The wreck of the SS Minmi

On one of my explorations I found a ship wreck near Botany Bay.

The SS Minmi was built in Glasgow, Scotland in 1927. She was 75 metres long, and displaced 1,455 tons. The Minmi was a collier, carrying coal from Newcastle to Melbourne and returning empty. It was named after either the lower Hunter Valley town of Minmi, or the nearby Minmi Colliery.

On 8 May 1937, the Minmi left Melbourne for Newcastle under Captain Robert Clark Callum. The Minmi’s captain for all of her ten-year service was Captain McPhall, who had brought the ship to Australia. Captain McPhall commenced two weeks’ leave in the first week of May, leaving Chief Officer Callum to take over as Captain. At 10 pm they were off Botany Bay in heavy seas and dense fog, and shortly after the ship struck the outside of Cape Banks, the outer northern headland of Botany Bay.

Soldiers at the nearby Cape Banks Artillery Garrison were awoken by the sound of escaping steam, and saw the ship hard on the rocks. Frederick Boulton, the ship’s cook, collapsed and died of a heart attack soon after the ship struck the rocks. The rest of the crew of more than 20 were stranded on the vessel due to the heavy seas.

The Minmi split in two at about 12:45 am, with crew members stranded on both the front and back sections. Those at the front were rescued without incident, but it was more perilous for those in the rear. A line was tied to the rear section, with the other end held by rescuers. One life, a Mr Burnside, was lost in the heavy seas, and several other members of the crew spent the night on the vessel before being rescued at daylight.

Crowds estimated at 40,000 on 15 May 1937 and 60,000 the next day made the trek to La Perouse to see the wreck. Cars were banked up for four miles along Bunnerong Road (now Anzac Parade) towards the city, and police were required to control traffic and guard the cliffs. Many sightseers crossed the NSW Golf Course to get to the wreck site, and in doing so prevented golf games from proceeding, and causing damage to the course.

The wreck was sold for 200 pounds to salvagers Penguin Ltd, and while undertaking salvage operations the men lived in caves at the scene. A marine inquiry exonerated the captain of the charge of failing to navigate the ship safely. The stern section of the Minmi is still visible on the rock platform on the inside of Cape Banks.

Image source

And this is what it looks like now.

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