Strangers on the Shore
Strangers on the Shore is an electronic database containing all known European and Asian shipwrecks around Western Australia's where survivors have had Indigenous social contact.
Kimberley – 1932
It was 15 May 1932. The seaplane Atlantis was on its way to Darwin from Kupang in Timor, when bad weather caused it to become well off course. Running out of fuel, the pilot, Captain Hans Bertram, had to land in a remote part of the northwest coast. He and his mechanic, Adolf Klausmann were then to spend 40 days of privation until they were found by Aborigines in a cave where they had all but given up and prepared to die. When the two airmen first landed, they began to convert one of the seaplane floats into a type of canoe.
Houtman Abrolhos – 1629
The Batavia wreck occurred on 4 June 1629. The ship struck the Morning Reef in the Wallabi Group of the Abrolhos Islands. It was carrying 316 people along with trade goods, chests of coin, and a large amount of cargo, jewellery and silver.It took a week for the ship to break up. The survivors managed to get to some of the Wallabi Group Islands and although able to save a good supply of stores were short of water.
Middle Island Recherche Archipelago – 1824
The Belinda was wrecked near Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago on 17 May 1824. She was on her way to the sealing grounds on the south coast of Western Australia. The ship’s crew all survived and began to sail back to Sydney in two of the ship’s boats. One of these boats was then swamped after they had travelled about 200 miles, and the crew decided to walk back to Middle Island, with the other boat attending them offshore. The whole crew were eventually returned to Sydney by the brig Nereus which was sealing in the area.
Pt Cloates – 1888
The Benan struck a reef off Point Cloates on 23 December 1888. The crew managed to get ashore in one of the lifeboats but they only managed to take some water ashore with them. Luckily a barrel of flour washed up on the beach with which they made a supply of damper and then set off to walk south. Before leaving they left a message on the abandoned lifeboat to let any searchers know where they were gone. Their good luck continued when they chanced upon some local Aborigines who were able to direct them to a nearby station at Yalobia, owned by Brockman.
Point Cloates – 1874
The Bertha was wrecked on a reef near Point Cloates on 20 July 1874. The Captain , Joseph Moriah and four crew escaped on a dinghy, but with no provisions. They travelled for six days until arriving at Tubridgi Point. The five survivors had been without any food or water and were very debilitated. Some local aborigines were able to provide some water and turtle meat for them, probably saving their lives, but it was too late for Charles Love who died that evening. The other four then set off for Port Walcott and met up with Captain Charles Tuckey who took them to safety.
Near Moore River mouth – 1656
The jacht De Goede Hoop was sent to look for survivors from the wrecked Vergulde Draeck in July 1656. The jacht sent a ship’s boat ashore when they reached the wreck area. Three men from this boat disappeared in the bush and the other eight were sent to look for them. The boat was found broken up on the beach with no sign of any of the men, and the jacht was forced to leave without them, presuming them dead. Later ships sent to look for survivors from the Vergulde Draeck were also instructed to look for these men with negative results.
Wonnerup Inlet – 1801
In June 1801 a chaloupe or longboat from the Geographe was stranded in the Wonnerup inlet. Post Captain Nicholas Baudin sent a rescue mission the following day which included the master carpenter to affect repairs to the chaloupe. Baudin was concerned about Aboriginal people. While watching the rescue boat arrive on the coast he thought the people he saw talking with those in the rescue boat were a group of Aboriginal people. The Geographe was accompanied by the Naturaliste. A longboat from this ship had tried to salvage equipment left behind with the stranded chaloupe.
Near Moore River mouth – 1658
The Emeloort and the Waeckende Boey had set sail in 1658 to chart the coast of the Southland and look for survivors of the Vergulde Draeck. The Emeloort reached sight of the Southland at latitude 33° 12´S and then turned north along the coast. Fires were seen on the land at which signal guns were fired which appeared to be answered by more fires. A boat was sent ashore twice to investigate, but the fires were extinguished and no survivors seen. The searchers reportedly came across a group of Aboriginals so it is probable that they were responsible for the fires seen from the ship.
