Marine Life Society of South Australia Inc.


November 2008   No. 360

understanding, enjoying & caring for our oceans”


Next Meeting

The next General Meeting will be held on Tuesday the 18th November.  (There will be no General Meetings held in December and January.)



This will be held at the Adventure Blue clubrooms on the Patawalonga frontage at 8.00pm sharp. Please enter via the stairs at the side of the building. If you cannot find us on the night then phone me on 0407395566 and I will give you directions.


Our speaker will be Simon Bryars who is a Marine Ecologist - Threatened Species within the Department for Environment & Heritage who will be talking about his role.



CAPTAIN SWIGGS (& some of the ships associated with him and his family) (Part 4 - conclusion)

 (Steve Reynolds) 

Sea Spiders (Steve Reynolds)



This is the final newsletter for 2008. I would like to thank everybody who contributed articles, especially to Steve Reynolds who has given me continuous support. His articles are always interesting and informative.


The 2008 Journal should be published in early December.


CAPTAIN SWIGGS (& some of the ships associated with him and his family)

by Steve Reynolds  (Part 4 - conclusion)


A Pioneer ‘Portonian’

Swiggs featured in the book “Back to Semaphore” by John Trotman (1930). He was shown in a photograph (see below) showing “Pioneer Portonians – Port Adelaide and Semaphore Pioneers (1902)”.


The photograph showing “Pioneer Portonians – Port Adelaide and Semaphore Pioneers (1902)” in the book “Back to Semaphore”.

(Photographer unknown)


The caption for the above photo in “Back to Semaphore” lists the names of each of the 19 “Pioneer Portonians”. Captain Swiggs is the gentleman at the far right of the front row. He died the following year.


Captain Thomas Swiggs

(as possibly shown in his obituary notice in The Adelaide Observer,

Saturday 29th August 1903) - photographer unknown


His Death

Swiggs died after a short illness on 22nd August 1903 at the age of 83. He was interred in the Cheltenham Cemetery (allotment 101.81, grant 1726). At the time of his death, he and Elizabeth had four (surviving) sons, four daughters, 30 grandchildren and three great- grandchildren. His wife Elizabeth died at Prospect on 29th August 1911, aged 89 years.


Alberton Cemetery

At least one of Swiggs’ children was interred in the old Alberton Cemetery. This was Esther Swiggs. Esther was born 28/1/1851 but died the following year (18/5/52) aged 16 months. She was buried two days later (20/5/52). The Alberton Cemetery has since been closed and been made into a recreation reserve called “Pioneer Park”.

According to the web page found at , “Pioneer Park (is) situated between Coburg and Port Roads, and reached via William or Parker Streets. Directional signs are located on both Coburg Road and Port Road at the corners of William and Parker Streets. The area was originally the Alberton Cemetery, where the first burials took place prior to 1846, which was closed for new leases in 1874.”


William Swiggs

Swiggs’ eldest son, William Thomas Swiggs (born 21/4/1854), also a served as a councillor for the Birkenhead Council in 1882. He was also Captain of the steamer Florrie at Port Pirie. William married Louise Hamilton in Adelaide on 5th September 1876. They had six children, including a daughter called Louisa Swiggs who was born at Sandwell on 22nd July 1885. William Swiggs died on 19th August 1916.


Joseph Cavender

On 7th January 1904, at the age of 19, Louisa married Frederich William Heuser at Port Pirie. They had a daughter, Vera May Heuser, who was born on 26th July 1904. Unfortunately, Heuser died, just over five years later, at Adelaide on 23rd March 1909. Louisa remarried, just over two years later, on 8th April 1911. this time she became married to Captain Joseph Richardson Cavender at Port Pirie. Cavender was born at Whiteheaven in 1875. He was a Master Mariner, having acquired his Certificate of Competency (No.606) at Adelaide on 6th November 1902. He was apparently associated with the Adelaide Steam Tug Co. He died on 13th February 1948 and was interred in the Cheltenham Cemetery.


