RETURN

WRECK OF THE BRIG MARIA

by Miff Crommelin

- A composite chronology taken mainly from the recollections of:
Thomas Ingham, William T. Forster, George W. Crommelin,
Capt. John Moresby, Lieut. John T. Gowlland

(survivors of the tragedy, and masters of the rescue vessels)

   

January 1872

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February 1872

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March 1872

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When Cyclone Yasi came crashing across the north Queensland coast of Australia at midnight on February 3, 2011, it reminded me of another storm that struck the exact same region in February, 1872. I wasn't there, mind you, to feel the fury of either storm, but I was acquainted with an account written by George Whiting Crommelin (1845-1905) about his harrowing experiences aboard the ill-fated brig Maria.

Cyclone Yasi bears down on Cardwell, Queensland on February 3, 2011, scene of another storm that nearly caused
the death of George Whiting Crommelin aboard the ill-fated brig "Maria" in 1872.

George was amongst a group of 80 adventurous young men who planned to sail to Papua, New Guinea in order to establish a colony there and to exploit that island's reputed riches in gold and timber which were yet untapped. Lucrative trade with the local natives, Australia and China was envisioned and the lure to 'get rich quick' was irresistible. Each member having paid 10 pounds to join the venture, the men formed the New Guinea Prospecting Expedition (NGPE) which purchased a tired old vessel, the Maria for 700 pounds to get them to their destination which was the Fly River in Papua.

This is their story...

Synopsis: ABC [Australia Broadcasting Corp.] on the brig Maria

Ships have been wrecked for all manner of reasons. Around Australia's coastline there are skeletal examples of incompetence, bad weather, worse charts, and plain bad luck.

Yet while there are no records of sea sickness causing a ship to founder, the wreck of the brig Maria could be reasonably attributed to another illness: Gold Fever.

As Cairns based historian Grant Luckman points out, few novelists could have imagined a plot so bold as the plan of the New Guinea Gold Prospecting Expedition of 1871 - 72.

Since the California rushes only twenty years earlier, the western Pacific port of Sydney had been flooded with prospectors. Some struck it big in Ballarat, Bendigo and other the lesser known gold fields of New South Wales and Victoria.

By late 1871, at least in its own eyes, Sydney was the premiere city of the South Pacific. Melbourne might argue and Noumea could well point out that a French outpost deserved the French adjective. Nonetheless, a number of Sydney's leading citizens dreamed of a pacific Commonwealth for Australia. Not merely a federation of the colonies, this group was inspired by missionary zeal and early Portuguese tales of gold in the islands.

This heady political brew, mixed well with the experience of the Australian gold fields formed the context for the New Guinea Prospecting Expedition.

They were short of capital so they chartered the brig Maria. The small ship had worked the California coast and the sugar trade from Sydney to Mauritius. Since she'd been launched the old vessel had also been relegated to hauling coal along the New South Wales coast. She needed new rigging and sails and had only three lifeboats for more than 80 men.

Maria was going cheap. She was also going to pieces.

While the NGPE was short on capital, they were long on bright ideas to overlook their problems. Prospectors who'd never stepped aboard a ship were manifested as crew. Under legislation sufficient life boat places had only to be provided for passengers!

The expedition committee could not find a reputable skipper to command the tub Maria. An itinerant German mate was promoted to captain the day before they sailed.

And sail they did, into the headwinds of the monsoon season and the high risk of a cyclone.


November, 1871
Mr. Thomas Ingham said: In November, 1871, I was a young man of 24, in business as a chemist, in Sydney, occupying a shop at the corner of Elizabeth and Park Streets, where Dixon's Tobacco Factory now stands. About this time lectures upon New Guinea were being delivered in the Temperance Hall, Pitt Street. The Rev. Dr. Lang was one of the lecturers. He pointed out the wonderful resources of New Guinea, and stated that there was an abundance of ebony, sandal-wood, and other timbers, which would be extremely valuable if placed on the market. The Rev. W. B. Clarke, the renowned geologist, spoke at these lectures of the probability of New Guinea being rich in gold. He said that the four great goldbearing lodes of Australia undoubtedly dipped at Torres Straits, and in all probability would be found to reappear in New Guinea. He mentioned the Valley of Lagoons, and the rich auriferous deposits which were said to be there, and thought that the further north the reefs went the richer they would prove to be. A missionary from the Fly River stated that the cooking pots used by the Papuans showed traces of gold, and repeated several stories told by the natives with regard to the ease with which gold could be won. These lectures naturally inflamed the young and adventurous with a desire to visit the wonderful new country, and a meeting was called at Prince's Hotel at the corner of Pitt and King Streets, for the purpose of forming an association to prospect the country. The result was the New Guinea Prospecting Association, with a membership of 70. Each member contributed 10 to the common fund. A master mariner named Gillespie, was secured as skipper, and the Maria was purchased for 700, of which 300 was in cash, and the balance payable on the return from New Guinea.

December 1, 1871
On December 1st 1871, at Punches Circular Quay hotel, around 150 enthusiastic men gathered to hear the sales pitch from the likes of Lawrence Hargrave (father of Australian aviation) Robert Phillips and William Campbell. There would be room for 80 investor prospectors to sail with the expedition to Redscar Bay in New Guinea. Many of the prospectors knew quite a lot about gold mining. They knew little or nothing about ships, sailing, meteorology, or the Great Barrier Reef. The New Guinea Prospecting Expedition members would learn the hard way. The organising committee could raise no significant interest from the New South Wales government or the private sector.

January, 1872
There was a good deal of difficulty in getting things into order. Everything had to be hurried at the last, for the members of the association were not wealthy, and most of them had put everything they had into the association,, and could not afford to wait idly in Sydney. The Customs refused to allow so many passengers to go on the Maria. This was arranged by several members signing on as ordinary seamen at a shilling a month. At the last moment Captain Gillespie said that he was ill, and refused to go. This difficulty was met by giving the Captain 10 to hand over the ship to the Chief Officer, Mr. Stratman, and we left Port Jackson on Thursday, 25th January, 1872. The passengers included all sorts and conditions of men. Mr. W. T. Forster was a son of the Honorable William Forster, then Agent-General for New South Wales. Mr. L. Hargrave was a son of Mr. Justice Hargrave, Mr. Peter Haydon was a squatter's son from Murrurundi, Mr. S. G. Pegus was afterwards Gold Warden on the Palmer, and was stationed for many years at Maytown.

The Government was very distrustful of the Association, as we were all armed, and had plenty of ammunition. It afterwards came out that we were regarded as a filibustering expedition, and Captain Moresby was instructed to keep a sharp watch over us. The brig was so leaky that she had to be pumped out once a day from the start. Our destination was the Fly River in New Guinea which had then been recently explored.


A book by Peter Maiden recounting the "Maria" saga.
[Note: There is a discrepancy between the route taken by Boat 3 as suggested by Crommelin, and the route given in Peter Maiden's book. See PostScript at bottom.]

Mr. George W. Crommelin said:- I stayed in Sydney some time till we organized the trip. We bought a brig, the Maria from Manning & Co. I cannot remember the Captain's name, but he was a German. The object of the voyage was to engage in trade with New Guinea. Some of the Sydney merchants were interested in the expedition. Although we all had to ship as able seaman, all hands also had an interest in the expedition. Some of the crew were Forster, son of the Agent-General of NSW (same as Barton is now), Dalgleish, Tanner - a correspondent for "Punch" - Watson, Wilson, Jack Parnell, Coleman, Hayden, Coyle, Lawrence Hargrave and Zimmerman. All these were gentlemen's sons, but I cannot remember all their names. Others were Pegus and Hyman.


Lawrence Hargrave

Hargrave was a great mechanic - a big powerful man over six feet tall; Forster was red-haired, a strong, thickset fellow; Dalgleish was tall, thin, and athletic; Tanner was a tall, dark and delicate-looking man, quite unfit for a trip like this - he had never seen bush life or roughed it before. Parnell was reddish, tall, athletic and very gentlemanly; Hayden, dark big and tall - the real type of an Australian squatter; while Coyle, also tall and dark, was a great horseman. Hyman was a little Jew, and Zimmerman, an oldish man with grey hair, was also a Jew. There were a lot more young fellows of all classes, some of them very rough. There were two Sullivan brothers. The two classes on board having no commander, and all being young fellows, great disputes arose over everything in general - meals, etc. There were a great many disagreements and stand-up fights which had to be stopped by the majority.


Enlarge - "Who's Who?"
Passengers on the 'Maria'. The ship was wrecked on Bramble Reef in 1872.
The last survivor, Dr. Tate, died in 1934.
George Whiting Crommelin, likely pictured in lower right,
standing in front of the long-bearded chap who is probably Peter Haydon
- a man whose long beard intrigued the black aborigines.
Picture source

January 15, 1872 - Monday
H.M.S. Basilisk, Captain John Moresby, a man-o'-war steamship of 1031 tons, 400 horse-power, with five guns, and manned by 178 officers and men, left Sydney under orders to proceed to Cape York with horses and stores for that settlement, and to spend three months in the cruise.

January 22 - Monday
H.M.S. Basilisk arrives at Brisbane.

January 25 - Thursday
Mr. W.T. Forster said:- On the evening of the 25th of January, 1872, at seven p.m., the brig Maria left Port Jackson [in Sydney harbor]. The Maria was an American-built brig of 167 tons register, and had probably been a clipper in her day; but being at the time more than twenty years of age, and having been employed during her latter years for the carriage of coals between Sydney and Newcastle, it would, perhaps, have been difficult to find a more unseaworthy old tub anywhere in the Southern waters. She was bought by the New Guinea Association, chiefly because she was the best available vessel that could be obtained, considering the limited means of the company; and also on account of the majority of the members becoming impatient at the numerous delays that had occurred, and being anxious to get away on any terms, many of them having come from considerable distances, and, consequently, having been put to great expense.

The New Guinea Prospecting Association was a company of seventy persons, formed for the purpose of making a settlement in the island of Papua, and there prospecting for gold, which, according to report, was plentiful. It was also intended to make some profit out of the adventure by trading with the natives, and laying in a cargo of the usual articles of South Sea Island traffic. Some of the company also expressed their intention of permanently settling in New Guinea and establishing a regular trade with the Australian Colonies, and, perhaps, also with China. The island, it is reported, abounds in all the usual productions common to the islands of the Pacific, and being of very great extent, this latter plan appeared a feasible one supposing it possible to make a settlement in spite of the climate, and, most probably, hostile natives. Though, no doubt, the auri sacra fames was the chief inducement to the majority. There were many to whom this was an entirely secondary consideration being attracted solely by a love of adventure and the field which was offered by so large and entirely unexplored region for scientific investigations.

Some delay had been occasioned by the Customs office objecting to clear the Maria on account of the number of passengers on board, and, after this difficulty had been overcome, we were further delayed by the sudden defection of the captain. In the end we were obliged to sail without him, taking our chief officer, Mr. Stratman, as captain. With a few exceptions, the passengers appeared satisfied with this arrangement, although entirely ignorant of the qualifications of the new captain.

Under these circumstances, on the evening of the 25th of January, 1872, we hoisted the signal for a steam-tug, and the Goolwa taking us in tow, we started down the harbour with a light south-west breeze. When just outside the heads, the Goolwa, on board of which were a few friends of some of the passengers, left us, and, after hearty cheering from both vessels, we bid adieu to Sidney harbour. Then with all our canvas spread we started for New Guinea. The breeze was, unfortunately, very light. We made little more than three knots, keeping well to the eastward in order to gain a good offing.


