Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Mandalay (2691)

Mandalay Beach west of Nornalup Inlet near Walpole 9 miles from Brookes Inlet between Cliffy Head and Long Point

The iron barque Mandalay was built by Russel & Company (Yard No. 28), and launched on 6 August 1880 for W. & J. Crawford. It had one deck, two tiers of beams, one bulkhead and was cemented. The vessel had a poop 9.14 m long and a forecastle of the same length. In 1883 it was purchased by Anderson, Webster & Company of Glasgow. In 1903 the barque was sold to Messrs G.C. Brovig and E. Tonnessen, of Arendal, Norway. It had departed Delagoa Bay in ballast on 3 April 1911, under the command of Captain Emile Tonnessen (also referred to as Pounessen, Ponnessen and Jonnessen in various reports). He was a part owner, and had a crew of twelve, few of whom could speak English. It was heading to Albany for orders.

Only a few days prior to its loss the agents for the vessel had contacted the Harbour Department at Fremantle, requesting that the lighthouse keepers along the coast keep a lookout for the Mandalay. If sighted it was to be signalled to proceed to Flinders Bay, where arrangements had been made for the barque to take on a full cargo of timber for Buenos Aires.

The Mandalay was only partly covered by insurance, an amount of £1 000, ‘and not nearly to the extent of her full value’ (West Australian, 29 May 1911: 5e).

About the time land was sighted on 13 May 1911 the Mandalay was hit by a heavy gale in position 35° 41 south, 112° 18 east. This quickly increased in strength until it became necessary to take in all sail. The following day the crew realised that the barque was being driven close to the shore so a small amount of sail was set on the foremast. However, it proved impossible because of the fury of the wind to set any sail on the mainmast. It also proved impossible to either tack or wear the vessel so as to steer off shore. By 1.00 p.m. on Monday the Mandalay had been driven close to Chatham Island, only clearing this ‘by a few fathoms’ (Albany Advertiser, 27 May 1911: 3f-g). It was evident that there was nothing the crew could do to save the barque, so to hopefully save the crew Captain Tonnessen decided to beach the vessel on the coast two miles north-east of Chatham Island. It took the ground about 180 m from the beach, bumping hard. This resulted in the loss of the mainmast overboard, but the hull seemed to be still intact, or at least with only minor damage.

An able seaman, Knutson, jumped overboard intending to swim a line ashore. He was immediately hit by four big seas in quick succession, the line entangled his legs and he began to drown. The only non-Norwegian aboard, an English able seaman named Frank Ward (still a teenager), jumped in and was carried to the beach by a wave. He then swam back out to the aid of Knutson, and dragged him and the line ashore. Knutson by this time was unconscious. The crew on board launched the lifeboat, and using the line between ship and shore most of the crew were dragged to the beach. The seas were still driving the Mandalay shoreward, but the weather was moderating and before night fell they were able to return to the stranded vessel, pick up the remainder of the crew, and get some food. Much of the food was lost in the waves during their endeavours. They also managed to salvage some sails and spars to make tents for shelter from the bitterly cold nights.

The Mandalay had by this time slewed broadside on to the sea with the surf breaking continually over it. One of the lifeboats lay smashed on the beach, although it was reported at the time that two more remained undamaged on board. The hold, empty except for 400 tons of sand ballast, was gradually filling with water from a hole in the forepart of the barque.

On 27 May 1911 the Norwegian Consul in Perth, R.S. Haynes, assisted by Captain Smith and Captain Olsen acting as nautical assessors, conducted an inquiry into the loss of the Mandalay. The proceedings were held in camera, a copy of the evidence being later forwarded to the relevant authorities in Norway.

The following advertisement appeared in the West Australian (30 May 1911: 2d) newspaper:
Wrecked Barque Mandalay
Tenders will be received by R.S. Haynes, Consul for Norway, for the Wreck as it now lies on the beach near Chatham Island, consisting of Hull, all Gear, Boats, Chronometer and Ship’s stores.
Tenders must be addressed to the Consul, and reach the Consulate before the 14th day of June.
Richard S. Haynes
Consul for Norway, Perth.

There is a photo taken some 12 months after the wreck of the Mandalay which shows the vessel upright on the beach. It is evident from this photograph that there had been no major salvage work carried out. The spars and rigging appear more or less intact, apart from those taken ashore together with some sails to build shelters for the survivors. These, the ship’s boats, blankets, clothing and some food were saved, along with, presumably the chronometer and captain’s navigation equipment, and the ship’s papers.

The head of the figurehead was sawn off by George Payne of Manjimup and is now in the possession of T. and E. Gerner of Deep River Farm. Frank Thompson’s daughter, Phyllis, salvaged a number of large stoneware jars from the wreck in which the family preserved butter made on their farm. The Thompson family also managed to salvage some food from the wreck, a bounty for the isolated farm where obtaining supplies entailed considerable cost, effort and time. A man named Frank Read used some of the timber from the wreck of the Mandalay to make furniture.

The wreck of the Mandalay lies just offshore approximately 300 m east of the wooden viewing platform and information plaques at Mandalay Beach.

In August 1992 a wreck inspection by Tom Vosmer and staff of the Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Museum, found that the wreck of the Mandalay lies in the surf zone, approximately parallel to the shore on an axis of 112°-292°, and about 10-15 m from the mean low water shore line. At that time it was exposed to a height of 1-1.5 m, bow pointing to the west. Some hull plating remained, particularly along the starboard (shoreward) side of the wreck, mainly in the forward section. Some frames were visible, spaced at about 52 cm intervals. The windlass was clearly visible in the bow, but the stern had collapsed. The wreck is often covered in sand.

In August 1992 a number of artefacts were collected during the wreck inspection described above. These include nails and iron bolts, two pulley sheaves, a fragment of carved wood, a Psalm book, the barrel of an 1893 Winchester rifle and some ceramic shards. There is a report in the Department of Maritime Archaeology file that the ship’s bell from the Mandalay is at “Perup” homestead, an old copper boiler at “Riverside”, a ship’s door being used as the door to a chaff shed at “Deeside” and a foghorn at the Manjimup Timber Museum.

Some years ago a fire in the historic Tinglewood Hotel destroyed a number of artefacts that had also been salvaged and were on display at the hotel.

Ship Built

Owner B.C. Brovig, Norway

Master Emile Tonnesen

Builder Russel & Co, Greenwich

Country Built UK

Port Built Greenock

Port Registered Tonsberg, Norway

When Built 1880

Ship Lost

Gouped Region South-Coast

Sinking In Ballast

Crew 13

When Lost 2691

Where Lost Mandalay Beach west of Nornalup Inlet near Walpole 9 miles from Brookes Inlet between Cliffy Head and Long Point

Latitude -35.0061666667

Longitude 116.533

Position Information Unknown

Port From Delagoa Bay, Mozambique

Port To Albany

Cargo Ballast, 400 tons sand

Ship Details

Engine N

Length 61.30

Beam 10.00

TONA 941.00

TONB 904.00

Draft 6.00

Museum Reference

Official Number 81801

Unique Number 1415

Sunk Code Wrecked and sunk

File Number 2009/0159/SG _MA-4/86

Chart Number AUS 758, 1034

Protected Protected Federal

Found Y

Inspected Y

Date Inspected 1992

Confidential NO