Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Hero" from Port Kembla

 This story was just found on the net. There is photos and a model of the tug in an earlier post.

This is a copy of one of the photos I used to build the model years ago.  The original photo came from the Sydney Morning Herald and I bought the photo to use when building the model. The story below has been metric-ised The tug was 110 feet long not the 32.2 m as stated. 

Sydney's iconic tug, Hero

Arguably Sydney's best-known steam tug was Fenwick's 32.2m Hero. Built in England, Hero arrived in Sydney in December 1892. The tug went on to have an impressive career.
In 1905, the American barque Abby Palmer ran into a heavy southerly gale on her voyage from Melbourne to Sydney. When she was only about 10 kilometres from Sydney Heads, Abby Palmer's master accepted a tow from the J & A Brown tug, Gamecock. Unfortunately, little way was made with Gamecock, and the Abby Palmer began to drift. Soon, the towline parted and the ship, having lowered her sails when the tow was taken up, was uncontrollable. Gamecock tried unsuccessfully to attach another line to the ship before giving up and returning to port to alert the more powerful Brown tug, Champion, of Abby Palmer's plight.
Meanwhile, the ship continued to drift and the men on board were openly terrified. The ship was only about 30 metres from the cliffs of Bondi, and thoughts of the Dunbar's wreck weren't far from their minds. An anchor with 45 fathoms (82.3 metres) of chain failed to hold, and unrelenting waves were breaking over the ship. Against orders, Abby Palmer's terrified crew were preparing to launch the lifeboats when the Hero appeared. So fierce was the storm that Hero's crew were lashed to the deck of the tug for fear of being washed overboard. Hero's master, Alexander McKenzie, positioned the tug under the cliffs but Hero was lifted by a wave and thrown into the stern of the ship. Despite damage to both vessels, Hero's master persevered and finally a hawser was secured, but the ship's crew were panicking. In their attempt to cut away the lifeboats they cut the hawser connecting the two boats. Fortunately, Hero's crew were able to able to secure another line, which was made fast to the stern of the Abby Palmer. In all, four hawsers parted before the Hero managed to tow the barque – which still had the anchor trailing – to safer waters.
Hero's brushes with mortality continued when she almost came to grief in a collision near Woy Woy in 1908, and her run of luck almost ended when, in 1929, she was holed by the Howard Smith liner Canberra near Goat Island in Sydney Harbour.
As she was escorting the Canberra to her Darling Harbour berth, Hero was hit and sustained a hole almost a metre wide in her hull. Hero's crew slipped the tow-rope and her skipper steamed as fast as he could to Johnstons Bay, where he managed to put her ashore on a beach. The Sydney Harbour Trust fire tug, Pluvius, arrived soon after and was lashed alongside to keep the Hero on an even keel, while Pluvius's pumps worked hard to keep the tug from filling with water. Eventually, a temporary patch was put in place over the hole, and Hero was taken for permanent repairs.
Hero's greatest challenge began on 23 September 1940 when, while berthing the British freighter Northumberland , the tug collided with the ship's bow. Hero rolled, turned turtle and sank off Blues Point, in the deepest part of Sydney Harbour.
Hero's engineer, John Downie, was killed in the accident – some say because he was determined to shut down Hero's engines before saving himself.
The rest of the crew were rescued, though some were injured. The captain, Sid Weldon, suffered burst eardrums. In a parent's worst nightmare, Captain Weldon's mother had been watching the berthing from her home in Balmain. It was some time before she learned that her son had survived. [5]
Salvage of Hero was considered too difficult at the time, but by late 1943 there was a shortage of vessels and the American navy was keen to test new salvage technology. Divers attached a number of rubberized canvas air bags to Hero's hull. Slings were passed through holes burned in the tug's hull and the bags were attached.
When the bags were inflated, they rose to the surface and Hero was suspended by the slings about 10 m below the surface. From there, Hero was towed to a dock, where she was pumped out, repaired and returned to work. Amazingly, after three and a half years at the bottom of Sydney Harbour, a light bulb from Hero still worked! [6]
On 13 July 1960, Hero finally met her end when moving the ship Bulwarra in 50 knot winds at Port Kembla. When Bulwarra was driven onto rocks, Hero's crew leapt for their lives as the tug capsized. Fenwick's insurance company paid ₤21,663, but still Hero wasn't left to rest in peace. The grand old Hero, which had towed the clipper ships Cutty Sark and Thermopylae, was dismantled for scrap in 1963.

