The Wreck of the Berbice, Stockton Beach June 1888

The Berbice, Stockton, NSW, [1888] Bert Lovett Collection UONCC B1P11R1N3_20_F13

The Wreck of the Berbice, Stockton Beach June 1888
By Russell Rigby

The Berbice ran aground at Stockton Tuesday 5th June 1888. The Rocket Brigade saved all on board.

The location of a shipwreck, believed to be the Berbice, and recent images from a drone, was reported in a Newcastle Herald article in August 2018: beach/#slide=1

A Newcastle Morning Herald article the following day describing the disaster: article135922106

The Marine Board of Inquiry into the shipwreck was conducted in Newcastle, 8-13 June, 1888 and reported in the Newcastle Morning Herald:

Day 1:       
Day 2:       
Day 3:       


“That the wreck of the ship Berbice, which took place on June 5th, 1888, was caused by the wrongful act or default of the master, Alexander Ross, in recklessly navigating his vessel and totally disregarding the sailing directions for the port; the Board, therefore, require him to show cause why his certificate should not be suspended or cancelled.”


From the photos the centre of the wreck is 160m at 72º from the northeast corner of the Surf club building:

MGA zone 56 coordinates: 386815mE, 6358048mN

Lat/long      32.9099350º S, 151.7896400º E   or    32º 54′ 35.7660” S    151º 47′ 22.7040” E


The debris field in the Sep 2017 photo is at least 40m long by 10m wide, which is comparable to the ship’s dimensions: LOA 53m, beam 9.5m. The long axis is aligned at right angles to the shore line. When it was wrecked the Berbice had a partial cargo of wheat from Melbourne, with shingle and bluestone ballast.

This compilation of images of the shipwreck on the beach, and of aerial photos from the last 7 years, was prepared in August 2018 by Russell Rigby, a member of Hunter Living Histories.

The Wreck of the Berbice, Stockton Beach June 1888 By Russell Rigby (8.4MB PDF File)



20 August Update:

This is a composite of aerial photos of the Durisdeer wreck in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The wreck is off the beach, between Pembroke and Cardigan Streets (560m north of the “Berbice”wreck off the Surf Club), and and in about 5.5m of water.
Aerial photographs of the Durisdeer wreck in 2016,
2017 and 2018. off Stockton Beach, Newcastle Australia.


Russell Rigby
UON Hunter Living Histories
3 August 2018

Supplementary Photographs of sites of the Berbice and Durisdeer Shipwrecks Stockton Beach, New South Wales from February 2021. Courtesy of Mr. John Chesworth, recreational drone photographer.


2 thoughts on “The Wreck of the Berbice, Stockton Beach June 1888

  1. The NMH article mentions that the Berbice:
    is ashore in exactly the same spot where the barque Rialto and the schooner Lismore were lost, the latter in 1866, on the same date as the disaster to the ill-fated Cawarra.
    More investigations will needed to confirm the identity of the shipwreck.

  2. The wreck of the “Durisdeer” is also visible in recent aerial photos, 560m north along Stockton Beach, between Pembroke and Cardigan Streets,in about 5.5m of water.

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