Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Carbet Castle (1897/05/14)

Bunbury, Koombanah Bay

Carbet Castle was built under Special Survey by Mounsey & Foster, being launched at Sunderland in July 1875. It had two decks, one bulkhead, a poop 15.9 m long and a forecastle with a length of 9.1 m. In 1897 the owner was J. Moralee (Jr). The barque had departed Newport, Wales, on 14 January 1897 under the command of Captain W.T. Stevens, arriving at Bunbury on 2 April 1897, and was moored to a ring on the government mooring by 15 fathoms (27.5 m) of cable and a swivel shackle. This mooring had only been recently laid in five fathoms (9.1 m), and was considered capable of holding any vessel likely to load at Bunbury. It consisted of two 4-ton anchors joined by a chain having links weighing 96 lb (43.6 kg) each.
The Carbet Castle was carrying a mixed cargo, with the major item being railway material for the Collie to Bridgetown railway. The cargo had been insured with the Commercial Union Assurance Company for about £12?000 (Inquirer, 21 May 1897: 7g), and approximately half had been discharged by 14 May when the wreck occurred.
On 14 May 1897 a gale had been blowing from the west since the previous evening. In the early morning it veered to the north-west accompanied by fierce squalls, and by 8.00 a.m. the barometer had fallen to 29.60 in (1?002.4 hPa). Captain Stevens had the port anchor let go and paid out 15 fathoms (27.5 m) of cable, which he almost immediately increased to 30 fathoms (55 m). He then ‘hauled the fore-yards round to the wind, as the Corolla was dragging towards us, to keep clear’ (The Bunbury Herald, 21 May 1897: 3a-b). At 10.15 a.m., after a terrific rain squall, the wind abruptly changed back to the west. The Carbet Castle swung in that direction, and was considered by those on shore to have weathered the gale. Suddenly, however, the vessel swung broadside to the sea as it appeared to part from the mooring. ‘The shift of wind gave the vessel a clear run of nearly two miles to the beach, and before this was reached the captain made two attempts to bring her up, but the vessel swung, tightened out the cables, and snapped them’ (Inquirer, 21 May 1897: 7g). The captain’s statement to the Court of Inquiry differs from this in that, even though he paid out more cable on his anchor, he claims the Carbet Castle dragged both the mooring buoy and his port anchor with it, and it became apparent that it was the government mooring that had parted from its ground tackle. He had no time to set sail (the sails were on the yards), and also the ship’s head was canted the wrong way to set them.
The Carbet Castle struck bottom, stern first, ‘1½ miles [2.4 km] north of Bunbury’ (West Australian, 15 May 1897: 4h), or ‘2½ miles [4 km] north of the river bar’ (Inquirer, 21 May 1897: 7g). The barque ended up close to the shore; 3 chains (60 m) in one report, and 100 yards (30 m) in the captain’s statement to the court. It lay broadside on with tremendous seas breaking over the starboard quarter only 15 minutes after the parting of the government mooring. The barque rapidly began to take in water. The captain and two of the apprentices swam ashore, taking lines along which the other crewmen were rescued. The newspaper reported that four boat loads of rescuers went to the aid of the crew of the Carbet Castle. ‘Three of those boats were engaged by Sergeant Osborne. The other, the agent’s boat, contained Mr. Thos. Hayward and Constable Vaughn with three assistants’ (The Bunbury Herald, 14 May 1897: 3b). The rescuers manned the shoreward end of the rope from the vessel. The last man off was the steward, who was exhausted and in danger of getting washed out to sea when a human chain formed by those on shore managed to get hold of him. At 2.00 p.m. the mainmast fell, breaking off close to the deck and taking part of the mizenmast with it. The Carbet Castle quickly became a total wreck.
After an inspection of the wreck of the Carbet Castle by George H. Johnston, underwriter for the Commercial Union Insurance Company, and Captain Webster, Lloyd’s surveyor, a Preliminary Court of Inquiry was held at Bunbury before William Henry Timperley, subcollector of Customs, and James Moore, J.P., with the result that:
