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South Australian shipping lines: Black Diamond Line - Expansion


As the Wallaroo smelters expanded, so did the Black Diamond fleet: Exonia and Contest were purchased in the 1860s, and in 1872 Athena, Planter and Lanercost were acquired. The Lanercost was wrecked several months later, only the second Black Diamond vessel lost to this time. The Simpson, Elder Smith partnership also acquired more ships at this time, all sailing ships, but in 1877 Henry Simpson ventured into steam when he purchased the steam tender Waratah for moving his hulks around Port Adelaide.

In 1875 the Black Diamond Line lost two ships at the same time: Kadina and Wallaroo were blown ashore during a heavy gale at Wallaroo and were written off as total losses. The loss of the Planter in 1877 was a turning point for Simpson. Needing to quickly replace the carrying capacity of the Planter he chartered a steamship for several voyages, was impressed and ordered a steam collier from the United Kingdom. The Ridge Park arrived in January 1879, and was also capable of carrying passengers. This was a new side to Simpson's business and proved popular. Unfortunately Ridge Park was wrecked in February 1881; again Simpson chartered vessels to make good the loss while a replacement steamer was being built.

The Birksgate arrived in June 1882. Like the Ridge Park the new ship was also fitted with passenger accommodation, and also proved popular in this capacity.

Meanwhile in 1880 Simpson decided to moor a coal hulk off Semaphore for the mail ships and other large steamships which anchored here rather than in the Port proper. The hulk Clifton was moored in March 1881.

About this time, competition in the coaling business began to grow: Adelaide Steamship Company entered the trade as did several interstate companies. Another steamship was ordered for the Black Diamond Line; Tenterden arrived in July 1883. Her passenger accommodation was increased later that year.

Henry Simpson died in April 1884, and his business was continued by his son JL Simpson. However changes were ahead. An offer was accepted from the Australasian Steam Navigation Company of Sydney for the passenger and cargo business, including the coal business in Adelaide. The Black Diamond Line retained the Wallaroo coal run and the ships bunkering business at Port Adelaide. The sale included the Birksgate and Tenterden.

JL Simpson and his partners operated the Wallaroo-Newcastle coaling run with sailing ships, until in 1886 they acquired SS Karaweera when the Australasian Steam Navigation Company was sold. However the Wallaroo mines which were the mainstay of the Black Diamond Line's business were in decline and although the mines would continue in production until the early 1920s, by 1895 the shipping business was being wound up.

The once famous firm of colliers would fade into memory: the Black Diamond Corner at Port Adelaide would retain its name long after all association with the shipping Company's office was forgotten

Further reading:

Parsons, Ron, The Black Diamond Line of colliers: (Henry Simpson & Sons, Port Adelaide) Magill, South Australia: Ronald H. Parsons, 1982


Black Diamond Line
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Late Captain Henry Simpson
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