Rare chance to glimpse steam ship wreck at Lighthouse Beach
HISTORY was exposed at Ballina Lighthouse Beach yesterday morning at low tide.
What looked like rocks at the southern end of the beach was actually the remains of the SS Tomki which was wrecked on September 14, 1907.
The Northern Star reported at the time the ship was damaged while heading out through the perilous Ballina Bar and then driven towards the Lighthouse Beach spit by her Captain, Capt Archer.
"As she neared the seaward end of the wall she struck something, and immediately afterwards the second engineer reported the starboard propeller had been stripped," the Star reported at the time.
"One report is that the vessel was then badly bumped on to the wall starting her plates and she immediately began to take in water.
"She was just about to be headed south for Sydney and the captain, seeing the serious state of things, at once headed for the northern beach, running her in the direction of the lighthouse.
"She took the spit about 100 yards from the breakwater and about 200 yards from the shore, and by this time she was pretty well full of water with the seas breaking over her."
The crew and all 18 passengers managed to escape the stricken vessel unharmed, if "soaked to the skin", as did six of the 16 live pigs that had been aboard as part of the cargo.
The rest of the cargo, including, apart from "general cargo" , 900 boxes of butter from the Lismore and Alstonville cooperatives and factories at Casino, Ballina, and Kyogle factories), 21,000 feet of sawn timber shipped by Messrs. Davis and Burgess and W. Yabsley), 600 bags of sugar from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, 11 cases of Hutton and Co bacon, was largely lost.
"From all accounts we fear the vessel is a total wreck, having parted amidships, so there will be no hope of saving her. She is partly insured, the Company having part of the risk," the Star reported.
The Tomki was built in London in 1882 specifically for trading on the Richmond River.