Stephen Tyler

The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.

Wreck of the American Ship Susan Gilmore

Source: The Argus, Melbourne.  Saturday 5 July 1884.

No Lives Lost

Great excitement was caused in shipping circles this morning, when news reached town that the fine American clipper ship Susan Gilmore was a total wreck near Newcastle.  The first telegrams relating to the disaster were rather meagre in their details, and also uncertain as to whether the crew had been saved, one message stating that it was supposed that several of the crew were lost.  All apprehensions as to the safety of the crew were, however, set at rest by the receipt of the following telegram from the harbourmaster, Newcastle :-

“The Susan Gilmore, in tow, from Sydney, went on shore last night, in consequence of the towrope breaking, at the place where the City of Newcastle was wrecked some years ago.  The captain, his wife and son, and all of the crew were saved.  They were brought on shore by the rocket apparatus, which has just returned from the wreck.”

Captain Carver reports that his vessel, the American ship Susan Gilmore, 1,204 tons, left Sydney with a crew of 14 hands on Wednesday night, at 11 o’clock.  The glass then was high, but the weather showery.  The ship was bound to Newcastle for coal, and consigned to Messrs. C. F. Stokes and Co., and was in tow of the steamer Irresistible.  When almost half way to her destination, the captain noticed something wrong at about 10 o’clock on Thursday morning on board the steamer.  The Irresistible kept slacking up, and Captain Carver saw the hands at work screw something up near the engines.  The steamer, however, towed the ship until within sight of Nobbys, and then set signals for assistance.  None coming up, at about 2 o’clock on Thursday afternoon the ship’s head was put about, and she made sail.  At about 5 p.m. on Thursday they set signals of distress, and the steamer Afghan, bound for Newcastle from Adelaide, came alongside, and tried to take the hawser from the Irresistible, but failed.  The Afghan then made another attempt, and was successful in getting the hawser on board at about half past 5 p.m., but going ahead quickly, the hawser, which belonged to the Susan Gilmore, parted.  The wind then drawing a little more astern, the ship’s head was kept up the coast trying to weather the Nobbys.  Finding, however, the ship close to the breakers, and not being able to weather the Nobbys, both anchors were let go.  The anchors not holding, the ship was stranded at about 11 o’clock on Thursday night.  Captain Carver then sent up rockets and blue lights, and burnt some flareups as signals for about 20 minutes, but as far as the captain observed no notice was taken of any of these signals by anyone on shore.  At midnight one boat was launched, but it was sucked under the ship and destroyed.  At daylight on Friday morning another boat was launched, but the sea filled her when alongside.  The third boat then put off immediately afterwards, and succeeded in safely landing seven of the crew in two trips.  On the third trip it was attempted to take the captain’s wife ashore, but the boat, like the others, filled alongside, and Mrs. Carver was thrown into the water, but was rescued by her husband, who passed a rope under her, and she as hauled on board again by the second officer, Mr. Peaselee.  The captain then had to swim ashore.  He was very nearly carried away, and had a hard struggle to reach the land.

Shortly after this the rocket brigade appeared.  A line had already been conveyed from the ship, by which the life-saving lines were hauled on board.  The brigade succeeded in rescuing the captain’s wife, his son aged five years, and the remainder of the crew.  The captain then went on board again and brought ashore the ship’s papers.  The crew were taken to the Sailors’ Home, and Captain and Mrs. Carver and their child were taken to the Great Northern Hotel, where everything was in readiness for their reception.  From the hotel, however, they were taken on board the barque Escort, Captain Waterhouse, from Boston, who is related to Captain Carver.  The family are all now being hospitably entertained on board that vessel.  Neither Mrs. Carver nor the child has sustained any physical injury through the disaster.

The vessel is now lying where she was stranded.  Great credit is due to Captain Humphreys, of the ship Eldorado; Captain McEachern, of the barque Edith Carmichael; and also to Mr. G. O. Hyde, for the kind assistance they rendered.