Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Cumberland (1830/03/04)

Augusta Cape Hamelin Minn’s Ledge

The ship Cumberland was built of teak, iron fastened with iron knees, and had been sheathed with copper. It had two decks, and carried a proofed chain anchor cable as well as two coir rope cables. The vessel’s loaded draught was 17 ft (5.18 m). It was owned by Steel, Lamden and Company, and, under the command of Anthony Steel, had delivered a cargo of 16??000 bushels of wheat from Bombay to Sydney, stopping at Fremantle en route. The ship, under charter to T.G. Pitman, then took on a cargo of coal and some cattle at Newcastle, departing that port on 2 February 1830. Also on board was a printing press for delivery to Fremantle. Captain Steel had a crew of 49, including some Lascars, and two passengers on board.
At sunset on 4 March 1830 the western extremity of Cape Leeuwin bore north-west, the eastern extremity bearing north-north-west. After rounding that cape the Cumberland started heading north too soon and, doing eight or nine knots in calm seas, struck a reef at 8.30 p.m. less than a mile from the shore. No indication had been seen of the danger, which left the ship stranded on a hard rocky bottom with 4.6 m of water at the bow and 5.5 m under its stern. The boats were hoisted out, and cargo and other items were thrown overboard in an attempt to lighten the ship. Within half an hour there were 19 inches (48 cm) of water in the pump well, and at 10.00 p.m. the pounding drove the rudder upwards, seriously damaging the stern timbers and the poop and cabin decks. An hour later the leak had increased, and the water in the hold covered the cargo of coal.
At 3.00 a.m. the following morning an attempt was made by Captain Steel to reach shore in the ship’s cutter. This proved impossible due to the heavy surf, so the boat returned to the ship. At daylight an examination around the vessel found that it was ‘lying on a rock about three times her own size with deep water all around, at the same time the leak had increased, and the water was above the lower deck beams’ (Bombay Gazette, 19 June 1830). A decision was made to abandon the Cumberland, and the crew left the ship at 5.00 a.m. Under Captain Steel and the chief officer the cutter and the ship’s longboat, with 29 of the crew and one passenger (Mr Wilson), made for Fremantle, arriving two days later. The other two boats from the ship, with 19 crewmen and the other passenger (Mr Shelley) landed near Cape Naturaliste. They then made their way to Port Leschanault where they were subsequently picked up by Captain Stirling in a government vessel, most probably the schooner Eagle, which was in Geographe Bay at that time. Three crewmen died of exhaustion before this group was rescued.
The passenger Wilson and some of the Lascar crew travelled onwards to Singapore aboard the Parmelia, and Captain Steel returned to Bombay aboard the Egyptian.
There appears to be no record of an inquiry into the loss of the Cumberland. However the comments regarding the northerly setting current in this vicinity (see entry Hokitika) may also explain why the Cumberland was wrecked soon after rounding Cape Leeuwin.
The cutter and longboat were sold at auction, while the schooner Eagle was sent with the deputy harbour-master on board in the hope of salvaging anything of value. Only a binnacle and some buckets were recovered, the wreck of the Cumberland having completely broken up.
There are two sites for the wreck of the Cumberland. The main site is on the reef where it struck, being one nautical mile offshore from Deepdene Beach, about 7 miles north-west of Cape Leeuwin. The secondary site, discovered in 1969, is at the southern end of Deepdene Beach where a large section of the hull (about 20 m long) lies in shallow water, having broken free and been washed to within 30 m of the shore.
There is little sand to protect artefacts at the primary site, and the swell would have quickly broken up and dispersed any timbers. However four anchors, two cannon, lead scuppers, at least ten grindstones, a stove, rudder pintles and gudgeons and various bronze fittings indicate clearly where the Cumberland struck. The site is subject to considerable surge even when the swell is quite low.
Western Australian Museum expeditions to the Cumberland site led by Scott Sledge in 1983 and 1984 resulted in the recovery of many artefacts, including teak timber, rudder gudgeons, a sounding lead marked XXXI (being a 31 lb (14.1 kg) lead), many grindstones, blocks, pottery and glassware of the 1830s. The pottery includes pieces of a dinner set made by Spode called the ‘Indian Sporting Series’ depicting hunting scenes, in this particular case ‘Death of the Bear’. Two stones proved to be dripstones, a form of water filter carved from sandstone. Those recovered from the Cumberland wreck were made by convicts on Norfolk Island. Also recovered was an 18-pound cannon minus its trunnions and with the AVOC mark of the Amsterdam Chamber of the United Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostinische Compagnie), which had probably been used as ballast. Some of these items are on display at the Augusta Historical Museum.


Ship Built

Owner Steel, Lamden and Company

Master Captain Anthony Steel

Country Built India

Port Built Cochin

Port Registered Bombay

When Built 1827

Ship Lost

Gouped Region South-West-Coast

Crew 50

When Lost 1830/03/04

Where Lost Augusta Cape Hamelin Minn’s Ledge

Latitude -34.2966833333

Longitude 115.0403333333

Position Information GPS McCarthy Dec 1997 WGS84

Port From Newcastle

Port To Bombay

Cargo Coal and cattle

Ship Details

Engine N

TONA 444.00

Draft 5.20

Museum Reference

Unique Number 76

Sunk Code Wrecked and sunk

File Number 2009/0098/SG _MA-413/71

Chart Number AUS 756, 413

Protected Protected Federal

Found Y

Inspected Y

Date Inspected 1997/12

Confidential NO