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GREAT SHIPWRECKS AND LOSS OF LIFE AT NEWCASTLE. LOSS OF THE STEAM ER ' CAWARRA'

Wk compile the following details from the Sydney Morning Herald \ of various dates :—: — It is our painful duty to ogam record one of those terrible catastrophes which from time to time break in upon the community, blanching th&cheek, and making the stoutest heart to tremble. Shipwreck at all times is to be regretted, and when attended with loss of life, as on this occasion, is fearful to contemplate. The 'Cawarra,' one of the finest steamers in the colonies, •with a large and valuable cargo, and over fifty souls on board, started on her voyage for Brisbane and Rockhampton on the afternoon of the 11th instant, and within twenty-four hours, at one swoop, ship, •argo, and, it is feared, both passengers and c*ew, have passed away, and that too within sight of hundreds of persons willing but, alas, unable to render the slightest aid. The first intimation of the disaster was received by telegram, by the Government, yesterday afternoon, at 3.30 p.m., and was- to the following effect, and dated from Newcastle :—": — " That the steamer 'Caw area' had struck on the Oyster Sank and broken in two." This was followed by another, announcing that the vessel was breaking up, a number of passengers were seen clinging to the poop, and that the lifeboat .was going to their rescue, but it was feared she would not be able to reach them. The third and last message stated that the lifeboat went off and found not a yestigc of the wreck. It was supposed she must have gone down almost immediately, and it was feared that all hands were lost. The ' Cawarra' was the property of the A. S.N. Co. , and arrived from Englandabout two years ago; she has since been a. regular trader between Sydney and Brisbane.

Newcastle, July 12, 4 pm. Shortly after 1 o'clock to-day a steamer, supposed to be the 'Cawarra'ifrom her peculiar bown andjpoop, was signalled to the northward. At this time a -fearful sea was running, and it was blowing almost a hurricane from the south-east ; the signal wai made to " stand off ; " the vessel appeared to steam slowly, and did not make the port till 2 p.m., at which time the sea took her near the Oyster Bank on the North Shor« ; she struggled with the elements for some time, and seemed as if she would again succeed in getting out to sea, but judging from appearances, being very much down by the head, she must have filled forward. At about 3 o'clock she struck on the Oyster Bank and became uumauageable. The steamer was observed to turn about two or three times and she then settled down with her head to the north. The passengers and crew were seen huddled together on the poop, and Boon made for the rigging. Extraordinary as it may appear, the lifeboat had not gone out up to this time. A few minutes after the funnel went over the side, and three men were seen in the water ; at about 3.15 the fore part of the vessel was under water, and a minute after the mainmast went over, carrying with it every living soul in that part of the ship into eternity. At 3.25 the foremast went, on which three or four men weie seen climbing. In & fevr moments not a vestige of tho ill fated 'Cawarrft' was to be seen, and little hope was entertained that any of the passengers or crew would escape a watery "From the time the ' Cawarra ' struck till she disappeared only three-quarters of an hourfelapsed. A number of people have gone over to the north shore to render assistance should any one succed in reaching the land. There is a great outcry about the lifeboat not goiag out sooner than it did, but thejjmafcter will, no doubt, be investigated by the proper authorities. When she did put out, the sea was so heavy that eight oars out of fourteen were broken, and she was compelled to return. „,,,. , The steamer ' Coonanbara ' went out atj the usual hour thU morning, and ie was an awfully grand sight to see her round Nobby's. Several of the shipping Buffered more or less damage, A large schooner, supposed to be the ' Veno, has cone into port all right. There is a fearful sea on, and it is now blowing a hurricane. Ac 5 p.m.— Two pillow-slips, marked 'Florence Irving* and a capstan bar, branded 'Cawarra, together with files of paptrs, and a large quantity of goods, consisting of tins of kerosene oil and bales of corks, have just been washed onshore. At 5.30 p m.— One-man has been saved from th« wreck, he drifted alongside the /edbuoy, to which ha clung until taken off by theson of the Signal Master ; the survivor was conveyed to the lighthouse, and is in a very precarious state. One mail box, with the lid broken and partly filled with letters and newipapers, addressed to Rockhampton, has just been washed on shore. The man saved from" the ' Cawarra' was a seaman belonging to her named P. T. Hedges. He states that he was in the maia rigging, and was washed over at the same time the funnel went over the side ; h« believes the same sea took Captain Chatfield off the deck. No intelligence can be obtained from him as to the cause of the accideut which can be relied on. He says that in endeavouring to run out to sea again tht vessel shipped several heavy seas that filled the fore compartment and the engine-room, that the fires were extfnguishedjby the water.andthe 'Cawarra' then became unmanageable, as, being bo much down by the head, she would not steer. Captain Chatdeld, on seeing the danger, ordered one of the baats to be lowered, when a number of Chinamen jumped into her j they were immediately ordered out to make way for the women, one of whom got in, when the boat was swamped by a sea, and the woman was drowned. Hedges has since been taken to Winches Hotel, but is •tfll suffering from his immersion. It is expected the bodies will float into the harbour. Portions of the cargo are still coming on shore at tho North Beach. The gale has not abated.

