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Wreck of the MINMI

SS MINMI was a collier named after the Australian mining town of Minmi in the Hunter Valley. It was built in Meadowside, Glasgow, Scotland in 1927 for J & A Brown and Abermain & Seaham Collieries Ltd. John and Alexander Brown owned the Minmi Colliery.

MINMI was sailing between Melbourne and Newcastle having delivered a cargo of coal to the southern city when on 13 May 1837 it struck Cape Banks. The ship was under the command of Chief Officer Robert Clark Callum, relieving MINMI's usual Captain J McPhail who was on leave, when it collided with Cape Banks at about 10 pm in heavy seas and dense fog. Distress flares were fired and the police summoned. The pilot vessel CAPTAIN COOK arrived to assist in any rescue attempts but the rough seas forced it back.

Just after midnight the MINMI split in two leaving crew of more than 20 on both forward and aft sections. The former were rescued without incident but those on the aft section had to use a rocket-fired rescue line - held by rescuers on the rocks - over the heavy seas. A number of them (deemed rather too old to be able to hold on to the rescue line) had to remain on board overnight until the seas abated and daylight came. The stern section rolled at every heavy wave and the rescuers were in danger of being swept off their feet at each wave.

Two men died as a result of the wrecking of the MINMI - ship's cook Frederick Boulton died of a heart attack just after the wreck occurred; Robert Burnside drowned when he fell from the rescue line into heavy seas. Two men had lucky escapes - an unamed crew member fell back into the water but was pulled to safety; first mate Thomas William Skye was pummelled by waves, flung in the air and eventually lost his grip. Waves pulled him under but also carried him onto the rocks where rescuers were able to throw him a rope. It was a tense and terrifying ordeal for crew and rescuers.

The wreck attracted large crowds of sightseers with an estimated 100,000 people coming over the weekend of 15 and 16 May to view the ship and watch it being pounded by the seas. Police were ordered to control traffic and guard the cliffs against accidents. The Sydney Morning Herald reported "an army of pie sellers, hot dog merchants, ice cream sellers and also beggars" who took advantage of the crowds.

The wrecked MINMI was sold for 200 pounds to the salvors Penguin Ltd who removed as much viable gear and scrap as they could. The rest was left to rust and parts of the stern section can still be seen today on Cape Banks above the low water mark.

A marine inquiry exonerated the captain of failing to navigate the ship safely - his log showed that he had set a course that should have taken him 2.5 miles off Cape Banks.