North West Cape – 1867
The Brothers disappeared, never reaching its destination after leaving for Roebourne on 19 February 1867. This was very close to the time the Emma disappeared, and in the same area. All that is known about this wreck is that a few years after the disappearance, Charles Tuckey was told of three wrecks in the area south of North West Cape. His information came from an Aboriginal from the area. It is included in the data base as the legend referring to the Emma could well apply to the Brothers as they were lost so close together.
Camden Harbour – 1865
In 1865 the Calliance had an ignominious end, along with the hopes and dreams of the Camden Harbour Pastoral Association settlers it carried. They had embarked in Melbourne to be part of an ambitious and foolhardy attempt to settle the country of the West Kimberley area. On 22 December 1864 the Calliance was nearing its destination of Camden Harbour when it struck a reef near Adele Island. The Captain was able to get the ship into the harbour after lightening its load, and the passengers disembarked and their belongings were unloaded.
Great Australian Bight – 1837
This is one of the accounts of shipwreck survivors living with Aboriginals. William Jackman published a book in Auburn, USA in 1853, called ‘The Australian Captive’. In the book he states that he was on board a whaler, the Carib in 1837 which foundered on the coast of the great Australian Bight .
Jurien Bay – 1844
The Cervantes was an American whaler, wrecked near Jurien Bay 20 June 1844. Captain Gibson and his crew got ashore and attempted to walk to Fremantle. Several made the trek, but one man was left exhausted about 30 miles north of the Moore River. Another six crew had decided to return to the wreck and find a boat. The question is, what happened to these men, did they meet up with Aboriginals, or become lost and perish?
Pt Cloates – 1931
On 5 February 1931, the SS Chofuku Maru went to the aid of the ship SS Shunsei Maru which had ran onto a reef near to the North West Whaling Station at Norwegian Bay. Unfortunately, the Chofuku Maru also got into trouble on the reef. Two members of the local Aboriginal tribe, Old Tommy and his wife Mary Ann, took the news of the wreck to the Whaling Station. Captain Maurice MacBolt took some men and a boat to go to pick up the crew.
Rottnest Island – 1899
The second wreck associated with contact art is the City of York . This ship was wrecked on the west side of Rottnest Island on 12 July 1899. The Captain was unfamiliar with the area and misinterpreted a signal from the lighthouse keeper and ran onto the reef. Captain Jones and his crew took to the two lifeboats but one overturned. A number of survivors from this boat made their way back to the wreck, but altogether eleven people died, including Captain Jones. An interesting aspect of this wreck is that several paintings of the ship arose from this incident.
Pt Cloates – 1816
On 25 November 1816, the Correo de Azia, a Portuguese ship, came to grief after suffering a fire in the binnacle. They were situated near Point Cloates. The Captain and crew abandoned ship into the launch, unable to save anything except 3 barrels of biscuits and 3 containers of water. They navigated NNE until they rounded the Point and then looked for a suitable inlet to pull into and prepare the launch to get to their destination. Apparently there was apprehension among the crew about natives, although none were said to have been seen.
Cape Hamelin – 1830
The Cumberland was wrecked on 4 March 1830 near Cape Hamelin. The crew took to the ships four boats and two of these boats arrived at Fremantle on the 7 March. The other boats went ashore near Cape Naturaliste and began walking to Fremantle. They were rescued at Port Leschenault, but three of their number had died. It is not known if they had any contact with Aboriginal groups during their trek, but it remains a possibility. The Aboriginal people may have been the Wardandi, Kaniyang or Pinjarup.
Cervantes Island – 1895
The Duchess of Kent was wrecked on 28 August 1895 near Cervantes Island. The Captain and crew were able to get ashore in the ship’s dinghy but were only able to save three wet loaves and a botle of water as provisions to take with them. They attempted to sail the dinghy along the coast to Fremantle, but were unsuccessful due to the number of reefs edging the coast. Beaching the boat, they then set off on foot to try to reach the rail line and luckily, found some sheep and were able to have roast meat that night.
