Reminder of a Long Forgotten Steamer
The above photograph depicting an old steam ship passing through the Swansea Bridge forms part of the Bert Lovett collection held by the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections. The photograph has been scanned and published on Flickr by the university and can be found at the following links;
Whilst at first glance the photograph appears to be an unremarkable snapshot of the goings on at Swansea Bridge during the 1920s it provides a rare image of a long forgotten ship whose tragic story has been lost through the passage of time.
TSS White Bay
The TSS White Bay was a 95 foot long 134 ton coastal steamer constructed of timber. She was constructed and operated by David Drake Ltd. in 1922 and registered at the port of Sydney, her main role was carrying general cargo between Sydney and Lake Macquarie.
Loss of TSS White Bay
On the evening of June 12 1928 the TSS White Bay departed Sydney Harbour for Lake Macquarie with a crew of eight men and what is only described as general cargo. During the night the New South Wales coastline was battered by a severe storm which was described by the media at the time as one of the most severe cyclones on record with hurricane force winds.
Despite the storm the White Bay continued North and arrived at Swansea Heads at 6 o’clock in the morning, due to the huge seas she was unable to cross Swansea bar and the captain decided to continue onto Newcastle Harbour. The White Bay arrived at Newcastle at 8 o’clock and attempted to enter the harbour however she unable to make headway and was swept out to sea.
The pilot boat Biribi was dispatched from Newcastle Harbour to assist White Bay however by the time it had put to sea the crew of Biribi lost site of the distressed steamer. Having lost hope of entering Newcastle Harbour the Captain of White Bay continued North into Newcastle bite in the vain hope of sheltering in Port Stephens. When near the Northern end of Stockton Beach the White Bay was swamped by three giant waves, she immediately capsized before being washed onto the beach and smashed to pieces by the giant seas. Of the eight crew only one survived.