Ada and Ethel (1886)

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Name: Ada and Ethel
Owner: Edward Davies, Charles Frederick Messell
Port of registry: Sydney
Ship registration number: 34/1886
Ship official number: 93496
Builder: Edward Davies /Mr. Roderick at Williams River (New South Wales), Eagleton, New South Wales, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA
Launched: 9 January 1886
Christened: 9 January 1886
Completed: May 1886
Maiden voyage: 16 April 1886 for Macleay River
Status: Wrecked
General characteristics
Type: Wood Schooner
Tonnage: Gross tonnage (GT) of 73  tons
Displacement: Net tonnage (NT) of 73  tons
Length: 25.05  m
Beam: 5.974  m
Draught: 1.950  m
Installed power: NA
Ship primary use: Transport
Ship industry:
Ship passenger capacity: Unknown
Wreck Event
When lost: 1887/10/26
Where lost: Seal Rocks, New South Wales, 10 mls SE
Reason for loss: Sprang a leak
Cargo: Timber
Travelling from: Manning River
Master: Frederick Cooper
Deaths: 0
Wreck Location
Discovered: No
Position: 32°36′S 152°42′E / 32.6°S 152.7°E / -32.6; 152.7Coordinates: 32°36′S 152°42′E / 32.6°S 152.7°E / -32.6; 152.7

The Ada and Ethel was a wooden schooner that wrecked 10 miles southeast of Seal Rocks, New South Wales on the 26th of October, 1887.

Ship Description & Construction

On Saturday the 9 January 1886 Mr. Roderick, shipbuilder, of Eagleton, on the Williams River, launched a new vessel built to the order of Messrs. Captain C. T. Messell and E. Davies,[1] of Sydney the baptismal ceremony was performed by Miss Ada Messell (Captain Messell daughter with the vessel named after herself and her infant sister Ethel May who diead approximately 12 months later[2]) with champagne, and a number of visitors were afterwards hospitably entertained by Captain Messell.

The Ada and Ethel was then taken to Sydney and rigged as a fore-and-aft schooner, and is intended for the coasting trade. The measurement of the vessel is as follows,[3]

Overall 90 feet (27.43 m)
Keel 80 feet (24.38 m)
Beam 20 feet (6.10 m)
Hold 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m)
Draught 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m)

The vessel was 100 tons burthen, and is substantially built of the best colonial hardwood coppered, and copper-fastened. She is a sister boat to the Julian, which was launched about eight months prior, and belongs to the same firm.

The Ada and Ethel, entered Sydney Heads at half-past 11 on the night of 19 February 1886 in tow of the steamer Malua and was brought up in Pyrmont Bight to have her mast and other fittings installed. The passage down from Williams River was made in 10 hours [4]

By May 1886 the vessel was registered and described as a new fore and aft schooner built by Mr. Edward Davies, of Eagleton, Williams River, for Messrs. C F Messell and Edward Davies, of Sydney, merchants. The Ada and Ethel is a smart looking craft, her dimensions are 82.2 feet (25.05 m) long, 19.6 feet (5.97 m) beam, and 6.4 feet (1.95 m), depth, which give her a registered tonnage of 73 tons[5]

Shipwreck Event

The wreck event was reported at the time as

Captain Frederick and the crew (five in number) of the schooner Ada and Ethel They report the foundering of that vessel on the night off Seal Rocks Captain Cooper stated that they left Manning Heads at 3 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, the wind blowing NE and the vessel not taking much water, no more than usual but as they got off the land she commenced to take in a little water on account of the heavy seas running men were placed at the pumps, but in 10 minutes they found 15 inches (0.38 m) of water in the hold, and 10 minutes later 2 feet (0.61 m) Shortly after it had risen to be 3 feet 6 inches (1.07 m) and commenced increasing rapidly This was at 6 o’clock the same evening, when the vessel was off Seal Rocks. Water rose with such rapidity that at half past 7 the vessel became unmanageable, and Captain Frederick seeing that it was impossible to keep her from water, endeavoured to make for Port Stephens where he intended beaching her.

Matters were becoming most dangerous and at 7:30 o’clock it was found absolutely necessary to lower the boat and the craft was accordingly launched. The captain, mate (Oliver Anderson), cook and 2 seamen (J Williams) who comprised the crew then got into the boat and left the sinking vessel and commenced to pull for Port Stephens. There was a NE wind blowing at the time and the seas were heavy that it was only with the greatest care that the boat was kept afloat.

At 8 pm the Ada and Ethel was to disappear 10 miles to the south east of Seal Rocks. The crew in the boat pulled all night until 3 o’clock yesterday morning at which hour they reached Port Stephens very fatigued. Neither the Captain nor the crew had time to save anything so rapidly did the water gain the vessel and they have nothing but which they stand. The Ada and Ethel was bound for Sydney laden with 2,650 feet (807.72 m) of timber girders. She had been engaged in the Macleay River and Sydney trade from the time she was launched and was an almost new vessel so that how she was leaking so badly is not known. Captain Cooper and the crew proceeded to Sydney last night by the Namoi. The Ada and Ethel had been a profitable vessel during her short career.[6]

It was also reported that the

The hull was insured in the South British Insurance Company for £950.[7]

At the Marine Court of enquiry

The Marine board today found that the schooner Ada and Ethel, which foundered about three weeks ago off the Seal Rocks, New South Wales, had to be abandoned in consequence of suddenly springing a leak and making more water than the pumps could keep under. There was no evidence of default against the captain, Frederick Cooper [8]

The committee of the National Shipwreck Relief Society of New South Wales voted the, Sum of £3 15s to Captain Cooper, he having lost everything on the wreck.[9]

Further reading

Online Database's
Australian National Shipwreck Database[1]
Australian Shipping - Arrivals and Departures 1788-1968 including shipwrecks [2]
Encyclopaedia of Australian Shipwrecks - New South Wales Shipwrecks [3]


  • Wrecks on the New South Wales Coast. By Loney, J. K. (Jack Kenneth), 1925–1995 Oceans Enterprises. 1993 ISBN 9780646110813.
  • Australian Shipwrecks - vol1 1622-1850, Charles Bateson, AH and AW Reed, Sydney, 1972, ISBN 0 589 07112 2 910.4530994 BAT
  • Australian shipwrecks Vol. 2 1851–1871 By Loney, J. K. (Jack Kenneth), 1925–1995. Sydney. Reed, 1980 910.4530994 LON
  • Australian shipwrecks Vol. 3 1871–1900 By Loney, J. K. (Jack Kenneth), 1925–1995. Geelong Vic: List Publishing, 1982 910.4530994 LON
  • Australian shipwrecks Vol. 4 1901–1986 By Loney, J. K. (Jack Kenneth), 1925–1995. Portarlington Vic. Marine History Publications, 1987 910.4530994 LON
  • Australian shipwrecks Vol. 5 Update 1986 By Loney, J. K. (Jack Kenneth), 1925–1995. Portarlington Vic. Marine History Publications, 1991 910.4530994 LON


External links