Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The wreck of the Dandenong



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Oh, wild and furious blew the blast
And the clouds were hanging round
When the Dandenong from Melbourne sailed
For Newcastle port was bound
With eighty-three poor souls on board
Through the storm she cleaved her way
And it's sad to relate of the terrible fate
'Twas just off Jervis Bay

While steaming through the briny waves
Her propelling shaft gave way
And the waters they came pressing in
Which filled them with dismay
All hands on board did all they could
Till at length all hope was gone
And they hoisted a signal of distress
On board of the Dandenong

It was not long until a barque
A brisk and lively crew
Came bearing down and the Captain said
"We'll see what we can do!"
Came bearing down with might and main
In spite of wind or wave
They did all they could as Christians would
Those precious lives to save

While some in boats they tried to reach
That kind and friendly barque
And numbers of their lives were saved
And then the night came on pitch dark
What mortal man then could do more
When the storm increased on strong
And the rest now sleep in the briny deep
Along with the Dandenong.


From John Meredith's papers in the National Library of Australia with the note:

Collected from Mrs Byrnes, late of Spring Hill. Recorded by John Meredith 1954.

This from the The Argus, 14th September 1876 :


“TOTAL LOSS OF THE S. S. DANDENONG.

“UPWARDS OF FIFTY LIVES LOST.

“The heavy southerly gale which raged with almost hurricane force along the east coast on Sunday has been most disastrous to the shipping which encountered it, and it is probable that we have not yet heard the full result of the damage done. It was only yesterday we had to record the great loss suffered by the racing community in the death of several valuable racehorses aboard the A.S.N. Co.’s steamer City of Melbourne, which ran into the gale, and now we have intelligence of the total loss of the s.s. Dandenong, belonging to Captain W. Howard Smith, which left here on Friday last with a full complement of passengers for Sydney. In addition to the loss of the vessel, it was also announced that at least 17 persons had been drowned, and it was feared that 40 more had met with a like fate. At first the news was disbelieved, but as telegram after telegram was received, the sceptics were forced to believe. The first announcement was made by the posting outside The Argus office of the following telegram from our Sydney correspondent : -

“ ‘Sydney, Wednesday.

“ ‘The Dandenong has broken her shaft, and was full of water, off Jervis Bay. A barque took off 28 persons; 17 were drowned, and 40 were still on board the Dandenong when the barque had to run for it. The Dandenong has not since been heard of, and it is supposed that she has foundered.’

“About the same time a telegram was received by Messrs. W. Howard Smith and Co., and posted at their office, Market-street : - ‘Newcastle, Wednesday. - Barque Albert William arrived here with 28 passengers and 12 crew of the Dandenong. The chief officer of the Dandenong reports that the shaft broke, and the ship was disabled off Jervis Bay. She was last seen at half-past 8 on Monday night. The chief and second officers are saved, but the captain and about 40 passengers and crew are supposed to be lost. The crew go on board the Cheviot as passengers to Sydney to-night.’