West Bay – 1956
The Dulverton is an incident with a happy ending. On the 26 May 1956 it became stuck on a sandbank at West Bay. The Captain was authorised to dump the cargo if necessary to save the ship. With the assistance of the Kalumburu Mission barge and its Aboriginal crew and another ship from Darwin, both cargo and ship were saved. The Aboriginal crew “was so impressed with the dangerous experience that they composed a dance which reproduced the ‘salvaging’ of the Dulverton and featured a replica of the ship.”
Dirk Hartog Island – 1867
On 3 March 1867, the schooner Emma set sail for Fremantle from Port Walcott. She was never seen again. Almost ten years later Charles Tuckey, a well known identity in the North West and in the pearling industry told the Inquirer newspaper of a story he had heard from an Aboriginal. It was said thatfollowing a shipwreck about ten years previously in the vicinity of North West Cape, a number of survivors took to the ship’s boats and landed on the shore. Here they were taken captive by a group of natives who then killed and ate all of them.
Champagny Island – 1872
The Enchantress struck a reef off Champagny Island 15 August 1874. She managed to limp into Brecknock Harbour and became a complete wreck. There were then encounters between the crew and Aboriginals to the extent that two crew and eight Aboriginals were killed. Newspaper reports of the time mention ‘a sanguinary battle with natives, killed and wounded on both sides’ and that the ship was a complete wreck. The Aboriginal people concerned could have been the Worora.
Y Island reef – 1875
The Fairy Queen was wrecked at North West Cape, Exmouth Gulf on 8 October 1875. The boats were launched and the survivors travelled for two days before reaching the cutter Swan at Mary Ann Patch. To make room for the Fairy Queen survivors, a number of Aboriginals on the Swan were taken to another vessel, the Albert. These Aboriginals were from the Gascoyne region and had been taken aboard to work as divers. It seems that some of the Aboriginals attacked the seamen on the Albert, including some from the Fairy Queen.
Calgardup Bay – 1876
The Georgette was wrecked on 30 November 1876 off Calgardup Bay. There were 50 passengers on board plus crew and cargo and Captain Godfrey decide to launch the boats. The first was swamped by a large wave and a number of the occupants were drowned. An Aboriginal stockman, Sam Isaacs saw the tragedy unfolding and raised the alarm at the home of the Bussell family. He and Grace Bussell then became heroes as they rode their horses into the surf to help the survivors. Bussell became known as ‘A Western Australian Grace Darling’ for her part in the rescue.
Toby’s Inlet, Geographe Bay – 1840
Another incident similar to the Carib was that of the Governor Endicott, but in this case the wreck was verified. The Governor Endicott was driven ashore near Toby’s Inlet, Geographe Bay on 8 July 1840. One of the seamen on board, Joseph Gotchell, gives a graphic account of the incident in a book he had published in 1844. According to this, after the shipwreck, he spent some time living with Aboriginal people, but like Jackman’s account of living with ‘cannibals’, Gotchell may also suffer from poetic license.
Cape Voltaire – 1929
Various reports of this incident give different dates. What is known is that the Henry ran aground near Cape Voltaire around these dates. The Captain, Henry Scott and another person named Pascoe walked to Cape Leveque for assistance. Four crew members were left behind and during the time the captain was away, two of them had set off for Kununya Mission. On their way they met up with some Aboriginals with whom they had a disagreement. According to Wadi Karawarra, an eye witness, the white men burnt the Aboriginal’s humpie and threw their spears on the fire.
Wyndham – 1942
On the 10 February 1942 the MV Koolama left Fremantle on her way to Darwin. It carried the crew, passengers and army personnel and cargo for the northern ports of Geraldton, Carnarvon, Onslow, Cossack, Port Hedland, Broome, Derby and Wyndham. Various other cargo and passengers were also picked up at these destinations. On 20 February 1942, the Koolama was on the way to Wyndham from Broome when a Japanese reconnaissance plane began to circle the ship. The war had caused the Koolama to have guns mounted for defence and Captain Eggleston gave the order to fire.
near Irwin – 1853
The Leander was an ex-whaler that was wrecked on 13 November 1853. In bound to Champion Bay she ran aground on a then unmarked reef just south of the Irwin River which is now known as the Leander Reef. The ship was near to the shore which enabled all the crew and passengers to save themselves and to set up a kedge anchor and line to save valuables, provisions and other useful items to erect shelters on the beach. They were unable to save the water casks however, all were broken. The survivors spent an uncomfortable couple of weeks on the beach.
