A tale of two Riverinas
Two steamers, both called Riverina, wrecked on the East Gippsland Coast, the first in 1890 and the second in 1927. Here John describes the use of explosives to recover metal from the wreckage.
NARRATOR: Two steamers, both called Riverina, wrecked on the East Gippsland Coast, the first in 1890 and the second in 1927. John Black describes a crew using explosives to recover metal, he also talks about the hazards between Point Hicks and the mainland.
JOHN BLACK: Probably, as far down as we travel from here we travel down to Point Hicks –and as we got into Shark Cats and faster boats the further we went down the abalone hadn’t been fished that much because we were pretty limited to the type of equipment we had so a trip right down to Cape Everard was always pretty exciting. It’s a pretty prominent headland and because of that I think a couple of wrecks went in on that area and most of them have either got blown in with a strong southerly wind and or one in particular went in with – they said it was bushfires and they ran aground.
There is a wreck called the Riverina. It was a steel ship it was travelling from Tasmania to up Sydney. It went ashore in around about 1937 and the salvage workers come down and they stripped it down to the water line and unloaded all the old deck chairs and seats and everything on to the beach but the basic hull shape was still sitting on the bottom. It was cut off from the bow to the stern, the propeller’s still on it because it was too hard to get it sitting on sand it’s sitting parallel to the beach, but there used to be a huge engine standing up on it and I went up there one day and the engine was blown on its side, and the boys said there was a mob come down from Sydney and they loaded it up with explosives and they tried to tip the engine over to get the bearings because the bearings are made out of brass and white metal etc. which is non-ferrous.
They succeeded – they actually blew the motor and it fell on its side and the whole bottom end of it was exposed but the seas came up very rough so they went away and left it there. There was a diver at time called Garry Waterson, and Garry, when the weather was calm he was in there knocking it all off. Garry had a blinder up there he was in there throwing this stuff on his ab boat, but they never come back, they never come back, they never complained, they never come back.
There’s two Riverinas. There is one at Gabo and one down at Island Point. It’s the one down at Island Point that sank in 1890. When you look at the map you look from Sydney down the coast, you’ll come from Sydney down to Cape Howe and Gabo Island and then you change course and you run back down the bottom of Australia, it looks like a bit of a wedge, so when they’d come out of Melbourne they come up the coast, once you come up to Cape Howe you’d alter course up to Sydney, so if a few of the navigations were slightly out they’d turn left too early between Point Hicks and Gabo Island, which most of them come in on, that they’d mistook some of their bearings, even though they did put a light house up on these two points eventually, they’d just turn in too quick and hit the mainland.
Apparently they put a road in to that one from the highway, it was a long way in and they salvaged most of the stuff off the boat. Most of the steel was taken off it but there’s absolutely nothing in the way of ferrous metal. On the mantelpiece is an old sauce bottle – I think that’s the only thing I’ve ever found around that one, and that was years after I’d dived around the area because it is quite a good area for abalone. And it was years and years and years and I was flapping around one day and in a gutter, a bottom end of bottle, and I give it a shake and it was an old tomato sauce bottle with a long neck, so I kept that one.
NARRATOR: To find out more about Victorian shipwrecks search the Victorian Heritage Database at http://heritage.vic.gov.au