Sydney Harbour, 1870

January 28 - Sunday
Having taken on board the horses and stores for Cape York at Brisbane, and filled up with coal, the Basilisk left Moreton Bay, Brisbane for Cape York. This vessel took the route inside the Great Barrier Reef, steaming between the Queensland coast and the reef. This route is shorter and more sheltered.

February 1 - Thursday
On or about the 1st of February, having sighted the southbound steamer City of Brisbane, then on her way to Sydney, we on the Maria signalled her, and sent a boat on board with letters. This allowed the Purser, Ashley Goble to write home:

In consequence of light and generally unfavourable winds, the 'Maria' has not been able to make rapid progress; hitherto in every other respect, affairs are going satisfactorily.
We were at this time off the Solitary Islands, and were much in the same position three days afterwards having been becalmed most of the time with a strong current setting to the southward.

February 4 - Sunday
The weather continued favourable for two or three days, when we on the Maria encountered baffling winds from the north and north-east which lasted, varied occasionally by a dead calm, until about the 4th of February. By this time the passengers for the most part had overcome their sea-sickness, and had become thoroughly accustomed to their new mode of life. The fare, though plain and, perhaps, rather rough, was wholesome, consisting chiefly of salt beef, biscuit and potatoes, with fresh preserved meat and "duff" twice, and rice, pork, and pea-soup once a week. This ought to have been good enough to satisfy anyone, but, of course, as might naturally be expected among so large a number of men, there were a few who grumbled at everything. The men in the 'tween decks, sixty-six in number, were divided into messes of twelve in each, except mess No. 6, in which there were fewer. The occupants of the cabin were five in number, consisting of the captain, Mr. Stratman; chief officer, Mr. Sonnichsen; second officer, Mr. Andrews; Dr. Tate, and the storekeeper, Mr. Goble. The four sailors paid by the Association slept in the forecastle. Thus it will be seen that the total number on board of the Maria amounted to seventy-five men, perhaps rather too many for a vessel of her size, but there were three large hatchways, the ventilation was very good, and, so long as fine weather lasted, there was nothing to complain of. About this time a southerly breeze sprung up, and freshened to half a gale, which lasted two days, and then gradually moderated. We made a very good run while the wind was strong, averaging about eight or nine knots.


The 'Basilisk' stops to assist the last survivors aboard the derelict 'Peri'

February 5 - Monday
While steaming through dead calm waters, the masthead-man on the Basilisk spots a "Sail right ahead!", an unusual event along this part of the coast. From its slovenly look it appeared to be an abandoned vessel, when all at once three wild-looking creatures, Solomon Islanders, rose up in the stern. The vessel was boarded by two boatloads of armed sailors and gently disarmed the wretches who were in the last stages of starvation. They were living skeletons, wasted to the bone. They were given food and water while six others who were already dead were given a respectful burial at sea.

This derelict was the Peri, a kidnappers vessel manned by 3 white men and a Fijian crew that two months previously was used to transport eighty kidnapped Solomon Islanders to various Fiji Islands where they would be forced to work as pearl divers. On getting insufficient food during their journey, the islanders clamoured for more, upon which some extra rice was issued. But one of the white men, angered by the clamour for food, heartlessly threw the rice overboard as the natives were cooking it. The maddened slaves rose at once and duly threw the white man overboard in retribution. The other two whites and the Fijiian crew were next to be thrown overboard, leaving the Peri without anyone capable of sailing her. Left to themselves, the islanders drifted helplessly and starving before the south-east trade wind for about five weeks, accomplishing a distance of nearly 1800 miles, through a sea infested with coral reefs and islands. Miraculously they traversed the Great Barrier Reef to the place where the Basilisk found them. Thirteen were still alive out of the eighty natives who had sailed from Rewa, Fiji. These survivors were taken 30 miles north to Cardwell which was then, except for Cape York, the most northerly point of civilization in Queensland. The Basilisk's stay at Cardwell could not be prolonged, so the Peri was left in charge of Mr. Sabben, navigating midshipman, and four men. They were to await the return of the Basilisk on its return from Cape York. The islanders, meanwhile, were taken into the care of police magistrate Brinsley Sheridan where, in due time, they recovered their health and strength.

The Basilisk then travelled eighty miles north of Cardwell to Fitzroy Island, located 3 miles from the mainland. Here they spent several days cutting down timber to augment their coal supply, replenish their water tanks, shoot some birds and to catch some fish with their nets.

February 9 - Friday
The Basilisk now properly replenished proceeded on towards Cape York, anchoring each night to avoid the dangerous reefs which lay in their course.

February 12 - Monday
Meanwhile the Maria was sailing in the Coral Sea outside the Great Barrier Reef. From February 4 we had southerly weather until the twelfth or thirteenth when we were somewhere about 14 south latitude. We experienced some little annoyances during the first part of the southerly wind as the weather was squally with occasionally a good deal of rain. And since our decks were not the tightest in the world, we found it sometimes a little moist below. But it was some consolation to us that we could get plenty of water without the trouble of going for it since it was only necessary to spread a waterproof coat in some of the berths and a few gallons could be obtained in a very short time. Some, however, might have objected to drinking it, on account of the decks being covered with tar and the quantity of coal-dust collected in the seams. When the weather cleared there was ample employment for everyone in drying clothes and cleaning fire-arms, most of which had a thick coating of rust over them. The vessel had much the appearance of an old clothing shop for a day or two after the rain since every available rope was hung with clothes of all kinds and with bedding and blankets of every conceivable colour. There seems to be a scarcity of sea-birds on this coast. We saw but two or three species during the voyage. After the wind had moderated, we had very enjoyable weather for about a week, the breeze preventing our feeling the heat which might otherwise have been disagreeable as we were now well within the tropics.

The pleasantest time of the day, however, was after we had finished tea when a select party of us would gather on the after-hatch and, there reclining, would bide our time with conversation and, from time-to-time, with a song from those whom nature had endowed with agreeable voices. At other times I would play on my flute airs reminding me of home and friends, with great pleasure to myself but, since I was only a beginner, to the doubtful amusement of others. Alas! many of those with whom I spent such pleasant hours hours never to be forgotten, are now no more. The waves of the Pacific roll above them or their whitening bones lie on an inhospitable shore. They little thought, when they left their homes so full of bright hopes, that they were leaving them never to return; that they were leaving a vacant place at their firesides never to be refilled; that the sorrowing friends they left behind them would see them no more till the sea gives up her dead. May God comfort them!

February 13 - Tuesday
On the 13th of February, the Southerly breezes that had so long accompanied us came to an end, for on the afternoon of that day the wind had shifted round to the north-west, and we were again doomed to have a week of adverse weather and contrary winds. Indeed this may be consided as the commencement of our misfortunes for, had the fair winds continued, in another day or two we should have been in sight of the praised land - on the shores of New Guinea. It was very disheartening, no doubt, having so nearly reached the end of our journey, that we should meet with such unfavourable weather, but perhaps it was for the best. Perhaps some of us who have been saved from the wreck might have fallen victim to the miasmatic influences of a tropical climate or to the hostility of the savage races inhabiting the island to which we were bound. As this evening advanced, the breeze freshened; our course was about N.N.E. and we scudded along carrying all sail at the rate of six knots. The wind during the night increased slowly, and towards morning the sea rose, and the sky was covered with dark clouds.

February 14 - Wednesday
About eight a.m. one of the sailors who had been at some work on the main top gallant yard, came down and reported it quite rotten, and said that he could push his knife into it up to the handle. He advised the mate to take the sail in but this was not done. About a week previous to this, another of the sailors had said the yard was unsafe. Nevertheless nothing had been done about it. Not many minutes after this, away went the yard, parting right in the centre. The captain rushed out of the cabin on hearing the noise and, "All hands aloft to get in the sail!" was the cry. This was safely managed after some trouble, and the broken pieces of the yard lowered. This was our first casualty but, unfortunately, not the last. It was, however, a most fortunate thing that it happened wnen there was no one aloft, otherwise it would most probably have resulted in the loss of one or more lives.

According to the Captain, we reached Torres Straits on 14th February, and some of the passengers declared they could see the island [of New Guinea] at the mouth of the Fly. But just about that time the Maria was struck by a north-west monsoon. One of the yards snapped off like a carrot, and fell on the deck among a lot of men, some of whom had narrow escapes. The pumps had to be kept going, for the deck timbers opened as the vessel strained with the rolling and pitching. The weather got worse instead of moderating. - Ingham

The wind continued to freshen during the day, and at eleven p.m., or thereabouts, our fore main shroud was carried away. Towards evening, as it was blowing almost a gale and the sea was rising very fast, the captain took in sail, and we staggered along under close-reefed top-sails and fore-topmast staysail. Shortly before twelve o'clock that night we were startled by a crash and, coming from under the shelter of the after-hatch, I beheld through the darkness a mass of broken planks amidships on the port side. It appeared that a heavy sea had struck her on the weather side and staved in about eight or nine feet of the bulwarks. There was very little damage done but in the darkness of the night and amid the howling of the wind and sea, it looked much worse than it really was. We at once set to work to clear away the broken pieces and stow them below, but no attempts were made to repair the damage till next morning, with the exception of fixing the rail in its place. The captain soon after this put the vessel before the wind and ran during the remainder of the night.

February 15 - Thursday
The morning of the fifteenth broke, but there were no signs of the gale abating. However, owing to the quantity of rain, the sea, though very high, was not as rough as it would otherwise have been. The day was spent chiefly in repairing the broken gangway, securing the boats more effectually, and mending and strengthening the rigging which was in a frightfully rotten state, many of the shrouds having parted some of their strands, and pieces of the dead eyes having broken away in various places.

I may as well mention here that Coyle and I [W.T. Forster], though both landsmen, had taken sailors' duty from within a few days after we left Sydney, both for the sake of something to do, and also with a view to learning something about the management and working of a ship. Therefore at the time this gale commenced we had learnt enough to be occasionally of some little use.

February 16 - Friday
On February 16th the Basilisk reached its destination of Cape York and anchored off the settlement of Somerset. There were only six white settlers here now - the Government police magistrate and his boat's crew. The other fifteen or twenty men resident here were native troopers or pearl-shell divers. Most of the wooden houses were falling into decay from the ravages of the white ant: termites. Their orders permitted them ten days' stay at Somerset, of which three only would be needed in refitting and taking aboard some coal that lay on the beach.
Meanwhile aboard the Maria, Friday the 16th was spent in endeavouring to repair and strengthen the rigging, etc., as well as the weather would permit. Wondrous to relate, we had some coils of new rope on board, notwithstanding our general bad outfit. If I remember rightly, we were hove-to during the greater part of the day, and from this time we were alternately running and laying-to during the remainder of the gale according to the captain's judgment as to which was the best under the circumstances. The weather continued much the same, and as night closed in, it was indeed gloomy. The rain pouring in torrents during the greater part of the time; the sea running mountains high; the wind roaring through the rigging; and the night dark as Erebus.


A Portent of Disaster

A curious incident occurred on the Maria before she was wrecked. During the time she was being driven south by the monsoon, a dancing light was seen on the mast. The sailors called it a 'ghost-light', and said it portended some disaster. It was seen for several nights. But every person could not see it. I, for instance, could not. Three of my mates pointed it out to me again and again. One said, "If you cannot see that light you must be blind!" When we were on shore after the raft was beached, Forster brought the matter up, and it was found that all who had seen the ghost-light including my three mates, were drowned, while none of those who were saved saw the mysterious light. I offer no explanation. I only state what occurred.
- Thomas Ingham

The old sailors predicted a disastrous voyage and that something dreadful would happen because we all saw the "death's head" on the mast head. It appeared like a huge grey cloud with a bright light behind it, with the "death's head" distinct. It remained for hours. None of us had ever seen such a thing before. We saw this at night and after a time we heard a noise of roaring wind. It struck the vessel, tearing away two of the masts short off and dashing the man from the wheel. It was as much as he could do to save himself from being washed off the deck. The wheel was carried away and smashed to pieces, and the cook's galley was washed clean away. We were left to the mercy of the waves.
- George Crommelin

[The concensus was that only those who would later die in the wreck were able to see the 'ghost light' on the masthead during the onset of the monsoon. However, George Crommelin evidently saw the 'death's head' clearly but managed to survive the ordeal.]

