Newcastle Through the Years.......
early days before the coming of
steam boats, the picturesque coastline up from Sydney and welcome sight
of Nobbys on a clear day were an event to be looked forward to by the
crew of the little 'sixty milers'. However if the weather turned foul
and a south easterly gale whipped up mountainous waves, it was a
different story and the narrow passage became a nightmare. The channel
was tortuous and shallow, and full of shoals. The deepest water that
could be expected at low tide was 15 feet, and that was limited to a
narrow, tricky channel. The dangers were well known from earliest
exploration and settlement. (6)
Lieutenant James Grant
on a fact finding mission with
Colonel William Paterson recorded the
following description of Nobbys and the entrance to Hunter's River
"Sunday, 14 June, 1801. - At 6
a.m. bore up and made all possible sail, the Coal Island (an island in the
entrance) N.N.W. 6 miles. At half-past 10, I went on shore with Dr. Harris, to
examine the entrance, which we found very narrow.
On the left hand side going in was a reef of rocks from the
island, with much heavy serf breaking on it; on
the right was an extensive flat, with a tremendous
roll of sand breakers over it. The channel in was troubled with much heavy swell, and did all but break, so
that I hove the boats head round and pulled out again; sounded 5 fms. On
considering the risk we run of bringing the vessel in without well ascertaining
the channel, I pulled in, carrying from 5 to 4 and 3 1/2 fathoms close to the
island. On our getting on
shore we climbed up this steep
island and hoisted a flagg as a signal this was the right place.'
accompanied the expedition to make a survey of the harbour wrote
'Such a fearful passage one has to clear to arrive in this fine harbour.
Pilot Boats - Crew
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roaring of the waves thrown one upon the other, breaking with
a fearful noise on the steep rocks of the isle and furiously
rolling on to the sands of the opposite shore, inspire with
awe the most intrepid seaman.
dangers trading vessels had been sailing up to the Coal River
for cargoes since 1797 when Lieutenant John Shortland brought
news of his discovery of the river. Timber, coal and other
resources such as lime, and salt would keep the intrepid
mariners returning again and again.
In 1830 the Sydney
Gazette gave the following report of the wreck of the famous
little packet the
We regret to announce the
almost total wreck of the Lord Liverpool
on the evening of
Tuesday last. She left Sydney, for Newcastle on the preceding Saturday,
having on board, Mr. and Mrs. Cobb, Mr. Hosking, Mr. Parker,
and about forty assigned servants, and after a smart gusty passage of
about seven hours, arrived off Nobby's Island, where she was obliged to
cast anchor, owing to an adverse wind and a tremendous surf which
rendered it impossible to make the harbour of Newcastle. The pilot,
Hughes, came off immediately, and
lost no time in
sending the passengers ashore, who were safely landed after undergoing a
very severe ducking. The prisoners were put ashore on Nobbys. The little
vessel weathered the storm pretty well until Tuesday, when after making
several ineffectual efforts to tack in, in the course of the day, she
became entangled among the rocky shoals, about seven o'clock in the
evening, and soon began to fill through two great fissures in her
bottom. Her masts were cut away and all the usual methods resorted to in
order to get her off, but without success; nor was the removal of the
cargo, consisting principally of sugar and soft goods, effected before
it had sustained considerable damage from the sea water. Every
assistance was afforded by the authorities at the settlement; - the
government boats, well manned, were ordered out, and several private
boats, among others, one belonging to
rendered every possible aid on the distressing occasion. A number of
gentlemen, also, amongst whom were Mr. Commissioner Therry, Dr. Moran,
Mr. Solicitor Williams etc encouraged the boats' crews by their own
example, and liberally distributed grog and other refreshments to the
men, to excite and reward their exertions.
Captain Taggart is
almost inconsolable at the misfortune; and it is but justice to that
very clever mariner, to state that no blame whatever is attributable to
him. At the period of the latest accounts, the vessel was on her beam
ends, and some hopes were entertained that the very great efforts which
were then making, would succeed in getting her afloat again, and that
the damage would not ultimately prove to be so great as to render her
(*The Lord Liverpool was floated and in December it was reported that
she was being taken to Sydney for repairs.)
The treacherous waters around
Nobbys became known throughout the world and mariners sighting the
infamous island in stormy weather often knew what they were up against.
With luck they made it through the narrow passage, however over the
years many mariners have been consigned to a 'watery grave' as
their tiny vessels failed to traverse the fearful passage.