Newcastle, July 13, 10.45 a.m. The barque 'William Watson,' Captain Moran, from Nelson, N.Z , in making for the port this morning,f oundit impossible to enter. The captain ran his vessel on shore at the North Beach, and she has since become a total wreck ; the carpenter and steward were both drowned, but fortunately the rest of the crew, together with the steward's wife, were saved by means of life lines from the shore. The steamer 'Susannah Cuthbert,' Captain Muir, has just safely entered the port. Last night was another fearful night. The breakwater is seriously damaged, and one of the newguide lights is washed away— in fact, the breakwater looks a complete wreck. . ... A vessel is supposed to have foundered during the night, loaded with timber, as large logs and a quantity of other timber has floated into harbour this morning, covering a space of a quarter of a mile. , , The only survivor from the 'Cawarra' has recovered after a night's rest. Noon.— A schooner is running for the port, ana great fears are entertained for her safety. There is a strong fresh in the Hunter. The gale has slightly abated. , At 2 p.m.— A large ketch, supposed to be the 'Caroline,' has just gone down just inside Nobby s, and every soul on board has perished ; she struggled hard for some time, but the strong fresh running out prevented her making headway against the 1 current ; she rode beautifully over the seas, but was gradually worked over to the Oyster Bank ; a heavy sea struck and capsized her, and she immediately sank. Some hundreds of people on shore witnessed the awful scene. The vessel that foundered at the Heads last night was the 'Sea Gull,' schooner, supposed to be from the Richmond River, the stern having been washed on shore with that name on it— all hands must have perished. , The second mate and a seaman belonging to the barque 'Kedar' were drowned last night, through their boat swamping. No bodies have yet been found from the ' Cawarra.' At 2.30 p.m. — The schooner Lismore is on shore at the North Beach ; the crew have not yet been taken off. . . A steamer, making the port, has been just signalled. . At 415 p.m.— The ketch that foundered is supposed to be the 'Ino 7 or 'Catherine.' The 'Lismore,' •chooner, left here on Tuesday, coal-laden, for the Gas Company, Sydney. She endeavoured to make the port, notwithstanding she carried a full press of canvas, and was swept by the sea and carried into the breakwater, and has become a total 'wreck. She is lying some distance from the shore, and the crew are still on board. All are expected to be saved. She was the property of Messrs. Broomfield and Whitaker. A steamer is in sight, well out to the eastward. The ' William Watson ' has not yet gone to pieces ; Bhe lies over on the North Beach, near where the 'Comet' was wrecked. The steamer ' Coonanbara' is safe in Broken Bay, At 5 p.m.— A large screw steamer with three masts passed the port, apparently making for Port Stephens. All the crew have been saved from tne • Lismore,' by means of rocket apparatus. At 11.30 p.m.— 'Rhoderick Dhu,' schooner, from the Richmond; timber-laden, has become a total wreck, at Norma" Point, fourteen miles this side of .Port Stephens, at 4 o'clock. this morning. All hands saved. , „ , Captain Mackie, of the * Lismore,' reports that he was in company with four or five other vessels all trjring.to get an offing '

Two mail boxes Lave come ashore from the ' Cawarra ' Captain Muir, of the 'Susannah Cuthbert (a.), states that he never -witnessed such a sea, or such a fearful gale for the last thirteen years.

