Category Archives: Shipwreck

Apollo Bay Fishing Company

When I saw the theme photo for this week’s Sepia Saturday, the first thing I noticed were the converging lines .  So though the theme photo is one of linesmen working on a power supply I want to show you a boat by the pier at Apollo Bay on the south west coast of Victoria in 1908 with similar converging  lines.



Centurion boat 1908

The Centurion at the Apollo Bay Jetty, 1908








The Centurion was owned by the Apollo Bay Fishing Company and my grandmother’s uncle, Peter Telford Jr (1867-1953), was one of the Directors.  I can’t tell you which of my relations let me scan this photo but the details on my computer show that I added the image in 1998 but it’s only now that I realize its significance to the family story.

Apart from a road/track  which connected Apollo Bay to the railway line at Forrest, the sea was the the other method of transport until the Great Ocean Road was built.  Logging, fishing and  dairy farms flourished and  onions and potatoes grew well in the area.

Butter Factory Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay Butter Factory

A butter factory had been built  in 1904  and there was a weekly boat carrying cargo to Melbourne.   The refrigeration at the butter factory was by Humble & Sons of Geelong.   This interests me as the world’s first practical refrigerator was made here in Geelong  in 1856 by James Harrison.


When the locals became dissatisfied with the shipping service they were receiving in 1908 they decided to set up a Co-operative known as the Apollo Bay Shipping Company and buy a boat of their own.The company was limited to 2000 shares, 2/6 (two shillings and six pence) payable on application, 2/6 on allotment, and 2/6 monthly calls.,   Peter Telford was one of the seven Directors.

On August 10th, 1908, The Colac Herald reported that the Company’s boat, the Centurion,  buillt in Sydney, had just made it’s first run to Apollo Bay.

The new boat of the Apollo Bay Shipping Company Limited made its first trip to Apollo Bay this week under adverse weather conditions. Strong easterly weather has been prevailing for a week, and as no wind turns Apollo Bay into such raging, wild, angry sea as the east, the sea for days has been very rough. The Centurion left Melbourne on Tuesday night, and travelled to the Heads with her engines in 4 1/2 hours, arriving in the Bay on Wednesday morning. She took several circles around the Bay doubtful of the wisdom of mooring at the jetty with such a heavy sea. Every man, woman and child at liberty in Apollo Bay assembled on the jetty as she came alongside, discharged part of her cargo, and took in a few onions. As the sea was rising, and threatening worse to follow, Captain Jeffery cast off, and went round Cape Otway for shelter. The Centurion is a new boat, a year old. She is exceptionally well built, and is claimed by experts to be the best built boat of her class in Victorian waters. Her speed under auxiliary power only is 7 to 8 knots, while with a favorable wind under sail that speed would be greatly increased. The Centurion is built for strength, speed and safety, having an exceptional beam of 20 feet, with length of 80 feet………..

In November the regular weekly service  was doing well in what was usually a slack time of the year.  At the same time the small community, though the activities of The Apollo Bay Medical Club, acquired the services of  a lady doctor, Dr Maud Campbell.  She stayed until 1912 when she tootled off to Toorak (in Melbourne) to become Mrs John E. Ashley, then live in Ballarat.

So what went wrong ?  Why was it necessary to find a buyer of the Centurion ?  In August 1912  the ketch Centurion became the property of the Apollo Bay and Port Campbell Shipping Company, Then a few months later it was sold once again.

Finally the Centurion caught fire off Phillip Island while returning to Melbourne with a cargo of lime and was beached and  wrecked in July 1913.

Centurion boat 1908I’m sure that couldn’t be a front loading washing machine stored on deck, but it is an intriguing shape.

More diverging lines, power lines and lots of goodies to be seen through the links on this week’s Sepia Saturdays’ page.

The Cape Otway Lighthouse

Take one lighthouse, a harbour and some boats, stir in Eric the Red and the City of Rayville, and what do you get ?  Answer –   The Cape Otway Lighthouse.

