Wreck Of The Centennial 1889
By James Donahue
The iron steamship Centennial was a small passenger and cargo ship that made regular trips between
Sydney, Australia and New Zealand ports during the 24 years of its existence on the high seas.
The Centennial was sunk on August 23, 1889, when in a collision with the collier Kanahooka after just
leaving Sydney with passengers and freight bound for Wellington. All 52 passengers and 30 crew members were rescued.
The 218-foot steamship, under the command of Captain C. G. Lessing, had just called at Sydney to take
on passengers and a cargo of wool and was leaving for Wellington, New Zealand. It was 8:45 p.m. when the Centennial and the
Kanahooka came together off Bradleys Head, still in the western channel. The Kanahooka rammed the Centennial on the starboard
side, splitting open the iron hull.
The old steamer sank within about six minutes, but not before all passengers and crew members were
safely taken off by nearby vessels including the Kanahooka. One man was pulled from the water with severe leg injuries, but
The Centennial sank in seven fathoms in the main shipping channel. Because it was an obstacle to ship
traffic, the wreck was dynamited.
The Kanahooka’s bow was crushed. It steamed to Circular Quay where it unloaded survivors and
its cargo before entering dry dock for repair.
The Centennial was launched as the Albion in Glasgow, Scotland in 1863. Its first owners, the Albion
Shipping Company of Glasgow, sold the ship three years later to the Otago S. N. Co., of Dunedin, New Zealand. After that the
vessel changed ownership at least seven more times. The ship’s name was changed to Centennial in 1888 by owner J. C.
Ellis put the ship through a major overhaul and modernization that year and then put it back on its
regular route between Wellington and Sydney. He still owned the ship when it wrecked the next year.