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From: "Emma-Jane Maddern" <>
Subject: [CUL] Re: Sinking Geltwood (long email)
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 15:31:22 +0930
References: <200110142256.f9EMuBx29732@lists5.rootsweb.com>


Hello Listeners,

I decided to reply this way as it will reach the many interested folks, thank you all those people who replied. There is a History Group at Millicent, I am not able to get there often. I have a friend there is is on line and is the researcher for the group, I would be happy to forward your emails (by request) to her as she may be able to check if there are more details ?

The following article is taken from the "South East Family History Group" (Millicent, SA) newsletter Vol. 3 #3 August 1983, also states that the group had a meeting and there were 2 guest speakers, Brian Foster and Ian Stewart who spoke on the topic.

President Report (Mick Joseph residing in Mount Gambier, SA at the time)

The Wreck of the Geltwood.

Introduction to the subject from point of view of my own research.
Source of talk from the "Border Watch", 8/7/1876--6/12/1876 (Ed Border Watch is Mount Gambier's paper, SA)
Geltwood wreck of great Historical potential to the district...Most of the controversy sprung up by sections of the newspaper media of the day...and the strong deelings concerning charges against certain prominent people.

My talk not about the court cases or meant to give hurt...after 107 years...rather about the ship and the wreck.

The Geltwood was built in Cumberland at Workington and classified A1 at Lloyds in 1876. was owned by John Sprott of Harrington. A hip of 1056 tons. Loaded at Liverpool with general cargo valued at 18, 400 (Ed pounds, I have no key for it) on consignment to Melbourne.

On her Maiden Voyage:
Left Liverpool 23/3/1876, bad weather kept her at Hollyhead...and left on 25/3/1876, under Captain Harrington.

Ship was expected in Melbourne at least 2 weeks before the wreck at it had been at sea for about 100 days.

On 14/4/76 a violent storm passed over the coastal areas of the South East. A ship similar to the Geltwood was seen off the Rivioli Bay had seen Blue lights near what is now the site of the wreck, and it was believed that this was a distress signal.

On Wednesday, 5/7/76, a Mr Kennedy (overseer of Benara Station) and Mr. Houston (Boundry rider) were rounding up cattle near Hummocks, South of Rivioli Bay, saw on beach, 10 miles distant, the body of a man..was found naked except for socks and boots, 10 miles south of the Rivioli Bay.

The body was badly decomposed. The Police were called & Trooper Patrick Shields of Millicent attended. He moved the body to high water mark for inspection by the coroner, Mr Glenn.S.M. of Millicent. Coroner read the service and body was buried on the beach. The was a tattoo on the right arm "RWS Dundee 1852". Verdict of the jury..."found drowned".

Wreckage spread over 2 miles in both directions, 3 ship boats, one almost intact with inscription, "Geltwood, Workington", still heavy surf rolling in also dead pigs ween on the beach.

.....Quote..."The scene from the wreck is bleak and forbidding. There is considerable current there, and the waves break upon the beach with great fury iven in fine weather."
Apparently there is a reef 12 miles south of Rivioli Bay nearly opposite north end of Lake Bonney...Mast able to be seen from the shore. Broken crockery and tobacco also seen on the shore..and chest with lids broken and forced open...obviously the wreckers were at hand.

Reports were starting to file in that persons new of the wreck many days before it was reported to the Police...Police investigations start. Search of the Debris and shore organised and special Constables were sworn in to protect the cargo left on the beach...Were also looking for papers. Barrels of Ale and spirits, brooms, brushware, saddlery crockery and cutlery were strewn about the shore. Broken cloths chest, some property, some property of crewmen found busted open with no clothes left in them...signs of wagon wheel tracks found...

Plants found in scrub. On 11/7/76 the wreck is sold to Ferguson & Lumbden of Melbourne for 825, 000 pounds.

Weather subsided and reports stated the wreck was less than a mile off shore. Seen jammed in a reef for 5 days and people were seen clinging to it. This was vehemelty denied by the 8 local residents of Greytown (now Rivioli Bay). in a very strong letter of protest to the Border watch..and called for an apology. Author of the story used a poem to apologise, stating that he was not referring to the locals when he wrote the story, but he was talking about the wreckers and original looters. Poem vindicated each of these people in the last Verse;

Now these are the people of Greytown,
And eight is their number all told,
I've recited the whole population,
Not one is left out in the cold,
So now I beseech you remember,
Or there'll be devil to play,
That these are in no way connected
With the wreckers of Rivioli Bay.

>From about 9/7/76 until 6/12/76 many people were arrested and charged over offences relating to looting from the wreck...and unfortunately many people were hurt then... and still feel hurt today...But anyway the wreck is a great historical importance.

At this point the 2 guest speakers were introduced;
Brian Foster have a very interesting talk on the "Geltwood", and backed up his talk with slides.

1. Quality of slides affected by HzO Clarity, Depth- "filters out red colours leaving blue/green.

2 Details of the wreck.
"Geltwood" constructed of steel in Wirkington (sic), North England. Sailing ship. 215 ft long, 34 ft wide, 21 ft deep, displacement 1056 tons. On Maiden Voyage - Liverpool to Melbourne.
Sank during storm on June 14th 1876.
Total loss of life (28 crew and passengers).
Diver salvaged in 1877 -- lot of cargo salvaged and sold.

3. Since recent re-discovery Classified Historic Shipwreck by Commonwealth Gov. - restricts access to divers with permit, and offers some protection ($5,000 fine for damaging it). 6 of us have permits-guided by Archeologist from Dept. of Enviroment. (Heritage Dept.).

4. Area of wreck. 1km off shore from Geltwood reef. Very rough area, diveable 4-5 days per year. 3 days so far this year. Open sea. Due to sea conditions ship is very badley broken up. Features hard to identify. Encrusted with deposits of lime or calcium and covered in weed.

5. Wreck site. Assume she is lying backwards in faily shallow water. (18-36 ft of water) easy work. Parts of keel still intact. Reference point, our job is to survey and plot all features on a map of the area, remove selected articles for display in National Trust in Millicent. Hope to raise the anchor, steering wheel, and bell if we can find it.

6. Articles recovered, include plates, a porthole, slates, bottles (full and sealed) soda syphon, teapot, deadeyes, gaslight fittings, lenses from telescope and possible parts of steam engine.

Ian Stewart had artifacts, which were there for viewing....slates, bottles of stout, which had a very slow leak in it. Contents of bottle were not really drinkable.







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