To The Honorable the Colonial Secretary - Brisbane
Surgeon Superintendent's Report "Netherby".
I have the honour to inform you that the ship "Netherby", 970 tons Register, Captain Owens, Master, with 413 passengers, left London Docks at noon on the 1st of April, and anchored the same afternoon at Gravesend, remaining there until the 3rd, when she proceeded to Plymouth to call for some saloon passengers, arriving at the latter place on the 6th and remained until the 13th when she sailed for Queensland.

During the run down Channel, the weather was wet and cold, and most of the passengers were laid up with coughs, colds and diarrhoea, and as a good deal of medicine was dispensed, it was necessary to replace it and some additional medicines obtained.

While at anchor, four of the passengers (single men) absconded.

The first part of the voyage we had light winds and fair weather. Sighted the Canary Islands on the 3rd of May. Crossed the Line on the 18th May and were off the Cape of Good Hope on the ______. Here we encountered some severe gales of wind, and at one time the ship was a perfect wreck, the bulwarks, water closets, and everything moveable, washed away by the heavy seas which were continually breaking over her. And at one time the main and aft hatches were battened down for 14 consecutive days. The gales of wind continued until within a few days sail of Australia when the weather became more settled and we has steady breezes from the West and North West.

On the 13th of July, about 200 miles from Cape Otway, the weather became very foggy with occasional heavy rains, so that the Captain could not obtain a sight of the sun to know his exact position, but having a fair breeze, he determined to continue his course through Bass Strait. Extra watches were to be kept, and other precautions taken, but on the evening of the 14th, during a thick fog, the ship struck on a reef on the South West side of Kings Island.

The Captain had the lead line ready and intended to heave it at 8pm, but unfortunately we struck at 7.30pm.  We had just finished tea in the Saloon, the Captain, myself, and some of the passengers were still siting at the table when the Chief Officer (Mr Jones) called doen the companion for the Captain to go on deck immediately as there were breakers ahead; and we heard him also tell the Quartermaster to put the helm hard up.

Before we had time to go on deck we felt the ship strike, but not very violently, as there was only a moderate breeze at the time. On reaching the deck, we found we had struck a reef, but being very foggy and dark at the time, we could not make out how far we were from land, but could see we were surrounded by breakers on every side.

On the Carpenter sounding the well, he found the water rising very rapidly, in fact an hour after she struck, the between decks were full of water aft, but not so much forward, and the pumps were kept continually going, everyone taking their turn, until we found they were of no further use. The Captain ordered one of the life boats to be lowered, but from the painter not being properly fastened, it got adrift, and was dashed to pieces. A second boat was then lowered, and the Chief Officer and some of the crew sent to see what kind of place it was; but they returned without effecting a landing, it being so dark and so much surf running at the time, s we had to wait patiently till day break.

Before the boat left, the Carpenter sounded round the ship, and found deep water, both fore and aft. She seemed to be on the top of a ridge of rock and we were fearful lest she should break in half. After she struck, the wind increased to a stiff breeze with heavy rain; the fog cleared away and we could see the land about half a mile ahead of us with a deep white belt of surf all round the coast.

When the ship struck, the passengers all rushed on deck, and there was a scene of great confusion for some time, but after a while I managed to quiet them by telling them we had struck on a sand bank and could not sink any further, and that we should be able to get off at day break. I then got the women and children into the Saloon and Second Cabin and persuaded the men to go below as there was not much water forward, and I was much afraid lest any of the yards or masts should fall on deck and injure them. I also served out wine and biscuit to the women and made them get what blankets they could to take ashore with them next day.

I gave orders to Mr. Lockhardt (Purser) to get up what stores he could, especially flour, oatmeal, preserved meat and biscuit before the hold filled. We afterwards got out 6 casks of flour, about 40 tins of preserved meat and 2 cases of wine.

None of us slept during the night, but all waited anxiously for the day break to see where we were. Some of the passengers prayed to God for help, and I am sure it was granted to us in a most wonderful manner. Others read chapters from the Bible, and after the first shock was over, Most of them seemed resigned to their fate, whatever it might be. The officers and crew behaved extremely well and worked hard all night.

