Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Sarah Burnyeat (1894/12/28)

Princess Royal Harbour

Sarah Burnyeat (1862-1894)

Official Number: 44221
Port of Building: Southwick, UK
Year built: 1862
Port of Registration: Whitehaven, UK
Rig Type: Brig
Hull: Composite
Length: 104.0 ft (31.7 m)
Breadth: 25.0 ft (7.6 m)
Depth: 16.1 ft (4.9 m)
Tonnage: 317 gross, 272 net, 264.92 underdeck (1869) before refit/
276.93 gross, 276.93 net, 264.92 underdeck (1879) after refit
Date lost: 29 December 1894
Location: Princess Royal Harbour, Albany
Chart Number: WA 1083, AUS 109, AUS 118 & BA 2619
GPS position: Lat. 35º 01.99392’ S
Long. 117º 52.60062’ E
Protection: Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976
Significance criteria: 4 & 6

The Sarah Burnyeat was built under Special Survey as a barque by Hardie in Southwick, County Durham, UK, in 1862. The vessel had one deck, a square stern, iron frames, wood planking, and was copper fastened and sheathed with felt under yellow metal. It had a raised quarterdeck 8.23 m long and a three-quarter figurehead of a woman. In 1873 it was registered at London (No. 87/1873).

On 3 October 1879 the Sarah Burnyeat had loaded a cargo of jarrah piles from the WA Timber Company at Lockeville, near the Wonnerup Inlet, for delivery to Capetown, South Africa. A strong gale drove it onto the beach where it was condemned as a wreck. The wreck of the Sarah Burnyeat was sold and, despite what must have been extensive damage, the barque was refloated. In early 1880 it was towed to Garden Island by the coastal steamer Rob Roy, arriving there on 4 January 1880. There it underwent extensive repairs during which the rig was altered to that of a brig. After the refit, although the length, breadth and depth remained essentially as originally built, the tonnage was considerably reduced. This may have resulted from the removal of the raised quarterdeck. It was then re-registered at Fremantle (No. 2 of 1881) on 6 September 1881 under the joint ownership of James Lilly of Fremantle and John Marshall of Melbourne, and sailed for Adelaide the following month.

The Sarah Burnyeat arrived in Albany in early May 1882 with a cargo of coal from Newcastle, NSW. In June 1883 Lilly and Marshall sold the brig to The Adelaide Steamship Company, who, in 1886, converted it to a coal hulk to be stationed in Albany.

The engines and steam gear used for lifting baskets of coal had just undergone an overhaul prior to the loss of the Sarah Burnyeat.

On 28 December 1894 the Sarah Burnyeat was tied alongside the hulk Zephyr, and had been coaling a French mail steamer. There was some 150 tonnes of coal on board the Sarah Burnyeat when, at about 9.00 p.m., a flare which had been used to illuminate the work fell on to the deck. The resulting fire was thought to have been put out, but this may not have been so as early the next morning the hulk again caught fire. Captain Clare, agent for the owners, went with two men to the scene in the tug Escort and succeeded in getting on board the burning hulk. It was impossible, however, to save it so the hulk was towed with some difficulty to a position opposite the Residency, and there beached. The problem during the tow was caused by the fire burning through the tow ropes on several occasions. The Sarah Burnyeat continued to burn all that day until only the bottom of the hull remained. The Adelaide Steamship Company was estimated to have suffered a loss of £1 000, as the vessel not covered by insurance.

The Zephyr had also caught fire, but fortunately this was extinguished by the local pilot, Captain Butcher, and his crew. It had been quickly moved away from the other burning vessel.

The wreck of the Sarah Burnyeat lies in shallow water 500 m off shore from the Residency. Parts of the wreck are visible at low water. The site is marked on current charts as a submerged wreck.

Lying on a gently sloping sandy bottom in only 2-3 m of water, the wreck of the Sarah Burnyeat is 30.2 m long and 6.2 m wide amidships. The wreck lies on a north-east/south-west alignment with the bow pointing towards the shore. It is canted to port, and the lower part of the starboard side of the hull projects about a metre above the sea bed. The port side only projects 20-30 cm above the sand. There are very few timbers visible, apart from some of the floors. A substantial mound of coal has a number of items protruding through it including the lower part of some of the masts, some stanchions and a few timber pieces. A number of iron frames and copper alloy fastenings are visible as well as some of the copper alloy sheathing. As might be expected from the remains of a vessel stripped down to a hulk, there are few non-structural items to be seen.

In April 1992 a wreck inspection of the Sarah Burnyeat was carried out by Dr Michael McCarthy of the Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Museum.

The wreck of the Sarah Burnyeat is one of the best preserved and most easily accessible mid-19th century composite hulls in existence in Western Australia. It is relatively stable, being held in that state by the coal, iron frames and marine growth.

Remains of the Sarah Burnyeat may be seen south of the Residency at times of low tide in Princess Royal Harbour, making it one of the best known and easily accessible shipwrecks in the area.

Cairns, L. & Henderson, G., 1995, Unfinished Voyages: Western Australian Shipwrecks 1881-1900. University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands.

Gainsford, M. & Souter, C., 2005, Albany Wreck Inspection, Terrestrial Inspections and Perth Conservation studies, 2005. Report – Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Museum, No. 206.

Garden, D.S. 1978, Southern Haven: The Port of Albany. Albany Port Authority, Albany.

McCarthy, M., 1992, Wreck Inspection Report: Sarah Burnyeat, Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Museum, No. 96.

McKenna, R., 1959, Vessels Registered with the British Register of Ships at the Port of Fremantle, WA. Unpublished manuscript, McKenna Collection, Western Australian Museum.

West Australian, 5 May 1882: 3b & 2 January 1895: 5c.

Western Australian Museum, Department of Maritime Archaeology, File No. 7/92 – Sarah Burnyeat (Residency Coal Hulk) & 193/79 – Coal hulks - Albany.

Worsley, P. & J. & Totty, D., 2008, A Windswept Coast: Western Australia’s Maritime Heritage Between the Moore River and the Zuytdorp Cliffs. Western Australian Museum, Fremantle.

Co-ordinates 2' off
Altered to brig

Sarah Burnyeat (1862-1895)
The Sarah Burnyeat was a two-masted composite-built brig, with iron frames, carvel-built wooden hull, and felt and yellow metal sheathing. It was built in 1862 in Southwick, UK. It was used as a coal hulk in Albany between 1882 and 1894, when it was destroyed by fire. The Sarah Burnyeat had been moored alongside another hulk the Zephyr when it was discovered to be fiercely ablaze at 4.50 a.m. It was decided to cut the Sarah Burnyeat free and beach it opposite the Residency (presently the WA Museum Albany), where it burnt to the waterline. The wreck is still visible above the seabed in shallow water and has remains of its cargo of coal and ballast trapped in the hull.


Ship Built

Owner Adelaide Steamship Company

Builder Hairdie

Country Built UK

Port Built Southwick, Durham

Port Registered Fremantle

When Built 1862

Ship Lost

Gouped Region South-Coast

Sinking Fire

When Lost 1894/12/28

Where Lost Princess Royal Harbour

Latitude -35.033232

Longitude 117.876677

Position Information GPS 2005

Cargo Coal

Ship Details

Engine N

Length 31.70

Beam 7.60

TONA 277.00

TONB 264.00

Draft 4.90

Museum Reference

Official Number 44221

Unique Number 461

Sunk Code Burnt

File Number 2009/0187/SG _MA-7/92

Chart Number AUS 109

Protected Protected State

Found Y

Inspected Y

Date Inspected 1991/07

Confidential NO