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399 Low Head Road
Low Head
Tasmania 7253

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Low Head Pilot Station Maritime Museum

Eden Holme



For most of the 19th century wool was Launceston's most valuable export and the main market was the woollen mills of England. From 1827 onwards sailing ships called into the port to collect the wool. Usually they made one round trip a year, arriving in the Tasmanian spring, sailing in the summer after the shearing was completed, and reaching England in March or April, in time for the London wool sales.

In 1847 Launceston businessman Henry Reed negotiated with British shipper Thomas Boss Walker for a direct shipping service between London and Launceston. From 1852 until Walker's death in 1896 Walker Line ships brought cargo to Launceston and returned home with the annual wool clip. His ships included the clippers Araunah, Berean, Westbury, Lanoma and Corinth.

Following Walker's death the ships were sold, and the Hine Brothers' Holme Line ships took over the trade. The Brier Holme and Eden Holme were placed on the Launceston run. However, competition with steam ships was affecting the trade, and more and more wool was being shipped to London in the mail steamers which called at Melbourne and Hobart. There also was an increasing local market.

The Eden Holme in full sail.
Pilot Station Maritime Museum Collection.


The Eden Holme was an iron vessel of 827 tons. The dimensions were -- Length, 201.8 ft.(61.5m.); breadth, 32.2 ft.(9.8m.); depth, 18.5 ft.(5.6m.) She was built in 1875 by Messrs Bartram, Haswell, and Company, at Sunderland, and the port of registry was Maryport in England. She was rigged as a barque with square sails on her front two masts and a gaff sail on her mizzen mast.

The Eden Holme spent her early years trading to Queensland, South Australia and North America. In 1896 with the break up of the Walker Line, she was placed on the London to Tasmania run. She was skippered by John Wyrill, who had been master of the Walker line's Berean since her maiden voyage in 1869, and who now transferred to the Holme Line.

The Eden Holme and Brier Holme shared the Launceston wool trade. One would arrive in the spring and leave Launceston before Christmas, while the other would arrive in December and stay until February. Sometimes the ships unloaded cargo in Hobart, before sailing to Launceston to load wool.

In 1904 John Wyrill made his last voyage before retirement. His replacement was the young Captain George Dulling Following the wreck of the Brier Holme in 1904, the Eden Holme now carried on the wool trade alone.

The crew of the Eden Holme, photographed on an earlier voyage.
Pilot Station Maritime Museum Collection.


The Eden Holme arrived in Hobart on the 18th December 1906, after a journey of 90 days from London.  She had general cargo to unload at both Hobart and Launceston before loading wool from the Launceston wool sales for the return voyage to London.

At 5 a.m. on Saturday 6th December the barque slipped out of Hobart. She made a fast sailing up the east coast of Tasmania, and at 10 p.m. on Sunday the 7th, the Low Head light was sighted.

Captain George Dulling kept the ship some 15 miles out to sea during the night, and at 5.20 next morning began heading towards the coast. He sighted the two leading towers and kept them open a little, so he was north east of the lead through the entrance into Port Dalrymple.  The breeze was light, from the north east, and the ship was making about 4 knots. Only some of the sails were in use, the topsails especially being kept furled. At 6:50 he hoisted the signal for the pilot.

Pilot Peter Mullay, who had been a pilot at Low Head for 20 years, boarded the Eden Holme at 8:10 a.m. In the light winds the pilot boat had to be rowed, rather than sailed.  The Eden Holme sailed towards the pilot boat to meet it, and when the pilot boarded, it was between half a mile and 1½ miles from the lighthouse.  (The accounts of the pilot and captain as to the distance differ.)

The pilot told the captain that there was no wind inside the estuary, and it would be better to wait outside the heads until the arrival of the tug Wybia, which was expected at about noon.  He gave orders for the ship to be turned to starboard (the right,) aiming to head back out to sea.

With all apparently under control, Captain Dulling went below to his cabin, but minutes later the pilot came down, told the captain the ship was not turning as fast as she should, and that he needed more canvas.  Mullay had ordered the topsails to be unfurled, but Dulling said that would take an hour, so instead the foresails were set. About five to ten minutes after setting the sails, at about 9:30, the Eden Holme struck the Hebe Reef.

