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Located on Kinchega National Park, West Darling, (near Menindee ) NSW







The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954), Saturday 23 November 1872, page 7

Explosion of the Steamer Providence

(From the Deniliquin Chronicle, Nov 21)


The post from Wentworth has brought an account of a fatal explosion of the boiler of a steamer, by which the lives of the Captain, engineer, fireman and

cook were sacrificed. On Saturday, the 9th inst., the Providence steamer (Captain J Davis) left Menindee laden with wool and towing a barge with a

similar freight, bound for Adelaide.

On board the steamer were the captain, E Sparkes (engineer), J Roach (fireman), Thomas Gunn, the Chinese cook, Charles Seymour and a

man named Trevanoak; on the barge were two other men and a boy. When about nine miles below Menindee, Captain Davis was heard to sing out

“Stop Her”, something then being supposed to be amiss with the paddles. That order was obeyed and then he called out “One stroke ahead” and

immediately after “Stop her”. Scarcely, however had this order been given when the boiler burst and fragments of the steamer were hurled in all directions.

Captain Davis, Sparkes, Roach and Gunn were killed by the explosion; Seymour was thrown a considerable distance, but falling in the river, he escaped

with a broken leg; while Trevanoak, who was in the cabin at the time, escaped uninjured, and those in the barge were also unhurt. The bodies of Sparkes

and Gunn were recovered much mutilated, but up to Monday, the 11th, when the inquest was held by Mr J Mair, J.P., on that of Sparkes, those of the captain

and Roach had not been found. The force of the explosion was very great, and fragments of the Providence were found at a considerable distance from the

river. From the character of the disaster-ending fatally to all who might have given evidence as to its cause-the magisterial inquiry terminated obscurely, but

we understand that there was a very strong impression that the boiler was very heated, and nearly empty and that the melancholy accident arose through

cold water being suddenly introduced therein. The steamer is reported to belong to Messrs. White, Counsell and Co.,

and to have been uninsured. The wool on board, 200 bales, however, was covered from risk.


The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, Thursday 12 December 1872



The River Steamer Providence-We have received the following additional particulars regarding the melancholy catastrophe of the “Providence” steamer

whose boiler exploded below Menindee on the 9th inst.  All the bodies have been recovered-amounting to four, the Captain, engineer, mate and Chinese cook.

An inquest is being held. One sufferer who was taken on shore, with both legs broken, and who I am informed was a compositor in your office, named

Jones, died through the injuries received on Friday 18th. The Providence had only 100 bales of Toorale wool on board; the remainder 331 bales, is quite

safe on the barge-Central Australian, Bourke, Nov. 30



NSW Death Indexes and Registration numbers



JOHN DAVIS, age 34 years, died Menindee, 4914/1872


EDWARD SPARKS, aged 50 years, died Menindee, 4911/1872


JOHN ROACH, age 32 years, died Menindee, 4913/1872


THOMAS GUNN, age 26 years, died Menindee, 4912/1872




The below information has been copied from the Aust Govt website – Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water

to provide further information on the tragedy and on Kinchega. It is only a small extract of information, from this site


Paddle steamers opened up trade along the Darling River. They provided a cheaper and quicker transportation service than previous overland

transportation and increased the profitability of wool in the Darling region. Transport costs were three pound ($6) per ton by paddle steamer

compared with twelve pounds ($24) per ton by bullock wagon. Paddle steamers needed high water to travel the Darling, and the Menindee

lake system emptied slowly after floods, keeping the river open for steamer traffic. Sometimes as the river level dropped steamers would become

stranded. The Providence was one such steamer and became stranded in 1872 for several months. Once water levels rose again the Providence

continued its journey along the river towards Kinchega station. Tragedy struck once again when the boiler exploded, throwing one crew member

(Gunn, a Chinese cook) into a tree, and killing the crew John Davis (Captain), Edward Sparkes (engineer) and John Roach (fireman).

Gunn was rescued, but later died of his injures. All the crew died and are buried by the old Kinchega homestead. The only survivor was

Henry Trevorah, a miner from Wilcannia travelling to visit family. The boiler remains on the banks of the Darling, and can be seen if you take the

Homestead Loop of the River Drive.


Kinchega station holds a special place in explorer history. In 1860 it was the place where the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition picked up the

infamous William Wright, the then newly appointed manager of Kinchega Station and a young man by the name of Charles Stone. Burke was a

police superintendent and was in charge of the party. Second in command was Landells the camel man and Wills, a surveyor and meteorologist,

was third in command. They were in a race to be the first European men to travel Australia from south to north.

Landells resigned from the expedition at Kinchega after an argument with Burke. Wright joined the party as the new third in command.

His failure to meet the party on his return to Coopers Creek was blamed almost entirely for the demise of the Burke and Wills expedition.


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