Alhambra (1855)

From SpottingWorld, the Hub for the SpottingWorld network...
The Alhambra
Name: Alhambra
Owner: Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (1855-1862)
Port of registry: London 1855-1862
Melbourne 1862-1882
Sydney 1882-1888
Builder: Samuda Brothers Cubitt Town, London
Launched: 31 May 1855
Completed: 1855
Maiden voyage: 7 July 1855 Sent out to Marseilles/Malta service

Ship official number 24758
Ship registration number 56/1883

United Kingdom Melbourne
Code Letters PCFM
Status: Wrecked
General characteristics
Type: Iron Steamer screw
Tonnage: Gross tonnage (GT) of 766 tons
Displacement: Net tonnage (NT) of 497 tons
Length: 63.8 m
Beam: 8.3 m
Draught: 5.0 m
Installed power: Geared steam engine Humphrys, Tennant and Dykes 140hp (454 ihp?)
Propulsion: Single Screw
Speed: 10 knots
Ship primary use: Services
Ship industry:
Ship passenger capacity: Unknown
Wreck Event
When lost: 1888/06/30
Where lost: Newcastle, near Nobbys Head
Reason for loss: Collision with derelict, foundered
Cargo: Moving a derelict
Travelling from: Newcastle
Travelling to: Newcastle
Master: Captain Summerbell
Deaths: 0
Wreck Location
Discovered: No

The Alhambra was an iron Steamer screw built in 1853 by Samuda Brothers at Cubitt Town, London. It was wrecked in a collision off Newcastle, near Nobbys Head, New South Wales, on 30 June 1888.

Ship Service History

Construction 1855

The Alhambra was named Cintra during its design. It was later renamed Braganza, which was finally changed to its current name shortly before launch.

31.05 1855: Alhambra was launched. Its name is derived from Al-Hambra, the Red Palace, an ancient fortress of the Moorish monarchs of Granada in southern Spain. 29.06.1855: The Alhambra was registered. 04.07.1855: Trials were run.

London 1855-1862

07.07.1855: The Alhambra took its maiden voyage. It set out to Marseilles.
17.03.1856: The ship experienced engine trouble after leaving Malta for Marseilles. It returned to Malta on the 18th, then proceeded home for repairs.
18.08.1856: The Alhambra entered service in Gibraltar.
May 1857: the ship was reported in Australia as "Loading in London For Portland Bay" [1]
18 August 1857: Alhambra sailed for Mauritius from the Port of Geelong [2]
??.07.1857: The ship experienced machinery failure off Portuguese coast. It was towed from Lisbon to Blackwall for repairs.
28.09.1857: Alhambra returned to Peninsular service.
27.12.1860: The Alhambra Returned to Southampton/Lisbon service until it ended in 1862.
01.07.1862: The ship was sold to Moss Joshua, London on behalf of John H Blackwood, Melbourne, for service with McMechan Blackwood & Co.

Melbourne 1862-1882

26.09.1862: The Alhambra sailed from Southampton for Melbourne.

The Alhambra was a pioneer boat between Melbourne and New Zealand. She was later sold to the firm of Messrs. McMeckin, Blackwood, and Co., who owned also the Arawata, Rincarooma, Tarama, and other vessels in the same trade, which were eventually bought out by the present Union Steamship Co.[3]

April 1868 to February 1869 Mechanical Issues and Refits

April 1868 was the start of an ongoing number of mechanical issues with the vessel.

The fine screw steamship Alhambra, which has for some time been thrown out of the New Zealand trade by a singular and untoward accident to her machinery, was taken upon the Government patent slip yesterday, and in the course of a week or two she will resume her stated trips. The Alhambra, it will be recollected, was proceeding on her voyage to New Zealand, when one of her engines broke down, and she was compelled to return to port to have the broken cylinder replaced by a new one.

The successful tender for supplying this new cylinder was that of the Langland’s Foundry Company, by whom there have recently been executed heavy and difficult repairs to iron vessels and marine machinery. The work of casting a cylinder of the size required for the engines of a vessel like the Alhambra is not of frequent occurrence in this port, and the fact of its being accomplished successfully on a first essay is an undoubted achievement in iron founding in Victoria, and furnishes another illustration of the value of the mechanical resources of the colony. The dimensions of this huge casting are as follows

Diameter of bore, 50 inches (1.27 m)
full length of cylinder, 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 m)
sole-plate, 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 m) by 6 feet 9.5 inches (2.07 m)
and the weight 4 tons 15 cwt.

The time allowed for completing the cylinder was five weeks, and, considering that only three moulders were engaged on it, the despatch is somewhat surprising. In iron founding in the old country it is not infrequently the case that a bad casting of a cylinder of even lesser size than the one involved occurs, and it is especially noteworthy that the cylinder for the Alhambra after being bored out and faced up, was pronounced to be everything that could be desired in accuracy and finish. After being launched from the slip, the Alhambra will be taken up the river to have the cylinder fixed, and the necessary repairs to her machinery completed. [4]

In Mid January 1869 She again broke down en route to New Zealand.

The intelligence received by telegram from Queenscliff yesterday morning, that the screw steamship Alhambra had returned to Port Phillip Heads disabled, and in tow of the steamer Dandenong, after being little more than a week away from port, was fully confirmed by the arrival of both vessels in the bay about ten o'clock yesterday afternoon.

The Alhambra steamed out from Melbourne on the afternoon of Saturday, the 9th, for her usual trip around New Zealand ports, with a full cargo and a large number of saloon steerage passengers. On leaving Port Phillip Heads strong favourable westerly winds and fine weather were experienced, and the steamer had every prospect of making a rapid run down to the Bluff. Kent’s group was passed at 9am on Sunday, and throughout that day and up until about a quarter to five o’clock on the afternoon of Monday the Alhambra continued to make splendid weather of it, when suddenly, and most unfortunately, her screw shaft broke, somewhere, it is supposed near the inner stern post. The Alhambra at this juncture was about 250 miles past Kent's Group, and about 500 miles from Port Phillip Heads.

Captain M'Lean at once gave orders to have additional sails bent, and the steamer's course was then altered, the wind which had hitherto been favourable to her progress being now against her. Notwithstanding the difficulty to be surmounted of sailing the vessel, deeply laden as she was, and with the additional impediment of her now useless propeller, against contrary weather, Captain M'Lean accepted the exigency of his position, and in spite of all hindrance, baffling winds, and occasional calms included, he succeeded in making land near Cape Howe on Saturday the 16th inst. When about forty miles on this side of Cape Howe the Alhambra was signalled by the SS Dandenong, inward bound for Melbourne, and Captain Pain at once bore away for her, and about seven pm took her in tow. The Dandenong and her charge reached the Heads about two o’clock yesterday morning, but the chapter of accidents in so far as the Alhambra was concerned was not yet complete since the two hawsers by which she was being towed parted in coming through the Rip.

The Alhambra was thus once more in a position of peril, but sail being immediately clapped on her, she fortunately cleared the reef inside of Shortland Bluff, and with the weather becoming hazy, she anchored off the Swanspit light. The Dandenong also anchored and at six am took the Alhambra once more in tow, and arrived in the bay with her off Williamstown, where she was relieved by the steamer Resolute, which took the Alhambra alongside the ship Essex, at the Railway pier at Sandridge. The passengers and cargo of the Alhambra will he transferred to the SS Rangitoto which is announced to sail on Thursday next instead of Saturday next, as previously scheduled. [5]

By January 1869 the vessel was again in for repair.

The work of repairing the screw abaft of the SS Alhambra has been completed in a satisfactory manner, and she was yesterday floated out of Messrs. Hughes, Sinnott, and Co.'s graving dock, Yarra-bank. During her stay in dock she has had some important alterations effected by which her steering will be much improved. She has also had her hull painted, and the bottom coated with patent anti-fouling composition. The Alhambra will be the next steamer to leave for New Zealand, and is announced to sail on Wednesday next [6]

Sydney 1882-1888

1882: Sold to Nipper & See, Sydney.

1883 Kimberley Coast speculation

During June 1883 land and stock agents in the Kimberley region were advised that leaseholders of Blayney and Forbes had purchased the steamer Alhambra which is being fitted up to carry sheep, and that the vessel will start for her destination as soon as possible.[7]

By July of that year the three gentlemen involved, Messrs. Plumb, Pascoe, and Cook, of Blayney, Bathurst and Forbes, N. S. W., had stated that they had purchased the steamer Alhambra to convey stock to Kimberley. After completing their own shipments, they were prepared to enter into contracts for delivering sheep in Kimberley for other parties, at a reasonable figure per head.[8]

But unfortunately this never happened with the whole saga then continuing in court with a suit being brought by Samuel Marsden against Henry Oliver and John Plumb. It appears that the parties, who all resided at Blayney, took up a quantity of land in the Kimberley district, Western Australia, and agreed to stock it with sheep. Subsequently Samuel Marsden purchased the steamship Alhambra to convey the stock and his case was that he did so with the concurrence of the defendants. The shipment was not carried out, and the steamer was afterwards sold for very much less than was paid for her. Samuel Marsden sought to have a decree made that the defendants pay him the sum of £720 each to settle the accounts. [9]

The steamer turned out a bad investment, and after she was sold there was a debt of over £2000 owed against her. Defendant Plumb consented to bear his share when he heard the evidence which was produced in court, but Oliver was firm that he never had anything to do with the steamer, and the Judge thought so too. [10]

1884: The Alhambra was sold to H Perdriau, Sydney.

1884 Newcastle Runs

1884: Sold to Aaron Wheeler Junior, Sydney.
May 1885 Collission
On the 19 May 1885 The steamer Alhambra, whilst entering Newcastle port at 6 o'clock this morning, ran aground abreast of the light ship, and in swinging round she struck the lightship, carrying away the moorings. Whilst aground, the outward bound steamer Balmain ran into the Alhambra, striking her on the port quarter, smashing her stanchions and main rails, and doing other damage. The Alhambra, however, was floated off safely at 9am. The Balmain had her deckhouse carried away during tho collision, but she proceeded on her voyage.[11]

Injuries to Crew
On Tuesday 7 July 1885 Henry Johnson a 82 seaman suffered spinal injuries and paralysis to the lower extremities through being thrown over the wheel of the steamer Alhambra during a gale off the coast and was treated at the Sydney Hospital.[12] Then on the 7 December 1886 a labourer named John Van Rampan fell down the hold of the ship Alhambra, a depth of about 10 feet (3.05 m). He was admitted to the Sydney Hospital suffering from back injuries and shock. [13]

Towed Into Port Again
On the 3 August 1886 the steam collier Alhambra was again towed into port (Newcastle) by the tug Young Dungaree. The Alhambra had met with an accident to her machinery while on the passage from Newcastle [14]

Shipwreck Event

On Tuesday 19 June 1888 the following telegram has been sent by the Sydney Marine Board to the Governments of all the other colonies and to all the pilot stations on the coast:

Derelict, bottom up, east north-east about seven miles from Newcastle, She is a large vessel anchors are supported to be fast to the ground; impossible to move her intended to destroy her with torpedoes. Warn passing vessels.
—Sydney Marine Board[15]

This was the start of the Alhambra involvement as the blowing up of the derelict were suspended, as Captain Summerbell, of the steamer Alhambra, has undertaken to remove the derelict within forty eight hours [16]

A week later the Alhambra had moved one of the anchors of the derelict vessel, but has not yet raised it and the hulk still remained in the same position.[17]

But on the 30 June 1888 things progressed for the worst for the vessel

The efforts of the master of the steamer Alhambra to remove the derelict vessel which has been lying about seven miles off Newcastle for the past fortnight, ended disastrously yesterday. The Alhambra was lying at anchor close to the derelict on Saturday morning, with ninety fathoms of line out, and a line from her bows to the steamer Tasmania, which had gone out to assist in towing the derelict ashore close to Broken Bay

A steel rope was fixed from the stern of the Alhambra to the chains of the derelict, and it was proposed to send a diver down in order to lash the chain to the cable. The diver, however, found that he could not work from the north-eastern side of the derelict, on which the Alhambra was lying, and the captain decided to shift around to get the bow of his vessel to westward of the derelict. Arrangements were completed shortly before 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and the steamer was just about bringing up to the desired position when she fouled the derelict about amidships. An attempt was made to alter the course of the steamer, but it was found that she had a huge hole knocked in her side. All attempts to stop the leak proved unavailing, and as the steamer was rapidly settling down, the crew took to the boats and reached the steamer Tasmania safely.

