The Doric Columns
Centurion (I) - Registered at Aberdeen 27th February 1850; 3 masts, one deck plus poop and forecastle decks. Male figurehead. Walter Hood and Co length 157' 5" x breadth 26' 5" x depth 19' 3" Registered Tonnage: 639 ton
China, then Australia Trade, . The first Centurion ended her days as a total loss wrecked off Grimsby in 1866.
Centurion ll - 1869
The Centurion was built as a magnificent clipper ship, later converted to a barque - square-rigged on 2 of 3 masts. With a length of 63 metres, the timber vessel was built in 1869 at Aberdeen, Scotland, in the celebrated yard of Walter Hood & Sons. The latest to join the famous Aberdeen White Star Line owned by George Thompson, Centurion was linked alongside one of the world’s most famous clippers - Thermopylae. That ship famously raced the surviving Cutty Sark in the China tea and Australian wool trades. Centurion made many fine voyages but was not regarded as one of the elite group of clippers that won household acclaim. The Centurion, a timber sailing ship was lost inside North Head of Sydney Harbour in 1887.
Centurion was departing Sydney Heads under tow for Newcastle in order to load coal for Honolulu when it got into difficulties. It was towards the end of its life and the once proud passenger and cargo carrier now served as an ordinary collier. Stored in its hull were 400 tons of coal and 60 tons of rock ballast. As the steamer Phoebe manoeuvred the Centurion through the Heads, the Manhegan, moored in the centre of the entrance impeded its passage. Centurion’s tow rope slipped and fouled the Phoebe’s propeller. An anchor was immediately dropped, but the vessel washed onto the rocks of North Head, near the ‘Old Man’s Hat’. Recovering the tow rope, Phoebe pulled Centurion off but the vessel sank, fatally holed, inside Cannae Point.
The Centurion ll left Sydney for Newcastle, N.S.W., on 17th January, 1887; at 1.30 a.m. whilst off the Heads, the tug's line carried away: the ship drifted on to the North Head, struck and then sank in 18 fathoms, barely giving her crew 15 minutes to get clear.
Spread out on the harbour floor in the midst of the metropolis of Sydney, lies the Centurion, a timber sailing ship lost inside North Head in 1887. Few travelling to work on the Manly Ferry would know of its existence beneath their course – a reminder of the days when Sydney Harbour was a major shipping destination, once congested with international and coastal sailing vessels, belching steamers and harbour craft. The loss of the Centurion was recorded as ‘avoidable’, having occurred during daylight hours.
Today the site comprises the largest timber shipwreck site in Sydney Harbour and is very popular with recreational SCUBA divers. The complicated archaeological structure is spread over 40 x 15 metres on sand in 19 metres of water. Major elements include a pile of stone ballast, anchor chain, sections of iron-plated masts, and many iron fastenings from the hull. Sections of the hull’s timbers can be seen, particularly when sand levels change, exposing previously buried portions of the structure. The archaeological site contains an important range of data on hull construction techniques in a period of changing ship technology. While built as a timber sailing vessel, Centurion included innovative changes: iron deck beams and supports instead of the traditional timber, iron diagonal straps along the side of the hull, iron-plated lower masts and yards. These features have been identified as key elements of a specific transitional building style, known as ‘composite’ construction. While Centurion did not possess novel iron framework associated with that style, it was built during a time of transition in large sailing ship design and construction, and the trialling of new materials and forms, such as iron components.
unveiling of a heritage plinth at the Centurion wrecksite
The Emigrant Ships - John Masefield
ships, each with her grace, her glory.
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