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History

Champion

LOSS of life was heavy on August 24, 1857 when the SS Lady Bird collided with the English 229 ton steamer Champion cutting a gaping hole in the hull above the saloon.

Most of the Champion’s passengers were in bed at the time and a total of 32 drowned. After searching for an hour the Lady Bird returned to Geelong; only the forecastle bulkhead saved her from sinking as her bow plates were badly damaged along with her bowsprit and cutwater.

Survivors told many tragic stories, however on a lighter note, the Second Mate of the Lady Bird rescued the stewardess of the Champion and they were later married. A racehorse aboard Champion broke loose, swam seven miles to the shore, and raced again in the Western District.

The Steam Navigation Board held an inquiry a fortnight later and found that the Masters of both vessels were guilty of want of action and non-enforcement of discipline, and that the chief officers of both vessels were guilty of neglect of duty and recklessness. However, they recorded an open finding. (Source: Shipwrecks of Victoria)