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.
EXCAVATION AND ARTEFACTS
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
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
Gouped Region Mid-West
When Lost 1878/03/04
Where Lost Pelsaert Island
Position Information GPS
Port From Adelaide
Port To Browse Island
Cargo Store, ballast
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
Date Inspected 1992/05