Walter Swiggs

Walter Swiggs was Thomas’ youngest son. He was born on 31st March 1858. He was apparently connected with ketches all of his life. He was in charge of the Albert, built by his father in 1863, at the age of 15. He also became a Master Mariner (Certificate No.71), just like his father and older brother William.



W&T Swiggs (Walter and Thomas) were the registered owners of the ketch Meteor from 1892 to 1895. The ketch had been built in Hobart, Tasmania in 1870. Her dimensions were 56’7” long, 17’6” wide and 5’4” deep. She came to Port Pirie in SA before arriving at Port Adelaide in 1873. She had several owners between 1873 and 1892 before being owned by W&T Swiggs. She was sold again in 1895 and had three new owners over the next three years. According to “Ketches of South Australia”, she was wrecked off of Broome, WA in about 1905/6.



In my article “Captain Thomas Swiggs” in the “MLSSA Newsletter”, February 2007 (No.340), I incorrectly stated that the ketch Vivid was one of the ships that Swiggs had owned. It now seems that Swiggs’ youngest son, Walter, had actually owned the Vivid. This wooden two-masted ketch had one deck and a square stern. She was built in Latrobe, Tasmania in 1876, Her dimensions were 48 tons, 65’ long, 18’6” wide and 6’7” deep. She arrived in Port Adelade in February 1877 and was registered by Edward W Russell and JT Russell. She made her first trip in SA waters from Port Adelaide to Port Wakefield in 1877 and was in that trade until mid-1882. She then began trading from Port Adelaide to the upper reaches of Spencer Gulf, including Port Pirie, Port Broughton, Port Augusta and Franklin Harbour. Walter Swiggs, in partnership with Deex and Fricker, owned the Vivid by the turn of the century (around 1900). It seems that Deex and Fricker later continued to own the Vivid in partnership without Swiggs. An auxillary engine was added to her in 1915. On 9th April 1932 she left Tumby Bay for Port Lincoln and wasn’t seen again. Peter Christopher says that she was lost in a gale near Point Bolingbroke, Eyre Peninsula. Three lives and her cargo of 1000 bags of wheat were lost.


Walter owned several ships of his own during his 74 years, including the 33-ton ketch (schooner?) Mayflower (home port of Port Pirie), the 34-ton ketch Esther (1917-1922) and the 9-ton cutter Mary Jane, built in Port Adelaide in 1878 (1890-1892).



The 60-foot long Mayflower was built on the River Huon at Franklin, Tasmania in 1871. She arrived at Port Adelaide on 2nd September 1873. She then had three different owners before being owned by Walter Swiggs from 1892 to 1909. (More owners followed later on.) Before being owned by Swiggs, she had traded regularly to Ardrossan and Parara for several years from late 1875. In 1875, she dragged her anchors and got ashore at Minlacowie. She was, however, undamaged and was refloated later. She then became involved in the Port Wakefield trade in the early 1880s. She later became a regular trader to Port Vincent and Stansbury. She spent just six months during this time, however, running to Victor Harbor.

Walter Swiggs later became the owner of the Mayflower. He is said to have been her owner-master for 17 years (1892 to 1909). “Ketches of South Australia” by Ronald Parsons, however, only says that Swiggs was her owner from 1897 to 1904.

After then having had another three different owners, the Mayflower lay on Snowdens Beach on the Port Adelaide River for a few years (after 1916). She gradually deteriorated until she became quite unseaworthy. She was then broken up and her register was cancelled in August 1921.



After the Mayflower, Walter Swiggs owned the Eva and the Esther. According to “Ketches of South Australia”, the Eva was a 37-ton wooden two-masted ketch built at Birkenhead in 1904 by Thomas Beauchamp. She had an auxiliary engine fitted in 1921. She was requisitioned for war purposes in 1943. There is, however, no mention of Walter Swiggs in these details.



