HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

19 February 2016

Breakers on the Starboard Bow

Capture 1

The Bungaree was built at Jervis Bay by William Storey for George Dent, in 1866.
William Storey was one of the pioneer shipbuilders in Australia.

The cry from the lookout was to late and the ship ran hard onto Sisters Reef 20 miles south of Rottnest Island.

27nd April 1876
The Bungaree left Fremantle for Batavia
loaded with a cargo of horses, cows, and salted fish. Part of a regular voyage, she made the trip without incident.

22rd May.
She left for the return voyage
with a cargo of tea, coconuts and 32 tons of sugar. With a strong storm blowing from the northwest she made fast progress,   the sun was so obscured  the Master (Cornford)  was unable  to take any observations for three days.
He was confident in his estimation of being a little north of Rottnest Island, and a safe distance from the coast,  he thought he had ample sea room and steered a course towards land.

13th June 4 a.m.
Running under every sail, in heavy squalls,  the  first they knew of their impending fate was when the lookout cried "breakers on the starboard bow" but it was to late for the master to take any action to avoid the reef,  the Bungaree drove hard onto the reef and commenced to immediately settle down.

It was so dark the land could not be seen, and the master had no idea of his position, or how far they were from the land,

The captain and his crew remained on the vessel,  now supposed a total wreck until daylight,  then it was ascertained that the vessel had struck about 1/2 south of Sisters Reef, off Warnbro' Sound,  not far from where the "Charlmers" was lost in 1874.

13th June - 9.a.m.
All hands took to the boat,  which was twice swamped in the heavy seas running at the time,  the third attempt was more successful,  the men managing to get into the boat when a sea caught the little craft and swept her over the reef into calmer waters, and thus very narrowly escaping with their lives.

The behaviour of the Minalla men was most exemplary - they obeyed the orders of the master cheerfully and readilly,  never attempting to rush the boat.

All hands landed safely on the beach and the master proceed to Rockingham, Fremantle,  where he arrived around 7 o'clock in the evening.

wreck site 1
wreck site

Battered and broken, the Bungaree became a total loss.
Soon after she was abandoned she began to break up, so it was impossible to save the cargo.
The vessel was not insured and the loss fell heavily upon the owners, believed to be about fifteen hundred pounds.

14th June.
A boat was dispatched immediatly to the scene of the wreck  by the owners,  but the vessel had completely broken up,  leaving the beach strewn with the debris from the wreck,  nothing whatsoever was saved.

A “smart craft”
The Bungaree had previously voyaged to Batavia and was used as a coasting vessel more frequent than those made by the usual coasting vessels,  this earned her the character of being a 'smart craft;"  her master was described as a stirring inoffensive, careful and obliging man,  which earned him the good opinion of his owners,  and those who knew anything of the interest he took in his duties looked upon him as a rising man in his profession.

Marine Enquiry.
The results of the official inquiry which followed has been the suspension of the masters certificate for three months.

But this wasn’t the end of the story!

Salvagers need saving.

21st June.
A small vessel crewed by three men left Fremantle to salvage coconuts and pomelos,  cargo from the Bungaree, that had washed ashore at Becher Point in Rockingham.

23rd June
Leaving Becher Point for the return trip, the little boat ran into bad weather and anchored in the lee of Penguin Island,  During the night the vessel dragged it's anchor and was holed,  marooning them on Penguin Island 2 km from the mainland, The three men had no food and were forced to eat penguins hoping for a passing vessel to secure their rescue.


Penguin Island.

The Zebra.
25th June.
The Zebra now arrived on the scene of the wrecked Bungaree to salvage Bungaree debris that had washed ashore.

After loading the Zebra, she left for Fremantle passing Penguin Island,  two men were seen on the shore making distress signals.

The Zebra decided to sail right by and wait until they reached Fremantle to report the incident to the authorities.

26th June.
A boat was dispatched immediately and the three men were safely bought back to Fremantle.

 Example of a two masted top sail schooner.

The schooner here is shown with a main topmast sail, although others in service also had a fore topmast.
The coastal schooner was a small but mighty rig - known as the workhorse of the coastal trade. This two-masted schooner carried everything from timber and coal to general cargo

Bungaree specification.

Type - Designed around a two masted British topsail schooner.
Built  - Jervis Bay N.S.W. 1866
Tonnage - 89
Dimensions - length 84.6 ft x breadth 19.5 ft x hold 8.2ft.
Owners - Messrs, J.& W. Bateman.
Master - Cornford

The name Bungaree.
After arriving in the colony, King made four voyages between December 1817 and April 1822. The first three were in the Mermaid which had been purchased by the Royal Navy for his surveying expeditions. Among the 19-man crew were the botanist Allan Cunningham and "Bungaree", an Aboriginal man from the Broken Bay area.

Bungaree had come to prominence in 1798, when he accompanied Matthew Flinders on a coastal survey as an interpreter, guide and negotiator with local Indigenous people. He also accompanied Flinders on his circumnavigation of Australia between 1801 and 1803. Flinders noted that Bungaree was ‘a worthy and brave fellow’ who, on more than one occasion, saved the expedition. After his survey and exploration expeditions, the well traveled and respected Bungaree remained a prominent Aboriginal person in Sydney society for many years.



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