The SS ‘Excelsior’ was an iron screw steamer, built in Southampton, England, in 1882 and first registered in Melbourne, Victoria, in 1882. Her journey from Southampton, England to Melbourne, Victoria is reported to have taken just 66 days. She would prove to be a very popular vessel on Port Phillip Bay, though her reign may have been relatively short as she was sunk in 1890. She was refloated sometime between 1890 to 1900 as some records state 1890, others at 1900.
Gross Tonnage: 350, Net Tonnage: 172, Length: 186 ft 6 in (56.85 m), Beam: 21 ft 1 in (6.43 m), Depth: 10 ft 7 in (3.23 m), First Owner: Huddart Parker & Co.
A Timeline of SS Excelsior’s life:
15 Jan 1883 → the SS ‘Excelsior’ commenced the Melbourne to Geelong run.
27 Jan 1940 21 Jan 1890 →the SS ‘Flora’ ran aground whilst heading out to Hobart, Tasmania, on a tight bend in the Yarra River at Spotswood. Whilst stuck fast in the mud, the SS ‘Excelsior’ ran into her stern – thankfully the damage to both vessels was only minor.
9 Jan 1897 → The SS ‘Excelsior’ sank the Ketch ‘Lu Lu’ on the south bank of the Hopetoun Channel near Geelong, Victoria. Blame is shared between Captains of both vessels:
At the meeting of the Marine Board the report of the nautical expert committee, relative to the collision between the steamer Excelsior and ketch Lulu, was considered. The committee recommended that the matter should be remitted to the Marine Court, and a charge of misconduct preferred against Gilbert Moore, master of the Excelsior. Mr Wilson, one of the committee, dissented. He thought in view of the nature of the evidence charges should be preferred against both masters. Mr Dickens moved an amendment to the latter effect, but it was rejected, and the report adopted.
11 Jul 1899 → The SS ‘Edina’ sinks the SS ‘Excelsior’ during thick fog:
Shortly after, half-past 11 o’clock this, morning a serious collision took place in Port Phillip Bay between the steamers Edina and the Excelsior. The Edina was on her way to Geelong, to which place she makes a trip every forenoon in the course of her trade with that port, and the Excelsior was coming up the bay to Melbourne.
The weather was calm but thick, and a fog hung over the water. The Edina struck the Excelsior on the port side amidships, and she sank within a quarter of an hour. Both vessels carried a large number of passengers, and large cargoes, but there was very little excitement. The whole thing happened so suddenly that until the crash came those on board the steamers were not aware that any other boat was near at all.
When both vessels began to draw away after the collision it was at once seen that the Excelsior was the most seriously injured of the two, and she at once began to settle down rapidly. Some of the Excelsior’s passengers were dragged on board the Edina at once, while the remainder, including the crew, were rescued by boats. As far as can be ascertained no one was drowned, but some 20 or 25 were injured.
Dr. Wilson, headmaster of the Brighton Presbyterian Ladies’ College, was perhaps the most seriously injured of the Excelsior’s passengers. He was looking down the companion ladder ‘when the collision took place, and he was thrown violently below, sustaining a compound fracture of the right fore-arm. When attended to it was found, that he suffered severely from the shook of his fall and was rather in a bad way. A lady passenger by the Excelsior had her side lacerated, while another had her ankle sprained. The remainder of the others injured had either small cuts or were suffering from shock.
The Excelsior went down stern first, and now lies in about five fathoms of water, with her bow above the surface. The Edina is almost uninjured, but she will be immediately placed in dock, as she is making water slightly.
c 1900 → The SS ‘Excelsior’ was raised from her watery grave where a large cut can be seen on the SS Excelsior in dock and reveals the breach made and damage done by the Edina.
c 1939 → Records regarding the SS ‘Excelsior’ are elusive until c 1939, when she was commissioned to relocate to Brisbane, Queensland, during the Second World War:
The Excelsior came to Brisbane on a voyage north during the 1939-45 War. Being unseaworthy she could not be taken further and was used here as a workshop. After the war, she was discarded on Bishop Island.
c 1946 → Sometime after WWII was over, the SS ‘Excelsior’ joined many a ship in the graveyard at Bishop Island in Queensland. The island has been the site for the disposal of many ships. Ships recorded as being discarded here include the Groper, Adonis, Roderick Dhu, Excelsior, Yosemite, Maida, Civility, Captain Cook, Bingera, St. Kilda, Lucinda, Moreton, Miner, Schnapper, Lochiel, Queensland, Victoria, and Badger
The SS Excelsior is a well known ship from the history of Geelong. Its collision with the equally well known SS Edina is of particular interest to Geelong. She was a famous ship in the reckon of Port Phillip despite her short life stand, especially when compared to the SS Edina.
Colour painting of ship departing
ship collision, ship wreck, ss excelsior, ss edina, bishop island