Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum


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. There was a lot of money to be found on the beach but no survivors had been seen. A second story was from another Aboriginal, Moiley Dubbin, and also was supposed to have originated from the Weelman tribe. In this version, there was also much money to be found, but in this instance, survivors were seen living in shelters of canvas and wood. These survivors were said to have traded biscuit for the Weelman’s spears and shields. There had been instances of Aboriginals from the north bringing British coin to Perth, so it was decided to look for survivors. An Aboriginal named Weeip was sent to look for them with a letter from the Government. If he returned with an answer from the survivors his son was to be released from prison. On his return, he had not found survivors but seen plenty of coin on the beach. It was then decided to send a ship to look for survivors, so the schooner Monkey was sent, finding nothing but some broken timbers at the south end of Dirk Hartog Island. A further expedition by the Hyacinth later in 1834 was also unsuccessful. Henderson suggests that the stories regarding coins and timbers suffered from confusion ‘by the communication barriers between European and Aboriginal and between aboriginal tribes.’ The stories reached Perth about six months after the disappearance of the Mercury. This timing and the British coins that had been brought to Perth by Aboriginals does imply that the stories could relate to the Mercury. However, this wreck has not been found and the two incidents mentioned in the introduction to this section, combined with this one, could also point to handed down stories from Aboriginal people about older wrecks, such as the Zuytdorp.

Associated Tribe Weelman (?Nhanta or Malkana)

Contact Evidence Anecdotal

Type of contact Helpful

Year 1833

Nationality English

Location ? Shark Bay, ? Greenough

Source Aboriginal