The following is a recap from an earlier post on this blog.
"The captain at this time of sinking in Port Kembla was one Jim Robinson." This information in red is supplied by Stewart Strik.
Off Fort Denison in Sydney harbour. Here the mast has been moved behind the wheelhouse as it was hitting the bigger ships when it ran under there rear Quarter. Fenwick's named there tugs Hero Heroine  There flag was green and yellow with a white square in the center with a capital "F" The last shipper was Jimmy Robinson who saw the model and was pretty chuffed.

Earlier days in Sydney note the green colour scheme.

These images were given on loan to Wollongong city library by myself.
The images below come from the net but were originally suplied to me by Fenwick's.

To Australia in a tug under sail.
The tug boat Hero
Shields man 's story of an adventurous voyage.
The tug "hero"which operated in Sydney Newcastle and Port Kembla from 1892 to 1960, was driven ashore during a gale at Port Kembla in July of last year,becoming a total loss.
The following account of her voyage from England to Australia,under sail,in 1892 by a member of her crew,was published in the "Shields Gazette" of 27 June 1932 and maybe of interest.
On a dark night in the month of July,40 years ago, a little vessel dropped down the Tyne. to engage on a voyage in which many people believe at the time to be a forlorn hope.
She was the "Hero", a sturdy little screw tug built and engined by Messrs.J.P. Rennoldson and Sons.South Shields for a service in Sydney harbour.New South Wales her destination.
She had previously run her trials under steam with satisfactory results and afterwards was converted into a sailing vessel by the riggers in the employ of her builders under the supervision of the foreman rigger, Mr Adam Fleck.
Her rig was of the topsail schooner style and her sails filled with the favoring breeze she looked as pretty a picture of a sea born craft as one could wish to look upon.
Her propeller had been unshipped and lay securely in its fastenings below,and the vacant arch under the stern was filled with wood, giving the vessel a clean heel.
She was manned by a crew of eight-six men and two boys George Forrest,a local skipper was in command and his chief officer was Crofton Elliott. who held a captains ticket. His bosun was Jim Mackay; there were A.B.'s George Taylor, Tom Watson and Peter Bjorkman (a Scandinavian). and two boys.George Halliday and W. Johnston, the latter a relative of the skipper.
There was a slump in shipping at home in consequences of the Durham coal strike and sailor were plentiful. Excepting Bjorkman - who had sailed the seven seas-the whole of the crew were chosen from Shieldsman.
There were affectionate adieu to say before the little ship was finally cast off by the tug incharge,for many of the crew had there friends on board.There was much hand shaking and exchanging of godspeed before the visitors were taken off by the tender,and the last parting farewells were shouted from the deck of the returning tug as the "hero" set sail on her long adventurous voyage.
Captain Crofton Elliott (of Woodlands Terrace) a surviving member of hero's crew, has has retailed to a "shields Gazette" representative many interesting reminiscences of that memorable sea passage.which took 156 days to complete
It was on the Saturday night, I remember-he said-when we passed out of South Shields harbour into the open sea We hoisted our sails to a southerly wind, the captain deciding he would go north about to start the voyage. We set the course accordingly, but after making 150 miles the wind chopped right round dead ahead. We  then decided to square away to the south, as the breeze seamed promising. and we made good progress back over the course we started on. In three days we passed the mouth of the Tyne again, and we had favorable winds all along the coast.
We struck strong westerly winds in the channel.The vessel behaved splendidly and established our confidence in her sea qualities. Her bottom was covered with white lead and tallow to keep the barnacles and sea growth off,and she slipped threw the water in fine style.
We kept steady on our course and had a good run and then came into the north east trade winds. many sailing ships were in sight-as many as twenty were seen at one time. A big German four-masted ship signaled us in the straights of Gibraltar.
"Where bound? they asked.
" To Sydney."
"What route?"
"By the ordinary safe eastward."
They sent us there good wishes.We were evidently an object of curiosity.
After we got out of the North east trade winds we set a new course and crossed the equator 22or 23 degrees West long.
The days passed uneventfully and happily, for we were a cheery family.
When in the "doldrums" a calm belt which extends from 10 degrees North to 10 Degrees south of the equator,we had a lively time chasing the winds. We trimmed the sails to capture every cap full of wind but often we lay becalmed. The sea was dead calm, and the heat intense.
One day it was my watch, below I hear a splash in the sea. when I reached the deck I saw half the crew swimming in the water. We were all swimmers. I went overboard too. That was our only dip, for the next day a big shark was lying under the counter- that is the after part of the ship. He followed us for some time and then disappeared-evidently nothing doing. But it was not worth taking risks afterwards.