At day break (6am) July 15th Captain Owens sent the Chief Officer ashore on a boat with a kedge anchor and hawser, to find a landing place, and to make fast a line from the ship to the shore so that the boat could be passed along, as it was impossible to pull through the surf. He succeeded in doing this, and at 7.30am, after the passengers had had some coffee and biscuit, we commenced landing them. A rope ladder was put over the side and made fast. Constables were placed to keep the people back, as everyone was anxious to get away, and we sent some of the married men ashore to assist the women in landing, as they had to go throught to surf. 

I stood on the bulwark, and helped them up on the inside and passed them over to the Captain who was half way down the ladder, and he passed them down to the Chief Officer who was in the boat below. There was a good eal of sea on at the time, and sometimes the boat was carried away from beneath the ladder, so we had to watch for an opportunity and drop them into the boat. Two of the women fell into the water, but were picked up again. We could only use two boats at a time, and sent about 20 in each boat. We managed to get them all safely off by 4pm, but one of the boats was stove in against the rocks and rendered useless.

I remained on board until dusk with the Captain and his crew, assisting in getting up stores, sails etc, and sending them ashore. We also cut away the masts to ease the ship, and as the foremast fell, it smashed the long boat to pieces, and our remaining life boat had her side stove in while landing stores. The only remaining boat was the pinnace which we had great difficulty in launching from the ship.  The Captain and myself were the ast to leave the ship. And we had to wade ashore through the surf for about 100 yards.

On landing we found the passengers had lighted fires, were drying clothes, making dampers, etc. There was plenty of wood on the Island, and they had found water about a mile and a half from where we were wrecked. We kept large fires during the night, but it was extremely cold, and a very heavy dew, so few of us had any rest.

July 16th - we found by serving out 1/4 lb of flour daily to each person, there was sufficient to last two weeks, and also some biscuit for the women and children. We also had 1/2 a pig which had been killed a day or two ago, and was kept for the ladies in the Saloon. A case of wine and one of gin was kept, in case of sickness.

At 8am, I consulted with Captain Owens and Mr Townsend (Saloon passenger), and we agreed to send an Officer and four passengers to walk to the light house which we supposed about 30 miles distant. So at 9am Mr Parry (2nd Officer) and four passengers left the camp with instruction to keep round the coast till they reached the light house, and then to communicate with shore by telegraph or any available means. I worte a letter to the Colonial Secretary, Melbourne, of which I append a copy, and Captain Owens wrote to Messrs. Bright Brothers.

The remainder of the day we were employed getting stores, sails, etc from the ship by means of the pinnace, the only boat left. All the stores were colected in one place and covered with a sail, and I appointed constables to watch day and night in case anyone should steal them. Passengers began making huts with scrub wood, sails, etc, and succeeded in making themselves pretty comfortable.

July 17th - Employed all day getting stores from the ship. She still lies in the same position. Not much surf today. Gave instructions that all clothing, etc washed ashore should be brought to the shore where they would be exhibited every morning at 10 oclock, and any unclaimed articles would be given away to the most destitute. Some kangaroos and wallabys were shot today, also a few birds. Mrs Cubbins, steerage passenger, was confined this evening at 8 oclock of a girl, both she and the child are doing extremely well. A tent has been formed with tarpaulin and she has been supplied with bedding and baby linen, etc from some of the other passengers.

July 18th - Crew employed in getting stores from the ship. A hole was cut through the main deck and some tins of preserved meat were got at, enough to serve 1/4 lb to each person, also some oatmeal. Passengers found plenty of whelks and limpets on the rocks which are good to eat. A few more kangaroos shot. The Carpenter and Sailmaker patching up life boat and fitting it with a sail, as Captain Owens has resolved to sail and see if Mr Parry and party have reached yet. Mrs Cubbins and baby doing well. Got a tin of arrowroot from ship, and some tins of preserved milk. Some colds and diarrhoea, but nothing serious.

