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. With them they brought a chart which had been washed up onto the beach from the wreck. Although it happened to be a chart of just the area where the wreck had occurred, this did not really help the survivors, and they set off on their trek. A week later, they met with some more Aboriginals who gave them water, and by luck, another surviving crew member who had made it to shore further south of the wreck and had also been aided by the Aboriginals. They continued their way south, but into inhospitable country and after some weeks returned north to where they knew there was a waterhole and camped there for some time. On 21 December a severe cyclone disrupted the camp and prevented food gathering and by 6 January 1876 only two men were still alive. The account of these miserable weeks includes a report of the two survivors, Baccich and Jurich, having resorted to cannibalism in their desperation to stay alive. To their great fortune, they were found soon after by Aboriginals who nursed them back to health over a period of a few months. They eventually took them further north in order to make contact with the northern pearling ships. On 18 April 1876 this was accomplished at Exmouth Gulf when they met with Captain Charles Tuckey and his ship the Jessy. The two young men, Baccich and Jurich did not realise at the time that the Aboriginals were actually taking them to a place where help would be forthcoming. A number of the Aboriginals who helped them had previously been employed by Charles Tuckey. It was decided to reward the Aboriginals with ‘...some flour, sugar, some inferior tobacco, with some coarse blankets, as supplied to the natives here, and lastly, but most important, some common sailor’s sheath knives...’ Regardless of the assistance given by the Aboriginal people, this ‘reward’ was not as good as it might have been. In a letter to the Acting Colonial Secretary at the time concerning the reward, the harbourmaster George Forsyth states “It is also important that they (the Aboriginals) should be made to understand that had they saved the whole ten men, the reward would have been much greater.” It seems that an apportion of blame for the deaths of the other survivors of the Stefano was laid at the door of the helpers of Baccich and Jurich.
Associated Tribe Payungu, Jinirigudi
Contact Evidence Verified
Type of contact Helpful
Location Pt Cloates