Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Marten (1878/03/04)

Pelsaert Island

Marten was built as a two-masted schooner at Yarra Bank, Melbourne. The port of registry was changed from Melbourne to Fremantle in 1874 when George Wilson Robinson, master mariner of Fremantle, bought it from Robert Kennedy. Robinson sold it to John Henry Monger and John Watson on 21 July 1876, and Monger sold his half share to Watson on 1 August 1876. The vessel’s registry was transferred to the port of Adelaide on 21 October 1876, after purchase by the Browse Island Guano Company, an Adelaide based firm.
The Marten departed Fremantle on 2 March 1878 under the command of Captain Dewar, with a crew of five, en route to Darwin. The schooner was to be used by the owners as a dispatch vessel between Darwin and their guano works at Browse Island.
The Marten struck the reef on the east coast of Pelsaert Island on the Houtman Abrolhos on the night of 4 March 1878 at about 11 p.m. After landing on the island three of the crew were left in charge of the wreck while the master and the other two rowed the ship’s boat to Geraldton to seek help, arriving on 13 March. When they returned it was to find the schooner’s starboard bilge badly holed, the keel and false keel gone and the rudder broken.
At the court of inquiry the master claimed the Marten did not sail well and that, after seeing the breakers ahead, they had tried to tack the schooner but had missed stays. The court found that the loss was due to the adverse currents common in the vicinity of these islands.
Some of the stores were taken ashore by the survivors but there is no record of the Marten being salvaged. Its position within the line of breakers would have made this very difficult. The wreck was still visible in 1879 when John Forrest records seeing it during his survey of that part of the Abrolhos.
The site of the wreck of the Marten is the same as that for the Ben Ledi, wrecked the following year. The site is about 7 km north of Wreck Point on the east side of Pelsaert Island in the Houtman Abrolhos.
The wreckage from the much larger Ben Ledi hides any possible remaining material from the Marten.
A few objects recovered from Pelsaert Island by archaeologists from the WA Maritime Museum may be associated with the wreck of the Marten. A small mast step, some sheathing metal and a curved timber, possibly part of a vessel’s frame, have been found.
This site has never been found. It is treated as a composite with Ben Ledi


Ship Built

Owner Browse Island Guano Company of Adelaide

Master Captain Alexander Dewar

Builder Robert Kennedy

Country Built VIC

Port Built Yarra

Port Registered Fremantle

When Built 1871

Ship Lost

Gouped Region Mid-West

Crew 6

When Lost 1878/03/04

Where Lost Pelsaert Island

Latitude -28.93687

Longitude 113.969225

Position Information GPS

Port From Adelaide

Port To Browse Island

Cargo Store, ballast

Ship Details

Engine N

Length 15.40

Beam 4.70

TONA 27.53

TONB 26.92

Draft 1.70

Museum Reference

Official Number 64770

Unique Number 1418

Sunk Code Wrecked and sunk

File Number 2009/0076/SG _MA-16/80

Chart Number AUS 332

Protected Protected Federal

Found Y

Inspected Y

Date Inspected 1992/05

Confidential NO