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Australasian Steam Navigation Company screw steamer SS LY-EE-MOON

Date: late 19th century
Dimensions:
Overall: 109 x 175 mm
Medium: Pen, watercolour, paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from David Jones
Classification:Art
Object Name: Sketch
Object No: 00046919

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    Description
    Built in 1859 as a three-masted paddle steamer, the LY-EE-MOON was one of the fastest ships afloat. This small watercolour and pen sketch depicts LY-EE-MOON after its conversion by the Australasian Steam Navigation Company into a two-masted schooner-rigged screw steamer. The vessel's fine lines and clipper shaped bow are well illustrated in this unsigned watercolour of about 1880.
    SignificanceThis illustration depicts the remarkable LY-EE-MOON - a fast but somewhat unlucky ship involved in collisions and fires before being totally wrecked off Green Cape, New South Wales in 1886 with a loss of 71 lives.
    HistoryNamed after the Lei Yue Mun channel between Kowloon and Hong Kong, the paddle steamer LY-EE-MOON was built by the Thames Ironworks Company, Orchard Yard, Blackwall, England in 1859 for Dent & Co. Designed and constructed specifically for the Opium Trade between India, China and England the iron hulled, three-masted vessel was over 282 feet long but had a beam of only 27 feet. At the time of construction the ship attained 17 knots making it one of the fastest vessels afloat.

    This turn of speed made the vessel an ideal blockade runner during the American Civil War and between 1860 and 1864 the LY-EE-MOON made a number of voyages in and out of Charleston, South Carolina. In 1863 the vessel was sold to Japanese interests and renamed the TAIHEI MARU before being sold to Jardine, Matheson and Company, and renamed LY-EE-MOON. In the early 1870s the vessel was badly damaged in a collision in Hong Kong Harbour and sent to England for significant repairs. The vessel was fitted with new engines and converted to a screw steamer.

    Following its conversion the vessel was sold to the Australasian Steam Navigation Company (ASNC) in 1877 or 1878 who intended to use it on the Sydney, Fiji and Pacific Island run. Shortly after the screw steamer's arrival in Australia it caught fire at the ASNC's wharf in Darling Harbour, was scuttled, refloated, refitted and converted into a two-masted schooner-rigged screw steamer. In late 1878 the LY-EE-MOON was returned to service on the Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne coastal run.

    On Saturday 29 May 1886 at about noon, the SS LY-EE-MOON left Melbourne bound for Sydney. On board were 55 passengers and 40 crew under the command of Captain Webber. The steamer's cargo included hats, benzine, tobacco, stationery, pepper, oatmeal, vegetables, potatoes, bran, tea, soap, chaff, hap, guano, wine, flour and 250 cases of whisky.

    At about 7:45 pm on 30 May 1886, Captain Webber left the ship in charge of the Third Officer, J Fotheringhame. The ship was approaching Gabo Island (just south of the New South Wales/Victoria border) and the lighthouse there had been sighted. Captain Webber instructed Fotheringhame of the course to steer and told him to call him when the ship was nearing Green Cape, (marked by a 29 metre high lighthouse which had been built at the Cape in 1883) which lies about 26 kilometres south of Eden.

    At about 9 pm the Captain returned to the bridge and found that the steamer was heading straight for the rocks on Green Cape. As he ordered the engines to be reversed, the ship hit the rocks under the lighthouse. It was too late and within 10 minutes the ship was broken into two sections. The stern appeared to remain on the outer reef while the bow floated towards the shore. When the foremast gave way three seamen and the boatswain crawled along the mast to safety. They joined the lighthouse keepers and attempted to rescue the remaining crew and passengers. An attempt was made to fire a life line from the shore to the bow section but this failed. A fishing line was thrown to the ship and a rope was tied to it and hauled to shore. One of the passengers Herbert Lumsdaine went hand over hand along the rope and made it to the shore. Fotheringhame and Alfred Smith (an employee of ASNC) tried to carry another line ashore but failed.

    According to newspaper reports of the time, the Chief Steward W Thomson was successful in taking a line ashore and the remaining 11 people alive on the bow section made it ashore, including the Captain who was the last one to leave the wreck. Daniel Whelan, the Second Lighthouse Keeper, Ola Thorpe, boatswain, George Walters, telegraph operator at the lighthouse, Andrew Bergland (a passenger) and James Fotheringhame were recommended for awards from the Royal Humane Society.

    The survivors on shore reported that they could hear people stranded on the stern section on the outer reef but were unable to get a line out to the wreck and by morning the stern had been washed into the sea. The news reached Sydney the next day and the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Patrick Jennings, dispatched the pilot vessel CAPTAIN COOK to Green Cape, arriving there at 5:15 pm on 1 June 1886. The steamer SS BEGA was also ordered to assist and it departed Eden for Green Cape at daylight that same day.

    On Wednesday 3 June 1886 the ship was reported to be totally broken up and bodies were seen floating off the point. The next day the CAPTAIN COOK collected several bodies, including one of an elderly lady. This was Mrs Flora Hannah MacKillop of St Kilda, Melbourne. Mrs MacKillop was an "elderly lady, mother of the Mother Superior of St Joseph's Provident Institution". Mrs MacKillop, one of the Saloon passengers, was on her way to Sydney to see her two daughters, Mary and another who was also a nun. Mrs MacKillop's body was identified by her nephew, Mr Macdonald.

    Mrs MacKillop's funeral was held on 7 June 1886 at St Michael's Church, Lower Fort Street, The Rocks (Sydney). The Reverend Father Murphy SM, conducted the mass and the church was said to be filled to overflowing. Mother MacKillop attended as did many of her nuns. Mrs MacKillop was buried at St Charles Cemetery at Ryde but later the body was moved to the North Ryde Cemetery where it now rests.
    A total of 71 people died, 21 out of 26 saloon passengers (17 men, six women and the infants), all 19 steerage passengers and 31 of the 41 crew. The survivors (without the Captain and Third Officer) arrived in Sydney on the CAPTAIN COOK at 3 pm on 4 June 1886. Five of the bodies recovered (not including Mrs MacKillop) were buried at Green Cape at 9.30 am on 4 June 1886

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Sketch of the Australasian Steam Navigation Company screw steamer SS LY-EE-MOON

    Web title: Australasian Steam Navigation Company screw steamer SS LY-EE-MOON

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