The largest wooden vessel to be wrecked in the Manning-Great Lakes area was the huge American-registered barque, the Harvester.
Built in Bath, Maine in 1875, she was bought by interests on the US Pacific Coast around 1886 and regularly traded to Newcastle from 1895.
A substantial vessel, the Harvester was a three-masted wooden barque of 1494 tons gross, 210 feet in length, 40 feet beam and 24 feet deep.
The Fatal Voyage
On November 23, 1899, she left British Columbia with a cargo of lumber and set sail for Cape Town, where she loaded ballast and departed for Newcastle.
She was due to arrive at Newcastle on June 8, 1900, ready to load coal for Honolulu.
After clearing Bass Strait she was hit by a severe southerly gale.
Captain Edwardsen was unable to take solar observations for several days but on the evening of Friday 8th, he glimpsed a revolving light that he assumed was the Sydney light; he set a course of NNE with the expectation of soon reaching the entrance to Newcastle Harbour.
It appears, however, that a strong southerly current had carried the Harvester much further north than Edwardsen calculated.
Striking Big Seal Rock
Shortly after midnight on Saturday, June 9, the Harvester struck a reef that was later identified as Big Seal Rock - an isolated granite rock below the surface about two kilometres south-east of Seal Rocks.
The light that Edwardsen had believed to be Sydney light was most likely that of the lighthouse at Sugarloaf Point.
At the time it was estimated the ship was around 100 miles north of its estimated position.
For a couple of minutes the vessel rested on the rock, and then with a couple of wrenches she freed herself.
Steam pumps were employed but after two hours the captain ordered abandon ship.
Two boats were launched, but became separated in the gloom.
The ship's company numbered 17 all told.
Rescue by Captain Baillie of the steamer Macleay
After spending over four hours in open boats during a boisterous night, the crew were rescued abreast of Charlotte Head - a distance of about five miles north from the scene of the disaster.
Wollumbin locates the Harvester
The first vessel to see the Harvester after she was abandoned was the steamer Wollumbin.
On Saturday, June 9, she was located on the south side of Cape Hawke, about 14 miles from Seal Rocks.
The Wollumbin steamed round the vessel for several hours in the hope of seeing some of the crew who, unbeknownst to the Wollumbin, had already been rescued.
Wreckage from the Harvester
The first vessel to locate the wreckage was the steamer Australian.
Captain Edward Farrell reported that, on Sunday, June 10, he ran through a quantity of wreckage five miles north of Seal Rocks.
The next day the captain of the steamer Kallatina reported having passed a quantity of wreckage, which he sighted on Monday afternoon about four miles north of Cape Hawke.
Later reports from Forster indicated that wreckage was strewn along the coastline from Cape Hawke to Blackhead.
Relics from the Harvester wreck
In the winter of 1900, pieces of the Harvester were collected by local residents from the area near Diamond Rocks (south of Black Head).
Among those were William Hoy and his son, nine-year-old Frederick Moore Hoy (known as Moore).
William recovered two square freshwater tanks from the wreck and conveyed them home to his property where they were used for many years.
It was on this trip Moore picked up a 'Dead Eye Block' and held it until it was given to Laurie Nicholson of Tuncurry, who later donated the block to the Great Lakes Museum.
Ghost Ship on Diamond Reef
Periodically, after heavy seas, the Harvester has made a brief appearance.
One of the sightings was in 1955, and in 1974 heavy seas briefly revealed the wreck again.
One day the ghost ship of Diamond Reef may well re-appear.
To see more of Chris and Graham's research, click here.
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