Friday, 24 June 2016

SS CHIMBORAZO DISASTER.

The SS Chimborazo, a combination passenger / cargo steamer, launched 1871 (John Elder and Co Govan), 3847 gross tons, 384 ft. length and 41.5 ft. beam, 13 knots, did the unexpected...  

Australian Town and Country Journal, Thursday 23 march, 1878.

The Disaster to the Chimborazo.
THE news of the striking of the Pacific Steam
Navigation Co.'s fine steamship Chimborazo on the
rocks at Jervis Bay, on the 14th instant, created a
profound sensation in Sydney, especially among
those who were on that day expecting to congratulate 
friends and relatives on the termination of a
pleasant and remarkably speedy voyage. The impression 
created by the receipt of the first news of
the accident was that the ship had touched upon
some detached sunken rock that had previously been
unknown; but as facts are revealed, it appears
that the affair has assumed quite a different phase,
and we have to record a shipping disaster of a
most extraordinary nature, and one that has, so
far as we remember, no parallel in marine casualties 
in Australian waters - a large, full-power
steamer running straight into one of the
boldest headlands on the coast in broad daylight.
How such a thing as this was possible in such a
well-appointed ship as the Chimborazo, is a mystery 
that remains to be solved, and one that certainly 
demands full investigation at the hands of
the Marine Board of New South Wales. 

The dangers of the deep are numerous enough; but
such mishaps as this appears to be do not enter
into the calculations of either the passenger-going
community or the underwriters' risks. The
Chimborazo was in command of Captain Hall,
a gentleman of some experience in Australian
waters, he having graduated in his profession in
the service of the Panama and New Zealand Steam
Company. It appears that on the 14th instant, at
11 a.m., Jervis Bay, or as it is often called Cape St.
George lighthouse, bore west, distant one and a-
half miles, weather fine but slightly hazy, sea 
remarkably smooth. Captain Hall went below
about this time or a little later, leaving the navigation 
of his ship in the charge of his third officer.
Passengers were mostly on deck watching the coast
scenery as the ship went swiftly along. The northern 
head of Jervis Bay projects somewhat further
into the sea than its southern formation, and is a
bold headland, the very counterfeit presentiment
of the north head of Sydney; and over its brow on
the day in question, it is said there hung a veil of
mist. It would have been necessary for the Chimborazo 
to haul off the land, after passing Cape St. George, 
to clear the northern headland - steering about N.E.; 
but her course appears to have been true to the position 
where the rocks brought her up.
The alarm "Breakers ahead" was given when the
ship was so close to the land that there was no
possibility of averting the danger. Obedient to
orders the machinery was promptly stopped in its
action, but then quickly followed the crash, which
was severe enough to throw passengers off their
feet. The sudden stopping of the engines was so
unusual an occurrence that there was a rush of
passengers to the deck, and before many
moments had passed the shock explained fully.
VIEW OF THE CHIMBORAZO WHEN STRIKING THE HOCKS NEAR JERVIS BAY. Helpfully the meaning of the stoppage.AsAs might be supposed in such a scene, there was
...intense excitement and confusion, particularly
amongst the ladies. The whole of the ship's crew
came promptly into action, and the steady, and
quick way in which orders were attended to spoke
of excellent nautical discipline. The first order
was to swing the ship's boats out in their tackles
ready for lowering if the worst fears were realised,
and simultaneously guns were fired to inform the
lighthouse-keeper of the ship's distress (flashes).
The water was found rising forward of the collision bulks
head, and then in the fore compartment, but none
made its way into the main compartment (the advantage of watertight compartments and doors adequately closed / sealed).
It was found that the ship had struck the rocks on the
inner side of Point Perpendicular, and rested with
her bows on the rocks, and that round the place
were 23 to 25 fathoms water, while on the starboard
side a sunken rock was visible. Some fifteen or
twenty minutes had elapsed when efforts were
made to get the ship out from her critical position;
orders were given for all the passengers to run aft
with a view of tilting the ship up, and the engines
being reversed the ship moved slowly off, but was
not yet out of danger, for grave fears were entertained 
that the fire compartment bulk heads might
give way, and the ship in that case would have
gone plump to the bottom. A coasting ketch observing 
the danger, ran down and stood by the
ship till she had got to an anchorage.
The bold headland on which the ship ran consists
of a series of rugged perpendicular precipices,
from 150 to 200 feet in height. They commence
from the entrance of Jervis Bay, and run a considerable 
distance northward. Along the base of
the cliffs are huge boulders and shelving rocks,
which have apparently fallen from the cliffs, and
it was striking on one of these shelving rocks
which caused the damage to the vessel. As the
ship drifted into Jervis Bay, all the passengers
behaved admirably, and were soon transferred to
the boats, the ladies and children being first
placed in them, with a supply of provisions.
In about half-an-hour's time all the passengers
were landed on a little beach, a few hundred yards
from where the vessel struck, the sailors and
others carrying the women and children through
the slight surf. The Chimborazo then went to
Darling Roads, a sheltered position in the southern
part of Jervis Bay, where she still remains. The
passengers re-embarked on Friday night, and on
Saturday they were conveyed to Sydney by the
A.S.N. Company's steamer Collaroy, which
had been chartered by the agents, Messrs.
Gilchrist, Watt, and Co., to bring them to Sydney.
The ship's bottom has been examined by a diver,
and it appears that about 24 feet of keel, from the
cultivator aft, is gone; some of the starboard
planking is also damaged, and there is a hole about
10 feet long in her starboard. 

Anything was possible in the earlier days of seafaring. In this case a lucky outcome for passengers and crew.






Ruins of St George's Lighthouse atop cliffs (as described).

No comments: