Engine Name Plate portion from PS Prince of Wales ; 1861; CH11


Camden Haven Historical Society


Engine Name Plate portion from PS Prince of Wales

About this object

This bronze name plate fragment is believed to have been attached to the engine of the Paddle Steamer PS Prince Of Wales. The remains of the words “WALES”, “BUILDER” and part of the “1” in the year 1861 engraved into the metal are still visible. It was recovered during a scuba dive at the wreck site in 1989.
Built in Britain in 1861, the Australasian Steam Navigation Company's new iron vessel, PS Prince Of Wales was considered a superior vessel, combining great speed, carrying capacity and light draft of water, advantages absolutely necessary for trade on the New South Wales coast. However she would be in service for only a few months.

The PS Prince Of Wales left Sydney for Brisbane on October 2nd, 1862, with a cargo of horses, rum, ale, brandy, wine, tobacco, cigars and 12 passengers and 11 crew. At 3 p.m. the following day while passing inside the Mermaid Reef, she grazed on a detached rock, northwest of the reef, and began to make water in her fore compartment.

At first the Captain issued orders to turn the ship around and head back to Sydney but when it became apparent the damage was more extensive than realized they tried to get to Port Macquarie. With water pouring into the hold it became evident they would not stay buoyant for much longer and a decision was made to beach her at Camden Haven. Fortunately the weather was fine and seas calm. All the passengers and stores were landed safely.

By the time the iron paddle steamer PS Diamantina arrived on the scene the following Sunday, the seas had risen and the PS Prince Of Wales was found to be a total wreck on the beach. A boat was sent ashore but while returning through the surf it capsized on the Camden Haven bar. The engineer of the PS Prince Of Wales and two seamen from the PS Diamantina drowned. The other seamen clung to the boat until it drifted into the calmer waters of the river. The mound grave of those drowned can be found near “Prince of Wales Point”.

The PS Prince Of Wales, valued at £20,000 and her cargo valued at £10,000 were uninsured, the company being its own underwriters.

The steamer remained fast on the shore, eventually breaking in two and leaving only her bow jammed between rocks. Today nothing remains visible apart from the wreck mound covered in seaweed in 3m of water some 50m offshore.

This is a rare and perhaps the most significant maritime archaeology item found in the northern New South Wales region. The fragment’s condition reflects the drama of the wrecking of the PS Prince of Wales and its subsequent time buried undersea. It also reflects the vulnerability of coastal shipping and the perils of the sea, even in fine weather safe navigation was not a certainty.

Phillip Bowman
10 August 2014

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