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21 April 1907 The sinking of the Norma


21 April 1907   The sinking of the Norma

About 2 a.m. on 21 April 1907 the four masted iron barque, Norma, of 2122 tons, loaded with 31,045 bags of wheat, was lying off Semaphore waiting for favourable winds.

The Ardencraig, and iron ship of 2153 tons, inward bound from London came to the anchorage, shortened sails and prepared to drop anchor. The captain saw the light on the Norma, thought it was the pilot coming, and only realised it was another ship at anchor when it was too late. The Ardencraig rammed the Norma on the port side well below the waterline. The crew abandoned ship, one man was lost and the Norma heeled over and sank.

This was the official version of the accident given to the Marine Enquiry. Another version given by a seaman from the Ardencraig was a little different: as the ship was coming to the anchorage the mallet used to knock the pin out of the anchor chain could not be found and as she closed in on the Norma the captain was on the deck yelling 'let go that ••• anchor'.

To add insult to injury, a little later in the morning, the coastal steamer, Jessie Darling, of 289 tons, bound for Port Adelaide with 2250 bags of wheat, was passing the anchorage when she saw a spar in the water near where the Ardencraig was anchored and headed towards it only to come to a sudden halt. She had run into the submerged Norma, the crew abandoned ship and within five minutes the Jessie Darling had settled on top of the Norma with only her masts showing.

Captain Thomas of the Ardencraig was found guilty of negligence and suspended for six months. In January 1908 the Jessie Darling was re-floated and the Norma was dynamited as she was a navigational hazard.

Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, No 6, 1979, pp. 9-11.

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