Collision of the Steamer Guthrie with the Thursday Island Jetty

The steamer Guthrie was built around 1884 and originally part of the Eastern and Australian Steamship Company’s fleet.  Later, it was acquired by the prominent Queensland company, Burns, Philp & Co, and became part of its Australian fleet of vessels.  The Guthrie was well known at the various ports along the Asian-Australian shipping routes, travelling between such ports as Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Singapore as well as many points in-between, including Thursday Island.  In addition to providing passenger services, the Guthrie also carried a wide range of goods including frozen meat, fruit and general cargo.

Damaged Thursday Island Jetty, 1908. John Oxley Library, Image 39343. Photograph originally published in the Queenslander, 1 February 1908, p.25

Damaged Thursday Island Jetty, 1908. John Oxley Library, Image 39343. Photograph originally published in the Queenslander, 1 February 1908, p.25

One particular incident occurred at Thursday Island during one of the Guthrie’s visits which was no doubt long remembered by local residents.  In early 1908, the Guthrie was coming alongside the Government Jetty to unload its cargo and passengers when the tide caught her unexpectedly, causing her to swing in a few metres too far.  The tide and the prevailing current combined to reduce the Guthrie’s ability to manoeuvre, which was made worse by the number of luggers and other vessels anchored close by.  As a consequence, the Guthrie crashed heavily into the jetty.

A section of the jetty, measuring some seventy metres in length, was badly damaged as a result of this collision.  Many of the jetty’s supporting piers were twisted out of alignment and the rail lines running down the jetty, laid to facilitate the loading and unloading of goods, became un-useable.  Newspaper reports of the time reported the cost of the damage at around five hundred pounds, with the despatch and loading of cargo being severely disrupted, pending the completion of the required repairs.

Ship Guthrie after it crashed into the Government Jetty at Thursday Island. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 8239

Ship Guthrie after it crashed into the Government Jetty at Thursday Island. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 8239

Following this unfortunate incident at Thursday Island, the Guthrie continued to carry passengers and freight between its Asian and Australian ports of call.  Eventually the vessel was sold to Chinese shipping interests, continuing to operate in that region.

(Article written by Brian Randall, State Library of Queensland. Updated 6 Dec 2019)