July 19th - The Captain, Sailmaker and three men left at 8 oclock this morning to sail round to the light house, and if Mr Parry did not reach it, to sail over to melbourne. In turning over the cargo, came across some cases of cocoa and some beer, both of which are very acceptable. I served out 1/2 a pint of beer to each of the women. A package of children's boots came ashore, and I distributed them amonst the children. A good many articles of clothing have also been washed ashore and distributed amongst the people. It still continues fine, but cold at night.

July 20th - Employed as usual getting things from the wreck got two casks of oatmeal and a gallon of sherry.

July 21st - Got three more casks of oatmeal today from the ship and some more cocoa and some tins of preserved eggs, also four cases of ale. There was a great excitement in the camp this afternoon when one of the Light house keepers made his appearance; half the people seemed to have gone mad. He had walked over from the lighthouse, a distance of 35 miles, in 12 hours, and was very much exhausted. He brought me a letter from the Captain stating that he had taken 12 hours to reach the light house, when he found that Mr Parry and party arrived at the light house at 10am on the 19th, and after 2 hours rest had gone over to Melbourne in a life boat belonging to the light house.  They were very much knocked up, and one of them too ill to go on. He also informed me he would return himself the next day to the camp. Mr Hickmot, the light house keeper, informs me they are provisioned for 6 months and can accommodate a good many of the passengers, so I shall keep him until Monday, and if no help arrives, will send over all the single men who are able to walk the distance. Mrs Cubbins and child continue very well. Some of the sailors got drunk this evening and are rather noisy. Some showers of rain this evening.

July 23rd - This morning at 8 pclock, no assistance having arrived, 117 young men left the camp for the lighthouse, accompanied by Mr Hickmott, taking 3 days rations with them.  At 3pm all hearts were cheered by the appearance of H.M.C.S "Victoria" steaming into the bay, followed, in a few hours, by the "Pharos". Provisions were sent on shore, and arrangements made for the removal of the passengers. They were taken on board by means of boats and ropes made fast from the ship to the shore, but almost all had to wade through the surf, and were wet and cold when they got on board. Soup was at once served out to them, and their wet garments dried.

Some of the Saloon passengers refused to come off as they thought by stopping they could recover some of their baggage etc. 90 passengers were taken off by the "Pharos" and 250 by the "Victoria", and as the latter took the married people and children, I accompanied them to Melbourne. Before sunset we were out of sight of the Island and steaming for Port Phillip Bay. Everyone was well fed and made as comfortable as possible by Commander Norman and his Officers, and though a few were seasick, all passed a better night than they had done for some time.

The next morning the "Victoria" was taken alongside the Williamstown breakwater and boarded by the Health Officer and other gentlemen anxious to know if any had succumbed to the hardness of their situation. A special train had been despatched from Melbourne and the passengers were enabled to walk from the "Victoria" on to the pier and into the carriages which were alongside the sloop. The Honble. Mr Francis and Mr Guthrie received us on the pier and went to town with us.  

On reaching Melbourne, Messrs Bernard and Mahon generously placed the cabs free of charge at the disposal of the passengers, and conveyed them to the Exhibition Building which had been fitted up for the occasion.  The Saloon and 2nd Cabin passengers were lodged at Iankards Temperance Hotel. The single females sent to the Immigration Depot and the sailors to the Sailors Home. And Dr McGawren (?) Medical Officer of the gaol, undertook the supervision of the passengers at the Exhibition Building. (I was located at Scotts Hotel). After seeing them all safe to their different quarters, I went back with the Honble. Mr Francis to the Colonial Secretary and begged him to allow the steamers to return for the remaining passengers at the wreck and who numbered 40, and 117 left at the light house. My request was granted and the steamers were ordered to leave Williamstown at 8 oclock the same evening, and as I thought some of the men might be laid up from their long walk or other causes, I volunteered to accompany them back again. So after getting a bath and change of clothes, I started off to bring up the remainder.

