River wrecks added to historic register

Date posted: 27 February 2016

Minister Ian Hunter

Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray and Minister for Climate Change

The wrecks of five ships that worked the River Murray during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have been added to South Australia’s Register of Historic Shipwrecks.

Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Minister Ian Hunter said ships could be added to the register once they had been wrecked or abandoned for 75 years.

“Often when we think of shipwrecks we think of sea-going ships, but South Australia has many fascinating river wrecks,” he said.

“These vessels are a significant part of our State’s history, and helped build our river infrastructure and connect river towns and communities for many years.

“The River Murray was a major inland highway for pastoralists, settlers and travellers through much of our early history and up until the early twentieth century.

“These five newly-listed ships carried mail, fruit, wool, wood, passengers and livestock from town to town.”

Mr Hunter said one of the ships, the Scottish-built P.S. Jupiter, had a particularly varied history.

“The Jupiter began life as a barge in 1866, was converted into a paddle steamer and spent 30 years carrying passenger and cargo up and down the Murray-Darling system, before taking over as the mail steamer on the Lower Lakes in 1903,” he said.

“In the 1930s she was refitted as the country’s first floating crayfish depot and spent the next 10 years moored at the end of the Outer Harbor Wharf, receiving cray catches and keeping them alive in special latticed wells.

“She was eventually dismantled in 1940 and now lies in the Ships’ Graveyard in the Port River, where her hull is still visible on the riverbank at low tide.”

A second paddle steamer, the 35 metre-long S.S. Captain Sturt, was used by the River Murray Commission from 1916 to 1938 in the construction of river infrastructure including the Goolwa Barrages and various locks and weirs.

She was refitted as a houseboat in 1946 and moored at Goolwa, but by 1997 she had fallen into such a state of disrepair that her upper decks were removed and her hull filled with cement to become the centre of Goolwa’s Captain Sturt Marina, where her paddle wheel is still visible.

The other three wrecks newly added to the Historic Shipwrecks Register are the cargo barge Annie, which lies near Morgan with three other defunct barges and a steamer; the Radia, a cargo barge that lies just off Liverpool Street in Goolwa North, and the former mail steamer the S.S Kelvin, which rests on the riverbank north of Renmark.

The River Boat Heritage Trail provides more information on river wrecks via a series of information boards at the wreck sites.