Further Particulars of the Loss of the 'Cawarra.'— The following additional information has been obtained from Frederick Valliant Hedges, the only survivor of the ill-fated ' Cawarra.' F. Y. Hedges was bora in Bristol, England, came to the colonies in 1857, in the ' Granite City, 'and is thirty-one years of age. He states the 'Cawarra' cleared Sydney Heads about 6 o'clock on Wednesday evening, •trong south-east breeze blowing ; as they proceeded the wind freshened, blowing heavy squalls, sea increasing ; heard the captain intended putting into Port Stephens or Newcastle. The weather was very thick at the time, and it was 11 o'clock before they made out land. At 2, they made out Nobby's ; the captain at once made for the port, and rounded Nobby's shortly after 2 o'clock ; in doing so the heavy sea running struck the steamer several times with tremendous force, and the rush of water on deck —some of which went below— was frightful ; the vessel almost became unmanageable ; she was driven over and passed the 'Eleanor Lancaster's' mast. Thecaptain ordered the foresail to be set, aa the vessel had turned round with her head towards Nobby s. Hedges thinks it was the captain's intention to make the harbour, but the sea came on board with such volumes that the captain ordered the sail to betaken in, and the steamer to go-ahead full speed, evidently with the intention of going out to sea ; three or four tremendous seas struck the steamer and she gradually went down by the head, and the fires almost immediately went out. Captain Chatfleld ordered the boats to be cleared away. Some Chinamen had previously taken possession of one boat, but the captain ordered them out to make room for the" females on board, two or three of whom got into the boat with five or six men, among whom was Hedges ; a sea swept all out, but Hedges managed to lay hold of the davits, -and succeeded in getting on board again, and by this time another boat, the cutter, was manned by sev^n or eight men and put off from the steamer, but she almost immediately capsized, and only one of the crew regained the ship. Hedges got into the main rigging with three or four others, but had not been there long when the funnel went over the side, carrying him and the others with it ; he struck out for some minutes, and succeeded in laying hold of a plank, which drifted towards the Harbour near the red buoy. As he was drifting along, he says, he saw two or three men in the water floating on pieces of wreck, and who, he thought, would be picked up by boats. He believes they all perished in the surf close to the Oyster Bank. Hedges says he heard no screaming. There was some slight confusion on board, but all appeared calm and collected, and perfectly resigned ; he says he has often seen more confusion and fright in much less real danger. The Chinamen willingly got out of the boac when ordered. When the boat of the i steamer was going down the passengers and" crew went aft for safety. When the mainmast went he (Hedges) was in the water. He saw her foremast standing, and the next chance he had of seeing around him all was gone. Just before Hedges was swept off the wreck the second engineer, who was by him clinging to the main rigging, said, " 1 think it is a case with most of us, Fred." About this time a report was spread throngh the vessel that the lifeboat was coming ; the captain said, " Coolly, lads, the lifeboat is coming." Up to the time that Hedges was washed off the steamer, the captain appeared perfectly self-possessed and cool ; in fact, all stood at their post till the las b. Hedges saw the chief engineer, who he made sure would be saved, as he was near the harbour. Hedges did not see the lifeboat, and was not aware she was out at all, but he saw another come out to their assistance. He saw the schooner ' Veno' coming in; he did not, however, see the boat that picked him up until close to him. He saw the red buoy two or three times before he was picked up. Mr. Hannell's boat cam© alongside him in the water, and he was assisted in, and removed immediately to Mr. Hannell's residence at the lighthouse. _ . . , „

Newcastle, July 14, 2 p.m. It was Johnson, the only survivor of the ' Dunbar,' who rescued Hedges, the only survivor of the 'Cawarra,' from his perilous position on the red buoy. Large quantities of spirits, flour, and other goods are strewed along the beach for miles. The barque 'Princess,' with topmasts gone, was towed in by a tug, but had a narrow escape on entering, there being now a tremendous fresh in the Hunter. _ r 'J he wreck of the 'Lismore was sold by Mr. Lochhead to Mr. Henderson for £157. The ' William Watsou' is fast going to pieces. The two men belonging to the barque ' Kedar, who were drowned on Jhursday, were endeavouring to pick up a hogshead of spirits. 'I here are several vessels off the port. At 3 p.m., the barque 'Midas,' was being towed in by the 'Bungaree,' and when under Hobby's the warp broke ; the barque anchored, and a tug has taken out a new warp, and is now trying to tow the ' Midas ' in against a very strong current. At 4 p.m.— The tug ' Bungaree has gone ashore on Nobby's, and but faint hopes are entertained of getting her off. The tugs 'Tainar' and 'Rapid have gone to her assistance. There is a flood in Maitland. Three boats hay« been despatched to render assistance. The weather is now fine, but there is a nasty roll of a sea. I cannot ascertain the name of the ketch that foundered just inside Nobby's, with loss of all hands ; it is generally supposed she was a stranger. A brig and schooner are making for the port, but the signal has been up all She afternoon to stand off, as it is impossible to stem the current without the aid of a powerful tug. The body of a woman, supposed to be one ot tne passengers of the ill-fated 'Cawarra,' has been found in the Hunter, and has been brought to the dead-house. An inquest will be held on Monday. At 7.45 p.m. — The tug 'Bungaree has become a total wreck on Nobby Y. She lies on the reef between Big Ben and Stoney Point ; she had damaged her bottom, and is now full of water ; the sea is breaking right over her, and it is piobable she will go to pieces [during the night. The crew are all safely funded. It appears that the ' Bungaree had gone out with a new warp for the purpose of again taking m tow the barque ' Midas ;' she had made fast and was towing ahead, but the strong fresh running out, caused the 'Bungaree to sheer off, and before she could again come round, the sea and current swept her on the rocks under Nobby's. She began to nil with water almost immediately, and in a few minutes the firet were put out by the water rushing in. She then became quite unmanageable. The life-boat went out, but its services were not availed of,; the tugs ' Tamar' and ' Rapid' also went near'the wreck, but were unable to render any assistance. The ' Midas' is anchored close to Nobby'a right in the fairway. The 'Bungaree is insured for a large amouut. . _ . ' West Hartley No. 1' is a total wreck at Lake Macquarie; crew saved. Captain has his leg broken. Two of the crew seriously injured. Men have been taken to the hospital.

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Permanent link to this item

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Bibliographic details

GREAT SHIPWRECKS AND LOSS OF LIFE AT NEWCASTLE. LOSS OF THE STEAMER 'CAWARRA', Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXII, Issue 2806, 24 July 1866

Word Count
2,975

GREAT SHIPWRECKS AND LOSS OF LIFE AT NEWCASTLE. LOSS OF THE STEAMER 'CAWARRA' Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXII, Issue 2806, 24 July 1866

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