Walpole, Nornalup Inlet
The steam tug Escort was built by R. & H. Green of Blackwall, on the River Thames, UK, with one deck, a round stern and an engine by I. Stewart & Sons, also of Blackwall. The machinery space is stated as 21.21 tons, a large percentage of the gross tonnage, but to be expected in a tug. In 1888 it was owned by the Orient Steam Navigation Company and based at Diego Garcia. Originally registered as No. 1011/1884 in London, the tug was bought by the joint owners Alex Armstrong, senior and junior, and George Waters, all of Albany. It was registered at Fremantle in 1901 (No. 1/1901).
The Escort had departed Albany at 5.30 pm on 13 August 1903 with a cargo of supplies for settlers at Walpole (Marshall, 2001). Another reference states that it was carrying rails from Albany for Flinders Bay (McKenna, 1967). There were eight men on board, including Alex Armstrong, Clem Douglas, W. Nelson and A. Robeson. The tug, sometimes referred to as a launch, was not insured.
On 15 August the Escort had arrived outside Nornalup Inlet when it was struck by heavy weather. It anchored with two anchors down in continuous rain and heavy squalls near the mouth of the inlet, and during the night two hour watches were maintained by the crew. At midnight the conditions worsened. The ship’s log reads:
Saturday August 16 – At 1 a.m. blowing south east gale, heavy rain squalls, parted port chain. Stood by engines and put man to wheel. At 3 a.m. the starboard chain parted, and took to dodging seas between Rocky point and the reefs, with seas getting heavier and squalls harder. At 10 a.m. wind and sea worse; concluded to put the ship on the beach to save the lives of the crew. 11 a.m. grounded on a sandy bottom, drew fires and opened everything to let her fill. Launch filled standing perfectly upright on even keel. Got on shore with all hands, clothes, sails and stores. Launch made fast with two head lines to the rocks. Made tent with sails and camped the night (quoted in MA 12/92).
Two of the crew, Douglas and Robeson, went for help, leaving the wreck on Monday 18 August and arriving at Denmark at 6.00 pm on the Wednesday after an arduous walk through the bush.
By Tuesday 19 August when the Escort had not returned to Albany as expected, the steam tug The Bruce departed that port to search the coast for the missing vessel. It arrived at Nornalup the following evening. Leaving four of the crew on the wreck The Bruce took two, Armstrong and Nelson, to Albany to collect the necessary equipment to refloat the Escort. However, it was not refloated, but it is apparent that the wreck was stripped.
The wreck lies in Nornalup inlet some 100 m from the bar, on the eastern edge of the inlet. It lies close to rocks, with the steam dome of the boiler visible. Large swells are occasionally met with at this site.
In 1992 a wreck inspection by Dr M. McCarthy of the Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Museum, noted that the wreck of the Escort lies parallel to the shore, bows pointing southwards, in 2-2.5 m of water on a sandy bottom close to some rocks. The bow and mid-section are canted to port and the forecastle has collapsed, although the deck beams are visible. The most prominent features of the site are the engine and boiler near the middle of the hull. The engine appears to have been torn from its mounting and lies to port and aft of the boiler, whose dome breaks the surface in the swells. The stern has collapsed to starboard, and there is no propeller. Terry Swarbrick, a long-time resident of the district, stated in 1991 that the wreck had undergone very little change over the previous 60 years.
Owner Thos Skinner (Also: Orient Steam Nav. Co. Ltd.)
Builder R. & H. Green of Blackwall, County of Middlesex
Country Built UK
Port Built Blackwall, Middlesex
Port Registered Fremantle
When Built 1884
Gouped Region South-Coast
When Lost 1903/10/18
Where Lost Walpole, Nornalup Inlet
Position Information Aerial GIS
Port From Albany
Engine 2-cylinder compound steam engine of 20 HP
Official Number 89597
Unique Number 195
Registration Number 1/1901 16/1/1901
Sunk Code Wrecked above water
File Number 2009/0111/SG _MA-12/92
Chart Number AUS 758
Protected Protected Federal
Date Inspected 1991/07