The Alhambra sunk a few minutes afterwards, and for the present the idea of shifting the derelict has been abandoned. The Tasmania returned to port, and some difficulty was experienced in arranging for another steamer to stand by the wreck at night the wreck was left without anything to warm any vessels of the danger until 10 o'clock, when the Government steamer Juno went out. The lookout man at Newcastle reported that about two hours before the Juno went out he saw in the vicinity of the wreck a Steamers lights, which were visible for short time, and then suddenly disappearing, suggesting the idea that a steamer stuck the derelict and sunk. Nothing was seen, however, to give colour to the suggestion. Nothing has been decided as to what shall be done with the derelict.

The Alhambra was owned by A Wheeler, of Sydney, and insured in the South British Company of New Zealand for £6000 She was valued at £10,000 [18]

The Derelict

The derelict off Newcastle is supposed to be the John T. Berry, American ship, Philadelphia to Hiogo, which caught fire and was abandoned on January 2 in Lat. 34 S., Long. 164 E. An abandoned burnt-out hull, supposed to be this vessel, was sighted on January 27, and again on February 2, in 1st. Lat 32 18 S, Long. 161 20 E., and Lat 31 5 S., Long. 162 25 E.' respectively. A large vessel, bottom up, was discovered last week floating about a few miles from Port Stephens, NSW A tug was sent to tow her out of the way of passing vessels, but after getting her within a few miles of Newcastle she became fast, it is thought, by the anchors having taken the ground, and all efforts to move her were useless. She was to have been blown up by torpedoes, but attempts are to be made to take her into Broken Bay. A diver who went down reports that she has been burnt out, and that she evidently was loaded with kerosene.[19]

The crew of the Government steamer Juno cut a hole in the bilge of the hulk with a view to sinking her, but the operation had no effect upon the position of the derelict, which is supposed to have an inner skin. Captain Summerbell, of the steamer Alhambra, says the derelict was a fine vessel of about 1000 or 1200 tons, and had evidently a large quantity of kerosene on board, but nothing was seen during the time he was attempting to remove the derelict to lead to her positive identification. The Government decided this afternoon to blow up the derelict, and the steamer Thetis left Sydney tonight with torpedoes and other implements of destruction for the purpose of sending to the bottom this dangerous impediment to navigation.[20]

See also

Specific to the collision and sinking

  • Destination Never Reached New South Wales Shipwrecks by Max Gleeson 2004 ISBN 0975117807 pages 109-115 [20]

Further reading

Online Database's
Australian National Shipwreck Database[21]
Australian Shipping - Arrivals and Departures 1788-1968 including shipwrecks [22]
Encyclopaedia of Australian Shipwrecks - New South Wales Shipwrecks [23]
Other Online sources
Historic Australian Newspapers, 1803 to 1954 [24]

  • Destination Never Reached New South Wales Shipwrecks by Max Gleeson 2004 ISBN 0975117807 pages 109-115 [25]
  • 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



  1. The Argus Friday 15 May 1857 [1]
  2. The Argus Friday 21 August 1857 [2]
  3. The Mercury Tuesday 3 July 1888 [3]
  4. The Mercury Friday 17 April 1868 [4]
  5. The Mercury Friday 5 February 1869 [5]
  6. The Argus Saturday 30 January 1869 [6]
  7. The West Australian Tuesday 12 June 1883 [7]
  8. Tuesday 17 July 1883 The West Australian
  9. The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday 17 June 1885 [8]
  10. The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 7 July 1885 [9]
  11. The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday 20 May 1885[10]
  12. The Sydney Morning Herald Friday 10 July 1885[11]
  13. The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday 8 December 1886 [12]
  14. The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday 4 August 1886 [13]
  15. The Brisbane Courier Wednesday 20 June 1888[14]
  16. The Brisbane Courier Wednesday 20 June 1888[15]
  17. The Brisbane Courier Tuesday 26 June 1888[16]
  18. The Brisbane Courier Monday 2 July 1888 [17]
  19. The Mercury Tuesday 3 July 1888 [18]
  20. The Brisbane Courier Tuesday 3 July 1888 [19]

External links

  • Encyclopaedia Peninsular - Factsheets on the most notable ships of the P&O Fleet[26]