The infamous Oyster Bank was feared and dreaded by all sailors who entered Newcastle Harbour. At least 100 ships are believed to be wrecked along Stockton Beach and the Oyster Bank. The Shipwreck Walk, compiled by the Stockton Historical Society, encompasses the most famous of these wrecks. However, not all the ships recorded on plaques along this walk, were lost on the bank. Many were hulked and placed in position as part of the breakwater, which began construction in 1898.
The wreck of the French four-masted barque Adolphe also lies off the Stockton breakwall. The account of the wreck is a story of the courageous and skilful work of the lifeboat crew who saved every life on board. On 30 September 1904, the “Adolphe”, under the command of Captain Layec, was inward bound from Antwerp. It was picked up by the tugs “Hero” and “Victoria” about 9am and with Pilot Stevenson aboard made an attempt to enter port. When rounding the southern breakwater huge seas struck the barque and caused the “Victoria’s” hawser to snap. The “Hero” could not hold the barque up and another succession of rollers lifted the “Adolphe” right on top of the remains of the wreck “Colonist”, where she remained hard and fast. The seas swept her from stern to bow, tons of water poured into the lower decks and the crew had to take refuge on the poop. The doomed vessel presented a splendid though terrible spectacle standing perfectly upright with her bow heading to the harbour – she seemed to be defying the shocks of the huge sea.
When the signal guns were fired, the lifeboat in command of Coxswain A. McKinnon was quickly launched and with thousands of spectators watching, made her way to the wreck. Several attempts were made to take the boat around the stern of the “Adolphe” but after breaking four oars this was abandoned. Through skilful manoeuvring McKinnon was able to get a line onto the “Adolphe”. The lifeboat was then anchored and down this line the seamen slipped one by one. The “Adolphe” struck at 10:25 a.m. and at 12 o’clock the last of the ship’s company (Captain Layec) slid down the line to safety. With forty-seven men on board, the lifeboat made the return trip and when in smooth water was taken in tow by the Customs tug.
More information about Newcastle shipwrecks can be found here.
Second Place – Hard Rubbish “Along the coast” Challenge – November 2011
Featured by “Everyting Ends” – November 2011
More ships & shipwrecks: