on the 15th February, the steamer was a total wreck.


 Survived six ship wrecks

“40 years of sea, embraced nearly every experience it had to offer”.
image Being a survivor of one shipwreck would have been a fortunate thing for any seafarer,  but to survive 6 shipwrecks must be a rare occurrence.
But that is what seaman Mr Coonah did….he was aboard the S.S.Tweed when it ran aground and related the details as described in the aforementioned story,    this was the sixth ship he had been on that had been wrecked,  did it deter him from continuing his precarious life at sea, “no”, he went on for many years after, until his death in his 81st year in Murwillumbah.
He was well remembered as a man of the sea in a time when the ocean was the only direct highway,  he was widely known to the older generation who esteemed him highly for his unswerving rectitude in life.

Born at Liverpool England in 1861,  at a very early age he ran away to sea in a clipper ship to follow in the footsteps of ye ancient mariners of England. Arriving in Australia at an early age, he entered the service of Messrs. B.B and G.W Nichol which traded to the Richmond river,  working his way to becoming one of their chief officers.

The other shipwrecks he survived.

1880 – S.S.Wanganui – wrecked on the Clarence River Bar – two lives lost.
1883 – S.S. Tambaroora – wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef.
1884 – S.S. Richmond – no details.
1885 – S.S. Lismore – ran aground and lost near Ballina.
1886 – S.S. Tweed – wrecked on the Tweed Bar.
1893 – S.S Tweed – as the story above, wrecked Byron Bay – built at Huskisson.

second-vessel-the-tweed...this-is-not-the-one-built-in-huskissonThis is a drawing of the S.S. Tweed wrecked on the Tweed Bar 1886 as it appeared in the Sydney Mail May 12 1888.

4 April 2015

The magic of Jervis Bay.


Crooks and knees in shipbuilding.

 What are crooks and knees?

A ships knee, is a curved piece of wood, it forms a brace and used to strengthen a junction of major components, especially frames and deck beams in boat building.

A crook, is a natural bend in a tree, used to make knee’s,  it’s regarded as the strongest type of natural joint,  a natural crook was considered to be stronger than a joint created by bending straight timber using steam.

Shipbuilders would scour the forests around Jervis Bay looking for natural crooks to use in their shipbuilding, commonly taken from the junction of a trunk and a branch, a naturally formed curved branch, or from the large side roots growing off a tree.

132-Crooks-on-caterpillar-1942Crooks collected from the forest being transported to the shipyards behind an old caterpillar.

456-Siding-a-crook-with-broad-axeHere we see a man siding a crook with a broad axe.
A very labour intensive and skilled job, requiring a keen eye and a steady hand.
Imperfections were often discovered after the siding was well under way,  which meant the crook would have to be discarded.

941-Ship-constructionIn this photograph you can see crooks that have been sided in the pile of timber in the foreground.

135-Stern-construction-of-Jeanette This photograph clearly shows the use of knee’s for bracing made out of natural crooks.

3 April 2015

Lady Denman

An recent Interview with John Hatton and Ken Bullock and John Ferguson,  about the recent name change to the Lady Denman Museum to the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum.

The interview’s introduction will give you an insight into the history of the local Jervis Bay shipbuilding industry, and the story of the saving of the Lady Denman from destruction by a dedicated group of volunteers.

A most informative interview and well worth the time it takes to listen to.  Link Below.


1928 S.S. Merimbula runs aground


S.S. Merimbula shortly after running ashore and before she broke her back and slipped beneath the waves.

Yesterday IMG_5193I took a walk out to the remains of the S.S. Merimbula, 87 years after this beautiful coastal steamer ran aground on the reef adjacent to Bosom Beach Currarong , the elements have almost totally claimed what remains of the ship,  a few riveted, rusted pieces of steel, with a few small fragments of wood attached and a large piece of steel pipe with a rusted flange and bolts still in place,  is all that is left above the water to indicate the wreck site.

The few parts remaining have been moved over the years by the large waves that smash this exposed reef.   When I first saw this wreck in 1979, there was still a bow that you could recognise, and large pieces of timber decking attached,  it was in a different position to the pieces of wreckage remaining today.

Continue on to a previous post and photographs about the S.S. Merimbula.

  IMG_5186 IMG_5189 IMG_5192