Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - SS Satara
The SS Satara was launched on 30 October 1901 from the William Denny and Brothers shipyard (established 1844) at Dumbarton, Scotland. Dumbarton is a few kilometres north of Glasgow on the Firth of Clyde (and a very nice little town I reckon). The new ship was 410.8 feet long with a beam of 50.7 feet. She displaced 5,156 tons. The engine of the vessel was a huge triple expansion steam engine built by an associated company, Denny and Company. There were two enormous coal powered boilers.
The new ship was a cargo vessel intended for the India/Australia/Asia route. The Satara was the third of three identical ships built for the British India Steam Navigation Company Ltd and as such, the ship was named after a small Indian town east of Mumbai (Bombay). Satara the town got its name from seven (sat) hills (tara) that surround the town. At a cost of £89,170, the ship was said to be well appointed. The ship was completed in December 1901 and sailed soon after for India.
|The SS Satara underway|
The Satara's first voyage to Australia was in September 1902 when she sailed under Captain C. Goss to Fremantle, Western Australia. Each trip to Australia involved an anti-clockwise circumnavigation of the country, with ports of call normally being Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle (for coal) and sometimes ports in Queensland. For seven and a half years the Satara continued on this route. It is not clear if she only did this route.
On Saturday 6 September 1902 the Satara arrived in Newcastle from Calcutta. Presumably she then proceeded south and then across to Fremantle.
Her next trip to Australia appears to have been in October 1902. She departed Sydney on Thursday 2 October 1902 for Bombay via Gladstone in northern Queensland.
On 31 August 1903 the Satara arrived in Keppel Bay in Queensland from Brisbane. On 4 September 1903 she left Flat Top (this is Mackay harbour) for Calcutta, India.
The Satara was due in Port Adelaide, South Australia, on 6 November 1903 from Calcutta.
On 8 December 1903 the Satara arrived in Port Adelaide from Calcutta. There were 13 passengers on board and she was bound for Melbourne and Sydney. She had 1,300 tons of general cargo on board. When she left on 10 December 1903 there were 200 bales of cornsacks for London (which appear to have come in from India on the ship) and one case of wine for Calcutta. She left Melbourne on Friday 18 December 1903 for Singapore, arriving in Sydney on Monday 21 December 1903. On 10 January 1904 she passed Cooktown in Queensland.
On Wednesday 7 December 1904 the Satara arrived in Fremantle from Penang (in now Malaysia). On Thursday 15 December 1904 she arrived in Port Adelaide. She only came into port as her skipper, Captain J. S. Hutchison was sick with malaria. She was on her way to Melbourne and Sydney. There were also six coolie crew members ill with beri-beri. Captain Hutchison was taken to the Port Casualty Hospital where he remained after the ship left. The coolies were considered to be not too ill to stay on boat. The First Officer Mr Ramage took command and she left for Melbourne on 16 December 1904. It appears she travelled to Sydney as on Tuesday 27 December 1904 she arrived back in Melbourne form Sydney. She then appears to have headed back north again on 29 December 1904 for Bowen in Queensland.
On Friday 5 January 1906 the Satara left London for Brisbane.
On 28 July 1909 she arrived in Port Adelaide from Calcutta.
On Tuesday 23 November 1909 she arrived in Fremantle from Calcutta. On this trip, the Chief Engineer, Alexander Shaw, died in his cabin from "an internal complaint" the day before she arrived in Fremantle. He was 54 years old. She then sailed for Adelaide, arriving at Semaphore on Thursday 2 December 1909. On Tuesday 7 December 1909 she arrived in Melbourne.
The Satara left Calcutta in March 1910 under the command of Captain Charles Hugill. Captain Hugill received his master's certificate in Bombay on 25 April 1885 (No. 300 BOM) at the age of 27, and his first command was the Baghdad in the same year. In the Lloyd's Captains' Registers 1851-1947 the names of subsequent ships up to the Umballa in 1904 are hard to read, one looks like the Bulimba in 1886. There are some notes alongside the name Satara in 1910, but impossible to read unfortunately, except for a BB (Black Book?) reference number of 3023.
