Culture and heritage

Maritime heritage

Ly-ee-Moon disaster

The Ly-ee-Moon Disaster, 1870 - cemetery at Green Cape

Cemetery consisting wholly of the graves of bodies recovered from the wreck of the steamer Ly-ee-Moon in 1870

Prominent among the rolling green hills at Green Cape, south of Eden on the New South Wales south coast, are the tombstones erected to the 71 persons lost in the Ly-ee-moon disaster of 1886. In what was perhaps one of the most graphic losses on our coast, the few survivors recounted the horrific last moments of their companions.

Driven onto the reef in a frightening sea, the Ly-ee-moon rapidly broke apart exposing all inside to the violence of the gale. One by one they were torn from the hull or swept from the decks to drown or be cast against the rocks. When the bow of the steamer tore off, it took the saloon and 30 passengers with it. There they remained with water pouring up to shoulder height.

With no air left, they perished, a small boy being the only survivor having wedged his head through a porthole. Found unconscious, he was given mouth to mouth resuscitation and recovered. The lighthouse staff could offer no help, forced to watch the terrible scenes before them. The ship's Third Officer attempting to save one of the female passengers, took her in his arms and leapt into the sea. After almost making it to the reef, she was struck with timber wreckage and killed.

The bodies, as recovered, were buried in several graves on the northern side of the peninsula, not far from the scene of the wreck. It would have been impossible to bring them back to Sydney for burial due to the remoteness of the spot in 1886. Of the passengers killed, a notable loss was Mary MacKillop's mother.

How to get there: Green Cape Road, Ben Boyd National Park, off Edrom Road from Princes Highway. Cemetery marked by sign on northern side of peninsula, several hundred metres before the termination of the road at the Green Cape Lighthouse, Green Cape, south of Eden.

Page last updated: 31 August 2012