February 17 - Saturday
At about one a.m. a heavy sea again struck the old brig, and this time the damage was of a more serious nature as the tiller was carried away from the rudder-head, and with it the wheel and gear. Fortunate it was, we were hove-to, or in all probability the decks would have been swept fore and aft and nothing more would have been heard of the Maria and her crew. The carpenters, assisted by Hargrave, at once set to work to repair our disaster. By fixing blocks and tackle to the rudder, the vessel was kept on the wind, while they were employed in getting the remains of the old tiller out, and adjusting a new one. This was done by means of one of the handles of the windlass being fixed in the rudderhead as a tiller, to which a rope and blocks were fastened. This served the purpose tolerably well but made the steering so much more difficult that two hands had to be kept at the 'wheel', or rather the 'steering apparatus!'

Daylight of the 17th dawned on a very dreary-looking scene. The sea was as high as ever; dark murky clouds being driven across the sky by the never-ceasing wind; the vessel rolling tremendously, hove-to under the lee clew of the maintopsail; and the bulwarks on the port side presenting much the appearance of a piece of wicker-work as boards were carried away here and there along the whole side. Down below the scene was perhaps still more miserable: main-deck, tables, berths, and everything in and under them, simply deluged with water; stools upset, water-kegs rolling about, and the passengers lying about in every imaginable position, on the floor, and under and on the tables, most of them soaked to the skin, trying to get a little sleep. In fact, there were only two or three dry berths in the ship, with the exception of those in the forecastle, two of which last, Coyle and I, being in the port watch, were lucky enough to occupy when the starboard watch turned out.

Several of the passengers by this time had had enough of the gale and the Maria and a number of them formed a deputation to the captain, requesting him to run for the nearest port when they would leave the vessel, and give up all share in the expedition. The captain submitted the question to the members and after some deliberation it was decided to run for Moreton Bay (Brisbane). There were other reasons also for making some port, which were that the Maria, after so much bad weather, required repairs which could not well be managed at sea. Besides, more materials were necessary, such as ropes, timber, etc.

On February 17th, some of the passengers wished to get ashore at some place. The Captain said he was going to make the lee of the New Hebrides. Then he was going to make the Solomon Islands and later on New Caledonia. Moreton Bay was next given out as the intended destination, and it was evident that the skipper was at sea in more senses than one. - Thomas Ingham

[While the ship was in the Coral Sea and only a day or two away from its New Guinea destination, the decision was made to head back south and west toward Moreton Bay (Brisbane). By sailing around the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef they could avoid having to traverse it.]

February 18 - Sunday
During the whole of the day and night the gale still blew, but on Sunday morning, the fifth day, the gale appeared to abate, though very slightly. So the captain set the foresail, and tried to sail on the wind. However, before very long, the sail split right up to the yard. On this occasion, two men being at the helm, and the rest of the sailors otherwise employed, the first mate, Hargrave, Solomon (assistant cook), Arkley (sailor), and I went up and took it in. This was the only time I had been aloft in rough weather, as I considered I would only be in the way when there were sailors to do it.

Towards evening the wind had again increased, and was blowing as strongly as ever. We continued to run with the wind about a point on the starboard quarter, most of the time having our fore-topmast staysail set, but sometimes running under bare poles. The sea was very high but the old Maria proved that she still had some weatherly qualities, for had she not behaved wonderfully well - in fact, far better than was expected of her - she must inevitably have been swamped. During this time the lee rail was frequently under water, and our port side was becoming more like a 'basket' than ever, and a great many pieces of the rail had come away on the starboard side.

February 20 - Tuesday
At about four o'clock on Tuesday morning, when Wright (one of the sailors) and myself were at the helm, the assistant storekeeper ran aft with the cry that the tanks had all got loose. This was a very startling announcement because if such were the case, then they would very soon knock a hole in the vessel. However, I did not believe it, knowing that he was a man who was very easily alarmed, and it proved on examination that two of the tanks had shifted slightly but otherwise there was no very immediate danger. Soon after this it was reported that the vessel had sprung a leak and was sinking, and when Sanderson and Coyle came to relieve the wheel, for which I was not sorry, I found that they were baling the water up in buckets, and passing them up the after hatch, the pumps being hard at work in the meantime. Before very long the water was got under control and from this time the wind began gradually to moderate, and to veer round to the southward.


Edward Stanford's Map of 1861
While Capt. Stratman of the "Maria" was heading south and west,
having to traverse the Great Barrier Reef on its way toward Cleveland Bay,
Capt. Moresby on the "Basilisk" was heading south to Cardwell [near Hinchinbrook Island]
having delivered supplies to a tiny outpost at Cape York seen at the very top of this map.
Click to enlarge.

[This wind shift forced them to sail more directly west and hence, across the Great Barrier Reef.]

As the wind shifted, so were we obliged to alter our course again, as we had no choice but to run before it, and thus the captain decided to make for Cleveland Bay which was the nearest port we could steer for under the circumstances. About seven o'clock a glass of grog was served out to all hands, and soon after this orders were given to get the large whaleboat on board, as the weight of the boat on the davits was gradually breaking away the rail on the port side. The first mate got up, and began to undo some of the lashings. Meanwhile Wright was leisurely walking towards the place when the captain sharply ordered him to get up in the boat at once and help the mate - something which Wright refused to do, saying it was not safe. The captain again ordered him to go, using rather strong language, and after some time he complied. With some difficulty the boat was safely got in and housed on deck after which the captain called Wright to account for his conduct. Wright replied that he considered his life worth as much as any other man's, and saw no reason why he should endanger it, and added that he always did his duty when he could, and that he did not require to be bounced into it. In response the captain struck him in the face whereupon they then grappled with one another and a fierce struggle ensued. I was standing close beside them at the time, so caught hold of them, and endeavoured to part them. After some little time they mutually let go their hold. Wright then told the captain that he would not hit him that he had a better remedy than that, but that he should not forget it, saying, also, that it would be useless for the captain to fight him, as he could hammer a dozen like him, at the same time shaking his fist in his face. The captain immediately rushed to the rail and seized a heavy belaying pin whereupon Wright drew his knife, and a deadly contest seemed imminent. Fortunately, there were several people between them, and they were both persuaded to retire. The captain, however, on reaching his cabin sent for the sailor and had him put in irons. This excited a great deal of indignation amongst the passengers, and a great number went aft to demand his release, which, after some words, the captain consented to do. Had he not complied with this request, it is not unlikely that something approaching a mutiny would have been the result as the men looked very much inclined to take the law into their own hands. Furthermore, there is no doubt that the captain was in the wrong.

The wind continued to moderate, and the sea gradually went down, to our great relief, as we were able to make things a little more comfortable below. On this, and the following day or two, the Maria again had the appearance of an old clothes shop with laundry hanging everywhere. Very few had a dry stitch, either on their backs or off them. There were one or two only who had watertight boxes, and who were, consequently, comparatively well off. My own box, fortunately, had very little water in it, and my ammunition had escaped the general soaking.

February 21 - Wednesday
On the 21st, I took my firearms on deck, to clean them; my rifle was in a frightful state of rust outside, but the inside was tolerably free from it. My other arms were not much better. Cleaning the rifle alone occupied me the whole day, so its condition may be better imagined than described. We were now able again to have our meals comfortably, without the danger of having soup, tea, etc., upset all over the deck, or, perhaps, into one's lap. In fact, we were frequently on very short rations during the gale, as, owing to the brig rolling so much, the boilers would hold little more than half their usual quantity.

February 22 - Thursday
The crew were employed during the fine weather in repairing damages generally, and in mending a spare mainsail, as the one we had been using required a little repair. At a little after two p.m., on the 22nd, we sighted rocks on the port bow at a distance of several miles. A few minutes later there was a cry of " Breakers right ahead!" and "Hard up helm!" was the word. Our course at this time was about west and, when the reefs were sighted, we stood away to the northwest, leaving the rocks to the southward. The captain said that this reef was marked on the chart as doubtful, which seems rather extraordinary, as it is of very large extent while some of the rocks very high. He also stated that its position was wrongly laid down on the chart, or, otherwise, that his chronometer was wrong.

February 25 - Sunday
Nothing of any importance occurred during the following two days, but in the middle watch on Saturday night, or, rather, on the morning of Sunday, the 25th, just as Coyle and I had made ourselves comfortable in the cook's galley, we were again startled by the cry of "Breakers ahead!" We rushed out and went aft. Sanderson at once went to the helm, to help Wright, as it was no easy matter to move it, and Coyle and I began to brail in the trysail. In this we were assisted by the hands at the pumps, and the ship was quickly got away before the wind, again leaving the reefs to the southward. This was the commencement of the Barrier Reef. About two hours afterwards, breakers were again sighted ahead, and we again stood away to the northward. Some hours elapsed before any more breakers were seen, but during the remainder of the day we saw little else but white water, sighting reef after reef in quick succession, so that I should imagine that, by the evening, the ears of everyone on board must have been thoroughly accustomed to the cry of "Breakers ahead!"

A little before sunset we came in sight of land to the westward. I went aloft and joined Davis (one of our watch) on the foretop-gallant yard to have a look at it. As far as the eye could see, lines of breakers were visible on either side while immediately ahead of us appeared to be clear water. After nightfall the captain, instead of anchoring according to the usual custom when in such a dangerous neighbourhood, continued sailing, first on one tack, then on the other. Meanwhile a good look-out was kept, and reefs were reported from time to time.

On 25th February, the weather abated. The Great Barrier Reef could be seen, and the Captain said he thought he could make Cleveland Bay, as he knew several passages through the reef. - Thomas Ingham

February 26 - Monday
Nothing could be done. No man could stand a moment on deck before it came daylight. The storm had been raging since the day before and at near daylight it abated a little. We were all cold and wet, hungry and miserable. We could not get at anything then for we could not open the hatchway. All we had was some biscuits. Just about this time the ship struck heavily on the Bramble Reef and then it was every man for himself. - Crommelin
[Crommelin's recollection may be faulty here. Since his narrative was written many years after the tragedy, he evidently 'telescoped' the events of the past few days together. Similarly, owing to tbe loss of his diary, W.T. Forster was obliged to give a cursory and imperfect account of the voyage up to the thirteenth of February but had the use of some notes from that date made by Mr. Coyle which he had fortunately preserved.]

You have heard how we struck. I was at the pumps with eleven others at the time, most of the others being below. - Thomas Ingham

At a quarter past three on the morning of the 26th, we were awakened by a horrible grating sound, followed by a shock, and a few minutes afterwards by another. We got out of our berths, Wright calling out at the same time, "There she is at last, boys, hard and fast!" We went up and found every one else on deck. Coyle, as he afterwards told me, went aft and saw the captain, who was making preparations for leaving the vessel, and asked him our distance from land. The captain told him fifteen miles, and thought, with the help of good rafts, every one would bo saved. Some little time after this, when leaving the vessel, the captain asked Coyle to come with him. Coyle then came below to me where I was busy collecting some of our valuables, and putting them in a bag. He asked me if I would come in a boat since one was then about to leave the vessel. I answered that I did not intend going in any boat, upon which he said that he would not either. I did not know at this time that the captain was leaving, but when I came on deck I saw the boat, our largest whaleboat, about a hundred yards away. It was too dark at the time to see who was in her, but I was told it was the captain and a crew who had gone to bring assistance.