Mardie Station – 1880 ca.
This wreck was discovered on Mardie Station by Mr D Macey, Project Manager of Hadson Energy. It is an unknown wreck and therefore has been given the name Macey’s Wreck. The Wreck Inspection Report shows it was heavily salvaged. However, a bottle base found indicates use by Aboriginals to make tools and spearheads. Dating of these artefacts suggests the wreck is of no earlier age than 1880.
Hill River – 1891
The Maid of Lincoln was a coastal steamer on her way from Dongara to Fremantle and Bunbury. She hit a reef near the Hill River, 13 kms south of Jurien Bay on 11 April 1891. The crew managed to get to shore in the ship’s boat and half of them trudged to Padbury’s station. They may have had contact with Aboriginal people, the Amangu or the Yuat.
Jarman Island – 1878
The Mariano ran aground at Jarman Island on 13 December 1878. The crew remained on board awaiting the spring tides in hopes to float her off again, but after a few days were unable to contain a leak and during a cyclone on 22 December two of the ships boats were smashed. The crew were now in some danger and hoisted the upside down ensign to signal for help. Four Europeans and two Aboriginals manned a boat which rowed out to the Mariano, taking half the crew back with them and the remaining ship’s boat was able to take the remaining crew so all were saved.
Mary Island – 1920
The name of this ship is unknown. On 20 January 1920 the Benedictine Mission in Kalumburu was told of a tragedy on Mary Island. Apparently six Kulari Aboriginals had killed the white crew and destroyed a lugger.Another story says lugger not destroyed and it was Gambre men, upset about taking of Gambre women.
? Shark Bay, ? Greenough – 1833
The Mercury left Calcutta on 3 October 1833 and was never seen again. A number of rumours from Aboriginal groups could point to the fact that the Mercury was wrecked near Shark Bay. The rumours surfaced in 1834 from Aboriginals to the north of Perth, and there were two conflicting stories. The first, from Aboriginals named Tanguin and Weemat had been passed down the country by the various Aboriginal tribes, and was said to have originated from the northwest Weelman tribe. It related that a wreck had occurred about 30 (native) days walk north of the Swan River settlement.
Fortescue Island – 1872
The Minnie, another pearling ship, was wrecked in November 1872 on Fortescue Island. There were three men on board and they reached the island but without many supplies. They were George Forthcut, Liberty Joe and an Aboriginal who was not named. They remained stranded there for five weeks, and were becoming desperate. Finally, the Aboriginal swam to the mainland and managed to walk to Mardie station which was owned by Mr Mackintosh. He despatched a boat to the island and the other two men were rescued and recovered at the station.
Thistle Cove – 1835
The Mountaineer was a cutter that had been involved with the sealing trade along the south coast of Australia. The ship was wrecked at Thistle Cove near Esperance on 24 March 1835 and the three crew and six passengers survived and got to shore in the whale boat. They encountered some Aboriginals there who ‘were quite civil and did them no injury.’ The group then made for Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago, where the Captain knew there was a group of sealers.
Carronade Island –
From the late 18th century Macassans were visiting northern Australia. Each year a fleet of perahus arrived on the north-western and Northern Territory coasts to collect trepang. A number of these vessels were known to be wrecked but to date there has been little evidence found of wreckage. In 1916 two brass carronades were found on an island in Napier Broome Bay, by personnel from the HMAS Encounter. It was initially thought that these cannon were of Portuguese origin, which led to speculation that the Portuguese may have been the first Europeans to discover the Australian continent.
