90 years since the Greycliffe ferry disaster

The partially submerged remains of the ferry <em>Greycliffe</em>, following the collision with <em>Tahiti</em>. 40 lives were lost in the disaster. ANMM Collection 00036858, Samuel J Hood Studio.

The partially submerged remains of the ferry Greycliffe, following the collision with Tahiti. 40 lives were lost in the disaster. ANMM Collection 00036858, Samuel J Hood Studio.

The sinking of the Greycliffe ferry on 3 November 1927 remains the most significant accident on Sydney Harbour to date. Forty lives were lost when the ferry collided with the Union Steamship Company’s liner Tahiti. The tragedy had a marked impact on the city – many old Sydney families can still recount their personal connections to the disaster, particularly those associated with the suburbs around Vaucluse and Watsons Bay where many of the victims lived.  It inspired significant plot points in the novels Waterways by Eleanor Dark (1938) and Careful, He Might Hear You by Sumner Locke Elliott (1963).

Today, on the 90th anniversary of the disaster, we tell the story of Betty Sharp, the teenage girl who had a haunting impact on the recovery teams at the time of the accident and through subsequent retellings of the disaster.

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Meanderings in the Murk: Diving on the wreck of the Centennial

ANMM Shipwright and diver Lee Graham inspects a collapsed iron frame on the Centennial site that has been colonised by sponges. Image: James Hunter / ANMM.

ANMM Shipwright and diver Lee Graham inspects a collapsed iron frame on the Centennial site that has been colonised by sponges. Image: James Hunter / ANMM.

The museum’s maritime archaeology team recently visited the shipwreck site of the late nineteenth century steamship Centennial. The dive was part of an ongoing initiative to document selected historic shipwreck sites within Sydney Harbour with digital photography and videography. Still images and video footage collected during the project will be used to generate 3D digital photo-mosaics of these sites and test the usefulness of this recording method in a variety of environments.

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The ‘indescribable horror’

Photograph of an injured man

Unidentified injured man and policemen at Greycliffe disaster, 3 November 1927
Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

On 3 November 1927, the Union Steamship Company’s RMS Tahiti collided with the Watsons Bay ferry Greycliffe off Bradley’s Head. It became known as Sydney’s worst maritime disaster and etched itself into the minds of those who witnessed scenes of ‘indescribable horror’ on the harbour on that sunny afternoon. Continue reading

Bradley’s Head – a hidden gem in Sydney Harbour

This morning I spent a delightful couple of hours at Bradley’s Head hearing about the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service’s (NPWS) plans for the improvement of the precinct and the restoration of the mast from HMAS Sydney (I) which is a feature of the area.

A relic from the first HMAS SYDNEY, this mast commemorates the service of all four SYDNEYs in the Royal Australian Navy.

Prepared in conjunction with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and the HMAS Sydney Association this landscape plan presented by NPWS is going to make the precinct even more beautiful and functional than it already is – hopefully in time for the International Fleet Review in October 2013.

Where is Bradley’s Head? Right near Taronga Zoo. Catch the Manly ferry and you’ll pass by it – look for the naval grey mast with a white ensign flying. And who was Bradley? William Bradley was First Lieutenant on board HMS Sirius in 1788 when it arrived in the harbour as part of the First Fleet. Captain John Hunter named the point after him. The Indigenous name is believed to be Dalyungay which means place of surveillance, lookout or alarm – and when you are there you can easily see why it might be so named. And its strategic importance wasn’t lost on the European colonists either as can be seen by the remains of the fortifications in the area.

 

 

 

 

If you haven’t been to Bradley’s Head, make the effort as it’s a wonderful spot to view the harbour – down to the Sydney Harbour Bridge or up to the Heads. And with the weather starting to warm up there are some wonderful walks to do too!

Sydney Harbour on a sunny winter’s day

Lindsey Shaw, senior curator