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SS Cawarra
Cawarra thumbnail.jpg
Career (New South Wales) New South Wales
Owner: Australasian Steam Navigation Company
Operator: Australasian Steam Navigation Company
Builder: A. & J. Inglis Pointhouse Glasgow, Scotland [1]
Yard number: 14
Launched: 2 June 1864
Out of service: 12 July 1866
Homeport: Sydney
Fate: Foundered in Newcastle harbour on 12 July 1866 with the loss of 60 lives[2][3]
General characteristics
Displacement: 439 tons [4]
Length: 64.28 m (211 ft)
Beam: 7.665 m (25 ft)
Draft: 3.688 m (12 ft)
Propulsion: Steam
Complement: 36 crew, 25 passengers

Plaque on Stockton breakwall commemorating the Cawarra

Location of Cawarra on Stockton breakwall in relation to other wrecks

The Cawarra was a paddle-steamer that sank on 12 July 1866 in Newcastle harbour, New South Wales, Australia with the loss of 60 lives.[2][5][6] The sinking was one of the worst maritime disasters in Australian history.

Owned by the Australasian Steam Navigation Company, the Brisbane-bound passenger vessel had become caught in rough seas off the east coast of Australia during storms that sank 14 other ships and resulted in 77 deaths between Port Stephens in the north and Sydney in the south. As the ship entered Newcastle harbour to take shelter it was overwhelmed by huge waves and sank, bow first, before thousands of onlookers who had gathered along the harbour shoreline to watch the stricken passenger ship. Its wreckage was recovered and, after removal of items of value, it was dumped on the Oyster Bank.

Of the 61 passengers and crew on board, only one survivor was rescued.

"Several hours later, the lighthouse-keeper sighted a survivor and with his assistant James Johnson, who had been the sole survivor of the Dunbar wreck, launched a boat and brought the man ashore.… Ordinary seaman [Frederick V[4]] Hedges had grabbed a plank as the ship sank and was eventually washed more dead than alive against a harbour buoy."[5]:p46

The wreck today sits beneath the wreckage of three more vessels that have since foundered in the harbour. Along with other wrecks they were used in the construction of the Stockton breakwall where plaques commemorate the loss of each of the ships including the Cawarra.

See also[]

  • Dunbar (shipwreck)
  • List of disasters in Australia by death toll


  1. Shipping Times: Launched 1864 - PS Cawarra
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Hunter History Highlights". Hunter Valley Research Foundation. Archived from the original on 31 August 2007. Retrieved 13 August 2007. 
  3. "Descendants of Henry FULHAM". Brian Spalding. Retrieved 13 August 2007. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Mariners and ships in Australian Waters CAWARRA". State Records Authority of NSW. Retrieved 13 August 2007. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Loney J K Wrecks on the New South Wales Coast (At Google Books)
  6. "WRECK OF THE STEAMER CAWARRA.". NSW: National Library of Australia. 13 July 1866. p. 5. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 

External links[]

Coordinates: 32°54′52″S 151°47′48″E / 32.91444°S 151.79667°E / -32.91444; 151.79667

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