Fred Holmes, holidaying at Low Head, watched the Eden Holme come in. He described the scene as follows:

I got back to my house I could see that the Eden Holme was close on to the Hebe Reef.  Shortly after -- about half-past eight, I should say -- all sail was set and the ship put about. She had been coming in with four top sails, but when she was put about canvass was crowded on to catch whatever breath of wind there was, in the endeavor to get out to sea again.

She was got round and headed for sea.  Then she ceased to move.  At first I thought she had dropped anchor.  In due course we found that she had struck the reef.  The tide was about half out and ebbing.

With Launceston 70 kilometres upstream, and the tide running out, there was no chance of getting her off for at least 12 hours. At first the vessel made little water, and there were hopes she might be saved. However,  the sharp pinnacles of the reef soon pierced her bottom. By 3 o'clock the water was level with the 'tween decks. The Eden Holme was doomed.

The Eden Holme on the reef, photo taken the day after she became stranded.
Pilot Station Maritime Museum Collection.


It was the next day before any assistance arrived from Launceston. The Examiner newspaper reporter described the scene:

Viewed from an approaching Steamboat ..., there was hardly anything about the appearance of the barque to warrant anybody coming to the conclusion that they were looking upon what has now been deemed a total wreck. The vessel was in almost a perfectly upright position, with all sails furled. The tide was well in, and there was hardly a ripple on the water.  To a lay mind, at first glance, there would be a natural inference that she was lying peacefully at anchor.  The only thing to dispel the supposition was that she had the slightest

list to starboard, and was well down by the head.  On boarding her, however, quite a different aspect of affairs presented itself. One look down the companionway or into the holds was quite sufficient to show the true state of affairs. The water at high tide reached almost to the main deck, and where ever the eye wandered floating cargo and debris was to be seen in all directions. The vessel had but a very slight roll on, but quite sufficient for one to hear the continual lap of the water on either side and to see cases of goods knocking against each other as the water swayed backwards and forwards down below.  On deck, however, everything was as neat as a new pin. Ropes were in their places, the sails furled, and all appeared in readiness to begin the ordinary retinue of life on board ship.

The steamship Dorset brought a barge, and over the next few days salvage operations retrieved about one third of the cargo, some of the spars and many of the ship's fittings.  Fortunately, for almost two weeks the weather kept fine and the hull remained intact. By Sunday, the 13th of January, it was becoming too dangerous to continue salvage operations.  The wreck was advertised for sale, the crew was paid off, and arrangements were made for the apprentices to be transferred to the Myrtle Holme, then in Adelaide.

The wreck was auctioned on the 16th January for £ 265. An auction of the cargo realised nearly £ 1000, and an auction of the ship's fittings on the 25th fetched a further £420.  Arrangements were made for the wool from the Launceston sales for London to be shipped aboard the S.S. Drayton Grange at Hobart.

On the afternoon of Friday, the 18th of January, strong winds began to blow from the North East. After a stormy night the residents of Low Head awoke to find Eden Holme gone. Overnight the waves had broken the hull in two.  At low tide only the poop and forecastle head were visible.

The decks, awash at high tide.
Pilot Station Maritime Museum Collection.


On Wednesday the 23rd of January a magisterial enquiry into the cause of the wreck was held. Captain Dulling, pilot Mullay, harbour master Captain Bradley, and the Low Head light keeper Alfred Rockwell gave evidence. Mullay's lawyer argued that the captain had erred by approaching too close to the shore and not having enough sail set for the light conditions. The pilot claimed he could not have safely anchored, that the only course was to head back out to sea, and that until the ship struck he was totally confident the Eden Holme would clear the reef.

Captain Dulling insisted that when the pilot took control the Eden Holme was not in any danger, and all preparations had been made for the ship to drop anchor. He told the court that if there had not been a pilot he would have anchored.

The court found that the pilot had erred in deciding to turn the ship and head out to sea, rather than anchor. In so doing he should have been aware he was putting the ship close to the reef, and he should have realised that the course taken was extremely dangerous. Mullay's certificate was suspended for six months and he was ordered to pay the costs of the inquiry, amounting to £ 6.6s. It declared the captain was in no way responsible. However, when Dulling's lawyer applied for his legal costs to be awarded, this was refused.

Neither the pilot nor the captain went to sea again. Peter Mullay did not return to his position. Captain Dulling retired to live in Tasmania.  The Eden Holme was not replaced and no more sailing clippers called at Launceston to collect the wool for London.


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