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The Dunbar shipwreck near Macquarie Lighthouse

Wednesday 14 November 2018

The most infamous shipwreck near Macquarie Lighthouse was the clipper Dunbar.

The Dunbar ship

The Dunbar arrived at Sydney Heads at midnight on August 20 1857, after an 81 day journey from England. It carried 122 passengers and crew, as well as £72,000 worth of cargo.

Due to bad weather, a marine pilot could not board the ship. In a fatal error, the master decided to try to enter the heads with no pilot on board. The weather also obscured the light from Macquarie until the ship had already hit the rocks.

All but one of the 122 people on board drowned.

The only survivor was Able Seaman James Johnson. He clung to the rocks until he was noticed by an onlooker the next day. A volunteer bravely climbed down the cliff with a rope to rescue him. After surviving the wreck, James Johnson later became a lighthouse keeper.

On the cliffs above Watsons Bay you can see the Dunbar Memorial. It’s just near the pedestrian crossing.

This disaster resulted in the building of Hornby Lighthouse on South Head.