The Captain asked for six good oarsmen to go to Cleveland Bay, which he said was a few miles off for assistance. He and six men then got into the best boat, and set off for the mainland. Presently Mr. Sonnichsen, the mate, came on deck, and said, "Where is the Captain?" When told, he said, "Cleveland Bay, be hanged! He has deserted us!" He rushed down to his cabin and came back armed with a rifle, with which he opened fire on the disappearing boat, but it was too far off to be in any danger. - Thomas Ingham

We had three boats which luckily were not washed away. When daylight came we saw land at a great distance. The Captain with six men deserted the vessel in the main boat [BOAT 1] before we knew where we were. He called out that they were going to get assistance! Some of us wished to get guns to bring them back, but it was no good and we never saw anything more of them. - Crommelin

I went below again and put on a coat and waistcoat, filling the pockets with various small articles such as fishing lines, knives, etc. Then collecting my arms, I brought them and the bag, which was filled with all the most valuable and useful things belonging to Coyle and myself, on deck. On going below again I found Dr. Goble and Dr. Tate getting the stores on deck, so I gave them a hand. Meanwhile those on deck were commencing to make rafts, but, unfortunately, they required someone who was able to give proper directions. The first mate, who ought to have superintended the work, was worse than useless, as he became almost mad through fear or excitement, and rushed about the decks shouting orders, it is true, but in a voice so hoarse that they were perfectly unintelligible. The remainder of the men, with a few exceptions, behaved remarkably well, comporting themselves in an orderly manner, and only waiting to be told what to do. Indeed, for the most part they were as cool and collected as if nothing whatever had happened. A few of us, among whom were Coyle, Hargrave, and Crommelin, stole a few moments to satisfy the inner man, and adjourning to the roof of the cabin, set to work on some preserved meat and biscuits. Everybody could get as much as they wanted to eat, as all the provisions were on deck. There were also some cases of brandy opened, and a glass served out to any one who wanted it. One or two only drank too much.

While these minor events were taking place, the boats had been got out and lowered. Some provisions were put into them and a hand or two left in charge. Several others, however, among whom I noticed Dr. Tate, got into the boats soon after, but were peremptorily ordered out by one of the sailors. Goble also came forward with the chronometer and charts saying that the mate had told him to get into the boat with them, but the sailor told him he could put them in if he liked, but he should not go into it himself.

During this time the construction of the first raft had been proceeded with; the trysail boom and gaff had been got down, and these, with the broken pieces of the maintop-gallant yard, were put over the side, and lashed to the body of the raft, which was already in the water. This raft was composed of the two main deck ladders, and some parts of the hatches and galley. There was a great deal of rope used in the construction of it, but as there were landsmen employed, as well as the sailors, in lashing the parts together, the knots made by the former would not be likely to hold very well. This to a great extent, no doubt, will account for what happened afterwards. The other raft, though smaller, was much more compact. There were no spars in it, but in place of them, some large planks were nailed firmly together. Of these the framework was composed, and across them were placed parts of the hatches and other boards. The whole was then securely lashed together. The bulwarks were knocked out for the purpose of launching the rafts. The larger one had on it eleven persons, among whom was Coyle, who asked me to come. This I promised to do but said I would not leave the vessel till she went down as there would then be plenty of time to embark. Both rafts, the smaller one also being full, were then passed astern and made fast with a hawser.

We had then to consider what was best to be done to save our lives. There were two boats remaining, but they had been knocked about in the storm, and were leaking. They were hoisted out and some men got into them. As there was not room for all in the boats, the two rafts were constructed. For the first one, two booms were obtained, and two companion ladders fastened to the booms, cross-wise. Then hardwood planks were placed across, and a raft about 10 feet square and 3 feet in depth was completed. Some parts were fixed with nails and others with ropes. When ready, it was pushed overboard and made fast to the wreck.

The second raft was then built of lighter material, such as forms, timber from the bunks, and anything of pine. This raft was about 8 feet square and 3 feet deep. Just as the second raft was finished, the tide began to rise and the day to break. The light revealed a heartrending sight. The vessel, stuck fast, and the water rose higher and higher. Some of the poor fellows were praying, some weeping, some were drinking. The boats were adrift, four men in one, two in the other. The rafts were alongside, but some distance away. - Thomas Ingham

"To our legs and the deck... Three quarters of an hour passed when she began to break up astern and the water rushed in. No steps were taken to secure life. I asked the captain what he meant to do if he would adopt proper measures to secure as much life as possible, and stick to the wreck. He replied that 'he would stick to the last', but I had not been engaged more than 30 minutes when I was informed that the captain had left the ship with six men, taking the best boat we possessed, saying that he was going to procure assistance. This boat would have held 25 men. The two remaining boats were then lowered, and I placed a small quantity of provisions with water in each; dropped them astern ready to use and mounted guard on the taffrail with a revolver in my pocket to prevent any similar mishap occurring. Many begged me to let them into the boats, but the majority of the men behaved nobly and there were individual instances of courage and magnanimity which I shall never forget." Mr. Goble said he then loaded as many as he could on the boats with the intention of staying on the wreck with the second mate, however a strong wind pushed one boat, with only two men on board, away from the sinking ship before it could be fully loaded. He got in the other boat and chased the smaller one, caught it and helped the two men row back to the wreck. As they approached it, the Maria sank. "There was no outcry, only a slight wail from those who were suddenly submerged," reported Mr. Goble. The second mate, Charles T. Andrews, clung to the top rigging and helped those in the water to the rigging. He refused to jump in Mr. Goble's boat and to save himself although many pleaded with him to think of his wife and child. But he could not be induced to leave his post, but made the others go." - Ashley Goble (Purser)

The vessel, meanwhile, had been sinking fast for an hour or so before the water had begun to pour into her, in consequence, it is supposed, of the sternpost having been carried away. When the second raft was launched, her deck was on a level with the water's edge. Some time previously the ship's boat, with two or three men in her, had got loose, and had drifted away some distance to leeward. When this was observed, the other boat was manned by some sailors and sent to her assistance. When about to start, Goble also got in and went with them. While the boats were away the old brig sank, heeling over to port as she did so. A groan of agony that I shall never forget arose upon the morning air as the waves rushed over her, and I, with one or two others, sprang off the stern and made for the rafts which, having been cut loose at the moment she began to go down, were rapidly drifting away. According to promise, I swam for the one on which I had left Coyle, and the captain's steward, whose name was Morris, also joined us. This increased the number of persons on the larger raft to thirteen, while there were twelve on the other.

Hargrave, with a lot of us and the sailor, commenced to make rafts; we had not much time as the vessel was sinking. We managed to make two large rafts. Some would not go on, but others would. Those that did got some tins of meat and biscuits. They were up to their knees in water on the rafts. One fellow, an Irishman, jumped into the sea with a lifebuoy, saying he would swim to land. I think the poor fellow had gone mad. We gave the rafts a cheer and they pushed off. - Crommelin

Lawrence, Coyle, and W.T. Forster took the lead. They were big, strong men, and were cool. They seemed to understand what should be done better than the rest, I got a couple of woollen jerseys and put them on. My mate, Tom Hartley, went back below for something, and as he disappeared, the Maria began to sink. Someone called out to me, "Come on, Tom!" I could not swim. The vessel was sinking, and the raft some distance off. I quickly took in the situation, and I dived from the disappearing side of the Maria, as I had never dived before or shall ever again. I dived towards the raft, and when I rose to the surface, I was sufficiently close to it for someone to grab me and pull me on board. Then someone cut the rope, which held us to the vessel, and we were adrift. I looked back at the Maria, and saw Tom Hartley come up from below, but the rush of water forced him back, and he went down with the ship, which slid into deep water, and left nothing above water but one yard. Then arose a piercing, horrible scream of pain and despair from drowning men and animals, and after that silence.

We watched the boats go back and pick up a number of men struggling in the water. In this way 28 were saved. Those who took refuge on the yard were all gone seven days later when the scene of the wreck was visited. Mr. Andrews, the second officer, helped a good many on to the yard, only to perish with them miserably. Then a man named Grant tried to swim from the little raft to the big one, but gave a scream and sank. It was supposed he was taken by a shark.

One of the men on the large raft with me, Taylor, recognised the land as Hinchinbrook Island. Had he been in the Captain's boat, we might all have been saved, for if the Captain had known where he was, he would have been in Cardwell in a few hours. - Thomas Ingham

The whaleboat [BOAT 2] had now reached the other boat [BOAT 3], taken her in tow, and made for the wreck. Although we [in RAFT 1] were between the wreck and them, the boats passed at a distance of fully one hundred yards, appearing studiously to avoid us. This, however, did not trouble us much, as we were all thinking of the poor fellows that we could still see struggling in the water, though unable to render them any assistance.

One of the other boats [BOAT 2] went away full and they got safely to land, but we did not hear of them till we got to Cardwell. The third boat, a small one made to hold eight, stood a little way off the vessel. It had eleven men in it and carried hardly any provisions, I think. I put on a big mackintosh, took two bottles of wine and a loaf of bread and tried to join some of my mates on the rigging. When I got half-way up, the ship gave a great lurch and I felt her capsizing. I knew what was about to happen. She seemed to shoot forward, making a terrible bound with a peculiar sound - something like a bell tolling. I saw my mates shooting off the maintop rigging. I let go of the wine and coat, and jumped as far as I could into the water. I was still conscious but everything seemed in a mist. The first thing I remember was a drowning man clinging to my legs, so I dived and came up without him. The water was full of everything: fowl's coops, everything imaginable, trunks, etc., and a poor little terrier (black and tan) kept swimming by me. Then I caught sight of the yard with nine or ten men on it. Andrews, one of them, was calling, "Oh, Crommelin - save my little dog." Hargrave was there to give me his hand up so I handed up the little dog. Sitting there for a little while we caught sight of the boat [BOAT 3] that had the eleven men in it. Hargrave struck out for the boat and they waited as he swam over to it. Just then Zimmerman came to us from somewhere saying, "For God's sake, save me". I got hold of him, told him to take a firm hold of a rope, and Andrews and I pulled him in. But he was very despondent and said he could not swim to the boat. The others also would not leave the wreck, thinking some help might come to their rescue. Therefore I made up my mind to take my last chance in the boat. Luckily I was a first-class hand in water. After a dispute whether they could take me [in BOAT 3] or not, the fact that I was a Freemason saved my life. After I had gotten in, we made as well as we could for land. We had four oars, two on each side. We gave a cheer to those on the wreck, wishing them well. The last we saw of poor Andrews he was sitting down with his little dog in his arms. - Crommelin

RAFT 1: We, in the larger raft, saw the boats pick up some of them on their way but they passed by others and went to the vessel of which the topgallant masts and part of the starboard quarter only were visible. On all of these places we could see persons clinging. We saw the boats then take people from the wreck until they appeared to be filled, after which they started for the shore, and in little more than half an hour they passed out of sight, and we saw them no more. When the two rafts were cut loose from the wreck they were both fastened together by a hawser. This we were obliged to cut soon afterwards, as the rafts were bumping against one another, and sometimes one was getting partly under the other to the imminent danger of both. However, both drifted along at no very great distance apart, and for some time we were within speaking distance. We had two oars with us, which Coyle had taken care to provide, one of these we cut in half, making a hand paddle of the blade; the other we rigged up for the purpose of steering, or attempting to do so. There was also one oar on the other raft.


