The Ly-Ee-Moon

While we were at Tathra last week we went to Green Cape for a swim at Bittangabee and a walk from the lighthouse back towards Bittangabee via Pulpit Rock.

About 300 metres from the car park you pass the cemetery from the wreck of the Ly Ee Moon which came to grief sailing from Melbourne to Sydney on the evening of the 30th of May 1886.

It’s quietly affecting especially the list of the dead, including such pathetic descriptions as ‘an unknown Greek, given passage at the request of the cook’, and ‘a man with a German accent’.

However, I was also intrigued by the name of the ship, which was clearly Chinese, at a time when most ships in Australian waters had staunchly anglo names.  As in many things wikipedia is your friend – search it for Ly Ee Moon and it comes up with Lei Yue Mun, the name of a channel in Hong King harbour, not surprising given that the ship was first built as a paddle steamer for the opium trade. She also had a walk on part as a blockade runner sailing into Charleston during the American civil war when paddle steamers were preferred due to their ability to handle shallow draft harbours rather better than the screw powered ships of her time.

After her time as a blockade runner she returned to Asia, ferrying Chinese migrants to Cooktown and acting as a backup mail ship should the telegraph cable from Darwin to the Netherlands East Indies fail, and somewhere along the way was rebuilt as a screw powered vessel, caught fire and was scuttled and raised again, and became a ship on the Melbourne – Sydney run.

The wreck itself was controversial – the lighthouse was operating and conditions were such that it should have been clearly visible. There were strong suspicions of incompetence at the time but nothing was ever proved.

History is all around us – you just need to look.

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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