We "baffled"about for a number of days.On another calm day we put the boat out and painted the ship round in green colours. We were then 35-40 days out.
Eventually we picked up the South east trade winds which gradually worked into fair winds and we stood away to the west ward. Trinidad island in the south Atlantic bearing to the west six miles distant.  After running into the prevailing westerlies in those latitudes we stood across towards the Cape of Good Hope. It was not long before we encountered heavy seas, but the little craft behaved splendidly. running like a duck on the crest of the seas. But we had to steer with great care owing to the big mainsail,and the danger if jibing.
There was some dirty weather ahead and the seas swept our decks and flooded the well of the ship.There were anxious moments.but the vessel shook herself clear each time.
We were now shaping our course for towards the Tristan de Cunha group of islands between the Cape of Good Hope and South America. We  were getting on well with the journey and were clear of accident up to this time, save that we had to give attention to torn sails.
We made a brave fight with the big seas and our progress was maintained until we finally sighted the islands. One big sea was shipped which smashed threw into the engine room. As we had to turn over the engines every morning this was a unfortunate mishap and the captain decided to run for Table Bay to see that the vessel had not strained herself and to replenish food supplies. We remained there for three or four days and we had not long resumed our passage when a severe squall struck us. We had great difficulty getting out to sea, but we managed it safely. and shaped our course for the south of Agulhas Banks.
A strong wind was blowing from the west and a big sea was running,and we ran south to get arround the Banks. Captain Forrest had a peculiar knowledge of thes treacherous waters from a previous experience out there. We got safely round the banks and set a course eastward and thus entered along the last long run from the Cape to Australia.
The prevailing winds were westerly ,and terrific squalls occasionally burst on us. Tremendous green seas chased along behind us ,and it was fortunate that the man at the wheel could not see them. The ship rose to the crest of the waves , which swept us along like an avalanche for a considerable distance for a time. Skillful and careful steering saved the ship broaching too.We had four A.B.'s but I had to take a spell at the wheel.
We shipped one huge wave which washed Mackay along the deck and bashed him against the bulwarks. When we recovered him we found he fractured his ribs and the skipper and I had to doctor him. It was a trying ordeal for Mackay ,for he lay in a pitch plaster for ten or twelve days. His injuries healed but the pitch plaster adhered to his skin and its removal was a painful operation, but he was ultimately restored to his normal self. and to active duty again.
On another day the boy Halliday was knocked overboard with the flap of the foresail He had a miraculous escape . He was standing on the top of the little house and in the act of reeving the fore bowline when the flap of the sail pitched him into the sea.The vessel was going only three or four knots at the time. The little fellow held onto the bowline , and by that means we were able to pull him threw the seething waters to safety on board the ship again.
We ran into worse weather , with the wind coming too much from the quarter we kept her to the southward to keep her before the sea . seldom ,indeed we sighted anything just an occasional sail. A close look out was kept for the sight of land . It was in the early morning with a high westerly wind blowing ,with a following sea and clear viability that I got the first glimpse of the Australian continent. The news was received with great joy by my shipmates. It was just a dirty mark on the ocean. but we afterwards found it was Cape Banks on the South Australian coast.
There was a lot of hard weather in store for us still but we got down to Botany Bay and arrived in Sydney Harbour after a sea voyage of 156 days.
Our appearance excited a great stir among the people But our orders were emphatic to allow no one on board. We carried out the instruction even to excluding the the owner's son.-until his identity was firmly established. The Hero entered Sydney Harbour in perfect conditions, as tight a little ship that ever crossed the ocean. Captain Forest remained by the vessel . Halliday went up country. Bjorkman got a charge job in tugs and Mackay settled as a deck hand in Sydney where he married. I remained there for a little while sailing the coastal vessels but returned to my home town.
Captain Elliott , the narrator of the story was in later years in command of vessels belonging to the Stag line before going into the business of his father in law John Reed , a well known sail maker in South Shields.

Mash head light
The mast head light on the Hero was some two feet tall and I was supprised as to the size whin I first saw it,

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