Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Sunbeam (1892/03/28)

Off Middle Osbourne Island

A steam yacht that had arrived in the North-West to take up a pearling venture under EW Streeter. On 27 March 1892, while in Admiralty Gulf, the yacht developed a leak which was not able to be repaired. The Captain endeavoured to run ashore but the ship became stuck fast on a mudbank near Osborne Island. Captain and crew took to the ship’s boats and landed at Dicky Bay where a number of pearling schooners were stationed. The Captain then decided to go to Broome in the ship’s whaleboat taking nine of the crew, to inform the owners of the loss of the Sunbeam. This was against the advice from the other pearlers. On their way to Broome, at one stage they tried to go ashore, but they were chased off by spear waving Aborigines. There are two legends about the fate of the ship, one from a European point of view, and the other from the Aboriginal perspective. The European story is that the ship was elderly and the leak arose from corrosion in the hull. The Gamberra or Miwa people have a different tale. In the pearling areas it was not uncommon for men on these ships to borrow or steal Aboriginal women. Prior to the loss of the ship, the Sunbeam crew had apparently been allowed some Aboriginal women for an agreed time which the crew ignored. The Aboriginal men were understandably angry about this and proceeded to “sing” the ship, to call upon serpent spirits to sink the ship. Thus the story of the Sunbeam has entered Aboriginal legend.

Map of Batavia

Ship Built

Owner Gilbert Sackville, Lord Cantelupe

Master Captain Read

Country Built UK

Port Built Blackwall, Middlesex

Port Registered Hull

When Built 1861

Ship Lost

Gouped Region North-West

Sinking Leak

When Lost 1892/03/28

Where Lost Off Middle Osbourne Island

Latitude -14.35

Longitude 126.025

Port From England

Port To West Australian

Ship Details

Engine Compound 18 HP

Length 28.00

Beam 4.90

TONA 72.09

TONB 48.96

Draft 3.10

Museum Reference

Official Number 44867

Unique Number 548

Sunk Code Foundered

File Number 2009/0203/SG _MA-168/76

Chart Number AUS 728

Protected Protected Federal

Found Y

Inspected Y

Date Inspected 1989/10

Confidential NO