On June 14, 1876 the Geltwood, an iron bark, came to the end of her maiden voyage, it was also her last. The
Geltwood was built in England at the yard of R. Williamson & Sons in Harrington and measured 215' 7" long
with a beam of 33' 9", registered at 1,056 tons. She had departed Liverpool, England on Mar. 23, 1876 bound
for Sydney, Australia, but a storm caused a delay as the ship was off Holyhead and she had to make port. The
delay lasted for two days. This storm was just a prelude to disaster.
When the Geltwood arrived off Rivioli Bay, South Australia on June 14, 1876 they found another storm and this time they could not make it to shore. The ship ran hard aground on a reef and was doomed. Knowing the ship was in desperate trouble the captain F. F. Harrington, who reportedly had his wife and daughter on board, sent some kind of distress signal, which was reported but unanswered. Nobody knows what the last minuets on the ship were like, was there an attempt to launch lifeboats, was there a hero, nobody knows because there were no survivors. Nobody even knows how many people were on board the ship, but it is thought to have been around thirty.
A sad ending to a new beginning, but the story does not end there. The locals who knew about the wreck
neglected to report it to the authorities for two weeks. In that time some of the cargo had washed up as well as one or two of the poor souls who died. Three boats also came ashore one with the name Geltwood on it. Just about everything that came ashore was looted by the locals before the authorities knew the ship had gone down.
A court hearing was held in the hotel in Millicent in which several people had been charged with looting, but
nothing came of the charges. The wreck was sold to salvors and much of the remaining cargo and fittings
were removed. Today the wreck is protected.
© 2007 Michael W. Pocock