|The TSS Hall Caine was built in
1912 at Coopernook on the Manning River on the Mid North Coast
of New South Wales. The new timber ship was almost 40 metres
long and displaced 214 tons. Built by D. Sullivan, the Hall
Caine was a coal powered steamship with twin engines. It had
a single boiler.
|A Photograph of
Sir Thomas Hall Caine
I presume that the ship was named after the famous English
author, Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine. Sir Thomas was born in 1853
in Runcorn, Cheshire, UK. He was trained as an architectural
draughtsman, but became a journalist and gradually took up
literary work. His novels, some of which were set in the Isle of
Man, sold by the million, were made into plays and films, and
were translated into many languages, It is surprising that today
he is hardly known and that none of his books are currently in
print. He wrote the famous novels The Manxman, The
Christian (the first of his books to sell over a million
copies, it was staged and twice filmed. ) and The Prodigal
Son amongst many others. A number of other things were named
after him, including the Hall Caine Airfield in West
He moved his residence permanently to the Isle of Man in 1895
and was elected to the Manx House of Keys in 1903. He was made a
Knight of the British Empire in 1918, a Companion of Honour in
1922 and granted the Freedom of the Borough of Douglas in 1929.
He was created an Officer of the Order of Leopold by the Belgian
King in 1917. He died in his home at Greeba Castle in the Isle
of Man on 31 August 1931.
It is not known why the ship was named after Sir Thomas,
although he did write some poems about the sea.
The ship was used as a collier but at the moment I do not
know any more.
The TSS Hall Caine was owned by William Holyman and Sons
of Launceston, Tasmania.
The first mention I can find of the ship in a newspaper is
that on 31 December 1917 the Hall Caine arrived in
Brisbane from Sydney. On Tuesday 15 January 1918 was to sail
from Melbourne for Sydney but it appears she might not have left
till 17 January. On 24 January 1918 she left Sydney for
On 12 June 1918 she left Sydney for Brisbane. This seems to
imply that the ship was on a regular route from Melbourne to
Brisbane via Sydney and other ports.
On Monday 7 October 1918 the Hall Caine was to leave
Melbourne, probably for King Island. However, another report I
found said it left Hobsons Bay (this is the bay immediately next
to the city of Melbourne) bound for Duck River, Smithton in
Tasmania (to the west of Stanley) at 5 pm on Tuesday 8 October
1918. It now appears that it was on a regular run as the next
week it did the same voyage and Friday 18 October 1918. On 27
October 1918 she returned to Melbourne.
For the next 11 years or so the Hall Caine plied this
route with apparently no trouble. At 9:00 am on Friday 26
October 1928 the Hall Caine passed Wilsons Promontory in
On Wednesday 17 September 1929 the Hall Caine was
removed from service and was kept in Melbourne and laid up. At
some time it appears she was moved to Launceston in Tasmania
where she was kept laid up. Here she was to stay for the next
three and a half years.
In the afternoon of 15 July 1933, the Hall Caine left
Low Head for Sydney. Low Head is the entrance to the Tamar River
which runs up to Launceston. As far as I can see, this was the
first voyage to Sydney since 1918. The reason for this trip
became apparent on Tuesday 18 July 1933 when it was announced
the the ship had been sold to Cam and Sons of Sydney. Cam and
Sons were operators of a large number of fishing trawlers,
including the SS Olive Cam and SS Goolgwai that
were later to sink near Eden and Malabar respectively. The
Hall Caine was to be used as a store ship for the trawlers.
In October 1933 the Hall Caine had engine trouble on a
trip from Newcastle to Sydney. The trawler SS Olive Cam
came to her rescue. On 6 November 1933 she left Sydney for
On Sunday 23 December 1934, a violent storm hit Sydney. On
Sydney Harbour, three small boats were capsized. The occupents
were rescued by the Water Police, a Manly ferry and the Hall
On 4 February 1936, the Hall Caine was forced to turn
back to Sydney after losing a tap from one of her seacocks.
On Wednesday 17 March 1937, the Sydney Morning Herald
reported heavy seas were pounding the NSW coast. Extremely heavy
rain was falling right along the coast, with floods around Coffs
Harbour and the Audley Weir in Royal National Park, southern
Sydney, closed due to flooding. It was reported that many places
had over 10 inches (250 mm) of rain in the preceding days.