We find that the ship Carbet Castle was driven on shore in the port of Bunbury on the morning of the 14th day of May 1897 during an exceptionally heavy squall of wind when she parted from the Government moorings and dragged her anchor and we agree there is no cause for investigation (Bunbury Herald, 21 May 1897: 3a-b).
Although the enquiry exonerated the captain and crew it did not explain why the newly laid government mooring had failed, and the Perth press later reported:
The action of the Harbour Department in not holding an enquiry into the cause of the mooring parting, with the result that the Carbet Castle was driven ashore at Bunbury recently, is much commented on in the local Press (West Australian, 2 June 1897: 5d).
On 18 May 1897 tenders were called for the salvage of that part of the cargo of the Carbet Castle still on board (some 750 tons of rails and fastenings); the cargo to be delivered and stacked on the beach close to the wreck. On the morning of 29 May an auction of sails, furniture, ship’s stores, etc. was conducted by James Moore. That afternoon an auction of the railway material was held by Messrs Courthope, Drummond & Co. The purchasers were Messrs Millar Bros, the amount paid being £1 500 (The Bunbury Herald, 1 June 1897: 3c). Mr Wheeler had the contract to bring ashore the various effects from the stranded barque. Part of the cargo, specifically some of the spirits and clothing, was reported to have been stolen from the wreck.
On 26 June 1897 the newspaper reported:
The work of taking out the railway rails from the wrecked barque Carbet Castle is now going on satisfactorily. 1 400 rails have been taken from the fore hold which is now cleared. A commencement was made yesterday getting the rails from the after hold which it is found is much easier work, that part of the wreck being more free from sand or kelp. Capt. Stevens is confident he will have all the rails out of the wreck in five weeks (Bunbury Herald, 26 June 1897: 3c).
A bench seat and light from the Carbet Castle are at King Cottage Museum in Bunbury, and the bell hangs at the Cathedral Grammar School. The ship’s clock was donated to the Western Australian Museum in the estate of Lillian Jane Shaw. Her father, John Shaw, had been presented with the clock by Captain Stevens soon after the wreck. A number of items of furniture from the vessel are held in private hands in the Bunbury area, including, at one time, a staircase and piano at the Parade Hotel. Some of the soft-wood deck of the Carbet Castle was used by Engelbert ‘Joe’ Springman to construct the floor of the kitchen in his house at Turkey Point. A copper loud hailer from the vessel was donated to the Western Australian Museum by Rod Dickson.
Both Theo Hall and Roy Dedman remember that as boys they could swim around the wreck of the Carbet Castle. As sand gradually built up they could wade out to the wreck, later walk to it, then around it. This gives a vivid picture of how the shoreline extended seawards with the result that the wreck became shore-bound through natural silting, so that it now lies about 500 m from the water’s edge under five metres of sand.

Bell hangs at the Bunbury Church of England Grammer School


Ship Built

Owner J. Moralee junior

Master Captain William Turnbull Stevens

Country Built UK

Port Built Sunderland

Port Registered Liverpool

When Built 1875

Ship Lost

Gouped Region South-West-Coast

Sinking Parted moorings

When Lost 1897/05/14

Where Lost Bunbury, Koombanah Bay

Latitude -33.313053

Longitude 115.664136

Position Information Position from DoLA aerial 04/03/31

Port From Newport Wales

Port To Bunbury

Cargo Railway Iron/ Goods

Ship Details

Engine N

Length 75.80

Beam 11.60

TONA 1531.00

TONB 1657.00

Draft 7.00

Museum Reference

Official Number 70970

Unique Number 1136

Sunk Code Wrecked above water

File Number 2009/0083/SG _MA-21/87

Chart Number PWD 50976

Protected Protected State

Found Y

Inspected Y

Date Inspected NA

Confidential NO