July 24th - At 8 oclock this morning were off the light house and having signaled, learnt that some of the men had only come in yesterday and were very much knocked up from their long walk. As it was blowing a stiff breeze and a very heavy surf running in, it was impossible to take them off today. Captain Norman steamed into the Franklin Roads between the New Year Islands, and remained there until the next day. As I thought some of the men might be seriously ill, I went ashore in one of the steamer's boats with another gentleman and walked to the light house, a distance of 15 miles, arraning with Captain Norman to come with as many as could walk the distance the following. On reaching the light house just before sunset I was very kindly received by Mr Spong the superintendent, and found some of the men laid up with diarrhoea and others with their feet severely blistered. Every kindness and attention had been paid them by Mr Spong and his assistants, and they were getting better.

July 25th - Early this morning the "Pharos" came to the light house and signaled to us not to leave today, but to be at Fanklin Roads by daybreak tomorrow, so I made arrangements for the men to start at 2am tomorrow, and served out double rations this evening.

July 26th - At 2am all hands were roused. Had breakfast and left at 3.30 for the Franklin Roads, except one man who was unable to walk, his feet being all over blistered. By 8 oclock the last of the men had got to the Roads and put on board the steamer. I went on board the "Victoria" by the last boat when Captain Norman informed me he had been to the wreck yesterday afternoon and taken off Captain Owens and the remainder of the passengers and crew with the exception of Mr Parry and one of the crew who wished with remain by the wreck in case they did not get paid by the owners who have stopped payment a short time ago.

Captain Norman had some difficulty in finding out the place as the wreck had gone to pieces the day before. The ship broke in half and no vestige of her remains above water, but articles of every description are strewed along the surface of the water and around the numerous rocks which form so prominent and disagreeable a feature on this part of the Island.  Its astonishing how the "Netherby" continued to get into such a position with rocks all around her. From observations made by Mr Spong, the light house keeper, it appears there has been lately a strong set to the southward, as several vessels have lately been seen down amongst the Islands. The "Victoria" made a fine passage of ten hours to Melbourne and anchored off the breakwater at 11pm.

The "Pharos" arrived a short time after. As we came past the light house on King Island, we called and took off the man who had been left behind, and Captain Norman returned the stores which had been used by our people during their stay on the Station.

July 27th - After a substantial breakfast on board, the steamers went alongside the pier; the passengers were landed and a special train, which was in their readiness, conveyed them to Melbourne. There cars were waiting to take them to their quarters at the Exhibition Building.  The whole of the passengers are now safe in Melbourne and are very comfortable in their new quarters. One or two are laid up with dysentry,but the rest are keeping remarkably after so much exposure. The Government, throughout, have acted with the greatest promptitude, the immediate wants of the passengers are supplied to them through the Immigration Department, and the Committees of Ladies and Gentlemen appointed to administer the plenteous public charities that are fast pouring in, are supplying them with the necessary clothing etc. 600 pounds have been subscribed by the people of Melbourne and has been expended in clothing, bedding, etc. I telegraphed today to the Queensland Government to know what is to be done with the passengers.

July 28th - Tis being Sunday, service was performed in the Exhibition Building by different clergymen. I visited the passengers and found them having a good diner of Roast beef and Plum Pudding, with half a bottle of beer each. Passengers all very well.

July 29th - Received an answer from the Queensland Goverment by telegram, stating that the passengers holding Land Orders were to be forwarded by Messrs Bright Brothers, but anyone that wished could remain behind. Messrs Bright Brothers gave notice that passengers wishing to go on to Brisbane were to hold themselves in readiness to start tomorrow morning.

July 30th - After breakfast this morning, tickets were given to those whiching to go on to Bisbane. A glass of wine was given to each of the women on leaving; a packet of sugar plums to the children, and a tin of arrowroot to the infants. They were then sent on board with their baggage. The "City of Melbourne" left about 2pm taking 243 passengers with her. 170 remained at melbourne. I came up with them and we had a pleasant trip calling for coals at Sydney on our way, but none of the passengers went ashore. We rached Morton Bay on the 4th instant at about 10pm, and anchored for the night. Early the next morning the passengers were put on board the "Ipswich" steamer, with their baggage, to Brisbane to the Immigration Depot, where I delivered them to the Immigration Agent.

