Tuesday, 5 July 2016


Wreck of the Dunbar, 1857:


The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 7 July, 1910.

Two of the anchors of the ill fated ship
Dunbar, which was wrecked near Sydney
Heads 63 (53) years ago next month, and by which
over 300 (121) lives were lost, were secured yesterday. 
Two other anchors were also located,
but time would not permit of these being
raised. Their position is such, however, that
they can be recovered with ease, if found
desirable. In addition to the anchors, copper
bolts and other portions of the vessel were
also recovered, and a general survey made by
a diver of the scene of the wreck.
The work of securing the anchors was
undertaken by a party of gentlemen residents
of Watson's Bay. and Messrs. Edward Dunn,
Harold Dunn, Harry Dunn, and Samuel Toyo,
of the pilot service and South Head signal
station, were given charge of the work.
The salvage steamer Federal, In charge of
Captain Davidson and Pilot Anderson, was
engaged. No better day could have been
chosen for deep-sea work. The sea was
remarkably smooth, and as the wind was off the
land, blowing hard from the north-west, the
high cliffs protected the steamer and those
on board from any ill-effects.
By the time the whole of the gear was got
on board and a start made from the lifeboat
shed at Watson's Bay it was 10 a.m., and an
hour later the steamer was being moored
fore and aft by an anchor from the stern and
tow lines from the shore.
The position of the wreckage was soon
located by the men from the pilot service,
who were in small boats, and had the use of
a water-glass. The anchors could be seen
from the steamer by those with a keen eye
for nautical work. They were found about
200 yards south of Jacob's Ladder, right
underneath the military fence, and about 
60ft out from the ledge of rock upon which 
Johnstone, the only survivor of the wreck, was
discovered on the morning following the night
in which the vessel struck. The depth of
water at this particular spot is about 20ft.
The bottom Is a rough one, full of rocks, many
standing eight and nine feet high.
As soon as the steamer was properly moored
over the anchors, Diver Anderson went down
to make a survey. He quickly returned, and
reported that there were four anchors lying
in a heap, with a large amount of cable chain
and hose-pipes around them. Two of the
anchors were very large. It was decided to
have a pull at the big anchors. The hauling
gear was attached, and the donkey-engine
set in motion.
Although the machinery strained, and the
steamer lurched over as if to help; yet the
anchors would not move. The diver had
another look, and reported that the rocks had
almost grown over the anchors. He, however, 
thought ho could get a small one, which
was apart from the others.
In ten minutes the first of the Dunbar
anchors made its appearance on the deck of
the steamer.
It was a small kedge anchor, weighing about 
15cwt. It had but one fluke, the other having
decayed and broken off. The stock and the
anchor shackle wero also gone. The remainder 
of the anchor was in a good state of
preservation, considering that it had been 63 (53)
years under water. It was covered with a
rocky coral substance and with marine vegetable 
matter. An effort was then made to
get a second anchor, but it was found impossible 
to move any of the others. Consequently dynamite 
was used and this was effective.
Within 20 minutes after the shot had been
fired, and a good deal of amusement provided
for those in the vicinity to get fish which had
been destroyed by the effects of the explosion,
the chains were once more hauling at something 
very weighty, and an immense anchor,
weighing nearly four tons, made its appearance 
above water. It was soon got on board.
Everybody was astonished at the size of the
anchor, and also its wonderful state of preservation 
after being buried in the sea tor
over half a century. Every part of it was
complete, though, of course, much eaten away,
and most of it was covered with a growth and
a hard rocky substance similar to that found on
the kedge anchor. The shank of this immense
anchor was 13ft long. The wooden stock had
rotted away, but the ring and the anchor shackle 
were complete, and the wooden forelock, 
made from oak, was still in the shackle.
One of the links of the anchor chain was
attached. Having got this large anchor safely
on board, it was decided to have lunch :)
Early in the afternoon the diver made a
careful survey of the whole scene of the
wreck, going as far south from where the 
anchors were found as the length of his air-pipe 
would allow. He found a good deal of copper 
and iron plates of the old ship lying
embedded in the rocky bottom. During his
tour of inspection Diver Anderson had to
climb over rocks nearly as high as himself,
and had to wander between other rooks too
high to climb over. He managed to bring to
the surface such portions of the wreck as a
breast hook, a boat davit, pieces of copper,
which had formed the lining of the ship's 
large copper bolts, ring bolts, and last, but 
not least, a piece of a china saucer, which
was embedded between the anchors. It was
very old fashioned :), and for pattern was of a
yellow ground with a green flower. From
the position this piece of china was lying in
it was believed to belong to the crockery of
the ill fated ship.
Night was now coming on. It was decided
to suspend operations, and to return to town 
with at least a significant trophy of the
wreckage of the Dunbar. The anchors were
landed on the military wharf at Watson's
During operations the movements of those
on board were watched by a large gathering
of people from the dizzy heights above.
The two anchors still under water are as
large as the big bow anchor raised yesterday.
One of them is of the same design, and was
probably the second bow anchor of the vessel,
while the other one is of a different design.
It was recognised as a Trotman anchor.

Fascinating period account of wreck exploration and recovery of artifacts. The use of dynamite would be frowned upon in the modern era but certainly achieved its goal.

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