According to “Ketches of South Australia”, the Esther was a 34-ton wooden barge from Hobart, Tasmania. She was built by Joseph Graves at Southport, Tasmania in 1864. She came to Port Adelaide in 1902. She then had three different owners before being owned by Walter Swiggs.  (“Ketches of South Australia” says that the Esther was described as a ketch in 1919 when she was owned by an “SW Swiggs*”

* (Possibly the result of a typographical error.)

Even though Swiggs is said to have retired about 1919, it seems that he continued to own the Esther until 1922. Another owner took her over in 1922 and an auxiliary engine was added to her in 1928. She was reported to have been broken up by March 1943and her register was closed.


Mary Jane

The 9-ton wooden cutter Mary Jane was built in Port Adelaide in 1878. Walter Swiggs owned her between 1890 and 1897.  She was reported to have been broken up at Port Pirie in 1912 and her register was closed.


Edward Swiggs

Walter Swiggs’ grandson, Edward Gerald Swiggs, is said to have been an engineer and served in the Navy. He was in the RAN during WWII and served as an ERA (engine room assistant?).

(Edward’s father was Edward George Swiggs, the fourth of Walter Swiggs’ fourteen children.)


Fairmile Motor Launches

Young Edward Swiggs served on Fairmile Motor Launches during WWII. According to the web page found at , there were thirtyfive Fairmile B-type Motor Launches  (MLs 424 - 431; 801 – 827) and also 28-30 Harbour Defence Motor Launches (HDMLs 1074, 1129, 1161, 1321 - 1329; 1340 - 1347; 1352 - 1359 (some sources add two more boats - HDMLs 1338 and 1339) which were referred to as ‘Fairmiles’.

It seems that the 65-ton MLs (Motor Launches) were “round-bilge plywood construction” with a 600hp petrol engine capable of producing speeds of 20 knots. Their dimensions were: - length 112 feet o/a, beam 18.24 feet, draught 3.6 feet.


ML 815



The HDMLs, on the other hand were copper sheathed “round-bilge wooden boats” with  300hp diesel engines capable of producing speeds of 11.5 knots at 260 BHP. Dimensions varied, depending on the builder. HDML 1074, 1129 and 1161 were built in Britain, 1321-1329 were built in Australia and the others were built in a variety of American yards. The Australian-built boats were the biggest, measuring 72 feet o/a, beam 15 feet, draft 5.5 feet max, displacing 47 tons standard, 58 tons battle-weight.

The MLs served as boom defence patrols in harbours at home and abroad, they escorted convoys across the Torres Strait to Milne Bay and Port Moresby, acted as couriers to ships and submarines at sea, took part in the endless survey work and raided up and down the Japanese-held coasts.

The HDMLs were originally intended to patrol harbours and estuaries but they were also employed on convoy escorts and running special forces in and out of Japanese-held areas.


HDML 1324



Billie White

Thomas Swiggs’ daughter Ann married James White. Their son “Billie” joined the Royal Australian Navy and went on to become First Lieutenant on HMCS Protector.

HMCS Protector

The 960-ton Protector was built at Newcastle, England in 1884 and came to South Australia that same year.

According to the web page found at , the Protector was a “warship built for South Australian Government (at) Newcastle/Tyne 1884. 960t displace(ment) 188'oa x 30': known as Cerberus from Apl.1921 till 1924 when sold and converted to a lighter which was renamed Sidney in 1931.”

The web page goes on to state that she was “Taken over for US Army in 1943, was being towed to war theatre when the towline parted off the Queensland coast. A tug, tried to pick her up but crashed into her causing considerable damage and she arrived in Gladstone in sinking condition and in 1944 was put upon Heron Is.”

A gun from the Protector is presently located in Jenkins Street, Birkenhead. Read “The Navy In South Australia” by Ronald Parsons for further details regarding HMCS Protector.