Customs Terms - Select from the
drop down list -
Vessels at Newcastle in the first
thirty years of settlement
the earliest reference found - some vessels traded for several years):
1801 Anna Josepha owned by Lord and Meehan; crew of 28. 170
tons. Took 100 tons of coal and 4000 feet of timber from Newcastle
to Sydney in October 1801
Lady Nelson. Lieutenant James Grant directed by Gov. King
to take the Lady Nelson to H.R. in June 1801
1801 Norfolk. Govt. owned. Seized by escaping convicts at
Hawkesbury and lost at Pirate Point, Newcastle.
Edwin - Took a sample of coal from a new mine at Newcastle
to Sydney. Owned by J. Palmer. 16 tons. 3 crew. Wrecked in 1816. Captain
and crew walked 100 miles to Newcastle
James - Owned by T. Raby and in 1804, the frame of a
Nautilis - Master James Black. 18 crew. To Newcastle in
August (in ballast). In August 1816 the Master, Edward Edwards
implicated in escape of prisoners from Newcastle and in November 1816
went ashore at Newcastle.
Raven - Owned by T. Raby. Sailing to Hunter River in May
1804 Governor King - Owned by Kable & Underwood. Coal and 64
logs of cedar to Sydney in February. Wrecked at Hunter River in 1806
1804 Lady Nelson. Taking Lieutenant Menzies, James Mileham, Mr.
Bauer etc. to the new settlement at 'Coal River'
1805 Contest - Owned by Kable & Co. 45 tons. 6 crew
1814?. Endeavour Brig Owned by Kable & Co. 31 tons; 6 crew
1805 Francis - Report by Charles Throsby of the loss of the
Francis off Coal Island in March
1805 Governor Hunter -Owned by Isaac Nichols. 33 tons, 6 crew.
Arrived in Sydney from Newcastle with 20,000 lbs of salt in September
Marcia - Owned by Kable & Co; 26 tons; 5 crew
Surprise - Owned by Kable & co. Lost in a heavy gale north
of Coal Island
Venus - Brought samples of wheat from Newcastle to Sydney.
Owned by J. MacArthur
Hope - Cedar and coals
Hunter - Cedar and coals
Resource. In pursuit of escaped convicts. near Newcastle.
In 1814 lost shortly after leaving Newcastle. Owned by Messrs .Redmond
1806 Richmond. Owned by Morley and Watkins. 18 tons. 3 crew.
1806 William & Mary. Owned by William Miller. 12 tons; 3 crew.
Dundee. Captain Cummings. Wrecked at Hunter River
1808 Halcyon Thomas Shirley convict at Newcastle drowned in
trying to rescue the Halcyon in strong winds.
Estramina - Driven by strong winds to Port Stephens when
taking Lieut. Lawson to his command at Newcastle in February. Joseph
Ross appointed master in September 1814. Reported wrecked at Newcastle
in January 1816
1810 Sally. Master James Brown. Taking supplies to Newcastle
settlement in January. Wrecked after springing a leak near Reid's
Mistake in 1812.
1810 Speedwell. - Master William Johnston taking supplies to
Newcastle in January 1810. In 1814 seized by convicts. Master
William Patten in 1814.
Eliza - Owner Joseph Underwood. Wrecked at Port Stephens
1811 Northumberland. Owner Mr. Blaxcell. Missing for 5 weeks
since sailing to the Hunter.
1811 Perseverance. Master Robert Murray. Ran aground at
Boyd - Lost on a beach between Hunter River and Port
Stephens known as the sandhills. Full freight of wheat.
Mary - Owned and built by John Redmond, Chief constable at
Sydney. Loading coal for the Indian market in 1812
Elizabeth Henrietta - Launch of the Elizabeth Henrietta,
govt. vessel 150 tons in June. Master John Ross. Mrs Ross and crew
member drowned at Hunter River in August when vessel upset her moorings.
Wrecked at Newcastle 1825.
Elizabeth & Mary - Owned by Mr. Underwood. Reported to have
gone on shore at Newcastle
Kangaroo. Joseph Ross acting as pilot for the Kangaroo in and
out of Newcastle harbour
Recovery. Master Peter Hibbs. Wrecked at Port Stephens in
July. Passengers walked to Newcastle
1816 Windsor. Owned by Henry Major. Wrecked at the Long Reef
after departing Newcastle for Sydney
Nautilis. Ran aground at Newcastle. Said to be blocking the
1817 Endeavour. New schooner owned by John Black. Lost in a
gale at Newcastle in December
Princess Charlotte. Took Commissioner Bigge to Newcastle
in February. George Williams First mate.
