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Sustainable Timber Tasmania and Parks and Wildlife Service announce road opening

21/05/2019

Florentine Road and Arve Road (to the Hartz Mountain junction) are officially reopened to the public.More

Easter safety is paramount for our parks and reserves

18/04/2019

The Parks and Wildlife Service encourages visitors and Tasmanians alike to get outdoors and get active - especially in our parks and reserves.More

Good news, Hartz Mountain National Park and other tracks are open!

17/04/2019

In time for Easter walking, PWS have been able to re-open a number of tracks.More

Cambridgeshire

History

  • Cambridgeshire bell

    Before conservation treatment

  • Cambridgeshire bell

    After conservation treatment

The Cambridgeshire was built by the firm of Cole Brothers at Newcastle, England, in 1873. The iron vessel was rigged as a three masted ship, measuring 267' x 39.3' x 23.2' and having a gross tonnage of 1,766 and a net tonnage of 1,691. The Cambridgeshire was owned by George Marshall of London, who had previously lost the ship George Marshall at Flinders Island in 1862. The Cambridgeshire's only previous voyage had been to Melbourne, where it arrived in May 1873 suffering damage from gales encountered in the southern oceans. As a result of this journey the vessel required extensive repairs and did not leave Melbourne until January 1875.

The Cambridgeshire departed again for Australia in June 1875 with a valuable general cargo including iron rails, slate, machinery and alcohol. In early September adverse winds in Bass strait forced Captain Marshall to sail south of the Furneaux Group to attempt a passage through Banks Strait. On the morning of the 7th, while proceeding under almost full sail land was sighted by the lookout. Before a change of course could be carried out the Cambridgeshire struck a reef near Night Island and quickly became a total wreck. The crew escaped safely and landed on Preservation Island where they were picked up a week later by the ketch Summer Cloud.

On 18 September the steamship Southern Cross left Hobart for Melbourne via Preservation Island, where a party of customs officials and police were left to guard the wreck. The crew were forced to remain at Launceston until the official inquiry, the first in Tasmania under the Inquiry Into Wrecks Act of 1874, was completed on 27 September. Captain Marshall had his certificate suspended for 12 months, a sentence that was highly unpopular with the press and local opinion.

On 21 September the wreck of the Cambridgeshire had been auctioned at Melbourne to Messrs. Lyell and Gordon for a sum of £2,850, far below the official value of the cargo at £58,000. The purchasers of the wreck engaged Mr A. Ross, who had been working on the British Admiral at King Island, to recover the cargo. From a base at Preservation Island the salvage operations continued for around 12 months, during which time a diver was used to recover a large proportion of the non perishable goods. A number of vessels were engaged to carry the salvaged cargo to Melbourne and Launceston, including the steamship Argyle, schooners Robert Burns and Tommy, and the ketches Royal Charlie, Secret and Maldon Lewis.

The Site

The wreck of the Cambridgeshire was relocated by divers in the 1980s, off the northernmost outcrop of what is now known as Cambridgeshire Reef. The wreck lies with its stern to the north-east in 15 metres of water. The wreck has largely broken up, with hull plates and iron work scattered over the rocky sea bed while the smashed remnants of the vessel's cargo are located throughout the site.

The Cambridgeshire

The dismasting of the Cambridgeshire
(National Library of Australia)

Due to the exposed nature of the reef, safe diving is limited to the flood tide during favourable weather. The Cambridgeshire was protected under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 in September 1985. Some of the artefacts removed by divers from the wreck can be seen on display at the Flinders Island museum at Emita.

Further Reading

Nash, M. 1996. Shipwrecks of the Furneaux Group, Occasional Paper No. 37, Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, Hobart.