Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Signal Flags at Newcastle


Newcastle Harbour Signal Flags

On the morning of the 27th ult. the sloop Elizabeth, belonging to Mr. John Smith of this place, attempted to round Nobby's after the top of high water; - it was blowing very strong at S.S.E. with a considerable sea on. The master of her, it is presumed, had run in under the impression that the flood was still making, and that he might save his distance. He was in some measure justified in acting so, as the signal heretofore used, forbidding vessels to approach the harbour on the ebb tide or bad weather, was not (indeed could not be) made - ALL the flags heretofore used for signals being worn out.

The consequence was, the little vessel was swept down into the bight, and obliged to let go her anchors, which held her about two hours, during which time the sea made a complete breach over her. At last her anchors came home, and she drifted into the surf, and when at about the distance of 200 yards from the beach, at a most critical moment, and when all hope of saving her was abandoned, the wind shifted to south west; the people on board made sail, slipt the cables, and got her head to sea, and before sunset she was out of sight.

We are still anxious about her fate, as she has neither anchors or cables on board. She would have been a loss to her owner of upwards of four hundred pounds not to mention the almost certain loss of four lives, for there was little chance of their being saved in the tremendous surf that was running. All this risk and anxiety might be avoided, if government would be at the paltry expense of sending a few yards of bunting to make signal flags, which, till within these ten or twelve months were always supplied, and signals accordingly made, which either enabled vessels to approach the harbour with safety, or acted as a caution for them to stand to sea, and yet the harbour dues on Colonial craft are enormous.

There is not a flag here to hoist, except the Union Jack, and one or two private signals. - The Australian 6 January 1827


[1]. The Monitor 10 January 1834