“Telegrams kept coming through in rapid succession, and from these it appears that the s.s. Dandenong, under the command of Captain J. Irwin, left Melbourne on Friday afternoon on her usual voyage to Sydney and Newcastle. In addition to her crew of 28 men, she had 27 passengers in the saloon and 28 in the steerage. She had a fine northerly wind down the bay, and it continued so until 5 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, when it suddenly chopped round to the eastward, and rapidly increased in violence until it was blowing a gale, and was gradually veering to the south, causing a nasty cross sea to run. The wind increased in violence during Sunday and the ship laboured heavily, shipping great quantities of water, but she was making good progress, and no fears were entertained of her not weathering the gale, which was now blowing with hurricane force. At 1 a.m. on Monday, however, when she was off Cape St. George, the headland forming Jervis Bay, the engines suddenly stopped, and almost immediately after the chief engineer reported to the captain - who had never left the deck throughout the gale - that the engines had broken down. Captain Irwin at once hauled his ship to the wind on the starboard tack, and attempted to stand off the land to the eastward. The gale still increased in violence, and it was impossible to show a rag of sail to keep her to the wind, and she consequently laboured heavily in the trough of the sea. To add to the danger the ship began to make water rapidly, and it was then discovered that the shaft of the screw had snapped in two, and had by some means damaged the hull in the after compartment. The pumps were promptly manned, the passengers and crew working in relays, while a party under the chief officer attempted to stop the leak using the mattresses and bedding from the cabins. This attempt, however, proved useless, and then, with a view of lightening the ship, and so cause her to labour less violently, Captain Irwin gave orders to throw overboard some of the cargo from the main hold. The water, however, was still rapidly increasing in the hold, and it was evident that she was fast settling down in the water. The sea was running so high that it was but little use launching the boats - with which the Dandenong was well supplied - as they would most certainly have been swamped. At about 2 p.m. on Monday a vessel hove in sight, and signals of distress having been hoisted, she soon bore down to her assistance, and proved to be the barque Albert William, from Wallaroo bound to Newcastle with copper ore. With great difficulty and danger one of the Dandenong’s boats was lowered, which, under the charge of Mr. Lawson, the chief officer, took several of the passengers on board, and proceeded alongside the barque. As thet neared her, however, they got into the trough of the sea, and the ship striking her heavily at once swamped her, and only the chief officer, two of the crew, and a child were saved. Another boat was lowered from the steamer, and this successfully placed its cargo of passengers on board the barque, but when attempting to complete a second trip she was smashed alongside, and only two of those on board of her were rescued. A third boat was lowered from the Dandenong, and in charge of Mr. M’Ewan, the second officer, assayed the difficult journey, but on going alongside the barque she met with the same fate, but most of those in her succeeded in saving their lives. By this time darkness was setting in, and it became impossible to tranship nay more persons until daylight. The captain of the Albert William, however, promised to keep by her until morning and then attempt to take off the 40 souls remaining on board. He had, however, but little hopes that she would live through the night, as the gale showed no signs of abating, and she was labouring so heavily that he expected her to founder instantly. A good look-out was kept for her during the first watch, but between 8 and 9 o’clock the steamer’s lights suddenly disappeared, and it was then supposed she had gone to the bottom. The Albert William remained hove-to all night, but when daylight came, there was nothing to be seen of the Dandenong, and she stood away on her course for Newcastle. Although she had to pass Sydney Heads on her way, for some unknown reason, the captain contented himself with merely showing his number, and gave no notice of the unfortunate occurrence. Had this been done the disaster would have been known at least 12 hours earlier, and steamers could have been promptly sent from Sydney to the scene of the wreck, in the hopes of yet finding some trace of the unfortunate vessel.

“As soon as the disaster became known, the New South Wales Government despatched the Government steamer Thetis to the scene of the wreck, and also telegraphed to Wollongong, Kiama, Terrara, Marura, and Jervis Bay to send out any assistance available. Commodore Hoskins, commanding the Australian squadron, also gave instructions to H.M.S. Sappho to proceed to the spot and search for the wreck. The steamers Yarra Yarra, from Sydney, and Tasmania, from Wollongong, also proceeded on the same errand during the day; while the manager of the Bulli Coal Company sent similar instructions to despatch their steamer Bulli from Bulli.

“As soon as the first intimation of the disaster was received in Melbourne Mr. Kerford communicated with the Commissioner of Trade and Customs in order to ascertain whether it was advisable to send away the Victoria. Mr. Anderson, however, pointed out that the scene of the wreck was only about 90 miles from Sydney, and that it would take 48 hours before the Victoria could reach the spot. The New South Wales Government were, however, communicated with, and an offer was at once made to send the Victoria if it was considered necessary. The Premier of New South Wales promptly replied, thanking Sir James M’Culloch for his offer, but declining it on the ground that plenty of steamers were available in Sydney.

“It is stated that when the morning broke on the Albert William - and nothing was in sight it was presumed that the Dandenong had found a watery grave - the scenes on board were most heartrending. Parents had been separated from their children, and in one case a little child had lost father, mother, brothers, and sister, and she alone was the surviving one out of a family of eight.

“Mr. M’Ewan, the second officer of the Dandenong, appears to bear a somewhat charmed life, as he was the third officer of the ill-fated ship British Admiral, that was lost on King’s Island in 1873, when nearly all the crew and passengers were drowned. In addition to the valuable general cargo the Dandenong had on board, she was also carrying 160 high-class stud sheep, which had been purchased by New South Wales and Riverina buyers at the recent annual ram sales held by Messrs. Powers, Rutherford, and Co., and Messrs. Ettershank, Eaglestone, and Co.