The gun from HMCS Protector presently located in Jenkins Street, Birkenhead

(taken by Steve Reynolds, 2008)


Swiggs Street

The street that Swiggs lived in at Birkenhead is now called Swiggs Street after him. It was known as just ‘Swigg’ Street for a few years*, but following protests by members of the Swiggs family in 2003, was changed to Swiggs Street.

* A letter by Lawrie Shields, the Secretary for the Port Adelaide Historical Society, published in the “Portside” Messenger of 5th March 2003 stated that “early maps dating from the 1864 Birkenhead sub-division, the street name is shown as “Swigg St”. The hand written rate books of the Port Adelaide Council (which annexed Birkenhead in 1886) list the street as “Swigg”. Most other map references and directories also list the name as “Swigg”. In the early 1940s the South Australian directories changed the name in their listing to “Swiggs”. This is repeated in 1964, when a change was made back to “Swigg” and continues in that way until the present.”

By June 2003, the Port Adelaide Enfield Council had a change of heart and overturned its earlier decision (in February that year) and agreed to change the street’s name back to “Swiggs” (almost 100 years after Swiggs’ death).


Photo: Swiggs Street, looking towards Victoria Road, Birkenhead

(taken by Steve Reynolds, October 2007)

The street used to cross over Victoria Road until recently. The part of Swiggs Street on the eastern side of Victoria Road* was (firstly) taken up by the premises of Adelaide Brighton Cement. It was still evident there at the time but it has, however, almost disappeared altogether now due to roadworks for the new bridges crossing the Port River.

What now remains of Swiggs Street on the western side of Victoria Road is a short street running between Heath Street and Victoria Road. It is, however, now closed off at the Victoria Road end, just like the adjacent streets of Martin and Walker streets.


Photo: What remained of Swiggs Street on the eastern side of Victoria Road* in October 2007

(taken by Steve Reynolds)

* (Victoria Road was previously called Birkenhead Street.)

Adelaide Brighton Cement (as Adelaide Cement Co.) started operations at Birkenhead in 1914. The Adelaide Cement Co. absorbed the Brighton Cement Co. in 1971 and became Adelaide Brighton Cement.


The view (from Elder Road) of ‘old’ Swiggs Street through Adelaide Brighton Cement’s premises (taken by Steve Reynolds, October 2007)


The new rail bridge across the Port Adelaide River seems to be located precisely where Swiggs had established “Swiggs’ Slips”, on the northern shore of the Port River at Birkenhead.


The new rail bridge (meeting ‘old’ Swiggs Street) across the Port Adelaide River

(taken by Steve Reynolds, 2007)


The new rail bridge across the Port Adelaide River

- as seen at the original site of “Swiggs Slip”

(with Berth 18, Ocean Steamers Wharf and Dock 2 (at right) in the background)

(taken by Steve Reynolds, 2007)



Many thanks go to Rosemary Woods, great great grandaughter of Captain Thomas Swiggs for her assistance. Thanks also to Rosemary’s father, Francis Swiggs for providing most of the background information vital to this article.

Many thanks also to Richard Lawton, great grandson of Marian Elizabeth Swiggs (Captain Swiggs’ first daughter) for his help.



“Ketches of South Australia – A record of small sailing ships on the coast of South Australia  - 1836-1970” by Ronald Parsons, 1978.

“Kangaroo Island Shipwrecks – An account of the ships and cutters wrecked around Kangaroo Island” by Gifford D Chapman, 1973, Roebuck Society Publications.

 “South Australian Shipwrecks – A Data Base 1802-1989” by Peter Christopher, 1990, Society for Underwater Historical Research - mlssa no.8026 (CD).

“Back to Semaphore” by John Trotman (1930).

 “Captain Thomas Swiggs” by Steve Reynolds,  MLSSA Newsletter”, February 2007.

“The Navy In South Australia” by Ronald Parsons.

“Omeo” published by the Maritime Archaeology Association of WA, 2007 .