Nickol Bay – 1868
The Nautilus was a pearling ship that seems to have disappeared and then appeared at intervals during the 1860’s and 1870’s. It was known to have been blown ashore at Nickol Bay by the cyclone of 4 January 1868 and was refloated for the following season, but then disappeared in April 1869. Although then presumed lost, she turned up again at the Fortescue River in 1875. While the Nautilus was stuck in the Nickol Bay mangroves in 1868, her master, Mr Jarman had set up camp nearby. Some Aboriginals were involved in an incident, stealing flour from one of the other pearling vessels, the Pearl.
N W Cape, Muiron Island – 1856
The Occator was wrecked near Carbaddaman Passage, North West Cape on 5 February 1856. It had been chartered by J. F. Jones to go to Muiron Island to check the possibility of guano mining. In rough seas the lifeboat was smashed but the Captain and crew managed to launch the longboat. They had also managed to rescue water , provisions and navigational equipment. It was decided to sail up to Muiron Island as that had been their original destination. They hoped to find another ship there as the island was an acknowledged source of guano.
Houtman Abrolhos – 1842
The Ocean Queen was wrecked on the southern group of the Abrolhos Islands 13 September 1842. The ship was carrying a chest of specie which was saved by Captain Harrison and his crew. They landed on Pelsaert Island initially and remained at this location for 10 days. They attempted to get to Fremantle in the ship’s boats but with about 120 kms to go, weather conditions forced them to land. They walked the rest of the way apart from one crew member who was left behind at Moore River suffering exhaustion. A group of Aboriginals was sent from Perth to help this man.
Shark Bay – 1841
The French whaler Perseverant was driven ashore during a gale on 16 March 1841. The crew were stranded on Dirk Hartog island for ten weeks and five men died of scurvy during that time. The remaining crew were becoming desperate and set off in four small boats from the wrecked ship. Only one of these boats was eventually rescued. There is no clear evidence that these survivors had contact with Aboriginal people while on the island. However, early reports of a wreck at this time were received in Perth via information circulating from northern Aboriginal tribes.
Pt Cloates – 1875
The Stefano was wrecked on 27 October 1875, just west of Point Cloates. In the heavy sea, the crew had great difficulty with launching the boats which were either swamped or broken and the ship was rapidly destroyed. A number of crew were drowned and eventually eight of them reached the shore, but had little provisions with them. After setting up a small camp, they thought they would walk south to the Gascoyne River, which they thought was not far off. Before they set off, a group of Aboriginals came to their camp.
Osborne Island, Admiralty Gulf – 1892
The Sunbeam was a steam yacht that had arrived in the North-West to take up a pearling venture in 1892. On 27 March 1892, while in Admiralty Gulf, the yacht developed a leak which was not able to be repaired. The Captain endeavoured to run ashore but the ship became stuck fast on a mudbank near Osborne Island. Captain and crew took to the ship’s boats and landed at Dicky Bay where a number of pearling schooners were stationed. The Captain then decided to go to Broome in the ship’s whaleboat taking nine of the crew, to inform the owners of the loss of the Sunbeam.
King Sound – 1883
The Swan went missing in 1883 when on a journey to the Lacepede Islands and King Sound from Beagle Bay. Aboard were Isaac Doust and two Aboriginal crew. The surviving crew later told their story. The Swan struck a reef at Stewart’s Island and after Doust refused to leave his cabin for a few days the crew swam off to the mainland and left him. However, there was another story. Other Aboriginals said the Swan sank near Sunday Island in King Sound and a dinghy bearing the name Swan had been found floating in the sound. The boat had bloodstains on the rowlocks.
Gantheaume Bay – 1839
The Russell was an American whaler. In 1839 this ship took the explorer George Grey and his party to the North West of Western Australia. Three whale boats carrying the explorers were set on Bernier Island, just north of Shark Bay, and the Russell continued on its way. Within a few days one of the whaleboats was lost along with the stores it contained and the other two boats went searching for water. On reaching the mouth of the Murchison River, both boats came to grief trying to run in the breakers. With all three boats wrecked, the group decided to walk back to Perth .
