Elmtree Bell ; 1916; 2014/311


Mid North Coast Maritime Museum


Elmtree Bell

About this object

This engraved brass ship’s bell is from the Elmtree built at Cardiff UK in 1916, and renamed the Iron Chief in 1922. The Iron Chief regularly sailed in the waterways of the Mid North Coast and also carried cargo to various parts of Australia.

On the 1st of April 1928 the Iron Chief left Port Stephens bound for Coffs Harbour but struck Mermaid Reef and put ashore south of Diamond Head.

Ships bells like this one are important for various reasons. They are used to indicate the time aboard a ship and to regulate the sailors' duty watches, to warn other boats, generally mark the passage of time, as a fog signal, audible alarm in poor weather, to raise the attention of the crew and to call the passengers and crew to formal services.

Ships bells are considered to be iconic and to have a spiritual association with their ship. As is tradition, despite the ship’s name change, the Iron Chief retained her original bell, indicating the year and place the ship was launched.

This bell was aboard the Iron Chief at the time of the shipwreck however there was sufficient time to retrieve the cargo, equipment and ship’s crew before the ship sank.

Despite the bell’s age it is intact, complete and in almost original condition. Ship’s bells are highly collectible. There are few ships bells from wrecks on the Mid North Coast in public collections although countless shipwrecks were recorded here.

This bell represents the Iron Chief and her final voyage which ended in her loss south of Diamond Head due to navigation error.

Zsolt Newby
8th July 2014

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