One of the worst maritime disasters in Australian history was played out off Newcastle Harbour on this day 150 years ago.

The paddlesteamer, SS Cawarra sank off Stockton Beach after getting caught in a fierce gale on Thursday 12 July 1866.

60 lives were lost in the tragedy including the steamer’s renowned captain, Commander Henry Chatfield, prompting a mass
outpouring of grief. A public funeral was held for the victims at
Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral.

The massive East Coast Low became known as the Cawarra Gale, which claimed 150 lives. By comparison, there were 9 fatalities associated directly with the Pasha Bulka storm which hit Newcastle and the Hunter in June 2007.

A plaque showing the Cawarra’s final resting place sits on the Stockton Breakwall.

The Cawarra Plaque