The number of days occupied in the passage, until the ship was wrecked on King's Island, was 97.

General health of the passengers was extremely good during the whole voyage, and also on arrival in the Colonies, though they were exposed for 8 days on King's Island.

There were a good many cases of debility which required stimulants, but not more than I usually meet with, they generally arise from the peculiar diet and close confinement on board ship.

The number of cases of each kind of disease were as follows:-
Bronchitis - 4
Catarrhus - 63
Phthisis - 4
Pneumonia - 1
Heart disease - 1
Diarrhoea - 48
Asthoe - 1
Rheumatism - 9
Anasarca - 1
Gingivitis - 1
Gravel - 1
Gonorrhoea - 2
Apoplxy - 1
Convulsions - 1
Dyspepsia - 5
Cephalalgia -3
Scald Head - 4
Sun Stroke - 1
Congestion of Liver - 1
Furuncle - 1
Prickley Heat - 7
Pedicule - 3
Piles - 1
Debility - 42
Broken Rib - 1

The latter occured through one of the single men falling down the fore hatch - the patient recovered in a short time.

There were two births during the voyage - one a girl, and one a boy - and another one on King's Island, after the wreck (a girl).

There were only two deaths during thevoyage, both sickly infants when they came aboard.

There was more sicknessin the after part of the ship owing to the number of children there, upwards of 100 were under 12 years of age.

The general conduct of the married people was extremely good, but the single men required a good deal of looking afer and were sometimes very outrageous in their behaviour. About a dozen of them I should think, had been collected from the lowest back slums of London. The only way of managing them was by putting them in irons and stopping their rations for a week at a time; only allowing them biscuit and water.

The provisions were very good, with the exception of the flour, which all through the voyage was sour, lumpy and of very inferior quality. The Saloon flour was not quite so bad.

There was a plentiful supply of water which was very good, both from the tanks and condenser. The latter broke down on one or two occasions, but was put in order again by the Engineer.

The medical conforts were very good and there was plenty of them to last all through the voyage. I found the Beef Tea especially to be of great service to sickly women and children, but I should like to have corn flour put on board instead of as much arrowroot.

The Captain and Officers did all they could to assist me in maintaining order, both on board ship and after we were wrecked, and they deserve great praise for their exertions in getting the passengers off safely from the wreck and endeavouring to save the property afterwards. And I must also mention the Carpenter and Sailmaker as being most indefatigable in getting stores ashore and saving property from the ship.

The compartment for the single females was strong and sufficient and the girls behaved themselves very well during the voyage.

There were no lectures delivered, but "readings" from different authors.

The state of the day and Sunday school will be shown by the Schoolmasters report, which is appended, but it is not as explicit as usual has his books were lost with the wreck.

I am sorry to say the Carpenter's work was done in a very slovenly manner and gave way in all directions. The closets on deck were very lightly put up and were easily washed away by the seas when they broke over the ship.

I found the mushroom ventilators, which were placed over the Hospitals, to be of great service, and would recommend them to be placed in all Emigrant ships.

I much regret that the "Netherby" should have been lost, as from her very lofty between decks, she was well fitted for an Emigrant ship.

I have the honor to be 
Your most obedient Servant
Marshall H. Webster
Surgeon Superintendent
Ship "Netherby". 

Marshall H. Webster, Surgeon Superintendents Report
First Hand Accounts From Those Who Were There

Web admin Karina: Typed version of this letter was provided to my father by Catriona Robinson of Ispwich in March 1998. Catriona is a descendant of passengers Isabella Moffatt who was travelling with her children Luke and Mary, to join her husbane and 3 other children in the colony. My father had come across an article in a magazine called Bremer Echoes authored by Catriona.