Newcastle - Built at Hunter River in 6 months. 3 1/2 ton
schooner. Owned by Mr. Street in 1826.
Snapper. - In June made the shortest trip to date between
Sydney and Newcastle - 38 hrs.
1822 Magnet - Wrecked at Newcastle. Owned by Thomas Wilson
Calder. Wrecked at Newcastle. Captain William Worth. Owned
by Peter Dillon.
1823 Eclipse - Regular cutter. Sydney to Newcastle every week.
Seized by escaping convicts 1825
1823 Mars. Sloop built at Newcastle 30 tons. Wrecked at Port
1824 Fame - Brig. Thomas Young master. Trader between Sydney
Lord Liverpool. Alexander
Livingstone master. Coppered, copper fastened cutter established as a
regular packet for passengers and goods between Sydney and Newcastle. In
1827 took the first load of coal from Lake Macquarie to Sydney.
1824 Sally. Taking prisoner to Newcastle in December.
1825 Nereid. Captain Forbes. Wrecked 10 miles north of
1825 Sophia - Owned by Edward Cory commencing trade between
Sydney and Newcastle in December.
1826 Balberook - Sloop belonging to A.A. Company. Wrecked off Port
Select here for an account of
Charlotte - 10 tons.. Took 10 days from Sydney to Newcastle.
Wrecked on the beach five miles from Newcastle in September 1827
1826 Currency Lass - Cutter built for T.W.M. Winder at Captain
Livingston's farm. 100 tons. Launched October 400 people attended.
1826 Elizabeth - Purchased by John Smith of Newcastle. Trader
between Newcastle and Sydney
1826 Gurnett - 15 tons. Seized by escaping convicts. Belonging
to Mr. Street of Sydney
St. Michael - Arrived in Newcastle having lost her sails
in a storm. Purchased by the owners of the Lord Liverpool.
1827 Amelia - Seized at Newcastle for having arrived with a
cargo of liquor without permission
Australia - Owned by A. A. Company. Taking 2 steam engines to
Australian Lad - Cutter. Trader between Newcastle and Sydney.
Totally lost and crew perished October.
Lambton - 82 tons. Cutter owned by the A.A. Company.
Captain Corlette. Based at Port Stephens.
Darling - Colonial Schooner. Passengers and goods from Sydney
to Newcastle. January
Dove - Lost in a storm to the north of Port Stephens. 7 lives
Governor Arthur - Trading between Sydney and Newcastle March
Samuel - 50 tons. Taking coals to Sydney in September
1830 Admiral Gifford - 43 tons. Taking coals to Sydney. Captain
Amity - Taking three pairs of sawyers to Newcastle to
commence a cedar ground
1830 Carabeen - Bound for Newcastle with sundries in January
Cumberland - Largest vessel to enter the harbour. Piloted
by Captain Livingstone
1830 Fairy - 28 tons. Taking coas from Newcastle to Sydney in
Glatton - 13 tons. Taking coals from Newcastle to Sydney
1830 Hope - 24 tons, Captain Brown. Coal
Jessie - Crew man lost overboard in March. Driven onto rocks
near Hog Island in 1831& cargo of corn lost
1830 Madeira. To Newcastle with sundries in January
1830 Maid of the Mill. 14 tons. Captain Mosman. To Newcastle
September. In Feb 1831 crew thrown into the surf near Nobbys after the
Nereus. Barque. To Sydney from Newcastle after losing her
anchor in Newcastle Harbour. October
1830 Pandora. Trading craft between Sydney Newcastle and
Paterson. Master David Brown.1831. Frederick - Wrecked on her passage to Newcastle in June.
Notes & Links:
Loss of the Balberook........The present state of Australia: A Description of the Country, Its Advantages ... By Robert Dawson
Loss of the Cawarra in 1866 from Papers Past
1. Customs Terms - Day, David., Smugglers and Sailors:
The Customs History of Australia 1788 - 1901., Commonwealth of
2. Historical Records of Australia
3. Historical Records of New South Wales.
4. The Sydney Gazette
5. The Australian
6. The Daily Telegraph