WRECK OF THE NETHERBY ON KING'S ISLAND. SAFETY OF THE PASSENGERS AND CREW. Source: National Library of Australia - no newspaper name or date.
At a late hour on Saturday night information was received by the Chief Secretary and Messrs. Bright Brothers (agents for the Black Ball line of packets), by telegram from Geelong, of the total wreck of the ship Netherby on King's Island, on her voyage from London to Brisbane with emigrants brought out under the Queensland Government's system of assisted immigration.
The same message happily stated that, though the ship was a perfect wreck, the whole of the passengers and crew had been landed safely on the island. The smallness of the stock of provisions which had been got on shore however, and the total absence of means of shelter, at the time when Mr. Parry, the second officer, left the wreck to endeavour to procure assistance, give only too serious occasion for a fear that exposure to the elements and want of food may have told severely upon the party, and the women and children especially, before the succour which was despatched yesterday can reach them.
By the late train Mr. Parry reached town, and with Mr. M'Gowan, of the Electric Telegraph department, drove at once to the residence of Mr. M'Culloch, where Mr. Parry told his story. Steps were at once taken by the Chief Secretary to afford relief to the sufferers ; Captain Norman had been sent for as soon as the telegraphic message was received, and the necessary stores having been shipped, the steamer Victoria, with Mr. Parry on board, to point out the precise scene of the wreck, sailed yesterday at eleven o'clock a.m. for King's Island.
In the meantime, Captain Ferguson, harbour-master, had not been idle. As soon as the news reached Williamstown on Saturday night, steam was got up on board the harbour-steamer Pharos, and shops and private houses were ransacked for such stores of bread, tea, sugar, wine, blanketing, &c., as could be got together. About four tons of provisions, &c., were thus placed on board, and at three o'clock in the morning the Pharos, under Captain Ferguson's command, steamed down channel for the scene of the wreck. She had a fair wind to aid her steam power, and would probably reach King's Island before dark last night, and would thus carry not only substantial relief to the sufferers, but promise of speedy rescue.
The Victoria would probably reach the wreck at daylight this morning, and in the course of the night, or early tomorrow morning, the unfortunate people will be brought in safety to Melbourne.
The Netherby was an old ship, of nearly a thousand tons burthen, and well known in this port. She was commanded by Captain Owens (this being his first voyage in her as master), and sailed from London early in April, and from Plymouth on the 13th of that month, with 452 passengers on board, nearly all Government immigrants. She had also a large cargo of railway iron for the Queensland railways.
On Saturday, the 14th inst., she was close to the entrance to the straits, but the weather for some days previously had been of such a character that no observations could be obtained. At half-past seven p.m., while the ship was going about seven knots an hour, land was seen, but so close that in less than three minutes from the time when the first sign of danger was observed, the Netherby struck on the rocks on the western shore of King's Island, almost at its extreme southern end, and about thirty-five miles from the lighthouse.
During the night the sea was comparatively calm, and at day- light—the ship being hard and fast on the rocks—the work of removing the passengers to the shore commenced. This was accomplished successfully, but while the work was going on, the wind had increased and the sea had risen so much that all the ship's boats, excepting a small gig, were stove in, the crews escaping narrowly with their lives. About twenty barrels of flour only had been got to the beach, and this was all the provision se- cured for 500 people. No canvas had been got ashore to use for purposes of shelter for the women and children ; nor had any natural shelter been found. Fires, however, were kindled, and that was nearly all that could be done to protect the shipwrecked people from the weather.
By Monday morning all the ship's masts had gone by the board, and she was full of water. It was expected that she would speedily break-up, and probably enough of provisions, water, and other stores would then be washed ashore to serve the unfortunate castaways.
On Monday morning, Mr. Parry (who is a young man of about twenty-three years of age) was despatched to the lighthouse, to endeavour to obtain help. He was accompanied by a midshipman, and three or four of the passengers. Unaccustomed to bush travelling, two of the party gave in on Tuesday or Wednesday, and set out to retrace their steps to the scene of the wreck. The others persevered, and sustaining themselves with a little flour, and wallabies which they caught, reached the lighthouse on Thursday morning.
There Mr. Parry found that his only hope lay in reaching Melbourne as quickly as possible, and he obtained from the lighthouse-keeper a small but good whaleboat, only twenty-three feet long. The chance of making the run safely in her appeared so faint that one of the party refused to embark, and Mr. Parry proceeded to sea with only the little middy and two others, none of them having had experience in managing boats. The wife of the light- house-keeper had given them a little gin in a toilet-bottle—all in the shape of stores that could be spared.
The wind was high, blowing half a gale, and the sea exceedingly rough. For hours together the lives of the party were in the most imminent peril, but Mr. Parry reports that the behaviour of his comrades was admirable, and that but for the assistance they rendered him in a most courageous manner, he could not have reached the shore.
Fortunately they succeeded in beaching the boat late on Friday night, in a sheltered spot between Point Roadknight and Barwon Heads, and luckily fell in with a surveying party under Mr. Allan, from whom they received the immediate assistance they needed. A horse having been procured, Mr. Parry rode a distance of twenty-six miles to Geelong, where, meeting Mr. M'Gowan, super- intendent of the Electric Telegraph depart- ment, he telegraphed particulars of the wreck to the Chief Secretary and the ship's agents.
Reaching Melbourne by the last train (as we have stated), accompanied by Mr. M'Gowan, the Chief Secretary was immediately waited upon. Captain Norman had been sent for in the meantime, and, on hearing the full details, Captain Norman was instructed by Mr. M'Culloch to proceed with the Victoria, with all speed, to King's Island, taking provisions, medical comforts, and a supply of blankets, &c., with instructions to render the shipwrecked people all the assistance in his power.
As we have stated above, the Victoria was preceded on her errand of mercy by the Pharos, and by the time this narrative reaches the hands of the reader, both vessels will have reached their destination, carrying the succour so much needed. They will be able, also, to bring back the whole of the sufferers, crew and passengers. The wreck of the Netherby lies within three hundred yards of the shore.
The Chief Secretary deserves a compliment for the extreme readiness with which he responded to the appeal made to him for help for the shipwrecked people. We may also state, that Mr. J. G. Francis and Mr. Blackwood (of Messrs. M'Meckan and Blackwood), took a lively interest in the early despatch of succour, expediting the arrangements by all means in their power. Nor should Captain Ferguson's alacrity in preparing the Pharos and collecting supplies be passed over without special notice.