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This thirty-seven year-old steamer sank within ten minutes in twenty seven metres of water after a collision with the collier Hesketh in July, 1890. The 331-ton Royal Shepherd, a 42.4-metre iron steamship was built in Scotland in 1853. During an extended operational life, the vessel operated between Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and later from New South Wales. Her varied career included work as a passenger ship, general cargo carrier, cattle transport, sewerage dumper and finally a collier. The steamer departed Sydney on July 14th, 1890 for a regular, but final, voyage south to Bulli and Bellambi to load coal. At the same time, the collier Hesketh was steaming north with a full load of coal and rammed the Royal Shepherd at the entrance to the Heads. The captain and crew of eleven just managed to clamber onto the Hesketh's towering bow as their vessel sank beneath them.

The remains of the Royal Shepherd lie in 27 - 29.5 metres of water, approximately one kilometre due east of South Head, Port Jackson.

photo: In Port. Courtesy: State Reference Library, State Library of New South Wales.
In Port. Courtesy: State Reference Library, State Library of New South Wales.
photo: Sketch of probable appearance. Drawing by Dean Claflin.
Sketch of probable appearance. Drawing by Dean Claflin.


Site information

Site ID: 656
Type: Steamer screw Construction: Iron
Primary industry: Transport Sub-industry: cargo - coastal
Gross tonnage: 331 Net tonnage: 227
Length (mtrs): 42.64 Beam (mtrs): 6.035
Draft (mtrs): 3.200 Cargo: Towing
Engine: Oscillating
Country built: UNITED KINGDOM State built:
Port built: Renfrew County, Paisley builder:
Port registered: Sydney When built: 1853
Registration number: 76/1885 Official number: 31714
Sources: Illustrated Sydney News 15/3/1888; SMH 16/7,17/7, 22/7, 23/7, 13/8/1890; RBS
Comments: The site lies in about 27 to 29.5 metres of water.

Lost event

When lost: 1890/07/14 Where lost: Sydney Heads, off
Wrecked/Refloated: Wrecked Sinking: Collision, Hesketh
From port: Sydney Harbour To port: South Bulli
Master: Owner:
Crew: 12 Passengers:
Crew deaths: 0 Passenger deaths: 0
Total deaths: 0


Maximum latitude: -33.83563889 Minimum latitude:
Maximum longitude: 151.8356389 Minimum longitude:
Datum used: WGS84
  Datum    Latitude    Longitude    Zone    Easting    Northing
AGD66 -33.83564387961760 151.83563890000000 56 392263.89845188600000 6255444.67517721000000
AGD84 -33.83564387961760 151.83563890000000 56 392263.89845188600000 6255444.67517721000000
GDA94 -33.83563892396190 151.83563890000000 56 392264.28344449000000 6255458.21652586000000
WGS84 -33.83563892308880 151.83563890000000 56 392264.28344394300000 6255458.21651918000000


Found: Yes Inspected: Yes
Protected: Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 Jurisdiction: Federal
Protection notes:
Signage: Web address: