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       Cobaki is one of two large wrecks in Salt Pan Creek (Sydney). She was a wooden steamship, built in 1918 by David Drake at Balmain for Langley (Longley) Bros. Ltd. Cobaki was 257 gross tons, 127 feet long, 28-foot beam and 8-foot draught.  Her engines came from the SS Cooloon, another wooden screw steamer, built on the Manning River in 1904, which operated on the NSW coast. In 1917 while entering the Manning River at Coopernook, Cooloon struck the bar, drifted ashore and was wrecked.
      During the period 1939 to 1945, Cobaki was owned by the Australian Army and used for training. At the end of World War II, of no further use, Cobaki (along with many other vessels) was laid up in Middle Harbour . The services wanted to burn it, but on 2 April 1946 vandals scuttled her in Salt Pan Creek.

Army watercraft laid up in Middle Harbour , following the end of hostilities in 1945. Several ALC20s are in the foreground with the hulk and former costal freighter, AB431 Cobaki on the top right. 40-foot workboats and 26-foot motor dories are in the middle ground.

End of the road for AB431 Cobaki. Of no further use, the hulk was scuttled in Salt Pan Creek, near where she had been since war’s end. Alongside Cobaki is the wreck of Itata.


ITATA Library Catalogue

       The wreck of Itata lies in Salt Pan Creek (Sydney) adjacent to Cobaki. Itata was a steel barque of 950 tons built at Liverpool , England , in 1883. The 61 metre Itata is understood to have traded between England , South America and Australia . There is a record of her arriving in Queensland on 29 October 1903.  On 30 December 1905 Itata arrived in Sydney from Iquique ( Chile ) and discharged part of her cargo of nitrate. She then sailed to Newcastle , arriving a week later to unload the remaining 600 tons. 350 tons of coal was placed next to the nitrate for the return journey to South America . Nitrate is quickly soluble in water and in constant danger of catching fire.
        While still at the wharf in Newcastle on 12 January 1906 in the early hours of the morning, fire broke out on board. An hour later, the vessel was a total loss. Itata was moved from the wharf to a nearby beach, but water got to the remaining nitrate resulting in several severe explosions blowing planking and other debris high into the air and hindering fire-fighters. The explosions were heard many miles away. Her masts fell and she ended up with her iron hull gutted and twisted. Coal continued to burn in her hold for over a week.
       The remains were towed to Sydney for use as a hulk. But she was too badly damaged and was eventually abandoned in Salt Pan Creek.

Library Catalogue

      The real beginning of the NSW Water Police took place on the 7th August, 1789 when Governor Phillip established a civilian "police force" of twelve watchmen, recruited from well behaved convicts to patrol on shore at night-time, in order to prevent stealings, assaults and other offences. This force ofwatchmen was enlarged, and eventually took over the patrols in the government boats their role being, preventing the escape of prisoners and smuggling.
       In 1817, John Cadman, an ex-convict, aged 41, was officially appointed by Governor Macquarie as his coxswain. With this appointment came the title of Superintendent of Government Boats. The Harbour Patrol, as the watchmen ha become known, then came under Cadman and became known as the Rowboat Guard. In 1833 a regular Police Force was organized, and the Rowboat Guard wer first officially described as the Water Police.
The title Water Police became official through the Government Gazette No. XVII of the 6th October, 1840. After 29 years in the office of Superintendent of Government Boats, John Cadman retired, but the Water Police remained in Cadmans cottage until 1865 when they moved to Campbells Cove at Dawes Point. With the ever increasing crime in the colony, such as stowaways and smuggling, caused mainly with the finding of gold, it was decided in 1852 to open Water Police Stations at Goat Island and Watsons Bay. Each station was manned by four constables and a coxswain with a four oared skiff.
       In 1862 the Police Regulation Act was proclaimed bringing all Police in the State, who were up until that time under the control of local Magistrates, into one body, the NSW Police Force and in doing this the Water Police became a section of that body. In 1865 the Water Police moved to the boatshed at Campbells Cove, Hickson Road, Dawes Point, where they remained until 1986. Around the time of moving to Dawes Point the Water Police gained their first two machinery driven vessels in the steam propelled Argus and Biloela. During the Great War 1914-18 the Water Police were required to carry out regular escorts of troop ships and also carried the responsibility for port security. On the 3rd November, 1927 the ferry Greycliffe collided with the freighter Tahiti off Bradleys Head. Forty two lives were lost and the Water Police were on scene assisting with the rescue as the Greycliffe sank.
       On the 2nd November, 1935 Constable William Moulden, wearing borrowed Australian Navy diving equipment, recovered the body of a drowned male from Wolli Creek, Earlwood. This prompted the formation of a diving unit within the Police force.
       Police launches Osiris and Cambria were escorting the USS Louisville, on the 13th February, 1938, when a spectator ferry the Rodney capsized. Nineteen lives were lost and the Water Police launches rescued some fifty people from the water. During the second world war the Water Police were responsible for port security and attended the sinking of the ferry Kattabul by Japanese midget submarine at Garden Island.
1946 saw the inaugural Sydney 1-lobart yacht race with the Water Police farewelling the yachts.
The New South Wales Police Flood Rescue Squad was formed as a separate section within the Water Police in 1953 to allow more specialised rescue operations to be carried Out by trained personnel during flood emergencies.
      The Royal Visit of 1954 to Sydney of the Royal Family aboard the Britannia had the Water Police involved in escorting the vessel and proving regular patrols off Circular Quay where the ship was berthed.
The Police Flood Rescue Squad were heavily involved in the catastrophic floods at Maitland in 1955. Once again the Royal Visit of 1973 had the Water Police performing security tasks.
One of the biggest events in the history of Sydney was the opening of the Sydney Opera House on the 20th October, 1973. Huge numbers of vessels surrounded the site for the official opening by HM Queen Elizabeth.
Cyclonic winds hit the coast off NSW during May 1974. Manly pool was demolished, Nielsen Park Wharf was destroyed and hundreds of small craft damaged after being torn from their moorings. The strongest of the winds lasted for nearly a week and Water Police resources were tested.
       Water Police played in the arrest of the Woolworths Bomb extortionist in 1981 when a diver who was to pick up ransom money was caught at Taronga Zoo Wharf. Police divers and Water Police launches were stationed at various points around the harbour during the night long operation.
       Launch Allan left Sydney around 11pm on the 27th July 1982 to rescue a trawler by the name of Fortuna which had broken down off Forster and had been drifting for over a day while a decision was made as to its fate. The trawler, which was enroute to Fiji, was located 70 miles east of Port Stephens towed into Nelson Bay without further incident. The trawler underwent repair and within two months sailed again but encountered bad weather and sank with the loss of two of the four crew.
       During a yacht race on the 15th April, 1984, two yachts began to suffer difficulties off Bondi in heavy seas. Both yachts sank with loss of life but not before the Police launches arrived and got a number of crew off and to safety. The great ferry race on Australia Day holiday on the 22nd January, 1984, almost ended in disaster when the Karrabee reported it was taking water. It had a full load of passengers onboard but with assistance it managed to get alongside the ferry wharf at Circular Quay and disembark passengers with Water Police launches and pumps being able to save it from sinking.
       Another huge undertaking was the Royal Australian Navy 75th Anniversary celebration in October, 1986. With many visiting warships and their associated crews and the huge parade on the harbour Water Police had their hands full. On the 26th January, 1988 Australia's BiCentenary was celebrated on Sydney Harbour. The Water Police carried out escorted of the First Fleet re-enactment and crowd control. The day lasted from 6am until midnight and at some stages it was difficult to see water because of the number of spectator craft.
The 8th of the 8th, (8/8/1988) at 8am a short handed around Australia yacht race began from Sydney Harbour. The organisers were asked to postpone the start due to heavy seas running and a poor weather forecast. It went ahead resulting in a number of the competing yachts getting into trouble. The Police Launch Sea Eagle from Port Stephens put to sea on no less than three occasions to tow stricken vessels and late in the evening was herself a victim of the seas, resulting her sinking. A trawler rescued the crew. Launch Allan from Sydney and Stackpool from Newcastle attended the area at first light the next morning to clean up and assist any further vessels in trouble.
     During the period October 1995 to May 1996 a review of the role of the Water Police was carried out. This recommended that all Water Police should come under one command, instead of the fragmented system where the Water Police controlled the vessels at other stations and the Local Commander controlled the staff. The role of Water Police should be predominately crime based policing rather than the search and rescue role and to implement this a new fleet was needed to replace the ageing fleet. The one command came into effect in October, 1998, and in mid 2000 a new fleet was delivered, this being two 22 metre patrol boats, seven 16 metre patrol boats, three 10.5 metre inshore boats and ten 7.5 metre Noosa cat runabouts.
   After the devastation of the Sydney to Hobart fleet near Gabo Island in 1998 the Police Launch Nemesis V recovered the yacht Business Post Niaid which was 120 miles off Eden with two dead crewmen aboard. The yacht had been competing in the race when it overturned in heavy seas and the rest of the crew were airlifted off by helicopter.
       The Launch Nemesis assisted in the rescue of three people off a yacht, 'Loco', which had rolled five times off Newcastle in seas up to 14 metres. November 2002 saw the longest patrol taken by Water Police when a crew of eight left Sydney on the Launch Nemesis VI and travelled to Lord How Island, Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs returning to Lord Howe and then Coffs Harbour. A distance in all of 1000 nautical miles. (1852km)
       All of this has culminated in the relocation of the Water Police to its new site in Camerons Cove, Balmain.

       Sydney Heritage Fleet is a community-based, non-profit organisation - the Fleet’s mission being to build and maintain an internationally recognised centre of excellence in maritime heritage for the benefit of all Australians by presenting (through research, acquisition, conservation and operation) our continuing maritime history.
       The Fleet is funded through donations, membership subscriptions, income from vessel charters and tours and the proceeds of Art Unions. The ‘Lady Hopetoun and Port Jackson Marine Steam Museum’, the forerunner of the Sydney Heritage Fleet, was founded in 1965 by a group of public-spirited individuals to preserve Sydney’s 1902 VIP steam launch Lady Hopetoun.
      The organisation later became known as the Sydney Maritime Museum Limited. In 1998 the museum adopted the trading name Sydney Heritage Fleet and in 2002 it became the Australian Heritage Fleet. It reverted to its present name of Sydney Heritage Fleet in 2005.
      The Fleet is comprised of 11 historical vessels, which is amongst the largest such collection in Australia. The Fleet has a 1500 strong membership, with 650 dedicated volunteer workers who restore, operate and maintain the fleet of vintage vessels. In the process, they are preserving traditional technical methods and skills.
For more information visit the Fleet Heritage web site


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