SS Gothenburg

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Surnames/tags: Australia Shipwreck Disaster
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S.S. Gothenburg. 1875.


The S.S. Gothenburg was a steamship, commissioned in 1855 and constructed in Essex, England. She was 197 feet long and 501 tons, fitted with a 120 horsepower coal burning engine, and rigged in the barquentine style with a funnel set aft of the main mast with four lifeboats. In 1857 she was renamed RMS Celt. She was refitted in 1873 and her name reverted back to the Gothenburg.

In 1875 the Gothenburg left Port Darwin with 98 passengers, 37 crew and several prisoners bound for Adelaide Jail. By the 23rd of February the Gothenburg had finally passed Cooktown after encountering bad weather, worsening conditions and the loss of both anchors at Somerset on Cape York. Although the weather continued to worsen, she continued her journey through the deep passage on the inside of the Great Barrier Reef expecting to arrive in Newcastle as scheduled. On the 24th of February, at approximately 7pm, with all sails set and the engines at full speed, through almost cyclonic conditions, the ship suddenly veered off on an altered course and hit a section of the Reef 50 kilometres NW of Holbourne Island and ended up high on top of the Reef, during low tide. The stern was damaged and the ship began taking water which eventually extinguished the boilers. The ship was now classed as doomed by Captain Pearce. By the 25th, there were only two lifeboats left, one holding four crew was picked up by the Leichhardt in the Whitsunday Passage and made their way to Bowen to raise the alarm. The eighteen survivors in the other craft decided that they couldn't make it to the mainland, so headed to Holbourne Island. On the 28th, fifteen of the remaining survivors set off for another island, but were picked up by another rescue ship and were also taken to Bowen. The Bunyip, another rescue ship, then headed to Holbourne Island and collected the last three survivors. In total, 12 crew and 10 passengers survived the ordeal. All the women and children and Officers perished.

The wreck now lies on the western side of Old Reef, 130 kilometres SE of Townsville in about 40 feet of water, and is registered as a historic site.


See Also:


  • Wikimedia Commons for photos.


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Categories: Shipwrecks