“The Dandenong was well-known as a regular trader between this port and Sydney, and was purchased at home by the owner, Captain W. Howard Smith, who brought her out here. She was a staunch and strongly constructed iron screw steamer, of 743 tons, builder’s measurement, and was built in 1867 at Palmer’s Ironworks, Jarrow-on-Tyne, the same yard from which were launched the Barrabool and Queensland. She was of the following dimensions : - Length, 291 feet; beam, 28ft. 2in.; and depth of hold, 15ft. 7in.; and her hull was in three water tight compartments. The Dandenong arrived here early in January, 1868, to run in conjunction with the You Yangs to Sydney and Newcastle, and during her career on the coast she proved herself a very handy vessel, and di good service for her owner. She had made 206 trips, and was on her 207th when this disaster occurred. Her engines were of 90-horse power nominal, and she was fitted up on deck with steam appliances for the rapid discharge and taking in of cargo. Like the rest of the boats of her line, she was kept in the most efficient order, and her passenger accommodation had been altered and improved some time ago. The value placed upon her by the owner is L20,000, but she is only covered by insurance to the extent of L14,000. The insurances are with the Adelaide Marine and the Southern, but these companies, it is understood, have divided the risk with other offices.

“The following is a list of the passengers who left here for Sydney in the Dandenong : - Saloon. - Mrs. Whitworth. Mrs. Brodie, Mrs. M’Connachy, Mrs. Wakefield, Miss E. Smith, Miss Hilliard, Miss E. Murray, Miss M. Murray, Miss Agnes Wakefield, Miss Annie Wakefield, Miss Fitzsimmons, Miss Green, Sister St. Joseph, Messrs. Winship, Ash, G. Chambers, M’Dougall, Wakefield, T. J. Malley, H. H. Steele, Wright, W. Murray, Hartley, Master Whitworth, and Masters J. Wakefield, T. Wakefield, and F. Wakefield. Steerage. - Mrs. Blair, Mrs. Grey, Mrs. Ward, Mrs. M. Brown, and Mrs. Edmonds and two children, Messrs. Dare, Ferguson, Davis, Blair, J. M’Ghee, Payne, M’Grath, Golding, W. Barter, M’Dougall, J. Osborn, Honey, E. Walter, R. Walter, Matthews, J. Murray, M. Brown, and W. Langston.

“The following is the list of passengers saved : - Saloon. - Captain M’Dougall, Mr. F. Ash, Mr. J. Hartley, J. Whitworth, Mr. G. Chambers, Sister St. Joseph, Miss E. Murray, Miss Mary Murray, Miss Anne Green, Miss Mary Fitzsimmons, Miss Agnes Wakefield, Miss E. Smith. Steerage. - Mr. E. Walters, Mr. R. Walters, Mr. Samuel Golding, Mr. Wm. Blair, Mr. J. Osborn, Mr. J. Honey, Mr. J. M’Grath, Mrs. M. Brown, Mrs. Blair and child, Mrs. Edmonds and two children, and Mrs. Ward. The following is a list of the crew on board : - J. Irwin, captain; - Lawson, chief officer; C. M’Ewan, second mate; Jas. Forger, chief engineer; John Dykes, second engineer; Robert Hooks, chief steward; Fred. Jewell, second steward; John Wilson, officer’s boy; Thos. Hollson, fore cabin steward; Anna Saul, stewardess; John Wilson, cook; Wm. Young, lamp trimmer; David Mord, Jas. Anderson, John Bruhn, Josh de Franze, John Ekland, Charles Christie, Lawrence Williams, Charles Lingoist, - Alfred, and - Humphreys, able seamen; Jeremiah Bunting, Jogn Johnson, Wm. Lloyd, and Martin Dwyer, firemen; George Habbinder, Wm. Edbrooke, and Francis Hay, trimmers.

“The following are the members of the crew saved. Mr. Lawson, chief officer; Mr. C. M’Ewan, second officer; Mr. John Dykes, second engineer; Anna Saul, stewardess; James Anderson, John Bruhn, John Ekland, Charles Christie, Charles Lingoist, - Alfred, - Humphreys, able seamen; and George Habbinder, trimmer.

“Captain M’Dougall, one of the passengers saved, has had a recent experience of shipwreck, as he was master of the Water Lily that was lost a few months since at Port MacDonnell, S.A. Mr. Wakefield, who has been lost with his wife and his family, is a relation of the accountant of the Melbourne and Hobson’s Bay Railway Company; and Mrs. M’Connachy, who has also been lost, is the wife of the captain of the barque Moneta, which recently arrived here from New York, and was proceeding to Sydney to join her husband. As the Moneta had not yet arrived, it will be sad news for the captain when he reaches port to learn the death of his wife.

“There is still a possibility - though but a slight one - that some more of the passengers and crew have been saved by means of the other boats, but the search which is being made will soon decide the matter.

“Much sympathy is felt for Mr. Howard Smith, the owner of the Dandenong, whose recent losses in connexion with the collision between the Queensland and Barrabool add weight to this fresh disaster.


More contemporary newspaper reports can be found here.

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