The Cape Otway Lightstation is the oldest, surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia. The light, which has been in continuous operation since 1848, is perched on towering sea cliffs where Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean collide. For thousands of immigrants, including my ancestors, after many months at sea, Cape Otway was their first sight of land after leaving Europe.                          Quoted fromThe Cape Otway Lightstation

Note  Some readers have questioned the use of oldest above so I have added some further notes at the end of the page.

map - from the beach jpgThe closest settlement to the lighthouse was  Krambruk, later known as Apollo Bay, and some of my ancestors settled in the area. The lighthouse became a place to take visitors.   (1)

Then and now 2

From  the family album -the lighthouse in Jan 1948.             And a recent photo (2)

That tall radio mast has now disappeared.

Walway looking NE

Up the tower in Jan 1948        And the same view to the north-east in recent times.(3)

There were many shipwrecks along the Australian coast and the reefs around Cape Otway had their fair share.. As Apollo Bay was a fishing village the fishing boats became used to turning out to help ships in trouble. Some of the shipwrecks were quite notable.
In September 1880 Eric the Red was heading to Melbourne with American exhibits for an International Trade Exhibition in Melbourne when it went down two miles from Cape Otway with the loss of four lives. There was plenty of wreckage from the Eric to be found along the coast which was salvaged and used in the construction of houses and sheds around Apollo Bay, including Milford House (since burnt down in bushfires), which had furniture and fittings from the ship, and the dining room floor made out of its timbers. A ketch named  the Apollo was also built from its timbers and subsequently used in Tasmanian waters.. Waste not, want not !  A relation, Claud Telford, is reputed at the age of fifteen to have walked to Cape Otway from Apollo Bay on 3 or 4 days to help in the recovery. (just oral history). (4)

Another major shipwreck occurred in 1940. Look at the photo of these survivors photographed beside the distinctive foreshore trees at Apollo Bay.  I found in The State Library of Victoria in a collection from the now defunct Argus under Wartime Rescue Photos. Early in the war a German minelayer had laid 40 mines off Cape Otway, as well as at other select places along the Victorian coast (5)

SurvivorsThese men  have the distinction of having been rescued from SS City of Rayville, the first American ship to be sunk in the Second World War, more than a year before Pearl Harbour . Only one life was lost. The lighthouse keeper at Cape Otway saw the flames from the explosion when the ship hit a mine and billiard players in Apollo Bay heard the explosion. Three boats set out from Apollo Bay and found the ship’s crew had been able to take to their lifeboats. These lifeboats with 37 sailors were then towed back to Apollo Bay, arriving at dawn on November 9th, 1940. (6)
The survivors were well looked after. This photo, loaned to me by a Telford relation whose mother is in the photo, shows a mixture of the sailors, hotel staff and others, taken outside the hotel.

Sailors at Apollo Bay
The ship had been laden with Australian lead from Port Pirie and took only 35 minutes to sink.

(1) View of the Lighthouse from the Cape Otway Lightstation site

(2) Thanks  Flickr

(3) As seen on Flickr

(4) Heritage Victoria has a good description of the incident using the Captain’s own words describing the incident.

(5) Photo of survivors from the Argus collection at the State Library of Victoria

(6)  A detailed report on the City of  Rayville incident

There is also an Age report in 2009 about the diver who eventually  discovered the wreckage and a video from Deakin University exploring the wreckage,

I wonder what became of these sailors and their families ?

Further Notes

They started building the Cape Otway Lighthouse in 1846 and the first light shone in 1848.
It was the second lighthouse completed but is the oldest surviving lighthouse.
It was decommissioned in January 1994 after being the longest continuous operating light on the Australian mainland.
It has been replaced by a low powered solar light in front of the original tower

Meanwhile the Macquarie Lighthouse began as  a tripod mounted iron basket which originally burned wood, and later coal.
A sandstone lighthouse was built and began operation in 1818 but the sandstone eventually crumbled and a new lighthouse was built 4 metres away from the first one, lighting up in 1883 when the following photo was taken.

-Macquarie_Lighthouse_old_and_new  1883
Hey, hey, two lighthouses side by side, switch one off, switch the other on, so depriving NSW of that word continuous..

Woud I be right in saying Macquarie can claim the continuous area title and Cape Otway can have the continuous building/light title !
In 1976 the Macquarie Lighthouse was fully automated