In mid 2007 excavations for the foundations of a new building on the Newcastle harbour foreshore at Honeysuckle exposed the hull of a 130 year old steel boat.
An archaeological dig by AMAC Archaeological was concluded on 15 September 2007, providing valuable details of the vessel’s life.
Initial investigations indicated a rivetted iron hull about 28m long, 5m wide, with a tonnage of about 150 tons.
Records of the vessel are vague, and research is continuing to confirm its identity. If correct, the coal-fired side-wheel paddle-steamer, believed to be the LEO was built in Bristol, England in 1871. It operated in Cape Town, South Africa for some years, before being purchased in 1876 by the Newcastle Co-operative Steam Company for tug work in Newcastle. The competition between the rival shipping companies for work moving the large number of coal ships resulted in the Co-operative selling four tugs to the major coal exporter and shipping company J&A Brown in 1878. It is likely that it was purchased by BHP in 1915 but was taken out of service about 1917. It appears to have been used as part of the dredging work and reclaimation of the harbour. It was stripped down to the hull and abandoned in the area being reclaimed to reshape the harbour between Bullock Island and Throsby Creek, to produce land for the railway expansion at Honeysuckle Point.
Negotiations with all interesed parties concluded that after thorough archaeological study, documentation and reporting, some small parts would be retained, possibly by Newcastle Maritime Museum, and the remains would be cut up and removed from the site.
leo stern 4.jpg
Photographs of the excavations – in the GALLERY
Newcastle Industrial Heritage Association