Artist's concept of a raft leaving the wreck.
By now the first boat with Capt. Stratman aboard would have been nowhere in sight
and only one yard would have been visible above the surface.
(Click to enlarge.)

I may as well enumerate the occupants of the rafts, as I shall have hereafter frequent occasion to refer to them by name.
RAFT 1 - They are as follows: Tanner, Taylor, Hazelbrook, Morris, Sanderson, Haydon, Phillips, Smith, Ingham, Bardon, Siddell, Coyle, and myself [W.T. Forster] on the larger one.
RAFT 2 - On the other, smaller raft, were: Polin, O'Malley, Hardy, Dalgleish, Hooker, Angel, Thomson, Heakman, Rowe, Parnell, Williams, and Grant.

Sanderson, the only sailor with us, was rather the worse for liquor when we left the wreck and was in a sleepy state for some little time. But, as the day wore on, he began to recover his senses. With his assistance we endeavoured to hoist a sail, having with us a tent belonging to Coyle and me, in which were some blankets and clothes. This we rigged up, making use of the handle of the oar which we had cut in two for a mast. However, we could not manage it very well, as it was with the utmost difficulty that we could prevent it from slipping through the raft, therefore Coyle stood supporting it with his shoulder the greater part of the time. About this time we saw a man in the water, whom we made out to be Grant, at a distance of more than a hundred yards to windward of us. He appeared to be trying to reach our raft but, of course, we were utterly unable to help him, and before very long the poor fellow went down.

Owing to some of our passengers saying that the sail was doing more harm than good, we took it in after some hours, and began to paddle with the blade of the oar and a piece of board that we split off the raft; two men were also paddling on the other raft. They appeared to have more control over it than we had over ours, in consequence of it being much lighter. Occasionally, we were close enough to speak to one another. They seemed very desponding, but we told them to keep a good heart, as we had seen land right to the leeward which we must reach, as we then imagined we should, before next morning.

The breeze had been gradually freshening during the day, and by night had become very squally. Before it grew dark we several times cheered to the other raft, being then about a quarter of a mile apart, and waved our hats. They at first responded but the last time took no notice of us and appeared to have lost all hope. We lost sight of them at nightfall and never saw them again alive. Some of our men also despaired when we lost sight of land. Morris was the first to show signs of giving up. He said he was sure that we would never see the morning light and that we were drifting right out to sea. Tanner and some others also looked very dispirited. However, although things wore a very gloomy aspect, there was no reason for giving up so soon as there was really no immediate danger. We certainly were in a most uncomfortable position wet through with nothing to eat or drink, but we had the raft under us, and the sea, though gradually rising, was not then very high. One or two of us then began singing with a view to keeping up the spirits of others and our own. This we kept up at intervals during the night, occasionally shouting loudly to the others to keep awake and to cheer them up but latterly we were answered but seldom.

BOAT 3: We rowed and rowed as hard as we could, changing hands spell and spell with the oars. After going a certain way and working furiously, we realized we had made no progress because a strong ebb tide was going out. We simply could not get to land. Night was coming on and we were quite exhausted - some of us were lying asleep in the bottom of the boat. - Crommelin

February 27 - Tuesday
BOAT 2: This boat, loaded with 19 men - a whaler with Dr. Tate and Sonnichsen, the mate, in charge - made Ramsay Bay on Hinchinbrook Island where they lived on periwinkles. They then went south around the island to Dungeness, at the mouth of the Herbert River [near Lucinda, south of Hinchinbrook Island], and then rowed north through the Channel to Cardwell, arriving there 5 days later.

BOAT 3: A sailor stood on my hand and tore all the skin off but I hardly felt it. A thunder storm broke over us which we were glad of for the sake of the fresh water it provided as we had none and had not tasted water all day. Towards daylight we found the tide was going in and so we pulled to land. It was about 10 a.m. that we pulled into a beautiful-looking island at a sandy bay. Getting on shore we found beautiful fresh water in little inlets and drank freely. Then we pulled the boat on land, lay down and went fast asleep.

[Three members of BOAT 3 were killed in a fight with the blacks who attacked them on the beach. Days later 3 bodies were discovered just south of the Barnard Islands (red flag above), perhaps at the foot of Murdering Point Road near Maria Creek National Park. This suggests that Crommelin's BOAT 3 reached shore here, at Maria Creek which may formerly have been known as Louisa River. Note the town of Basilisk in upper left corner - another tangible reminder of what happened here in 1872.]
Satellite View

BOAT 3: We must have slept for hours. On first waking we had a talk about our situation. Some wanted to go one direction, some another, but we did not separate. Then we looked to see what we had in the boat. There were two tins of meat, 4 lbs. each, and a little canvas bag of biscuits, about 8 lbs., but very wet. The steward made it into two feeds each - each one getting a large shell to place it on. There was one meal for tea and one for breakfast for thirteen of us. Then we turned the boat on its side to sleep under, had a bathe in the salt water and then in the fresh, and took a walk along the beach looking for food. We found a few cockles and mussels and saw beautiful oysters, but could not get them on account of the surf being too strong. We saw what we thought was beautiful fruit on a tree. We ate it, but the taste was unpleasant and we had to spit it out. The little we did taste made us very ill - we turned a yellow colour and vomited. I will never forget the feeling and how ill we were. We found a few more mussels and I was thankful for having plenty of water. I had matches and they were quite dry. I had an ivory match box with a lid that screwed, so we had a fire. The wood, however, was not good to burn.

Towards the evening of the second day we discovered all at once that black aborigines were coming in a good number - between thirty and forty. They came to talk to us and tried to persuade us to go with them by waving to the bush. Some wanted to go but others thought it better to keep together. It was getting dusk then and the blacks got very angry. They drew their wooden swords and struck at us. In an instant it was man for man. Fighting began - some using oars, a boat hook, iron bars, chain, and some using pieces of wood and stones. I was knocked down and crawled into the mangroves feeling sick and faint. Someone fell over me. Then they said they heard a coo-ee. It came from their camp and they left us. After some hours we got back to the boat again, launched the boat into the water, took her as far as we could and tied her to a rock. Taking turns to watch, we went to sleep. The blacks could not come to us without swimming. - George Crommelin

RAFT 1: Towards morning the squalls became more frequent and more severe, so we left off paddling (there were only two of us doing so) and singing, and made some sort of shelter of the tent, as it was bitterly cold, sitting as we were up to our waists in water, with the driving rain pelting us mercilessly. And from time to time the waves washed completely over us. The sea by this time had begun its work of destruction. The lashings were slackening, and our raft had already commenced to come to pieces. The morning of the 27th broke, and with its cheering rays the spirits of the most despondent rose for a while. It was still squally and a heavy sea was running. At the first dawn we saw no signs of land but, as it became brighter, observed some islands to leeward at a distance of perhaps five miles. These I subsequently ascertained to be some of the Family Group. We at first imagined we were going straight towards them but the current was taking us past to the northward. We began to repair our raft and get everything in order but we found that lashing together planks, spars, etc., in a sea-way is no easy matter, especially when the work has to be done underwater. The tent had been given to Haydon to make fast till we should require it, but he let it go overboard, so our sailing was at an end. Meanwhile the blankets and clothes had since been washed away. Haydon had also let a hatchet drop overboard before this. We had still, however, an axe, so with this we set to work to make paddles enough for all hands and, though I thought it useless, we tried to direct the raft towards the land. In any case, if it had no other purpose, working had the effect of keeping the blood in circulation and also of keeping us awake. Later in the day many had given up paddling, although we constantly urged them to stick to it, more for their own sakes than for any other reason. Coyle worked the whole time like a horse, and Phillips also worked well. Smith, who was an old man, was getting rather weak, but did not for a moment give up hope, and he did his very best the whole time. After we had passed the islands we could still see land to leeward, but at a great distance. Taylor began to lose his senses and, in the course of an hour or so, became quite insane. Towards evening, however, he appeared to be getting better, but never quite recovered. Morris also became insane the same evening.

This, the second night of our voyage on the raft, was by far the worst time we experienced. The sea was much higher and the weather more squally than ever. Moreover the raft was in a very shaky condition and getting worse every minute as we were quite unable to do anything in the way of making repairs at night. Shortly after dark the raft, which was tossing about terribly, turned bodily over, and of course everyone was thrown into the water. In some way or other I got right under but upon reaching the raft I was seized by someone who kept holding on to me. Being pulled down by him, I struggled hard to get back with him to the raft but to no avail. Finding that we were both sinking rapidly to the bottom, I began to try and get free. This, by a violent effort, I succeeded in doing, and again made for the surface, reaching the raft safely but with very little breath left to spare. I sat for a minute or two on the boom to recover myself, and then got on to the body of the raft where the others were then sitting. Coyle then told me that he had been calling for me, and, getting no answer, thought I was gone. On counting our number, we found that one was missing, which proved to be Tanner. I believe he could not swim, and he was in a very weak state.

Just before the raft turned over, I was sitting next to Percy Tanner, who had been a reporter on the Sydney Morning Herald, and was a great mimic. He was also a clever artist, and a great favourite. He had just come into a fortune, and had joined the expedition for pure love of adventure. He said to Taylor, "I am going to lie down." Taylor said, "So am I." At that instant, the raft capsized, and Tanner was never seen again. As I could not swim I grabbed the ladder, and held on till my head appeared above water, and I was hauled on board.

The big raft was so heavy that she floated about two feet under water. On the 27th she began to come to pieces, and the chief steward, Morris, a Frenchman, who was a splendid swimmer, dived underneath and tightened the ropes. This improved matters but pieces still got loose and floated away. The land was then about six miles off, and we tried to paddle towards it without result, as we seemed to drift further away. On the night of the 27th, Taylor became delirious. The men got round him to cheer him, when the raft suddenly capsized, Hazelbrook, a German, who was tied on, held up his hand as the raft went over. He was untied and pulled back on to the raft, but he had been so long under water that he appeared lifeless.

Soon after, the raft capsized again, and Hazelbrook's body, which we were chafing to restore consciousness, floated away. After the second capsize, Morris is supposed to have started to swim for the shore. He was either drowned or taken by a shark. - Thomas Ingham

Hazelbrook was apparently lifeless, though on the raft. We took his shirt off and began to rub him, to try and revive him, but at this moment the raft turned over again and we were obliged reluctantly to let him go. We never saw him again. Morris was also missing after the second capsize. From this time until near morning we lost no more of our fellow passengers, though again and again the raft turned over, often two or more times in succession. When this happened the greater number of us would follow it 'round, climbing up after the manner of a treadmill, while others would swim and wait till it became steady. This latter plan I generally adopted after a very narrow escape I had, on which occasion I owe my life to the promptness of Coyle in answering my call. It happened in this way: in climbing 'round the raft, both my legs from above the knees downwards got jammed in between the ladders and hatches of which it was composed. I struggled in vain to free myself, and when the edge at which I was caught was going down, only my head was still above water. I shouted to the others to push backwards thinking this would perhaps slacken the tension. Coyle was the only one who did so, but it did the trick and I got free.


Satellite view of the area involved in the "Maria" tragedy.

