How a ship aground in 1881 gave its name to a suburb – Collaroy


One hundred and forty years ago, a paddle steamer ran aground at the southern end of Narrabeen Beach and remained there for over three years.

One hundred and forty years ago, a paddle steamer ran aground at the southern end of Narrabeen Beach.

And if it hadn’t been on the beach for nearly four years, the paddle steamer Collaroy might have been just another in a long line of lost or stranded ships along the peninsula.

But the stranded steamboat became so well known – it was even considered by royalty – that the southern end of Narrabeen Beach eventually became Collaroy Beach, although it took several decades for the name to s ‘imposed.

When the first official tram arrived in Collaroy in 1912, most newspapers of the time still called the quarter Narrabeen.

Outside of Resolute Beach at the north end of Pittwater, Collaroy Beach is the only other beach or bay on the northern beaches that gets its name from a ship.

The Collaroy was an iron-hulled steamboat built at the John Laird & Co shipyard at Birkenhead, across the River Mersey in Liverpool, in 1853.

The Collaroy was built speculatively for Thacker and Company of London and sold to the Australasian Steam Navigation Company, who bought it in February 1854 for £ 20,000.

The contract for this sale is now held by the State Library of NSW.

When built, the Collaroy was 48.3m long, but in 1859 it was extended to 57.5m, bringing its gross tonnage from 356 to 419 tons.

The Collaroy was originally built with three masts but modifications in 1859 saw the number of masts reduced to two.

Before 1875, the Collaroy’s career went smoothly, but on August 4 of the same year, she collided with the schooner Ida, causing serious damage to the schooner.

The Collaroy had just passed Long Reef and was on its way to Sydney when a red light from a ship leaving Port Jackson was spotted at around 4:10 p.m.

The other vessel was the schooner Ida heading north with full sails out.

The Collaroy’s chief officer kept a close watch on the Ida as the two ships approached each other.

The Collaroy headed further to port to give the Ida a clear path, but when it was only three or four lengths, the Ida veered to starboard and into the path of the Collaroy.

The Collaroy’s engines were stopped but the Ida struck the Collaroy on the port bow near the bowsprit, sweeping the rail over the paddlebox and smashing a small hole in the hull above the waterline.

The Ida lost her starboard bulwarks, cat’s head and bowsprit, and the foremast fell against the mainmast.

As soon as the ships cleared, the Collaroy sent a tow line aboard the Ida and towed it safely to Sydney.

The Marine Board investigated the collision and concluded that the Collaroy was to blame for the collision, but felt that nothing more than a warning was necessary.

In 1879, the Collaroy was sold to the Newcastle Steam Navigation Company, which used it on the “sixty mile race” between Sydney and Hunter Valley.

Throughout her career along the NSW coast, the Collaroy has proven to be a popular and reliable vessel, albeit slow.

And it was this lack of speed and her captain’s attempt to make up for lost time by sailing closer to shore than was wise that may have led to the grounding of the ship.

The Collaroy left Newcastle for Sydney on January 20, 1881, with a mixed cargo and 40 passengers on board.

The night was calm, but as the Collaroy descended the coast and, off Terrigal, the ship’s captain, Captain Martin Thompson, descended and handed control of the ship to the chief mate, or second, R. Drew .

The ship’s heading was changed twice as the ship approached Sydney, but heavy fog set in.

Drew was ordered to wake Captain Thompson once the ship was off Long Reef and at 3:55 a.m. they were discussing what Long Reef looked like when they suddenly saw waves on their land side. Before the ship could be slowed down, it ran aground on the beach.

The vessel’s engines backed up for half an hour, but it was too late, the vessel ran aground.

The 40 passengers were transferred safely to shore, as were the cargo of wool, potatoes, hides, tallow, pigs and sheep.

But tragedy struck two days later, on January 23, when the ship was struck by a wave and rolled over, throwing the captain and three other men into the water.

One of the men, Hercule Dalziel, drowned and his body was found the next day.

When the Marine Board met to investigate the grounding, it found: “That the grounding was caused by the wrongdoing or default of R. Drew, the mate, for changing course without l authorization from the captain and by or failure of Martin Thompson, the captain, for not taking the necessary precautions for the safety of the vessel while it was sailing close to land during heavy fog.

The two men’s certificates were suspended for three months.

The morning the Collaroy ran aground, the tug Commodore was passing by when it sighted the Collaroy and was soon joined by the tug Mystery.

Meanwhile, the crew of the Collaroy took the ship’s anchors into deeper water to prevent the ship from being pushed further up the beach. Both tugs attempted to pull the Collaroy out of the sand but to no avail.

Later that day, the most powerful tug Prince Alfred arrived from Newcastle and was later joined by the tug Bungaree, but their efforts were also unsuccessful.

Eventually, efforts to refloat the ship were scrapped after a sandbar formed on the sea side of the ship, effectively locking it in the sand.

Word of the stranding spread quickly and the Collaroy quickly became a tourist attraction.

There was even a royal audience – two of Queen Victoria’s grandsons, Prince George and Prince Albert – who stopped to inspect it in late 1881.

Eventually, the ship was sold to a Sydney businessman, John Robertson, who hydraulically lifted the ship and built a cradle on slides below.

The cradle was then rotated so that the ship was pointing out to sea and, after several attempts, it was finally pulled out of the sand by tugs on September 19, 1884 – three years and eight months after it ran aground, after which it was towed away. to Sydney for repairs.

After the hull was reconditioned, the Collaroy returned to the sixty mile run for a few years.

In 1888, the Collaroy was sold to Balmain lumber merchant Alexander Burns and converted to a four-masted schooner-rigged sailboat.

In the late 1880s the ship was used in the Pacific trade until it was finally wrecked on the Humboldt Reef off the coast of California in June 1889.

In 2001, maritime archaeologist Tim Smith of the NSW Heritage Office found an anchor embedded in a reef about 250m from the beach he believed to be associated with the Collaroy.

The anchor rod pointed towards the shore, suggesting that it may have been one of the anchors used in an attempt to pull the ship from the beach in 1881.

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