The Norna and the Conman Commodore

In the early 1900s many hard-working sailing vessels saw out their days plying the waters between Australia and the islands of the South Pacific.   Few, however, would have had such a fascinating history as that of the Norna. The Norna was built in New York in 1879 as a luxury ocean-going schooner rigged yacht.   SheContinue reading “The Norna and the Conman Commodore”

Diving for the Gothenburg Gold

On 24 February 1875 the steamer Gothenburg ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef and sank during a ferocious storm with the loss of over 100 lives.   A fortune in gold also went to the bottom. That the Gothenburg had sunk with 3,000 ounces (93 kgs) of gold belonging to the English, Scottish and AustralianContinue reading “Diving for the Gothenburg Gold”

All Hands to the Pumps

In September 1789 H.M.S. Guardian sailed from Portsmouth, England with much needed supplies for the newly established penal settlement in New South Wales.    But its voyage was cut short when it struck an iceberg in the Southern Ocean and began filling with water. After an uneventful passage south, the Guardian had stopped at Table BayContinue reading “All Hands to the Pumps”

The Peruvian’s Lone Survivor

There is a modest memorial standing in the Bowen Cemetery in North Queensland dedicated to James Morrill who died on 30 October 1865.   The plaque credits him as a sailor who had survived the loss of his ship and subsequently lived with the local Aborigines for the next seventeen years. The 22-year-old Morrill sailed fromContinue reading “The Peruvian’s Lone Survivor”

The Endeavour’s Crappy Repair

As the Endeavour famously made its way up Australia’s east coast in 1770, there was a moment when the success of Cook’s voyage hinged on a pile of animal dung, some wool fibre and a coil of old rope.    The incident took place shortly after passing Cape Tribulation, so named by Cook because that wasContinue reading “The Endeavour’s Crappy Repair”