At 10:55 am the Hall Caine left Sydney Harbour bound
for Lake Macquarie, just south of Newcastle. It was carrying a
cargo that included tea and drums of benzene. Its skipper was
Captain Donald Turner and there were a total of nine on board.
By 4:30 pm the Hall Caine had only made it to Cape Three
Points. This is the most easterly point of the mouth of Broken
Bay (Hawkesbury River) and just south of Avoca. At this time it
had big problems. It started taking on water and at this time,
the Captain decided to send up distress signals (flags, flares
or rockets?). The SS Indant was heading south from Lake
Macquarie to Sydney with Able Seaman Eric Woodger at the wheel
when he spotted the signals and came over to investigate.
|TSS Hall Caine
The Hall Caine’s boiler fire had been put out by water
and it was heavy at the stern. It was also listing to starboard.
There was a heavy swell running, but apparently it was not too
bad. Until the Idant turned up, Captain Turner was about
to order the lifeboat to be launched. An interesting fact is
that a few years earlier, Captain Turner had been employed on
Captain G. Manson, the owner (I have also read that the
Indant was owned by Cam and Sons) and skipper of the
Idant, decided to take the Hall Caine in tow and
attempt to make Broken Bay where he hoped to beach her. All the
Hall Caine crew except for the Engineer were taken off
the ship and onto the Idant. Captain Turner and an Able
Seaman later returned.
Once underway, the going was very slow. In the next 90
minutes the pair of ships only made six miles (9.6 kilometres)
towards Broken Bay. By this time the Hall Caine was in a
hopeless condition and about to sink. The list to starboard had
increased dramatically. Captain Turner and his two crew took to
the lifeboat and rejoined the Idant.
At Palm Beach, a few kilometres away, Miss Jessie Grant and
Miss Marie Kinnard were on holidays. They noticed the two ships
and using a pair of field glasses, they watched the drama
At 6:50 pm, the Hall Caine rolled over and sank,
witnessed by not only the crews of the Hall Caine and
Idant, but Misses Grant and Kinnard. They appear to have
reported the sinking to the authorities as the Sydney Morning
Herald later interviewed them.
A Court of Marine Inquiry was held with Justice Curlewis
presiding. After Peter Baikie, a shipwright's surveyor, had
given evidence regarding the ship, His Honour remarked "With a
new hull, new engines and new masts, she would become a
perfectly good ship"! Captain Turner stated that he had become
used to seeing a certain amount of water in the engine room. He
also said that about midday the men told him that while they
were in the mess room they heard a noise which he thought could
have been fastening in the hold going.
When the evidence had been concluded, on Monday 3 May 1933
Judge Curlewis handed down his decision. He remarked that he had
reached the conclusion that the Hall Caine was a coffin
ship and that it should never have gone to sea. ''We are
inquiring into the reason why the steamer went down in a calm
sea," continued Judge Curlewis. "Not the slightest blame
attaches to the master, the mate, or the engineer. I think they
all did very well indeed We have had evidence that she was a
thorough patchwork job".
Judge Curlewis also said "The reasons that the ship sank were
that the hull was rotten, the hand pump was in bad order, and
not properly fitted with a strainer, and other pumps could not
be worked because the boilers could not supply sufficient
The wreck was apparently known to fishers but was not
revealed to scuba divers until 1976 when a fisher told Les
Graham, owner of Terrigal Diving Centre. The fisher told Les
that he pulled the bell to the surface one day when fishing (a
bit hard to see how a fisher could catch the bell!). Corrosion
had eaten away part of the name and the fisher called it the "alcaine"
wreck. When Les later asked him what became of the bell, he said
it lay around in his garage for a while and then he took it to
the tip! When Les dived on the wreck the same year, he said that
the timber had already rotted away.
However, all the engine room gauges were still in place in
front of the engines and on either side of the boiler there were
pressure gauges galore. They all sat on the ends of copper
piping and brass fittings, swaying in the surge. Because of the
lack of actually seeing the bell, it was a while before the name
of the wreck was known/worked out. Apparently the wreck became
known to quite a number of divers on the Central Coast but for
about five years, not one piece of the brass or one gauge was
removed from the wreck. Then, the wreck was plundered and every
gauge and “stealable” item was removed as was a great deal of
the copper and brass.
Today the TSS Hall Caine lies in 45 metres of water
off Bouddi National Park on the Central Coast.