Netherby (ship)

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The Netherby was a full rigged sailing ship of the Black Ball Line that ran aground and sank off the coast of King Island—an island in Bass Strait between Tasmania and the Australian mainland—on 14 July 1866 while sailing from London to Brisbane.

Remarkably, all of the 413 passengers and 49 crew were saved, firstly from drowning in the rough waters of Bass Strait and then from starvation on the mainly uninhabited island.

The ship and voyage[edit]

The Netherby was a 944 ton vessel of dimensions 176 x 33 x 22 feet, built in Sunderland in 1858.[1] The vessel was under charter to the Queensland Government to carry emigrants from the United Kingdom to the then-British colony. Queensland, recently separated from its parent colony New South Wales, saw a need to quickly increase its population and so set in place a "land order" system of assisted emigration.[2] The Netherby was the 77th vessel to sail under this system for the Queensland government.[1]

Sailing from East India Docks in London, the Netherby sailed to Plymouth to take on its final group of emigrants before setting sail for Queensland. The ship's master for the voyage was Captain Owen Owens. The ship was supposed to take a route to the south of Tasmania but Owens decided to pass through Bass Strait instead. The ship had encountered extremely rough weather earlier in the voyage that had seen the steerage passengers confined below decks for 14 consecutive days. In taking the passage through Bass Strait, Ownes hoped to avoid further rough weather and ease the burden on the passengers.

Owens' problems started when low cloud obscured the sun from view and thus he was unable to plot his position using celestial navigation techniques.

The passengers, bound for Brisbane, continued their journey on board the City of Melbourne, arriving on 6 August 1866.


  • Charlwood, Don (2005). The Wreck of the Sailing Ship Netherby: A miracle of survival. Burgewood Books. ISBN 1-876425-18-0. 


  1. ^ a b "Melbourne Argus news". The Netherby Shipwreck Story. Retrieved 21 July 2010. 
  2. ^ "Queensland's history". Queensland Government. Retrieved 21 July 2010. 

External links[edit]