The web page found at (see Appendix 1 below).

Appendix 1

Passenger list for the Asiatic’s voyage from London on 4th September 1849

The ASIATIC 1849

from London 4 - 09 1849 via Plymouth with Captain A.S. Waddell,
arrived Port Adelaide on 26-12-1849 with 139 passengers in steerage, then onto Port Phillip.




Sea Spiders

by Steve Reynolds


Sea spiders are rare, right? Well Phil Mercurio and Audrey Pang found one whilst they were both diving with me at Port Hughes jetty on 6th September. Both Phil and Audrey took some digital photos of the little sea spider* whilst I looked on.

* (They’re correctly called pycnogonids.)

Phil quickly posted two of his sea spider photos to the discussion forum page for Dive Oz, at, including this photo: -

One of Phil’s sea spider photos taken at Port Hughes jetty

Phil’s photos were posted along with the comments: - “Has anyone seen any sea spiders here in Australia? We got to see our first one yesterday at Port Hughes, SA.”

Shadowkiller” from Wollongong soon replied, “Pycnogonids are pretty common in Australia, but usually overlooked due to their small size. Claudia Arango at the Queensland Museum studies them.”

Saspotato” said that they had also found several on 6th September at Foggy Reef (Melbourne). “Panda” then posted a couple of lovely sea spider photos to the forum. One photo was taken in Tasmania but the other one was taken at Crawfish Rock, Western Port in Victoria.

Hev” went on to say, “There are lots and lots of sea spiders in PPB (Port Phillip Bay) and surrounds. I seldom go a dive without seeing at least one. Mostly I see the yellow ones* or the yellow ones with brown spots on the joints (Sorry I don't do scientific names) they range in size from only just bigger than your little toe nail to up to 4cm across. Quite easy to see them once you know where to look, the yellow ones love the curly red/orange weed. I did find a new one the other day in Nepean Bay that was white body with brown "hairy" legs, it was on an off-white sponge.”

* Pseudopallene ambigua?

Gudge” posted a lovely photo of one taken at Ningaloo Reef by his wife, Mary Gudgeon, in 2007.

Jamo” from Melbourne said, “East Coast of Tassie (St Helens, Bicheno, Eaglehawk) I have seen literally thousands of these fellows.”

There was an article titled “Pycnogonids” in one of the very first Society newsletters that I read (June 1978, No.19). Karen Gowlett-Holmes, who was our Scientific Officer and Library Officer at the time, wrote the article about sea spiders. The article included a couple of diagrams, presumably drawn by Karen.

Karen described pycnogonids in some detail, including that some are found in SA. These are small, usually less than 3cm, and often cryptically coloured. She said that they were usually found in association with hydroids and other polyps, and matched the colour of their host or its close environment for camouflage.

Karen also said that they feed on hydroids or polyzoans by piercing the outer skin of the polyp with their proboscis and sucking out the host’s juices. A few species feed on the organisms growing on the polyzoans, such as ephiphytic algae.

It probably was Karen who first showed me a sea spider, possibly almost 30 years ago.

Pages 166-7 of “Australian Marine Life” by Graham Edgar (mlssa 1053) discusses sea spiders (Class Pycnogonida). Four species are discussed in detail and there is a photo for each of these four species.

“Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia – Part III” (mlssa1056) has a chapter (Ch.21) about sea spiders, written by DA Staples. There are also a dozen colour photos of sea spiders among the colour plates in the book.

Until Philip Hall reminded me, I had completely forgotten that he himself had written an article (with an identical title to the title for this one) for our 1998 Journal (No.9). The article can be found at

When I re-read Philip’s “Sea Spider” article, I could see that he had done a great deal of research into the topic, something that I had avoided. According to Philip’s article, “Sea spiders belong to Phylum Arthropoda and are accepted as an independent class of the Chelicerata.”

