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ITATA in Salt Pan Creek, Sydney

Date: 1943
Dimensions:
Overall: 80 x 106 mm
Medium: Nitrate negative
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Allan Seabrook
Classification:Photographs
Object Name: Nitrate negative
Object No: 00051860
Related Place:Newcastle, Sydney Harbour, Liverpool,

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    Description
    The photograph depicts the wreck of the barque ITATA, 950 tons built at Liverpool, England in 1883 (on the right). It was scuttled after a fire on 12 January 1906 in Newcastle with cargoes of nitrate and coal on board. The remains were towed to Sydney for use as a hulk but were too damaged for use and were abandoned at Salt Pan Creek, Long Bay, Middle Harbour, Sydney, also known as Wreck Bay.
    SignificanceDepicts one of the wrecks of Wreck Bay - the ITATA. This location is formally known as Salt Pan Creek, Long Bay, in Middle Harbour, Sydney.
    HistoryThe ITATA was an English barque built in 1883 by R & J Evans & Co in Liverpool, United Kingdom. Its gross tonnage was 950 tons and made from iron. On 12 January 1906 it was scuttled by fire in Newcastle, Australia.

    Having arrived from Iquique, Chile, the vessel was carrying between 300 and 350 tons of saltpetre, a potassium nitrate used in the manufacture of fireworks and gunpowder. In Newcastle the ship had taken approximately 300 tons of coal on board as stiffening before discharging the original cargo. At approximately 4.45 am on 12 January 1906 the watchman on board, Joseph Doran, noticed smoke issuing from the main hatchway, where the saltpetre was still stored, and immediately rang the ship's bell to awaken the captain and the rest of the crew. Within minutes flames were bursting from the hold. Due to the nature of the cargo, water could not be used to extinguish the conflagration.

    Fearing the flames would spread to nearby ships docked in the port or the wharf itself, the crew cast off and with the assistance of two tugs, the BUNGAREE and the VICTORIA, managed to steer the burning vessel towards a sandy shallow patch called Walsh Island. The newly loaded coal acted as fuel to the fire and the vessel became a furnace. The crew abandoned ship while Captain Balfour and Captain McCorquodale, a member of the pilot staff, stayed at the wheel until the vessel had reached Walsh Island. Explosions were seen moments after the two men had also abandoned ship, with flames reputedly reaching over 50 feet in height.

    ITATA was left to burn, with another larger explosion which tore the sides of the ship apart sending iron and woodwork into the sky and bringing down the foremast, mainmast and mizzen topmast. McCorquodale thought that the explosions were caused by the bolts giving way in the bottom plates allowing the water and saltpetre to come into contact (see Sydney Morning Herald, 13/01/1906, p11). The wreck continued to burn during the day, boiling the water around it, eventually left as a gutted twisted hull. All crew were accounted for on land but most had lost all personal possessions on board.

    At the end of January the hull and spars were sold at auction for £6 and the anchor and chains for £46. Following an enquiry into the fire, the watchman, Joseph Doran, was arrested on a charge of setting fire to the vessel. Later at trial he was found not guilty of the charge.

    The remains of ITATA were towed to Sydney to be used as a hulk but it was too badly damaged and was abandoned at Salt Pan Creek, Long Bay, Middle Harbour, Sydney, also known as Wreck Bay. This photograph shows the wreck of the vessel in situ at its final resting place in Sydney in 1943. It is now used as a dive site only for training.
    Related People
    Photographer: Allan Seabrook

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