SS Kelloe

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One of the better of the deeper wrecks off Sydney is the SS Kelloe. The Kelloe was a iron hulled collier built by J. Laing in Sunderland, UK for J. Forster of London. It was launched in either April or August 1866 (the records say both). The Kelloe displaced 500 tons and was almost 50 metres long and 8 metres wide. A single screw steam ship powered by a 70hp two cylinder compound engine built by G. Clark at Sunderland, its first regular destination was Hamburg, Germany. It appears that the Kelloe was named after the small town of Kelloe, near Durham City. This is located south of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Kelloe was a coal mining town and there were eight small mines situated around the town.

In the early 1870s the Kelloe was sold to J.D. Hill and in about 1876 it was sold again to J. Young, Ehlers and Co. The Kelloe remained in the UK, its home port being London. In 1881 the Kelloe was in the port of Newcastle, with the following reported as being crew on board (I do not know why there was not a full list of crew):


Name Age Home Position
John Waller 51 Norwich, Norfolk 2nd Mate
John Monle 44 Bridgewater, Somerset Able Seaman
George Fally 32 Greenwich, Kent Able Seaman
Burgernman Massett 30 Deptford, Kent Fireman

In early 1891 the Kelloe was purchased by the Wallarah Coal Co. for use in conjunction with its Australian coal mines. On 23 April 1891 the Kelloe left London under the command of Captain Hagan. It arrived in her new home port of Sydney on 9 July and started its regular run from Catherine Hill Bay on the southern outskirts of Newcastle to Sydney. It also made some journeys from the southern coalfields to Sydney and Brisbane.

On 11 February 1893 the Kelloe was proceeding down Sydney Harbour when she collided with HMS Ringarooma. She suffered some damage to the bow area and the master, Captain George F. Mason was suspended for three months. The Kelloe appears to have been incident free for the next nine years.

At about 10 pm on 12 May 1902, the Kelloe left the South Bulli jetty on the southern coalfields. She had a full load of coal aboard, bound for Sydney with Captain Hector Boyle as master. Just over two hours later, the wooden steamer SS Dunmore left Sydney for Shellharbour (south of Wollongong) under the command of Neils Hanson to load blue metal. The Dunmore was in its 12th year of incident free service but the early hours of 13 May 1902 would change that luck.

At about 1.30 am in almost perfect conditions to the immediate north of Botany Bay, the two vessels approached each other. On the Kelloe, Captain Boyle was in his cabin changing clothes. Captain Hanson saw the Kelloe and decided that the lights showed that the two would comfortably pass each other, the Dunmore to the seaward side of the Kelloe. To make certain, the Dunmore turned slightly to port. Suddenly, the Kelloe made a turn to starboard and a collision was imminent. Captain Boyle ordered full reverse and blew his whistle. Moments later, the Dunmore rammed the Kelloe's starboard side. As soon as Captain Boyle reached the Kelloe's bridge he "realised that the steamer was doomed".

The Dunmore lowered one of its boats to help the Kelloe but she was also in trouble. Captain Boyle ordered the Kelloe to be abandoned and her boat was put in the water. All 15 crew climbed aboard and were soon met by the Dunmore's boat. Within 15 minutes, the Kelloe had sunk, stern first, her engine still running (confirmed by its current damage - see later).

The Kelloe's crew, taken on board the Dunmore, were not yet really saved as she herself was in a bad situation. Water was streaming in through the damaged bow, slowed a bit by a tarpaulin placed over the hole. Captain Hanson decided to take the Dunmore into Botany Bay and he beached the ship off Kurnell. The next morning, the crew of the Kelloe were taken over to the Botany Pier and caught a tram into Sydney. Temporary repairs to the Dunmore were carried out and on 16 May she returned to Sydney under her own power. However, the Dunmore was now on the road towards an accident in January 1909 when she ran down a Navy boat killing 15 Navy crew. This was the greatest maritime disaster to happen on Sydney Harbour to that time. In April 1914 the Dunmore was to again strike trouble when she collided with SS Kiama at Sydney Heads and was driven up on Lady Bay Beach where she remained for three days. In September 1915 the Dunmore ran aground at Bradleys Head and in February 1918 she collided with the tug Champion off Botany Bay. The Dunmore was surely not one of the luckiest vessels around.

An inquiry found that the Second Officer of the Kelloe, George Alstrope, was at fault for not keeping a proper lookout.

From an article by John Sumner in the November 2006 issue of South Pacific Divers' Club magazine, Wet Rag, it appears that the weck was discovered by Eric Buchannan of Arrow Diving. He was assisted by Wally Gibbins and others. At this time they called the wreck the Cronulla.

In mid-1978 Eric decided to restart salvage work on the wreck (which was stopped after he had an underwater welding accident not related to this salvage work). He contacted John who at that time owned St George Underwater Centre at Beverly Hills. A couple of attempts to re-find the wreck failed (marks previously used to find were no longer there - eg Bunnerong Power Station chimneys) and strong currents pushing them off the wreck once anchored.

On 27 August 1978 a number of divers went out to look for the wreck. They were John Sumner, Bill Marden, Doug and Chris Olding and perhaps two others. On this day they successfully dived the wreck. They became the first recreational divers on this wreck, still thought to be called Cronulla. A week later Bill dived the wreck again and took a pressure guage. When this was cleaned, it had engraved on it "Kello". Thus, the true identity of the wreck was established, it was the SS Kelloe. On 2 October 1978 Doug Olding recovered the telegraph and later Trevor Thomas found the Builder's Plate from the Engine Room.

Sitting on a sandy bottom broken by bits of the adjacent edge of the rocky reef, its depth is 48 to 51 metres, depending on tides. The wreck is sitting upright with the bow facing north.