Monday, December 30, 2013

Wreck of the steamer Australian: Table Bay, March 1854

The South Australian Register, Adelaide, Saturday, June 3 1854.


A report was current in town yesterday that the A.U.M.S.N. Co.'s screw steamer Australian was wrecked in Table Bay, the Cape of Good Hope. This rumour, though exaggerated, was founded in fact. The Australian struck on a rock at the entrance of Table Bay, on March 30th, while entering the harbour. The intelligence of the disaster was brought to Melbourne by the schooner Caroline,which left Cape Town on the 2nd of April.

The Cape Town Mercantile Advertiser of April 1st contains the following account of the accident:

The Australian steamer arrived at the Cape from Australia on Thursday morning, the 28th March, but unfortunately went ashore on the rocks between the two lighthouses; the guns which she fired very speedily brought assistance, and her mails and passengers were very soon landed, as well as the gold which she conveyed, about 100,851 ounces. She has been lightened as much as possible, and every exertion has been made to get her off at high water, but as yet without effect; as, however, she is an iron vessel, and at present makes no water, hopes are entertained by some that she may be restored to her proper element, specially if the weather continues favourable, and the assistance of the Die [?] steamer be made available, for which purpose it is rumoured she is to come round from Symon's Bay.
The Australian had the following passengers from this colony on board:
Mr. and Mrs. Hagen, child and servant
Mr. and Mrs.Judah Moss Solomon, three children and servant
Mr. and Mrs. Marks and servant
Mr. Peak
Captain Corbett
Mr. and Mrs. Birdseye.

The following extract is from a letter from Mr. J. M. Solomon to Mr. Isaac Solomon of this city: 

"Table Bay, Cape of Good HopeApril 1st, 1854. 
A vessel is this moment going to sail, and the whole of the family must excuse my not writing, as this letter will answer for all. We are now cast on shore, the Australian being on the rocks at the entrance of this place. We entered it at 1 o'clock on Thursday morning. I was on deck, but the family all in bed. We struck on the rocks where she now lies, and will, I expect, go to pieces in the first gale of wind. I had time to get the whole of the family into the boats, and every soul got on board different vessels in the bay until day light. We were on board the Royal Shepherdess,and met with every kindness and attention. We succeeded in getting our luggage at an expense of about £25. Had it not been a calm night every soul would have been lost. We are all well, thank God,quite well, and happy at our providential escape. I expect we shall have to find our way to England the best way we can, at our own expense. We can still get on board the ship, but if the wind comes from north-west I think she must be dashed to pieces. The cause of the accident is one of the lighthouses not being lighted."

Another passenger writes as follows:
"Cape Town, 1st April, 1354. 
Dear Sir — We are in the way of ill-luck, having been shipwrecked coming into the Cape. We left immediately the ship struck, and were most kindly received on board the Royal Shepherdess till daylight, when I returned to the wreck and cleared out our cabin. The next day I got the bulk of our luggage from the hold, and yesterday all the remainder, excepting one package, which I believe is safe. M. is pretty well, although much fatigued. We had no cause of immediate alarm, excepting in the act of getting into the boats. When daylight came, we found the ship had run so close ashore that men for a lark waded in and touched her at low water. With the usual mystery observed by Capt. Gilmore, no cause for the mistake has been assigned, or rather it has not reached my ears (excepting perhaps that the lighthouse was so dim, and the lights on shore so bright that they could not be distinguished from one another ; but this I believe is only a surmise of the reasons he could give). We went ashore between two lighthouses a quarter or half-a-mile apart. They have been trying to get the ship off, but it seems hopeless. Mr. J. Snooke [a crew member?] is dead." 

Note: Grounded near the lighthouse at Green Point, the Australian was refloated after several days. Passengers, mail and the gold she was carrying were landed.

Undelivered mail recovered from the wreck of the Australian. Cover endorsed
'Per Steam Ship Australian', with Adelaide Paid date stamp. 

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