Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - PS Maitland
The Paddle Steamer Maitland was built by McCulloch and Co at Port Glasgow in Scotland and launched in September 1870. The first owner of the ship was the Hunter River New Steam Navigation Company which named the ship after the main town of the Hunter Valley (apart from Newcastle), Maitland. The new vessel was 69 metres long and 8 metres wide. It displaced 880 tons. As suggested, the ship was an iron-hulled paddle steamer powered by a two cylinder engine constructed by Macnab & Co of Greenock, Scotland. Steam was supplied by four boilers, in twin pairs, which fed two funnels.
In 1877 the Maitland ran down and sank a barge near Newcastle. In 1891, ownership of the Maitland passed onto the Newcastle and Hunter River Company which may have actually been the same company but just a name change. All over this time the ship worked on the Sydney to Newcastle run.
At 11pm on Wednesday 6 May 1898 the Maitland left Sydney bound for the north. The weather was very poor (the storm that night would forever be known as the Maitland Storm) and a strong southerly gale was blowing and the waves were said to be "mountains high". The waves in the open ocean were so big the deckhouses on the starboard side were damaged by waves. Repairs were carried out as best far they could be but it was not completed.
The Maitland passed Broken Bay but Captain Skinner decided to turn around and head for the shelter of Broken Bay but as Barrenjoey Lighthouse appeared ahead, the ship's condition worsened. Cargo was being jettisoned overboard. Attempts were made to remove water from the holds and engine room by crew and passengers but without success. Kerosene and wood were added to the boilers in an effort to keep the fires raging. However, water entered the boilers and one by one they were extinguished.
The ship was now about two miles off the northern shore of Broken Bay and drifting rapidly towards land. it was very obvious that the ship was doomed. Lifebelts were issued to all passengers but from reports I have read, there did not appear to have been lifeboats on board.
The Maitland soon hit the reef that extends out from what is now named Maitland Bay and some huge waves came over the wreck and broke her in two. The stern section was now up on the rocks as well as the bow. Soon after another huge wave hit the wreck and all the passengers and crew in the forward part of the ship were washed into the sea. It is believed that no-one from this part of the wreck survived.
Either 21 or 26 people died in the wreck (there are differing reports) and 37 are believed to have survived.Of those who died, nine were buried in a small cemetery nearby. The bell of the Maitland was salvaged and placed for a time in a monument in Bouddi National Park. This bell was replaced with a replica (for security purposes) and the original bell is housed elsewhere.
The same night, the sailing ship Hereward was wrecked on Maroubra Beach in Sydney's South Eastern Suburbs.
Today the main parts of the wreck left are up on the rock platform in the intertidal zone. This includes the remains of the boilers. There is very little to be seen in the water (I have dived here once and never saw a thing) but I have been told it exists.