Twilight Cove – 1877
These two cutters were both wrecked at the eastern end of Culver Cliffs on 24 May 1877. They had been involved in unloading stores for workers on the construction of the telegraph line from Eucla. All hands survived and the groups walked to Israelite Bay for assistance. This long trek may have resulted in contact with the Ngatjumay and Mirning Aboriginal people. It is known that friendly Aboriginal people assisted the men working on the East-West telegraph line to waterholes in the area.
East of Scorpion Bight – 1810-20
This unknown ship was discovered by Edward John Eyre at the time he was making his famous transcontinental journey. In his journal he noted the position where he found a number of pieces of a wrecked ship. Some of the oars and spars had been arranged above the high water mark, another on a high ridge away from the shore. . In 1976 Mr John Carlisle and his wife told the Museum of wreckage found on the beach 55 km east of Eyre. Mr Carlisle had been familiar with the area since 1928 and knew a number of Aboriginals from the area.
Victoria Harbour near Esperance – 1600s
This wreck possibly occurred sometime during 17th century. There are no contemporary accounts of this particular wreck and it has not been found. It is not certain if there was a wreck at all. An Aboriginal legend exists of a ship wrecked many years ago either at Victoria Harbour or at Duke of Orleans Bay, east of Esperance . A number of ships have been suggested, eg Batoe Bassi, Kibra, Countess Sulkaat, but only one, the Batoe Bassi, is known to have been wrecked in this area. A flurry of interest in the 1930’s brought the legend to attention of the public.
Ledge Point, north of Fremantle – 1656
The Vergulde Draeck was wrecked on the 28 April 1656, near the mouth of the Moore River. Of the 193 on board, only 75 managed to reach the shore in two of the ship’s boats and only a small of amount of provisions were saved. Seven men including the understeersman were sent to Batavia in one of the boats, the other had capsized on landing. The captain, Pieter Albertsz stayed with the remaining survivors. It took the ship’s boat 40 days to get to Batavia and almost immediately two boats were sent to search for the survivors. These were the yacht Goede Hoop and the flute Witte Valke.
near Barrow Island – 1628
This incident was not a wreck, the vessel went aground and managed to get free by releasing some cargo. It was one of the early sightings of the “Southland” and was unusual because the ship was on its way from and not to Java. There is an interesting mention of the episode in the advice given to Tasman before his journeys in 1644. It states that the Vianen had gone along the coast of the Southland for about 50 miles.
Rogers Strait – 1915
This vessel, the Wanderer , was believed to be wrecked at Rogers Strait and Captain Maguire and his mate murdered by Aboriginals. Newspaper reports at the time were extremely prejudicial to the Aboriginal community. The West Australian of 24 July 1913 states ‘the notoriously treacherous Aboriginals in the neighbourhood of Collier Bay in the Northwest have added yet another fearful atrocity to their grim record.’
Pt D’Entrecasteaux – 1831
On 20 April 1831 a group led by Lieutenant William Preston were exploring the South West Coast in a whale boat from HMS Sulphur. The boat began taking water and they ended up stranded and decided to march back to Augusta. They encountered an Aboriginal as they were setting off ‘...he appeared astonished when we made him understand that we came from sea through the breakers. I have no doubt they had been watching us land, as there were several fires close to us.
Port Gregory – 1872
The SSXantho was the first coastal steamer to ply the Western Australian coast. The ship has an interesting history and as one of the first iron ships to be excavated has provided new directions in maritime archaeology and maritime archaeological conservation. The Xantho left Port Gregory 16 November 1872, heavily loaded with a cargo that included 100 tonnes of lead ore. It sprang a leak soon after leaving port and sank at the mouth of the harbour. This wreck incident has given rise to speculation about a possible contact painting at Walga Rock, near Cue.
near Murchison River mouth – 1712
In 1712 the Zuytdorp was on its way from Holland to Batavia in company with a ship called the Kockenge. The two ships left the Cape of Good Hope on 22 April 1712, but became separated and the Zuytdorp never arrived at its destination. The Zuytdorp was one of two ships carrying newly minted silver guilders to Batavia and these coins would be instrumental in proving the identity of the Zuytdorp when the wreck was discovered. There is no doubt that there were survivors from the Zuytdorp.