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The Dellie

Tweed Regional Museum Collection No K475

The Apple Wreck

On the 24th of August 1941, the freighter Dellie voyaged between Tasmania and Brisbane with a crew of 15 and over 5000 cases of apples, chocolate and newspapers. No doubt travelling close to the coast to dodge mines and enemy submarines, it was three o'clock in the afternoon when she struck a reef close to Cook Island and was stuck fast. She immediately fired three rockets and sent signals in Morse Code for help. A passing ship came in close and left after it seemed the crew were in no danger.

The Captain managed to get the ship off the reef but it was found to be badly holed and was taking water in rapidly. The Captain grounded the Dellie about 200 yards from the shore. When the Tweed Heads pilot (Captain S.M. Hawkesford ) received the news he went over the bar in darkness aboard a fishing boat, he boarded the ship and stayed the night assessing the damage.

The weather was calm and a kedge anchor was laid to prevent the ship swinging around at high tide. The Captain and four crew stayed on the ship while the rest returned to shore. The Tweed Heads pilot was confident that if the weather continued calm, there was a good chance of saving the vessel, with adequate pumps the ship should be able to proceed under its own power. However the next day a south easterly arrived and moderate seas began to pound the ship. The 40 tons of newsprint in the holds swelled and burst the hatch covers, and the rest of the crew decided to go ashore.

The following day huge seas crashed over the ship which stopped anyone going on board, but the 5000 cases of apples started to wash ashore with every wave.
Word soon spread and the beaches became crowded with people, the early birds got them by the case. From Fingal to Kirra there were apples galore and buckets and bags were filled. On the first Sunday after the beaching, the road from Murwillumbah to Fingal was packed with a steady stream of people going to Fingal, mainly on pushbikes, because wartime petrol rationing was on and most cars were jacked up on blocks.

The owners had not endeavoured to salvage the apples and had agreed to let the public collect the fruit to save it going to waste.

Some locals recall that mixed with the apples and chocolate coming ashore was a large quantity of Ovaltine, the first time many people had tasted the treat. Many a household lived on this diet for quite a while.

The ship had a guard and was under the supervision of an excise officer. However a salvage expert arrived from Sydney and said there was insufficient insurance on the ship to justify a refloating attempt and repair. So the ship was sold at auction, some equipment was salvaged and the remains left to the elements. It was a tourist attraction for quite a while before breaking up and settling into the sand.

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