he Herald of the Morning was described in the contemporary Melbourne press as being 'a fine ship of 1292 tons register'. The vessel was ship rigged (square sails on each of its three masts) and built in 1855 at St. John New Brunswick; being classed Al by Lloyd's for seven years. The ship was constructed during the great North American clipper ship era that commenced in the year 1845, and where due to economic and other circumstances, was finished by 1860. This was an exciting period in which new ideas and new technologies such as roller-reefing for ships' yards and other innovations were being tried. This era of ship building saw significant advances in ship design and construction, and if an analogy can be drawn, it must be the difference between a propeller driven plane, and a jet. Both have wings and fly, but they are miles apart in technology. There would be few examples in Victoria where significant hull structure of a clipper ship remain in an unbroken state. There is the possibility that the Herald of the Morning is such a site and through the use of archaeological techniques, a detailed study could be made.
St. John New Brunswick was an area of North America steeped in the art of wooden ship building, it had an abundance of suitable timber for that purpose. The Herald of the Morning, all 1292 tons of her, would have been constructed using a virtual forest of massive timbers. An army of talented artisans would have sawn up local and imported timber which were then used to fabricate her vital components - keel, keelson, knees, stringers, frames and planking. She had been expressly built for trading with the colony of Victoria and Captain Rudolph was her Master.
At this period in time, Victoria was growing rapidly and had voracious appetite for English goods, part of the Herald of the Morning's cargo consisted of an iron bridge intended for the crossing of the Yarra at Hawthorn and several tons of water pipes; as well as some case goods.
With the Herald of the Morning having been built in one of the most interesting and exciting periods in the history of shipbuilding, the ship presented itself as a project of merit. As such it required some basic research to get it started; and after reading Loney and Parsons, the next place to visit was the State Library of Victoria. This wonderful institution contains a mountain of wreck resources, primary and secondary. The relevant micro film was studied with notes and photocopies being taken, but, after reading several months worth of Shipping Intelligence, there did not appear to be an answer as to what happened to the vessel. In 1990, Dr Leonie Foster's four part report was published - 'Port Phillip Shipwrecks Stages1, 2, 3 and 4, and with Leonie's fine research, it appeared that in 1863 the wreck was auctioned and converted into a hulk and it was assumed that the vessel was re-floated and used in the hulk trade.
For all intents and purposes; it appeared as though this wreck could be written off, until Bob Leek located the missing clue pertaining to the Herald of the Morning. Contained within a Melbourne Harbor Trust Annual Report titled - 'The General Report for the year from the Nautical Branch, prepared by the Harbour Master.'
This was just a mine of information for a number of other interesting wrecks and their outcomes within Hobson's Bay. The Commissioners, on 7th September, 1881 adopted the following recommendations of the Finance Committee:
"Your Committee recommend that Messrs. H. B. Donaldson and Co. be called upon as provided by Section 76 of the Act to remove their sunken hulk in Hobson's Bay at Sandridge within a reasonable time (to be named in the notice), and should they fail to remove the said hulk within such time, that she be removed by the Trust as provided by the said Section. Your Committee further recommend that the firm named and Messrs. Stewart, White and Co. be called upon to attorn tenants to the trust under conditions to be submitted by this Committee to the Commissioners and approved by them."
There was no name to this hulk, and I kept on reading, then, there it was, the answer I had waited years to find out. The year 1889, the remains of the old hulk Herald of the Morning have been partially removed from the end of Donaldson's Jetty, Port Melbourne.
A visual swim search was carried out off Port Melbourne for the Herald of the Morning, there was nothing protruding that indicated a wreck, however, the site could still exist, being well buried.
There are a number of questions that need to be answered. Number I - Did the contractors completely remove the remains? Highly unlikely. Number II - Are there significant remains left buried? These questions can only be answered by conducting a more intense search, possibly with remote sensing equipment. As far and removal of wrecks go, it has been found though research and practical diving experience on (alleged) cleared sites, that there are normally some element of the broken up vessel left. The Cape Verde and the SS Kakariki that sank off Williamstown in 1889 and 1937 respectively, were removed with explosives. However, buried beneath the mud of Hobson's Bay, there are still of remnants of the two.
It is expected that there would be some remains of the Herald of the Morning buried beneath the mud and rubble off Port Melbourne, and this could possibly form an important clipper ship wreck resource. To be continued -