'Where she went on the rocks in Sydney Bay, in a great surf, and was an entire wreck in less than ten minutes; happily all the people got safely on shore.'
Newton Digby Fowell, second lieutenant, HMS Sirius March 1790
Plans are now in place for March 2015 on Norfolk Island, to mark the 225th Anniversary of the HMS Sirius shipwreck, which includes history workshops, special tours and presentation by the Norfolk Island Museums including special maritime and heritage guest speakers and lunch at Kingston.
HMS Sirius, the flagship of the First Fleet on 14 February 1790 was ordered to proceed to China to purchase further supplies for the struggling Colony. This journey was delayed as, the HMS Supply, was needed to take more convicts to Norfolk Island, in an endeavour to reduce the strain on the dwindling supplies and food shortage in Sydney.
The HMS Sirius carried no convicts to the colony in 1788, on her March 1790 voyage from Sydney Cove to Norfolk Island there were aboard:
- 101 convict men
- 65 convict women
- 25 children of women convicts
- 33 members of a detachment of the Port Jackson Garrison
- Four marine's wives and one marine child.
- 120 ship's crew.
Historians today are fortunate to have access to many of the journals and diaries written by member of the ship's crew and Marines giving various account of the circumstance of the shipwreck. 24 members of the crew were transferred to the HMS Supply after the wreck and returned to Sydney to report the tragedy news back to Sydney.
After the shipwreck and the arrival of over 250 extra people on Norfolk Island, including the 80 stranded crew members, brought about martial law and strict rules on rations on Norfolk Island as it was also unknown when the next ship would arrive with extra provisions. Stranded seaman Jacob Nagle wrote:
'Lieutenant Governor Ross was a merciless commander to either free man or prisoner. He laid us under three different laws: the seamen ware still under the naval laws, the soldiers under the military laws, beside the civil laws and a martial law of his own directions, with strict orders to be attended to for the smallest crime whatever or neglect of duty.'
Some of the crew eventually settled on Norfolk Island and received land grants of 60 acres each including Owen Cavanough, John Drummond, William Hambley, Peter Hibbs and James Proctor.
The HMS Sirius was built in 1870 for the East India Company and was original known as the Berwick. After a fire nearly destroyed the ship, she was bought by the Royal Navy and re built and named HMS Sirius in 1781, she sailed as the Flag ship of the First Fleet for the new colony in 1786.
'Of all the places in the World this (Norfolk Island) is the greatest nest for Rascals it is impossible to trust any one of our men hardly much more any of the Convicts, in short there is no difference between Soldier Sailor or Convicts there Six of the one and half a Dozen of the other.'
Ralph Clark 24 March 1790 Norfolk Island
The shipwreck site off the beach at Kingston, on Norfolk Island is protected by the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 and is listed on the Australian National Heritage List.
The archaeological remains of HMS Sirius represent the link to the most significant vessel associated with early migration of European people to Australia and the First Fleet. Today one the anchor, cannons and other relics of the HMS Sirius are located in the Sirius Museum at Kingston on Norfolk Island. In Sydney, the other anchor is at the Australian National Maritime Museum and a cannon, is on display in Macquarie Place.
Sirius Week 2015 on Norfolk island has also been set for the release of historian Cathy Dunn publication, she has team up with Norfolk Island based historian Liz McCoy in the writing of “HMS Sirius: Her final Voyage”. This will also include the first two generations of people, their life on Norfolk Island and Sydney in the early colony days, land grants, shipping and much more.
Historian Cathy Dunn is offering a unique Norfolk Island and historical research experience with the hosting of the Norfolk Island History Lovers holiday during Sirius Week in March 2015. Spoil yourself with a history lovers holiday on beautiful Norfolk Island! Come and discover the living history and culture of World Heritage Norfolk Island and the shipwreck HMS Sirius
Recently announced for the History Lovers is an early bird booking special of pay your deposit to travel to Norfolk Island for the History Lovers before 30 September 2014 and receive a bonus Norfolk Island DVD and a family history report for two/three generations of one of your 1st Settlement Family connection, including copies of available primary records.