February 28 - Wednesday
BOAT 3: At daylight we rowed south. We could see blacks running and waving to us, but we took no notice of them. We rowed on till dusk with no food and no water until we came to a thick, bushy, muddy place. There was a peculiar noise, something flopping and beating the ground, but we could not see anything. We knew it was no black for there were no tracks of them. The camp was in a very uncomfortable sandy place. We did not light a fire for it was a lovely night. I don't like to say anything more about the fight with the blacks. That was when poor Jack Parnell [in RAFT 2] lost his life. I cannot tell it all; it is too horrible. Mr. Hayden was with the other party [on RAFT 1]. You know how intrigued the aborigines were by his beard being so long. - George Crommelin

RAFT 1: Towards morning, Taylor was drowned in the same way as the others had been, and Sanderson went insane. Shortly thereafter he died, partly from exhaustion, and partly from having swallowed a great quantity of salt water after he had lost his senses. At daybreak, on Wednesday the 28th, we saw the islands which lie off Double Point to leeward of us, and much closer than the land on the previous morning. Coyle, Phillips and I began to repair as best we could, after which we made some more paddles. Of course we had lost the other paddles during the night. It was a rather difficult operation since Bardon had dropped the axe overboard the day before and we had nothing left by way of tools but a marlin spike which was twisted up in some rope. However, with this and one of Coyle's boots we managed to split up part of one of the hatches. We then set to work paddling as before, and kept at it throughout the day. We were unable to make the islands since the current carried us right past them. The wind and sea moderated greatly during the day so that we were rather more comfortable than before. The raft discontinued its revolutions, and nothing of any importance occurred during the day. We continued drifting along the shore at a distance of about two miles. Night came on, and the moon rose, and the raft turned over for the last time about an hour or so before we reached land. On this occasion we had to assist some of our comrades on board, as they were quite helpless. In fact, Ingham had been out of his mind the whole of the day, and we with great difficulty prevented him from lying down in the water, and others were rapidly losing their senses as well.

[The two rafts were drifting at the mercy of the currents, on a course which eventually brought them to the coast near where the town of Mourilyan now stands. The large raft landed on the coast north of the Shoal Rivulet (now Gladys Inlet) at midnight on the 28th February. - The article, Innisfail by J.W. Collinson]

About midnight we saw that we were getting very close to shore, and drifting straight on to a white sandy beach. There was no doubt about it this time. I gave a loud shout, and tried to rouse them from their lethargy. It seemed to have little effect, most of them not appearing to hear me. As we got into shallow water, we were struck two or three times very heavily by the breakers, and shortly afterwards grounded on the beach. I tried to get Ingham to rouse himself but could not, so I took him in my arms and rolled with him into the water. It cost me much trouble to drag him out of the surf. I had to drag him along by inches, holding his head above water when the rollers came in and pulling him along the sand when they receded. In the meantime, a somewhat similar scene was taking place on the other side of the raft, for Smith, being very little able to help himself, was being assisted by Coyle in the same way. The others, though some were very weak, managed to get ashore by themselves. We then dragged Ingham and Smith up above the high water mark, and disposed ourselves to sleep under the shelter of some bushes.

I had swallowed a good deal of salt water by this time and was beginning to lose my senses, but I held on, though Mr. Forster, as I learnt afterwards, had to hold my head up above the water. I heard someone say, "Is he dead?" and I remembered muttering, "Surely it is not I that am dead!"

When we reached the shore, Smith and I were left for dead, out of the reach of the sea, but the heavy rain beat down on me, and restored me to consciousness. I sat up. The waves appeared to be mountains high as they dashed on to the beach, and I saw the raft a short distance away. I could not think where I was. I was quite dazed. I pinched myself, but could feel no pain. Presently I remembered the wreck and the raft. Then Mr. Forster came and said, "Hullo, Ingham, I thought you were dead." "I thought I was dead myself," I replied. Forster then told me that eight had come ashore, and that Coyle and he had left Smith with me, and had found some water and had a sleep.

Forster and I then lay down under a grass tree, and let the rain drops run down our throats from the points of the long, narrow leaves. Then Phillips and Haydon came, having found water and quenched their thirst. They built a mia-mia, one of them found a bread-fruit from the Pandanus Tree, and they ate the seeds, which were sweet and wholesome.

Then from his breast Haydon pulled out a sodden mass, which turned out to be a Bible, the Bible his mother had given him on leaving home, and now his only possession. The leaves were dried singly, and chapters constantly read to us. When the men were in low spirits, someone would say, "Read us a chapter of the Bible." I read the Bible more in that fortnight than I had ever read it before. These chapters from the battered old Bible cheered the men up, and increased their hope of a rescue when they were on the verge of despair. - Thomas Ingham

February 29 - Thursday
RAFT 1: I [W.T. Forster] awoke at daylight the next morning, and started off into the bush to look for food. It had rained several times during the night so there was no lack of water but, strange to say, I felt neither hungry nor thirsty, although wo had been three days and nights without food or drink. In fact there were only a few of our number who had felt any thirst this, I suppose, being attributable to our having been immersed in water for such a long time. I, however, discovered that I was much weaker than I thought, and also that my feet and legs were covered with cuts and very much chafed. This would not have interfered with my movements to any great extent, had there not been two cuts on the sole of my left foot which were rather painful.

I wandered about in the bush the greater part of the day, but could find nothing edible except a small slug which I consumed raw. On returning to where we had passed the night, I found Ingham alone. Shortly afterwards Phillips, Haydon, and Smith came up, bringing with them a fruit of the pandanus or screw palm. This is an oval-shaped fruit, about the size of a large pineapple, and yellow when ripe. A little sweetish juice may be obtained by chewing on the seed cases. They told me that Coyle had gone away with two blacks and that they were unable to keep up with him. Coyle, however, later informed me that he had asked Haydon and Phillips to accompany him when going towards the blacks, but they refused. We passed another night in the same place as the first, making a shelter of boughs, as the weather still looked rainy.

March 1 - Friday
RAFT 1: The next day. we started along the beach southward, and about midday saw Coyle coming back, accompanied by some blacks. The latter stopped at some distance from us, and Coyle came on alone. He told us he had passed a very comfortable night at their camp, and had been fed by them. He gave us one or two fruit that he had picked up under a tree near the camp. These were about the size of a small apple, oblong in shape, and perfectly white; they are, I believe, the fruit of a kind of myrtle. Coyle now proposed that we should all go back with them. This we at once agreed to, but the blacks, on seeing us coming, started off, and we could not overtake them. Coyle and Phillips, however, followed them, and stayed away another night, the rest of us being either too weak or lame to walk so far. I forgot to mention that Bardon and Siddell had left us on the morning after landing, without our knowledge, and we saw nothing of them for eight days. We considered that this was not quite right, but were not much surprised at such behaviour from them, especially Siddell, as he had shown himself both selfish and lazy while on the raft. And never would he do a stroke of work, or make himself useful in any way unless he was absolutely compelled.

Coyle, who had been away with some blacks, who proved very friendly, and gave him such food as they had, joined the others on the 1st of March, as did also Smith. This brought the party up to six, Bardon and Siddell being still missing. The poor fellows then sat down in their misery and discussed what was best to be done. It was remembered that Taylor had said the land they had tried to reach while on the raft was Hinchinbrook Island, as he knew the appearance of the mountains. It was considered they had landed on the mainland some distance to the north of Cardwell, and they ought to travel south to reach settlement. It was thought the boats had reached some inhabited place, and that a vigorous search would be made as soon as the wreck became known. The party started in a southerly direction, Forster, Coyle, Haydon, and Phillips, the strongest of the party, going first; Smith, who was an old man of about 50, but looking much older, brought up the rear with Ingham. Ingham was very weak from exhaustion. Before the wreck he was a wonderfully strong man, but now he could only crawl along and every hundred yards or so he and Smith, who was also very weak, had to lie down and rest. Still they struggled on till they reached the north side of Gladys Inlet, which is the mouth of the Johnstone River [at Innisfail], a stream that was named after Sub-Inspector Johnston, who avenged the massacre by the blacks. The shipwrecked men were all without hats or boots but they did not mind the sun much, their faces and hands were already tanned to a very dark hue from the exposure they had undergone. That day they met a few of Coyle's black friends, and Coyle and Phillips went off with them, and were away all night. The others were too tired to follow but found some empty blacks' huts, and slept in them quite comfortably as they were dry inside. - Thomas Ingham

I saw this morning a few pigeons. They were a small variety of a light brown colour. There were very few birds about here, black and white cockatoos being the most common. I also observed an osprey of which the back and wings were a dark cinnamon colour.

But to return to my story. We slept that night in some deserted huts built by the blacks, and were more comfortable than we had hitherto been as we had a waterproof covering for our heads. These huts or gunyahs, are oval in shape and built of long pliable twigs which are stuck into the ground and tied so as to form a succession of arches. This framework is then thatched with palm leaves and tea tree bark, with one, two, and sometimes three entrances, according to their size.

These huts were peculiarly constructed and looked something like a huge old-fashioned beehive. The tops of small saplings had been pulled down and fastened to each other, and this arch was beautifully interwoven with twigs and leaves till it was watertight; one or more openings, about 2 ft. high, were left to crawl in and out. The interiors were dry and fairly comfortable, and were very welcome to those without shelter. Some of these huts were large enough to accommodate a dozen people or more, who all slept with their heads outward, and their feet towards the centre, where a fire was kept burning. - Thomas Ingham

March 2 - Saturday
BOAT 3: Waking early, we went first to look for the boat. It was quite safe. Then we saw what we thought were logs, but to our horror we found they were alligators. The minute they heard us they made into the water. We found plenty of fresh water and also a few mussels. We were very hungry, despondent and sick. We rowed away again and after rowing for a long time we came to some buoys and realized that we were coming to some inhabited place. After going about eight miles we saw what we thought were grey rocks. I was the one to tell them it was a town because the moment I saw it, a dream I had in Bruce's camp came back to my memory. Of course they did not believe me at first and laughed, thinking I was going mad, but they were very pleased when we got nearer and said, "My word, Crommelin's right!" We could see people coming down to the beach - men, women, children, and four or five Police. "What's your tale, lads? What's your tale?" There were nine of us then in the boat. This was Cardwell we had arrived at.


"Cardwell Welcomes You, First Port of the North" reads a battered
sign in the aftermath of Cyclone Yasi on February 10, 2011

We told our tale and they took us up town. Mr. Quodling, the telegraph master, knew my name and Hargrave's. He took us to their quarters and gave us port wine and beef but we could not eat. Mrs. Quodling kindly gave me gravy and wine. The others were well looked after too. Then the telegraph wires went to work, and soon the news of the wreck was known everywhere. Arrangements were being made at Sydney to send a government steamer, the Governor Blackall for us. - George Crommelin


George Crommelin's daughter, Minard, was the first postmistress
and telegraph operator at Woy Woy, N.S.W. 1906-1910.
This may be how Mr. Quodling's telegraph office at Cardwell also looked like.

RAFT 1: Coyle and Phillips returned next morning, bringing with them a few more of the white fruit. When eating them, they told us that on reaching the camp they found it deserted. They, however, slept there, and in the morning hearing blacks cooeying, they looked out and saw several of them at a distance with arms in their hands. They therefore judged it better to decamp.

After some deliberation we decided to turn our steps southward and try to reach Cardwell, for we imagined, and rightly as we afterwards found, that we were north of that township. We started then along the beach and made a short stage the first day. As the sun was already high, and Ingham and Smith complained of fatigue, we slept in another deserted hut, of which there were many along the shore, and next morning made an early start.

On 2nd March, Coyle and Phillips joined us, and brought the party up to six. It was then discussed what was best to be done. We rightly judged that we were some distance to the north of Cardwell, and that our proper course was to the south. We thought that as soon as the wreck was known, a vigorous search would be made. We did not know how inadequate the preliminary search would be. The party, therefore, started off in a southerly direction. Smith and I brought up the rear. Smith was an older man about 50 or 60 years of age. We could only crawl along, and every hundred yards or so Smith and I had to lie down and rest. - Thomas Ingham

March 3 - Sunday
BOAT 2: Around this date the second boat, a whaler with Dr. Tate and others aboard, reached Cardwell having landed at Dungeness 5 days earlier.

