The coal was discovered at Coalcliff in 1796 by a shipwrecked sailor, William Clarke, whose ship the "Sydney Cove" was wrecked at Preservation Island in Tasmania. A rescue party of 17 men set off to travel the 740 kilometres to Port Jackson but bad luck pursued the survivors and their longboat was wrecked near Point Hicks in Victoria and they had to continue on foot. Only 3 of the rescue party made it back to Sydney and Clarke reported coal in the cliffs at Coalcliff - the second discovery of coal in Australia (The first coal discovery was made just south of the present Newcastle in 1791 by a party of escaping convicts, led by William and Mary Bryant). Soon after, George Bass offered to search for the coal outcrop and, with two of the survivors, he left Port Jackson on 5 August 1797 in Governor Hunter's whale-boat. He was back in eight days with specimens of the coal and a report of its abundance around Coalcliff. The lack of a suitable harbour prevented mining until 1877 when the Jetty Mine was established which had three adits. A wooden jetty was built over a rock shelf to enable coal to be transported by ship. This jetty was destroyed by storms on several occasions. The last collier to depart the Coalcliff Jetty Mine was in 1912. About this time a vertical shaft was sunk near the railway above the village of Coalcliff together with a coke works. By 1980, Coalcliff Colliery was the largest underground coal mine in Australia but closed in 1991. The Jetty Mine adits were sealed in 1992.