Hamelin Bay 150 metres offshore in vicinity of the Hamelin Bay boat ramp
Katinka was built under Special Survey by Macfadyen & Co. at Glasgow to Lloyd’s Special Survey A1 standard, and launched in August 1874 as the ship Ardenconnel, Official No. 67947. It had a raised quarterdeck 11 m long, one bulkhead and was cemented. The owner of the Ardenconnel in 1879 was J. Brymner & Co., and it was registered at Greenock. The vessel was converted to barque rig at some time between 1879 and 1893. By the early 1890s, the barque now known as Katinka was owned by J.D. Ahlers, and registered at Elsfleth. In 1900 the owner was C. Fesenfeldt, but the registration was still held at Elsfleth.
The Katinka had arrived from Reunion Island in late May, and had loaded a cargo of timber destined for South Africa from Maurice Coleman Davies’ mill. This cargo was insured with the Commercial Union Assurance Company. However three of the crew of fourteen deserted, and only one man having been caught, the master, W. Köhler, was obliged to go overland to Bunbury to find replacements for the two still missing. When he returned to Hamelin Bay he decided to remain ashore that night, intending to go on board the following morning. Also in the port loading timber were the barques Lövspring and Nor’wester.
One of the most severe storms to hit the South-West occurred in July 1900. This storm occasioned much damage and caused the loss of three vessels and the stranding of a fourth in Hamelin Bay. There were two phases to the storm—the first phase with winds from the north-north-west on 22 July, and a second phase when winds swung round to the south-west the following day. The Katinka survived the first phase but was blown from its mooring during the second phase.
During the night when the storm struck, the captain being ashore, the mate, Elimar Menke, decided that it was too dangerous to lie alongside the jetty, so he took the Katinka to one of the moorings laid down by the timber company. He also set one of the vessel’s own anchors. Captain Köhler arrived at the jetty early the next morning, but it was too rough for him to be able to get aboard. During the day the wind and seas increased, and about 8.00 p.m. the wind was blowing at 85 knots (157 km per hour) as registered by the lighthouse keeper at Cape Leeuwin. He also recorded a barometric pressure of 28.86 inches (977.3 hPa).
Under these conditions the main anchor cable parted. The first mate and crew went to the forecastle in an attempt to secure another anchor to the cable, but before this could be achieved a wave broke over the barque, the crew taking to the rigging to save themselves. Able seaman Martin Augustsen was not quick enough and was swept overboard. The mate then ordered all hands to the stern, but only some made it there where they clung to the mizen mast rigging. The force of the wind was such that the Katinka dragged the timber company’s mooring, consisting of three anchors each over 2 tons in weight and over 200 fathoms (366 m) of chain cable, more than half a mile. ‘Nautical men will understand the force of weather necessary to do this’ (West Australian, 30 July 1900: 4i).
About midnight the first mate thought that the Katinka was breaking amidships, and advised those men with him on the mizen mast to jump and attempt to swim for the shore. Two men reached the shore but four, including the mate, drowned. One of those who reached the beach later died in Fremantle Hospital from internal injuries.
With the rest of the crew clinging to the foremast the vessel drifted northwards, where it struck about 450 m from shore. These men clung to the rigging until they were rescued the following morning by the Hamelin Bay harbour-master, John Delfs. He, with a crew consisting of L.C. Peterson, Carl Carlson, S. Neilson (all Scandinavians) and a local man, Frank Johnston, took one of the lifeboats from the Lövspring, and after anchoring upwind of the wrecked Katinka, floated a lifebuoy down on a line. They managed to pull the seven men one at a time to the boat.
The rescue was attended with great difficulty and danger, because the boat had to be inside the outer breakers, and it was hard work to keep her from broaching to (West Australian, 30 July 1900: 4i).
Because of the severity of the wind it took the rescue crew some three hours to pull the one mile (1.85 km) back to the safety of the jetty.
There appears to have been no inquiry into the loss of the Katinka (most probably because it was foreign owned). Inquests into the deaths of Elimar Menke (first mate, of Oldenburg), Martin Augustsen (able seaman, of Sweden), Max Herrmann (able seaman, of Essen) and George Hamann (sail maker, of Hamburg), were held at the Police Station at Hamelin. The acting coroner was M.C. Davies, the foreman was Gaven Forrest McGregor, and the court was assisted by John Cunningham and James Donovan (Jr). The findings for Menke, Herrmann and Hamann were identical:
That the deceased came to his death by drowning through the stranding of the barque Katinka, and that no blame was attachable to anyone (West Australian, 9 August 1900: 5b).
The finding regarding Augustsen differed:
That the deceased came to his death through the stranding of the barque Katinka, whether from falling spars or drowning there is not sufficient evidence to show, and that no blame is attachable to anyone (ibid.).
There appears to have been no inquest held on Otto Neufeldt, the 14-year-old apprentice who was on his first voyage, possibly because his body was never recovered.
Lloyd’s surveyor, Captain Webster, arrived at Hamelin Bay from Fremantle on 26 July. The wreck of the Katinka was sold for £2 10s 0d at a public auction on 4 August 1900.
The bow section of the wreck of the Katinka lies 150 m from the beach, about 1.2 km northwards of the base of the Hamelin Jetty.
The bow section of the Katinka, 17.6 m long, lies in 5.5 m of water, standing almost upright and lying on a north–south axis, parallel with the shore and with the iron bowsprit pointing south. A hole in the stem indicates where the vessel first struck. To seaward of this is a large windlass, while a small anchor lies inshore of the wreck. The stern section lies along the general axis of the wreck but with a slight twist towards the shoreline and is buried deeper in the sand bottom, although parts of it project up to 1.5 m above the sand. The midships section is almost completely covered with sand. It may be deduced from the Western Australian Museum Wreck Inspection Report, that although the vessel had broken its back the two sections still lie close together, indicating that they did not part as inferred by contemporary news reports.
EXCAVATION AND ARTEFACTS
During the initial museum wreck inspection a grindstone and a heavy iron pulley with a wooden sheave were recovered.
Owner J. Ahlers
Master M. Köhler
Builder Macfodyan & Co
Country Built Scotland
Port Built Glasgow
Port Registered Elsfleth Germany
When Built 1874
Gouped Region South-West-Coast
Sinking Gale, cable parted
When Lost 1900/07/22
Where Lost Hamelin Bay 150 metres offshore in vicinity of the Hamelin Bay boat ramp
Position Information GPS DoLA Aerial 2004/3/31
Port From Hamelin Bay
Port To South Africa
Unique Number 1308
Sunk Code Wrecked and sunk
File Number 2009/0139/SG _MA-12/80
Chart Number BA 1472F
Protected Protected Federal
Date Inspected 1997/12