Franklin was built in Glasgow by D. and W. Henderson and Company for the Spencer’s Gulf Steamship Company, later to amalgamate with The Adelaide Steamship Company in December 1882. Launched in August of 1880, the vessel had one deck, an awning deck, seven bulkheads and was cemented. Although the 1887-88 edition of Lloyd’s Register states the power of the engine as 162 hp, other references report it as 280 hp. The Franklin may have been re-engined at some time during its working life. In July 1893 the Franklin struck an anchor in Townsville Harbour. The anchor pierced the ship’s bottom causing it to sink, but it was later raised and repaired. The ship had been thoroughly overhauled and fitted with a new boiler at Mort’s Dock, Sydney, only about twelve months before its loss at Point Malcolm.
Under the command of Captain Thomas West with a crew of 20, including John Syvert, first mate and Robert Innes, second mate, the ship departed Albany at 10.30 pm on 15 April for Israelite Bay via various small ports. On board was 20 tons of cargo and seven passengers – Mr and Mrs A. Byrne, Mr and Mrs W. Baird and infant, Mrs Smith and Mrs Walkington. These passengers must have disembarked at Esperance, as by the time the Franklin called at Point Malcolm, the only two passengers on board were Smith and Hackett, telegraph operators on their way to Israelite Bay.
The Franklin’s draught was stated as 11 ft (3.35 m) forward and 11 ft 6 inches (3.5 m) aft. The ship was valued at £10 000, and the cargo on this voyage at £500.
At 5.00 p.m. on Friday 18 April 1902, the Franklin was heading slowly towards its normal anchorage at Point Malcolm when it lightly struck something. Although the contact was felt by those on board little notice was taken and the ship dropped anchor, 30 fathoms (55 m) of cable being let go, just as the chief engineer, Alexander Brodie, emerged from the engine room and announced that the ship was flooding. He reported that the water had put out the fire in the middle boiler, and then returned immediately to the engine room to draw the fires on the two outside boilers and open the valves so as to prevent an explosion. To do this he had to work in water up to his neck. The ship quickly sank onto a rocky bottom in 14 feet (4.27 m) of water, having filled in just ten minutes. It was initially considered that the ship would be salvageable if the weather remained fair, but it was in a dangerous position in the event of rough weather.
There were thought to be no projecting rocks in the area, and initial reports at the time indicated that the Franklin most probably struck an old anchor, possibly one abandoned by an early whaler, ‘a number of which are scattered along the coast’ (Albany Advertiser, 22 April 1902: 3g). This, it was surmised, started one or two of the hull plates. Clarrie Andrews, a crewman off the schooner Grace Darling, suggested that the anchor was one which had been lost off that vessel.
The Marine Board in Adelaide held an inquiry on 2 May 1902 into the loss of the Franklin and found that:
in approaching the anchorage at Port Malcolm, owing to the incomplete nature of the surveys, it would have been prudent to have shaped a course well outside of known dangers, and it would have been advisable if the master had taken cross-bearings when rounding Point Malcolm to more accurately ascertain his position. The board further were of the opinion that the vessel struck a rock immediately after anchoring. There was no evidence that this danger was charted or known (Advertiser, 3 May 1902: 7).
The passengers, mails and the cargo (which had been only slightly damaged) were landed.
On the morning of Sunday 20 April the owners of the Franklin, The Adelaide Steamship Company, despatched the steam tug Euro (Captain W.T. Wills) from Adelaide. On board were their marine superintendent, Captain Dingle, a diver named W.J. McArthur, a carpenter and the necessary equipment to salvage the stranded steamer. On arrival they found the Franklin to be lying on a hard, very uneven, limestone bottom, with its bow pointing north-north-west. The ship had a list to seaward with 11 feet (3.5m) of water on the port side and 14 feet (4.3 m) on the starboard. Although No. 1 hold was dry, the other three holds and the engine room had water in them to the level of the sea outside. The ship was grinding on the rocks in the swell and had buried its keel about a metre into the limestone. Two of the propeller blades had also dug into the seabed, and as the ship rocked these caused the engine to work. The diver was sent down to ascertain where the damage had occurred. This proved to be impossible due to the sea being milky from the crushed limestone caused by the working of the stranded ship, and by the fact that the bottom was buried in the rock. It was thought, however, that the leak was on the starboard side under the boiler, a position impossible to reach and repair.
The salvage team used a 10-inch pump to try and empty hold numbers 2 and 3, and also the stokehole in which was 200 tons of coal. Rising seas caused the Franklin to heel over more, and shift its position. The work became too dangerous and it was decided that the wreck should be abandoned. When the weather moderated slightly a day or so later the crew again managed to get on board. The engineers were then able to remove the steam steering gear and their salvage pump.
An Albany newspaper reported:
The fate of the steamer Franklin, which stranded off Point Malcolm on Friday, April 18, has now been sealed. A wire received from Israelite Bay, dated April 26, states: “The steamer Franklin has been abandoned as a total wreck.” (Albany Advertiser, 26 April 1902: 3a).
The Euro left to return to Adelaide on 26 April bringing back from the wreck, as well as the crew of the Franklin and the salvaged steering gear, a large quantity of ship’s stores, two lifeboats and a dinghy.
The relatively new boiler was later removed from the wreck through a hole cut in the ship’s side. This boiler was then towed to Adelaide by the steamer Ballarat, and later used in the ship Investigator.
At an auction conducted by J.H. Weidenhofer in Adelaide on 2 May 1902 the wreck of the Franklin was sold to H.W. Thompson of Adelaide for £17.10.0; the price included everything remaining on board.
The wreck of the Franklin lies about one kilometre eastward of the track down to the beach at Point Malcolm, with part of the engine visible above sea level.
The wreck of the Franklin lies 500 m offshore on a stone and weed bottom, in 5-6 m of water. A wreck inspection in January 1995 by the Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Museum, noted that part of the engine projects some 2 m above sea level. The iron structure has largely fallen apart and the wreckage lies flat on the bottom on a north-south axis. It is heavily overgrown with kelp.
Owner Adelaide S.S. Co. Ltd.
Master Thomas West
Builder D & W Henderson, Patrick, Glasgow
Country Built Scotland
Port Built Glasgow
When Built 1880
Gouped Region South-Coast
Sinking Always visible
When Lost 1902/04/19
Where Lost Point Malcolm
Position Information GPS
Port From Adelaide
Port To Fremantle
Minimum Depth of site 0.00
Length of site 55.00
Engine Two cylinder compound steam engine of 162 HP
Bearing to Bow 330.00
Official Number 79328
Unique Number 1257
Sunk Code Wrecked and sunk
File Number 2009/0121/SG _MA-53/95
Chart Number AUS 84, Adm 1059
Protected Protected Federal
Date Inspected 1995/01/12