1891 – Ship’s pilot Arthur Thompson was crushed between two boats as he attempted to move from one to the other.
He had just piloted the barque Mary Stewart through King George’s Sound as it was towed by the launch Escort.
They were two miles beyond Bald Head – near Maud Reef in a line with Eclipse Island – when he attempted to board the towboat.
The Mary Stewart had prepared its sails, no longer needing the tow boat.
The tow line was taken in, the Escort dropped astern, and then steamed up towards the Mary Stewart.
The sea was heavy with a southerly swell, and it was apparent it would be a difficult transfer.
Having brought the launch alongside, Escort Captain Sipple called to Thompson, asking if he was ready to leave the Mary Stewart.
Thompson replied that he was, and stood holding a rope, reading to drop over the side.
Captain Sipple called, ” As soon as you can, for there is a big sea running.”
“I turned my face forward from the vessel to see that the launch was going right.”
Stipple turned again and saw Thompson “in the act of falling”.
According to eye witnesses he seemed to slip and then hang for a few seconds.
I then shrieked ” Let go and go down,” but before I could get to the vessel’s side he was gone.
The roll of the sea smashed the two vessels together, just as Thompson came between them.
No-one knew whether he slipped and fell, or whether he expected to land on the launch.
“As he fell he cried out as if he saw the peril he was in but he never again uttered a sound,’’ one witness said
The watch that he wore was crushed and stopped at 9.14, but according to Captain Sipple the sad accident happened after 9.30 and before 9.43.
It took the towboat five minutes to retrieve the body.
“There was no life in him,’’ Sipple said.
“It appeared as if the vessel had caught him just under the shoulder blades.’’
They placed a Union Jack over the body and the launch then steamed away for the town.
An inquest was held before a three-man jury.
Its verdict was that “no-one one was to blame in the matter, though the accident might have been avoided by a Jacob’s ladder being used on the ship’s side, or a boat being lowered from the ship to take the pilot to the launch.
Sources: Southern Times, Monday 23 March 1891, p5
The Australian Advertiser, Monday 16 March 1891, p3