Descendant of Rangoon shipwreck captain on a fact finding mission

It is nearly 148 years since the Rangoon ran aground on Stack Island, at the entrance to Minnamurra River during a storm on March 22, 1870.

Now, Brisbane man Steve Williams – the great great grandson of Captain Augustus Sayers, who was in charge of the barque that fateful night – is on a mission to tell the tale.

Mr Williams has been piecing together the story with help from two local museums: Kiama Pilot's Cottage Museum and Shellharbour City  Museum.

“What I am curious about is whether anyone in the region has old photos or artefacts from the wreck because we know there was a diving and general expedition at the site,” he said.

“We know the anchor is at the Ocean Beach Hotel car park in Shellharbour.

“The information on Trove is excellent and the two museums have been extremely helpful. 

“I have only come across one distant photo  – and I’ve never come across any first hand accounts from others in the crew.”

The Rangoon, with Captain Sayers on board, departed Melbourne on March 9, 1870 bound for Newcastle.

As it made its way towards Sydney, the weather was still quite good on the South Coast, but to the north of Sydney, was very heavy and continuous rain advancing to the south.

Without modern communications Captain Sayers had little to warn him of the threat that lay ahead. 

In the early morning of March 21, gale force winds and heavy seas began to throw the small 35-metre barque around.

By 10am the foremast rigging was carried away and the wind approached hurricane strength. Sayers was forced to take in the mainsail which left the barque with no sails set and under bare poles.

After midnight on Tuesday, March 22 with no relief from the howling winds, Sayers and his crew spotted land through a thick haze and it was all hands on deck as they attempted to bring her off the land.

At about 2am a Kiama land owner heard the firing of guns at sea and the howling of a dog. Upon investigation, the land owner thought he could distinguish a vessel struggling offshore.

Barely 30 minutes later at 2.30am on March 22, 1870 Augustus’s frantic attempts to escape the breakers failed and the Rangoon was tossed ashore on Stack Island.

First on the scene was Captain Samuel Charles from the nearby Eureka property and rescue operations were put into action.

If anyone has any information about the Rangoon, please contact Steve Williams on steveasc@bigpond.com

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