Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Arpenteur (1849/11/07)

Cheynes Beach, Hassell Beach

Arpenteur was a brig owned by William Owen and John Ridley, having been purchased in December 1847 at Port Louis, Mauritius. It had a square stern, a billet head and no galleries, and was registered at Adelaide in 1848 (No. 10/1848). It was carrying eagerly awaited mail from England which had been collected at Singapore and was to be offloaded at Fremantle. However, bad weather resulted in the brig having to bypass that port, and it headed for Albany intending to offload the mail there. On 28 September 1849 the Arpenteur tried to enter Albany harbour against a violent gale. However the bobstay broke and the vessel was driven back out to sea, well off the coast. It therefore continued on to Adelaide, arriving on 9 October. The brig was under the command of Captain John Raines with a crew of nine.

The Arpenteur subsequently left Adelaide for Cape Riche with a cargo of eight tons of flour, some sugar, tea and sundry other items. It anchored off Hassell Beach in Cheyne Bay, finally offloaded the mail and began to take on whale oil from the shore whaling station. Six tuns of oil had been loaded when, on 7 November 1849, what was described as a ‘fearful gale’ (Perth Gazette, 23 November 1849: 2b) from the north-east drove it ashore and the Arpenteur became a total wreck. All the crew were saved, but ‘only one or two articles of the cargo had been saved, and Mr Owen appears to be uncertain whether either that or the vessel was insured’ (ibid.).

There is no record of an official inquiry being held, but a newspaper reported that on 11 November 1849 surveyors had left Albany for Cheyne Bay to make a preliminary examination of the wreck of the Arpenteur. It was ‘considered advisable to sell everything for the benefit of all parties concerned’ (Perth Gazette, 23 November 1849: 2b).

The wreck of the Arpenteur was sold for £11, and ‘the flour part of her cargo, somewhat damaged, realised £5 a ton’ (Perth Gazette, 14 December 1849: 2c). The purchaser of the wreck was Mr Thomas, and his purchase included a tun of oil.

The wreck of the Arpenteur lies about 100 metres off shore at the west end of Hassel Beach in Cheyne Bay. The Arpenteur and the brigantine Wave (see entry) were of a very similar size and construction, and with similar cargoes from the same port. They were wrecked in the same area within 16 months of each other, which has made positive identification of the wreck difficult.

The wreck of the Arpenteur was inspected in late 1972 by Graeme Henderson, Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Museum, and lies in about 3 m of water on a flat sandy bottom. There are several frames and about 4.6 m of planking, all in good condition, showing above the sand. The planking bears traces of having been coppered. Some rounded stone ballast is also present on the site.

There have been some artefacts recovered from the wreck of the Arpenteur. These include the lead draught numerals, 5, 6 and 7, yellow metal sheathing tacks, copper fastenings, iron spikes, treenails and some samples of wood taken from timbers dragged ashore by Charles Westerberg.


Ship Built

Owner William Owen, John Ridley

Master Captain John Raines

Country Built Mauritius

Port Built Seychelles

Port Registered Adelaide

When Built 1839

Ship Lost

Gouped Region South-Coast

Sinking Blown ashore in north-east gale, cargo partly salvaged

When Lost 1849/11/07

Where Lost Cheynes Beach, Hassell Beach

Latitude -34.869779

Longitude 118.40373

Position Information Aerial GIS

Port From Adelaide, Cape Riche

Port To Mauritius

Cargo 6 tuns oil, 8 tons flour, tea, sugar, sundries

Minimum Depth of site 3.00

Ship Details

Length 22.00

Beam 5.50

TONA 95.00

Draft 3.20

Museum Reference

Unique Number 1558

Sunk Code Wrecked and sunk

File Number 2009/0071/SG _MA-357/77

Chart Number BA 1034, 2619

Protected Protected Federal

Found Y

Inspected Y

Date Inspected 1975/05

Confidential NO