RAFT 1: After a mile or so we came to a rocky point, which took us some time to get around in our disabled condition; again long stretches of sandy beach, and then we came to the remains of a fire. We searched about, thinking that perchance the blacks had left something edible. Coyle picked up what was apparently the stem of some bulbous or araceous plant and bit into it. He instantly dropped it, and gasped out "water." Picking up a large shell we were carrying for drinking purposes, I hobbled off to a small creek which, fortunately, was at no great distance, and got some. He met me as I was hurrying back and began to rinse his mouth. For the space of nearly an hour he sat by the creek and continued rinsing his month, foam running from his lips. We sent the weakest of the party ahead in order to lose no time, while Phillips and I waited till Coyle was ready to accompany us. He described the sensation as a most intense burning. He was apparently in agony and could not speak without difficulty for the remainder of the day.

"Cungeeboi," or native Tara Colocasia, is very plentiful all through the coastal districts of Queensland, and is greatly used there for food, but it requires very careful preparation. First it must be roasted, then pounded, then soaked in running water to extract the acrid poison, then made into a paste and baked again before being eaten. To taste it in its raw state must have been excruciating agony for poor Coyle.

We were all without hats or boots, but we struggled on till we reached the north side of Gladys Inlet, which is the mouth of the Johnstone River. Then we tried to find a crossing, going up as far as where Geraldton now stands, about four miles from the sea. But we dared not go further for fear of missing the rescue parties, who would, as we thought, be searching for us along the beach.

We were able to gather the fruit of eugenia grandis, and eugenia suborbieularis, which are white and red respectively, the red fruit resembling a rosella in colour, but is more the shape of a small orange. There was a thick skin outside, which was the portion eaten. It had a repugnant taste like castor-oil, still the fruit appeared to be wholesome, and we were glad of anything to appease the gnawing of our stomachs.

Coyle had a nasty experience. He found something like a cabbage stalk, which he thought the blacks ate. He tried a piece of it, and it burnt his throat in a terrible manner. He gasped out "Water!" and rushed away to the nearest waterhole for relief, but water only partly allayed the pain. His tongue swelled, and it was many days before he was alright again. After that he never ate anything unless the blacks ate it first. We wandered about with the friendly blacks on the beach for a few miles to the north, getting shell-fish, and occasionally shrimps. We were always ravenously hungry, and remained very weak. My red hair and Smith's bald head were sources of great attraction to the blacks. - Thomas Ingham

Soon after this we came to the shore of a pretty little bay which we found to be the mouth of a large river. Subsequently this river was named Gladys River by Captain Moresby of the H.M.S. Basilisk. [Gladys River is now named the Johnstone River and located at Innisfail.] On the shores of this bay we picked up some small red fruit about the size of a cherry. This I believe to be a species of Eugenia. It bears the fruit on the stem. These I thought harmless on tasting them, so we collected as many as we could find. At the head of this bay we discovered a tree bearing fruit, also red, but smaller than the last mentioned. It had a pleasant acid flavour, and inside a hard flat stone resembling a plumstone in shape. We ate a few of these and took some with us. Further on we picked up a few nuts which are known as the 'Queensland nut.' These are pleasant to the taste and grow with a green husk, not unlike a walnut, but the shell is exceedingly hard. We still kept on our way and had now reached the river. We decided to make our way along the bank to see if it was possible to cross the river higher up. This took us through dense mangrove swamps until we were brought to a halt by a large tributary. It was getting late. We therefore left the swampy ground, and turned into the bush where we fortunately found another deserted camp where we slept.

There were several little creeks or inlets leading into Gladys Inlet, and some of these were crossed as the party went west to find an easy place to cross the upper end of Gladys Inlet. Some of these little creeks were traversed on fallen logs. The party was bruised a good deal in getting through the mangroves which fringed the inlet. There seemed no prospect of crossing to the south side, and the thought came to the poor fellows that in leaving the beach they might miss the chance of being rescued, as there was every reason to believe a party would start immediately once the boats had reported the wreck. They therefore decided to remain on the shore. Just at this moment they saw a huge alligator, 20ft. or more in length, glide into the water. At first they thought it was a log, till they saw it move away into the water. - Thomas Ingham

There were numbers of mosquitoes here, as might have been expected, in the vicinity of these swamps. Indeed, it rather surprised me that we had seen none before. There were, however, numbers of March flies on the coast, but a different variety from that in the neighbourhood of Sydney. One kind of Mangrove here bears fruit as large as a shaddock, filled with seeds, each enclosed in a hard pulp.

Before it grew dark, Haydon read a chapter from his Bible, which he had managed to save (I lost everything out of my pockets but two knives), and from this time one or other of us read a chapter or two every morning and evening.

March 4 - Monday
SEARCH VESSEL 1: The Tinonee left at 4 a.m. to search the coast for survivors. The steamer Tinonee, Capt. Hirst, was immediately ordered to search for the missing people, and left next day with Mr. Sheridan, the Police Magistrate and Sub-collector of Customs; the mate, Sonnichsen, and the doctor, Tate, of the Maria, and three or four of the surviving passengers of BOAT 2.

First news flash sent from Cardwell on March 4 regarding
the "Maria" disaster and the rescue of those in BOATS 2 and 3.

BOAT 3: Next morning at Cardwell an enquiry was held and we had to give an account of our trip. A few days afterwards one of the raft parties arrived, Mr. Haydon being one of them. They were in a worse condition than our party. Some of us were all skinned on our backs from the heat and we broke out with boils. - Crommelin

RAFT 1: We rose at daybreak, after a good night's rest, had a breakfast of the few fruit we had brought with us, and agreed that as we could not cross the river, we would go back to the coast and try and live there until we were found by some vessel. We felt sure that we would never be given up until a thorough search had been made. We had not gone far when wo heard some blacks coo-ey. Coyle and I who were in front, pushed forward through the bushes and saw two men and a boy a little way from us.

Three blackfellows were seen who ran away and got on to three rafts made of thick banana stems about 9 in. in diameter, lashed together. The blacks were induced to come back and they took the six men across the inlet, two on each raft, the blacks swimming behind and pushing the rafts. This saved the party a long and difficult walk through mangroves and scrub.- Thomas Ingham

We beckoned and made signs to them for food. They understood us apparently and motioned for us to follow them. We did so till we came to a small tributary of the river. Over this they ferried us on a raft made of Banana stems, and then led us on till we met two other blacks. Handing us over to them, they returned to where we had found them. Our new friends had fishing lines in their hands, plainly showing on what errand they were bent. They started with us in the same direction we were ourselves travelling, and after going a few miles came to their fishing ground. They first caught a few shrimps for bait. They then walked out into the sea up to their waists and began their work. When the tide rose too high they desisted, having caught about a dozen fish, some of them nearly a foot in length. There were two kinds one a species of bream.

The blacks left their rafts and went along with the six men who patted them on the back. They seemed to take a great interest in the shipwrecked men and both parties began to understand each other a little. The blacks carried shells full of water and the whites adopted the same plan. The blacks caught some fish and cooked them, and threw the heads and tails to the men, keeping the rest themselves. When they threw the bones away, the white men picked them up and tried to get something off them, but they were picked too clean. - Thomas Ingham

Coyle had made friends with the blacks, and some of these helped us across a little inlet on their raft. They also gave us the remains of their fish. It seemed hard lines to have to pick up what a blackfellow threw away, but hunger prevented us from being prideful. - Thomas Ingham


North Queensland Aborigine, 1866

They gave us about half a fish each, and I think we enjoyed it more than anything we had ever tasted; at least, I can speak for myself. Our meal concluded, our dark friends got up to go away, and Coyle and I prepared to follow them. We asked the others to come as it was our best chance of getting food, but they declared they could go no further that day, so we started without them. The names of our new friends were Newyunggor and Weimah. We tried to get them to repeat ours, but they made a very poor attempt at it. Weimah started on considerably in advance of us while Newyunggor, who was an old man and rather ugly, stayed and escorted us. We did not care much about his bad looks, however, as we knew he had some cooked fish stowed away in his basket, and we kept on worrying the old chap till he "forked out." He evidently did not intend to lose by his good nature, though, for he immediately began gobbling it down as fast as he could, handing us small pieces at a time. However, we did not let him alone till his basket was empty.


Aborigine shrimp trap

These baskets are made of split cane, and are very prettily and symmetrically formed. They have large funnel-shaped ones five or six feet long, made of the same material for the purpose of catching shrimps. These look like immense extinguishers. We went on, after devouring all the old fellow's fish, until we reached the camp where there were several gins and piccaninies. They made us a fire at a little distance from their own and we slept soundly till morning. Mr. Weimah, however, thought fit to relieve me of my coat, for, under a pretext of arranging Coyle's coat as a pillow for both of us,he quietly walked off with mine. I did not miss it till daylight, so dexterously had he managed it.

March 5 - Tuesday
BOAT 1: Two men, Wallan and Finney from the Captain's boat [BOAT 1] arrived naked at Cardwell, having fled on foot from Tam O'Shanter Point where the 7 occupants of their boat were attacked by blacks. They saw the captain and one other shipmate killed but did not know the fate of three others. Their head and hands had been badly cut by blacks with wooden swords.

SEARCH VESSEL 1: The Tinonee visited the wreck at Bramble Reef but found nobody there, dead or alive. First in the search, the S.S. Tinonee then in Cardwell, was commissioned by the police magistrate, Mr. B.G. Sheridan, but after visiting the wreck, and making a perfunctory search as far as Double Point, left the south on her usual run.

The Tinonee visited the wreck, the masts and yards of which appeared above the surface of the sea, but found no one living or dead. The water was swarming with enormous sharks. The Tinonee returned to Cardwell the same day, and made a perfunctory search as far north as Double Point, five or six miles to the southward of the spot where the smaller raft had gone ashore. Had the search continued a few miles further north, several other lives would have been saved.

Unfortunately the Tinonee's head was turned southward, and all hope was gone for the survivors of the smaller RAFT 2. On the way back to Cardwell the Tinonee's people learnt that two men who were in the captain's BOAT 1, Finney and Wallen, had arrived in Cardwell on 5th March, with the news that the rest had been killed at Tam O'Shanter's Point. Both Finney and Wallen were in a dreadful state. In addition to his other miseries, Finney had received a fearful blow on the head from a black's wooden sword. A day or two later two other survivors of the captain's BOAT 1, Wilson and Sullivan, arrived in Cardwell, both badly wounded.

SEARCH VESSEL 2: The Peri commanded by Mr. Seblin also started this morning in search of the missing men.

RAFT 1: In the morning I vehemently accused him of stealing my coat but he would not understand me. However, I forgave him his misdeeds, for he brought us, soon after daybreak, a parcel of shrimps nicely cooked. We ate some and kept the rest for our companions. While enjoying our breakfast, the blacks started away unnoticed by us until they had gone a considerable distance. We went after them but came to a halt when we reached their fire, for we observed that it was heaped up. Consequently there must be something cooking. We scraped away the ashes and unearthed several large parcels made of palm leaves. On opening one we found it full of shrimps. We tied it up again, and, carefully covering them all, sat down at a little distance to await their return. The blacks came back in the afternoon, and we immediately began the same game we had practised so successfully the evening before with old Newyunggor. They gave us a parcel of the shrimps, larger than the previous one. After eating a few, Coyle started with the remainder to our mates, while I stayed with the blacks to superintend their movements, as we did not mean to lose sight of them any more.

