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SS Maitland

Date: 1881
Overall (includes frame): 485 x 665 x 28 mm
Sight: 315 x 485 mm
Medium: Watercolour, paper, framed
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Watercolour
Object No: 00048267

User Terms

    Oil painting of the SS MAITLAND by William James Forster.
    SignificanceWilliam Forster was a maritime artist active in New Zealand, Sydney and Newcastle in the late nineteenth century. His is regarded as one of the better ship portraitists of the period, with his work characterised by delicate brushstrokes and high levels of technical detail.

    The SS MAITLAND was a well known shipwreck story and well remembered by the remnants of the wreckage that remained for many years on the shoreline of Maitland Bay.
    HistoryThe S.S. MAITLAND was built in Glasgow and arrived in Sydney Harbour in June 1871 for service with the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company (HRSNC) between Sydney and Morpeth. Widely regarded as a handsome vessel, the MAITLAND was 240 feet long and weighed 880 tons gross. The hull was iron plate, and paddle wheels were mounted either side. With the latest in steam engine design the vessel reached a top speed of 14 knots.

    The MAITLAND was well appointed for passengers as well as being a cargo ship, and the saloon and ladies cabins and two staterooms accomodated 34 passengers.

    In May 1898 the MAITLAND departed Sydney at 11pm at night for the Hunter region. It was heavily laden with full cargo and 36 passengers. A southerly gale blew and not far into the voyage the deckhouses and a paddle-wheel cover were wrecked by waves. Large quantities of water flooded the engine-room, threatening to put out the furnaces.

    Cargo was jettisoned, and crew and passengers alike baled water. Captain Skinner attempted to steer the ship into Broken Bay, but the water engulfed the vessel and extinguished the ship's fires. The Maitland drifted drifted helplessly and was finally flung onto the Bombora at cape Three Points, near Gosford, at around 5am on the morning of 6th May.

    A line to shore was secured and survivors crawled down it two at a time. Over the next few weeks 24 bodies were found. Captain Skinner was highly commended for the 'discipline which was maintained on board ship under most trying circumstances'. Several passengers and crew later recieved bravery awards. The ANMM collection includes a Shipwreck Society of New South Wales medal for 'attempting to get the line ashore from the wreck of the SS MAITLAND'.

    The local newspaper reported that 'Notwithstanding the difficult access to the scene of the wrecked steamer, hundreds of residents of Gosford and surrounding districts climbed over the rugged mountain headlands and through dense scrub during the week to view the disaster which presented a most pitiable and heart-rending spectacle'. The paper was scathing in its assessment of 'looters' who turned up with billy cans to tap the casks of beer being washed ashore, whilst there were still bodies waiting to be removed.

    Remnants of the wreckage of the MAITLAND have remained on the shoreline at what is now called Maitland Bay ever since.

    William James Forster (1851-1891) was a ship portraitist and maritime painter, based in New Zealand in the 1870s, and in Sydney and Newcastle in the 1880s. Forster was one of the better Australian ship portraitists of the late 19th century. His paintings are characterised by fine and delicate brush strokes and high quality techniques details.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: SS Maitland

    Primary title: SS Maitland

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