On Monday 21 March 1910 the Satara departed Fremantle, arriving at Adelaide on Monday 28 March 1910. She was carrying 650 tons of general merchandise. and Melbourne before arriving in Sydney on 8 April 1910. The Satara left Sydney empty on 12 April 1910 for Newcastle where she loaded a cargo of 4,500 tons of coal and 1,200 tons for her boilers.
On 20 April 1910 at 6.50 am, the SS Satara left Newcastle bound for Gladstone, Queensland. Aboard were 84 crew and two passengers, Messrs Asplin and Power. The passengers were aboard to care for 100 horses that were bound for the British Army in India. They were to be loaded at Gladstone. Also on the ship was Captain Frank Binstead, a Torres Strait Pilot under the employ of the Queensland Government Pilots. His job was to guide the ship through the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. The
As she left Newcastle, the ship encountered large seas and Captain Binstead was granted control of the ship by Captain Hugill. There was a disagreement between Captains Binstead and Hugill as Captain Hugill left the bridge. This was related to recording the course navigated.
Port Stephens was 2.5 miles abeam at 9.35 am and the course was changed to 30°. She was soon passing Broughton Island with the seas worsening. Ahead lay Sugarloaf Point and Seal Rocks. In 1895 the SS Catterthun had struck Little Seal Rock and sank with the loss of 55 lives.
Captain Binstead made the fatal decision to sail between Seal Rocks and Sugarloaf Point, hoping to save five miles. Making slow headway, at 11.25 am the Third Officer, John Passmore, questioned the ship's course. At 11.30 am Captain Binstead changed the heading to 45°. There was a crew change at midday and Second Officer Reading took over. Captain Hugill arrived on the bridge at 12.07 pm and there was some discussion with Captain Binstead over the course.
At 12.15 pm the Satara hit Little Edith Breakers, a reef that rises more than 30 metres to less than seven metres. It is approximately four kilometres south-west of Big Seal Rock. Captain Binstead ordered the engine stopped but Captain Hugill overrode this order. The Satara hit the reef again. An examination by Chief Engineer Thomas Black revealed a great deal of water in the engine room. A decision was made to beach the Satara on Seal Rocks Beach (north of the lighthouse). The lifeboats were readied and by now the ship was settling by the bow and the rudder was now so high out of the water that the vessel would not respond to the helm. Suddenly, the beach to the west of the lighthouse was very attractive. By now the prop was more out of the water than in and it was obvious she only had minutes afloat.
Around this time, the SS Orara caught up to the Satara. The Orara was a 1,297 tons gross 240 foot long cargo/passenger coaster owned by the North Coast Steam Navigation Company. During World War II she was commissioned as HMAS Orara and served as an auxiliary minesweeper and then as a mobile escort training vessel. The Orara was out to sea, intending to pass outside Little Seal Rock. When level with Sugarloaf Point, the skipper of the Orara, Captain Hunter, decided that the Satara was in trouble and he gave the order to steam to help.
Finally, the Satara launched her lifeboats. The Orara arrived at the same time and Captain Hunter placed his ship between the lifeboats and the prevailing sea.
At 1.10 pm the Satara sank leaving five men still aboard. They leapt into the sea grabbing pieces of wreckage to keep them afloat. One of the lifeboats overturned and in an heroic effort, the Second Officer of the Orara, Mr Bensen, jumped in to rescue the Satara's engineer, Mr Smith. By now the SS Dorrigo had also drawn up to the wreck site. She went north in search of the five men. She found all five (including Captain Hugill) and got them aboard. The Orara and Dorrigo moved to the protected area of Seal Rocks Beach and all the Satara's crew were moved to the Dorrigo. At 5.45 pm, the left for Sydney, arriving at 9 am the next morning. A comical note is that the Satara's dog was thought to have drowned in the sinking but was found a few days later by the lighthouse keeper at Sugarloaf Point.
Dead pigs, sheep, fowl and ducks were washed ashore on Croki Beach. As well, four lifeboats, all damaged, were also on the beach. The Sugarloaf Lighthouse keeper stated that the seas were breaking on the wreck of the ship.
On Friday 22 April 1910, a Court of Marine Inquiry started in Sydney under the Acting Superintendent of Navigation, Captain Hacking. The main evidence was heard on Thursday 28 April 1910. It heard evidence from all concerned. The Inquiry's finding was that the Satara sank because of "the wrongful act of the Master, Charles Alfred Hugill in recklessly, considering the state of the weather, navigating his vessel". Even though Captain Binstead was in charge of the Satara in the events leading up to the sinking, Captain Hugill was held responsible for permitting Captain Binstead to navigate. On Thursday 5 May 1910 Captain Hugill appeared before the Inquiry to show cause why his licence should not be suspended.
Captain Hugill's master's certificate was suspended for six months from 20 April 1910 and was returned about 23 October 1910. From the Lloyd's records, it seems that he was also a member of the Royal Naval Reserve, so it he may have later served during World War I. I have been advised that he died in Marlborough, UK, in 1929 where he was living with his sisters.
The wreck of the SS Satara was discovered on 17 September 1984 by a group of Port Stephens and Newcastle divers led by Owen Griffith.
Today the wreck lies upright at a depth of less than 44 metres. The stern is on reef and the bow on sand. It sort of lies in a large gutter (at least the stern). It lies bow to the north.
The Satara is located to the south-west of Little Seal Rocks. It is not far from Edith Breakers, the reef that caused its demise. The GPS reading for the Satara is a latitude of 32Â° 28' 50" S and longitude of 152Â° 31' 11" E. Note that all the GPS Readings on my Web Site are taken using AUS66 as the map datum. If you use another datum you may be about 220 metres off the wreck. See my GPS Page for more details and how to convert readings. See the diagram and marks at left and the GPS and Marks Page for more details. This will put you in the middle of the wreck, probably near the engine.
|A series of drawings of the SS Satara|
by John Riley showing how it collapsed
John Riley Memorial Collection, Heritage Branch, OEH
Click on diagram to see larger sized version
|A diagram of the Satara by John Riley|
John Riley Memorial Collection - Heritage Branch, OEH
Click on diagram to see larger sized version
Assuming that you start in the middle, swim towards the north and the bow. This will take you pass the huge three cylinder engine which lies fallen to port. Just past here there are the twin boilers, very large (see the attached photo). In front of the boilers the wreck is quite broken up. The deck and hulls lie flat and for your first dive, I would not suggest going past here.
Return back along the port side (western side). Just past the boilers you will see another smaller boiler just off the wreck on the sand. This is the donkey boiler, the largest I have ever seen (normally they are small). Keep going and you will soon see the rear mast (see the historic photo of the ship). This runs from the centre of the wreck and goes right across the port half of the boat and onto the sand. It extends for about 15 metres from the side of the wreck. I would follow the mast to the centre of the wreck. Here you will see the propeller shaft which runs from the engine towards the stern.
|John Black and one of the SS Satara boilers||The top of the triple expansion steam engine|
Near here the shaft is out in the open but soon it disappears into the shaft tunnel which goes the rest of the way to the stern. The stern will come into view soon. On the way you will pass some very large deck winches and a couple of huge ones. There are also lots of enormous bollards, the biggest I have seen on a shipwreck.
The stern, the shallowest section of the wreck, is basically intact but has tipped over at 45° to port. You can swim inside this part, but for your first dive, leave it alone as there is more to see. At the rear of the stern you will see the rudder post sticking up above the wreck. Swim around the top part of the stern and then drop under wreck. Here you will see the huge six metre four bladed bronze prop. This is a great spot for photos. The rudder is also visible.
|John Black and the SS Satara propeller||One of the many winches on the SS Satara|
Swim through the prop and along the starboard side of the hull. By now it is probably time to return to the anchor.
On this wreck I have seen grey nurse sharks, wobbegongs and schools of red morwong.
Since this wreck is relatively isolated (about 43 kilometres from Port Stephens and 40 kilometres from Forster - the two closest ports), it does not get dived much. It can have raging currents (I did on my first attempt to dive and we had to cancel) and normally has clear water. On my only dive I had in excess of 20 metres. As this is a deep wreck, it is only for experienced divers, with proper equipment. Since it is far from anywhere, most divers use twins and do long bottom times. On my dive I did 23 minutes and had to do 1 minute at 9 metres, 6 minutes at 6 metres and 22 minutes at 3 metres. I used twins but basically only used one tank.
|John Black near the middle section of the SS Satara||A grey nurse shark I saw on the wreck|