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Archive for the ‘Maritime history – Far South Coast’ Category

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Merimbula Wharf was certainly a popular fishing spot in the early 1950s as this photo shows. However, in 1979 the Department of Public Works decided that the wharf was beyond repair and despite community protests to save the wharf, the jetty and loading platform were burnt down. The Merimbula community were determined to replace the wharf and in an extraordinary effort, raised $110,000 which was eventually matched as promised by the NSW State Government. Building on the new wharf began in 1983 and was officially opened in the October that year by Michael Cleary, Minister for Leisure, Recreation and Tourism. The ceremonial ribbon was cut by locals Alan Young (original Save the Wharf Committee President) and Dolly McCulloch (Save the Wharf Committee Secretary).

Later, in 1987 and 1988 the cargo sheds were converted into a restaurant and aquarium. Unfortunately, fire destroyed the building in 1998 but opened again in a new complex.

If anyone has any photos to share of the old, or new, wharf please contact Bega Valley Shire Library.

Source: People of the Lake: stories of Merimbula by Helen Swinbourne and Olwen Morris, Merimbula-Imlay Historical Society, 2012.

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ly_ee_moon_1895On the night of May 30, 1886, the steamer SS Ly-ee-Moon, on a voyage from Melbourne to Sydney, ran aground off Green Cape lighthouse south of Twofold Bay. Perhaps the Far South Coast’s most famous shipwreck, seventy-one people were killed and 15 were saved by Lighthouse staff.

The Steamer was built in 1859 for the rich opium trade and had a varied career in Chinese waters. It was considered a superior type of vessel with an unprecedented speed of 17 knots in its trial run. Purchased by the Australasian Steam Navigation Company in 1877 , and after some mishaps and refits, the steamer developed a reputation for fast services.

According to his account, Captain Webber sighted the light of Gabo Island and had retired to his cabin around 7.45pm. He left directions for the night’s course to the Third Officer with instructions that he be contacted when the light of Green Cape was sighted. When he went on deck at 9 pm he was horrified to to see the Ly-ee Moon steaming directly for the rocks at the foot of the lighthouse. At the marine enquiry Captain Webber was accused of gross negligence, but the Third Officer Fotheringham who was in charge when the steamer struck the rocks was not penalised.

The sole survivor from below decks was a boy of twelve, “little Adams”. Adam’s mother had refused to go up to the boat’s deck.  He recounted how the passengers were all praying, then his mother cried out to him “Oh Harry, I’ve lost the baby – she must have let it slip out of her arms. By this time the lights had gone out, mother said to me ‘kiss me Harry and say goodbye’. I could not see her but I knew she had on one of those cloaks that they wear when going to the Opera.”  The last words she said were “Oh I’m fine now”, and he never saw her again.

Among the dead was Mrs Flora McKillop, the mother of Mary McKillop. Mrs MacKillop had been travelling to Sydney to help at a church fete organised by her daughter, Mary, who was made Australia’s first saint  on October 17, 2010.  After her mother’s death, Mary McKillop visited Eden and opened St Joseph’s Primary School. After 120 years, the school was closed in 2011 due to declining enrolments.

See, ‘Shipwrecks of Twofold Bay and Disaster Bay: wreck inspection report’ / Tim Smith 1996; ‘Who lied? The Ly-ee-Moon disaster and a question of truth’ / Graeme Barrow 2010

Sister Mary McKillop mural

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I suppose not all crimes, historical or otherwise, can be well-planned and ultimately successful, which may be just as well. Just one example is as follows:

The night of 25 December 1857 brought unexpected mutiny aboard American whaler “Junior” in the Tasman Sea. Of the ship’s Officers, Chief Officer Nelson alone survived, in hiding from the mutineers with lead slugs still lodged within him.

The mutiny was apparently an ill-planned one, for not one of the mutineers had the appropriate knowledge to navigate the ship. Five days after the mutiny, Chief Officer Nelson emerged from hiding in search of water, and was consequently captured. Cyrus Plumer, by accounts the leader of the mutiny, struck a bargain with the Chief Officer after his wounds were dressed. In return for navigating the Junior to Cape Howe of Australia’s South-Eastern coast, he would not only be left alive but also allowed to reclaim the ship.

In spite of his worsening condition, Nelson brought the ship to land, 20 miles off Cape Howe, after a further five days. At that point Plumer wrote an account of his mutiny in the ship’s log, naming himself and four others as the ringleaders, and signed it along with the other four. The five ransacked the ship then went to shore, followed by five others who had not been active in the mutiny but apparently approved of his stated plan to turn bushranger.

Nelson hoisted a distress signal, and was thus discovered the following morning by British ship “Lochiel” under Captain Haddon’s command. He was escorted to Sydney, where Doctor Nathan removed four lead slugs from his shoulder and otherwise cared for him.

Meanwhile, Plumer, with an assumed identity as a Captain Wilson, castaway from a wrecked ship, had entered small town Merimbula along with his men. They behaved conspicuously, especially Plumer, who ardently pursued various ladies. They were soon arrested by the Pambula police for disturbing the peace. They became required to sleep every night in the Eden lockup.

News of the mutiny reached Eden, prompting the culprits to flee into the bush. All were captured within a few days, and later extradited to America for trial.

Source: “Death on the ‘Junior’: A saga of early Merimbula”, compiled by the Merimbula-Imlay Historical Society with acknowledgement to the Sydney Daily Mirror, 2nd July, 1958

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