The article went on to say, “In the great group of chelicerates are included a variety of "arachnoid" types, most of which are in highly specialized terrestrial groups. Both Pycnogonids and Chelicerates have claws on the first appendages and a tubercle with simple eyes, and both lack antennae. However, pycnogonids show so many unusual features, such as the proboscis, reduced abdomen, ovigers, gut diverticulae, and so on, that they may comprise a separate group that probably branched off very early from the arthropod stem.

Pycnogonids, or "sea spiders", are among the most bizarre-looking arthropods. There are approximately 50 genera, with between 500 and more than 1000 known species. They can be found from the intertidal regions to depths of around 7000 m. Most are small, but a few deep-sea forms reach up to 70 cm diameter across the legs. They are carnivorous animals that suck out the juices of their prey. Sea spiders are more common in the cold Arctic and Antarctic seas than they are elsewhere, although they are found in all seas. Most sea spiders live near the shore, crawling around on the surface of animal colonies or sea-weeds. They rarely crawl far but slender forms can use water currents to rise and drift in the water column for long distances, regulating descent by folding their legs.”

The following diagram showing the anatomy of a sea spider featured in Philip’s article: -


The article went on to say, “Another name sometimes used for them, Pantopoda, means "all legs" and describes them perfectly. Pycnogonids have extremely reduced bodies in which the abdomen has almost disappeared, while the relatively long, hinged legs are clawed and consist of eight segments. The body itself is not divisible into neatly organized tagmata or regions as it is in most other arthropods. Typically, the sea spider head has two pairs of simple eyes on a central tubercle. Unique characteristics include an unusual proboscis, which varies in size and shape among species, but amounts to a chamber with an opening at the distal end (the true mouth lies between the proboscis chamber and the esophagus) and three pairs of appendages. The elongated trunk of the sea spider has four segments, each with a pair of long, jointed legs. The first pair of appendages hold food and clean the mouth. The second pair of appendages has leg-like functions. The third pair (ovigers) is specialized in the male to carry egg masses. These it takes from the female and cares for until they hatch. They are also used in cleaning. Their sexual organs, either testes or ovaries, extend onto their legs due to the lack of space within their bodies. A terminal segment includes a tubercle that projects dorsally and an anus.”

A second diagram showing further anatomy of a sea spider also featured in Philip’s article. This diagram is reproduced below: -


The article went on to say, “Some species have more than four pairs of walking legs. Dodecolopoda mawsoni, which is found in Antarctic waters is notable for the fact that it has six pairs of legs and may grow in excess of 40 centimetres across. Pycnogonids are also unique in bearing multiple gonopores, found on the second segment of some or all of the walking legs.

“The abdominal segment, sometimes fused with the head, is little more than an alimentary canal. The sea spider's digestive system extends into the Pycnogonids feed on soft-bodied invertebrates, in particular cnidarians, sucking at them with their probosces. Razor sharp pincers called chelifores are used to cut the food into pieces which is then sucked up. The feeding tubes inner surface is lined with an array of sharp spines which further slices up the prey. Larval Pycnogonids often live as parasites within cnidarian tissues. The intestine of Pycnogonids has extremely long diverticulae (blind pouches) that extend to the ends of the legs.

“When mating, some species have been observed clambering onto the back of the female and then over her head to the underside. Positioned head to tail the male collects the eggs as they are laid. Cement secreted from glands in the legs assists the male to hold the eggs in position. The eggs are carried by the male until the well developed young hatch*. Many young stay with the father until they reach an advanced stage of development.”

* So, as in Syngnathids (seahorses, seadragons and pipefish), it is the male sea spider that carries the eggs until they hatch.

Philip’s article referred to an article (title unknown) in “Australian Geographic” No. 48, Oct/Dec. 1997.

As stated above by Philip, there are approximately 50 genera of sea spiders, with (possibly) more than 1000 known species. It seems then, that sea spiders are not quite as rare as we tend to think.

My thanks go to both Phil Mercurio and Philip Hall for their assistance with the above details.


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