The Wandering Jew Wreck

The Wandering Jew was an iron paddle steamer originally called Riverina, built by J.Duncan and Partner in Echuca during 1866. With a tonnage of 87 tons and fitted with a 10 horse power engine, the steamer was registered in Sydney (British Register of Ships, 88 of 1866).

During a turbulent life, the vessel was burnt on three recorded occasions. Historian Ronald Parsons noted alterations to the steamer in 1875, when the tonnage was reduced to 66 tons gross. A significant event occurred on 2 April 1883 when the vessel was burnt to the waterline. 

Subsequently rebuilt and re-registered by November 1890, the vessel was renamed Wandering Jew named after a former Jewish owner, Mr Burgher. The ‘Jew’ held the record from Brewarrina to Walgett and back, loaded both ways – 5 1/2 days. An average load of wool on the ‘Jew’ was 27 tons with barges sometimes carrying an additional 80 tons. After a survey in July 1897, the vessel was no longer allowed to carry wool on deck. Further fire damage occurred on 11 May 1898, but was repaired (Parsons, 1961). By 1903, the Wandering Jew was owned by a Mr George White and was recorded as the last steamer to reach Walgett in 1912.

On 15 December 1914 the Wandering Jew was again burnt, this time at Brewarrina, and became a total loss. The last known register entry for the vessel was in March 1914. The steamer appears to have had a strong association with this port and was photographed near the important Aboriginal fish traps in the river there (Phillipps, 1972, date of photograph unspecified).

The wreck site has been located within the Barwon River at Brewarrina. The Journal of the Bourke & District Historical Society refers to remains of the Wandering Jew exposed in the river during drought, presumably in the 1930’s. However, the construction of a weir just downstream of the site has ensured that only the highest part of the wreck, what appears to be a small boiler is exposed. The Wandering Jew had a length 72 feet (21.95 m), breadth 14.4 feet (4.4m) and depth 5 feet (1.5m). Its Official Number was ON38804. 

For further information regarding the 'Wandering Jew' refer to the Maritime Archaeological Survey below.

Contact Details

Brewarrina Visitor Information & Exhibition Centre
Phone: 02 6830 5152
Fax: 02 6839 2642