They started soon after to the same fishing ground as before, and I went with them. The other four and Coyle were there waiting for us. The fishermen were not so successful as on the previous day. However, they caught a few, and making a fire by rubbing together two sticks, they proceeded to cook them. This time they only gave us two small bream, which had to be divided among six, so that we had rather a scanty dinner. However, Haydon and Phillips had been back as far as the bay for some more of the red berries. They had brought back a few and also some white fruit.

The six men wandered with these friendly blacks for a few miles to the north, getting a few fish and shrimps. At that time Ingham's hair was a fiery red and attracted the attention of the blacks very much. They handled it and pulled it, and talked a lot in their own language. Smith, who was bald, also drew their attention, and they seemed glad to touch his bald head. - Thomas Ingham

While we were dining, the two blacks had quietly stolen away without giving us any warning, evidently intending to give us the slip, but Coyle and I started after them although they were already a good distance away. When we came near where they were camping, we saw a large party of blacks sitting round their fire. One of them came forward. He proved to be one of those whom Coyle had first met. As usual, we immediately began making signs for food. He motioned for us to follow him, and he led us to where he had before taken Coyle, a little south of Cooper's Point. We found them camping in the open air, at some distance from their huts. There were fifteen or twenty in this lot, including children. They appeared glad to see us, and welcomed us heartily, inviting us to sit down and partake of their supper which consisted of a moist whitish substance made from the Moreton Bay chestnut. This bean, in its natural state, contains a strong purgative, as with other Leguminosse. This they extract by baking and soaking in water, after which it is sliced very fine with a shell, and then again soaked. It is very tasteless stuff. There are also several nuts and roots which must be prepared in a similar manner, all equally tasteless. We slept soundly, notwithstanding that one or two of the blacks were singing a dreary monotonous song the greater part of the night.

These blacks are a very diminutive race of men, and it is little to be wondered at, considering what they live on. Very few of them attain the height of five feet six, and their limbs are extremely slight. Their weapons also are very poor; their spears are made of light wood, tipped with hard wood and roughly pointed. In some there is as much or more hard wood than light. They point them by charring them in the fire and then scraping them with a shell. Their most formidable weapon, though a very unwieldy one, is a kind of wooden sword. This is generally from five to six feet long and about five inches broad, with a small handle, about three inches in length. Their shields are about three feet long, and ten inches or a foot in breadth. There was a very old man in this camp, with white hair and beard.

March 6
RAFT 1: The next morning we had another meal of Moreton Bay chestnuts. They gave us plenty of it. but it is very unpalatable. We shifted down to the beach and reclined under a large spreading tree. None of the blacks went away for food as they had plenty of the white stuff with them. Coyle and I this morning ate a handful each of a kind of bean which grew in large quantities along the beach. We noticed the blacks did not eat it but were not warned by them. We suffered for our temerity, for after about two hours, we were both taken very ill with violent pains in the stomach, and vomited a great deal.

March 7
BOAT 1: At 10 o'clock this morning, two men, Wilson and Sullivan, forming part of the Captain's crew, arrived in Cardwell. They were naked and said they had been so for five days. When the blacks attacked them they retreated to the sea and swam some distance from shore. The blacks kept them there till dark, when they left. After swimming several rivers they returned to a hill, being followed by the blacks, and lay there for two days. They arrived in Cardwell in a state of prostration with sword and spear wounds over different parts of their bodies.

Sullivan was taken, with the captain and others, into the blacks' camp near where the boat struck the beach, just to the north of Tam O' Shanter Point [so called after the boat that took poor Kennedy and his exploring party in 1848 on his last and most unfortunate trip.] Without the slightest warning the blacks attacked the party, the captain and several others being immediately struck down. Sullivan received a blow on the side of the head but was able to get away, and rushed into the sea and swam away. Others also got away but Sullivan saw several killed. Whenever he came inshore and could get a footing for a rest, the blacks drove him out again. Being an expert in the water he managed to keep afloat though in imminent danger of alligators and sharks in the water, and spears and waddies on the land. However, a merciful Providence protected him and he kept in the water until after dark when he landed on the beach to the south of the Murray River [so named after Inspector John Murray, of the police service]. Sullivan made south, crossing Dallachy Creek [named after Dallachy, the botanist], and Wreck Creek [so called after the wreck which was discovered at its mouth by Dalrymple's exploring party in 1863, the year Cardwell was founded.] After crossing Wreck Creek, Sullivan could see the white buildings of Cardwell and was spotted staggering along the beach after which residents met him and made him as comfortable as possible.


North Queensland Coastal Aborigines

RAFT 1: In the morning the blacks rejoined us and crowded into our huts as it was raining heavily. They succeeded in stealing two of Ingham's shirts (he had three) and then made off. Later in the day we were surprised to see Bardon and Siddell approaching us along the beach. The former was looking very ill. We were very glad to see them alive for we had given them up as lost, not having seen them since we landed, and feeling sure they had not crossed the river which had barred our southward journey. Nevertheless, we censured their conduct in having left us without telling us of their intentions.

On the eighth day the friendly blacks were joined by about twenty or more of apparently another tribe. Bardon and Siddell also came with them. They had taken everything from Bardon and Siddell but a shirt and pair of trousers which they shared between them. There was a dispute between the new-comers and the friendly blacks on the beach after which the friendly blacks took Haydon and Phillips and led them northwards. Forster and Coyle followed, but Ingham and Smith were too weak and remained behind. The four who remained behind were Smith, Ingham, Bardon, and Siddell camped on a small creek on the south side of Point Cooper, about two miles from where the large raft went ashore, and north of it. - Thomas Ingham

On the eighth day of our wanderings our friendly blacks were joined by about twenty of another tribe, and with these were Bardon and Siddell, from whom the blacks had taken everything but a pair of trousers and a shirt. One had the trousers, and the other had the shirt. The arrival of Bardon and Siddell completed the party of eight survivors of the crew of the big raft. - Thomas Ingham

About an hour before sunset some of the blacks motioned to Coyle and me to come with them. We did so, and were followed by the remainder of the party. Crossing a small river which empties itself immediately south of Cooper's Point, we began climbing that rocky promontory. The blacks went up the rocks like monkeys; even the gins with their babies on their shoulders, seemed to have no difficulty, but we, in our disabled condition, got on very slowly. We shouted to Smith, Ingham, Bardon, and Siddell, who had not yet crossed the river, to go back, as we thought the path was too steep for them. They did so, and Bardon, Phillips, Coyle, and I went on with the blacks.

There was a row between the friendly blacks and the newcomers on the beach. After this the friendly blacks went off towards the north, taking Haydon and Phillips with them. Forster and Coyle followed them. Smith and I were too weak to go, and we remained with Bardon and Siddell. We camped on the south bank of a small river, a little to the south of Point Cooper, and about two miles north of where our raft came ashore. - Thomas Ingham

[At this point there are two groups of survivors from RAFT 1:
Group 1 - Bardon, Phillips, Coyle, Forster - with friendly blacks
Group 2 - Smith, Ingham, Bardon, Siddell - with unfriendly blacks]

GROUP 1: The blacks were soon all out of sight but one, who stayed to escort us. This was the worst ground we had gone over as yet, the path for upwards of a mile, being up and down and over rocks, varied occasionally by short stretches of sand. But unfortunately for us, these were few and far between. The rocks on this coast are all apparently of volcanic origin which accounts for the richness of the soil and the luxuriance of the vegetation, but they were singularly devoid of shellfish of any kind. It was only in places that oysters or even periwinkles were to be found, and the few that we saw were very small. About sunset we had left the last of the rocks behind us, and passing a small camp on the beach, were conducted a short distance into the bush to another. This was the largest we had seen, and consisted of a dozen huts, some of them very large and comfortable. On reaching it an old fellow with a broken nose came to meet us. He was a pleasant-looking old chap, and seemed glad to see us. He took possession of Coyle and myself, and led us into a hut newly thatched, the floor being strewn with fresh grass. We were not sorry to see such comfortable quarters as it had rained a good deal during the day, and there was every appearance of a wet night. When we were seated by the fire they brought us yams and bananas, and the old man produced some small cockles and proceeded to roast them. The bananas were like the kind known as the sugar banana, but they are full of black seeds. There is another kind grown in this district like the plantain, but much smaller, and also full of seeds.

After we had eaten these we were taken out and formally presented to a number of strange blacks who were just returning to camp. They embraced us cordially and seemed pleased to see us. After this introduction we returned to our hut and spent one of the most enjoyable nights we had yet experienced.

GROUP 2: It still continued to rain, and we remained in camp in a blackfellow's hut. - Thomas Ingham

March 8
GROUP 1: The next morning it was still showery, and after breakfast Coyle went with some of the blacks a short distance into the bush to get fruit. They came back with some of a bright green colour, about the size of a large plum. The flesh is yellow, with four or five black seeds in the middle. The blacks roast it and eat it hot, but when perfectly ripe it is very good raw. It has a slightly bitter flavour. The tree which bears the fruit is very handsome, and grows in dense scrub on the sides of ranges. This scrub in places is quite impenetrable, being composed of vines and creepers and several kinds of canes, some covered with thorns. These reach the tops of the highest trees, and it is impossible to get through without cutting the way. The trees themselves were, for the most part, quite unknown to me. Some of them are very beautiful. I noticed but one species of Eucalyptus, very scarce. Another strange circumstance was the absence of animal life in this region. We saw no traces of large animals but native dogs, the footprints of which we occasionally saw in the sand, and the remains of two large rats. There was not even an opossum or iguana, and we saw only one snake, which the blacks had killed. We hoped to have some of it for supper but were disappointed.
In the afternoon we went to the beach, with the blacks. It was then low tide, and they went into the sea and began groping in the sand looking for cockles. When the tide rose they came out of the water, and making fires began to cook their spoil. After eating a good many we went back to the camp, had a few more cockles and went to bed, but not to sleep, for one of the blacks, being musically inclined, gave us a song. It was a long one. He began it in our hut and it lasted several hours. He then adjourned to the hut in which Phillips was located, and went on with it for his pleasure until daylight. He accompanied his voice by beating two sticks together. Coyle had had a good deal of pain in the big toe of his right foot for two or three days before this, and it now began to show signs of inflammation, and became so painful that he could scarcely walk.

GROUP 2: On the second day that we were there, three strange blacks came to the hut. We made signs to them that we were hungry. They beckoned to us to follow them, which we did. They pointed into the thick part of the scrub, and knocked over a grass-tree. As they pulled the leaves off, there was a white vegetable substance which was eatable.

They then made signs to go into the scrub, and I did so. The next thing was that I received a tremendous blow on the other side of the head from a wooden sword which felled me to the ground. I was not seriously injured and sprang to my feet again, and faced round. Just as I turned I received a spear in my left arm, I pulled it out and faced my assailants with it. Two of the three were young men, the third was an old man. The murderous wretch had poised his spear ready to throw. His eyes were rolling, and there was a horrible grimace on his countenance. Weak as I was, I managed to make a rush at the old fellow, who turned and fled, followed by his younger companions.

I then returned to Smith, and told him what had happened, and we determined to follow our friends, who had gone north with the friendly blacks. We attempted to cross the river during the night, but the tide was too high and after I had been almost drowned, we gave it up, and went back to our camp. - Thomas Ingham


John Moresby (1830-1922), captain of the "Basilisk",
later promoted to Admiral.

March 9
SEARCH VESSEL 3: By coincidence H.M.S. Basilisk, Capt. Moresby, travelling south from Cape York on a survey mission, called at Cardwell on 9th of March. There he learnt of the disaster and that assistance had been sent to the wreck, but that no trace of the rafts could be found. Captain Moresby determined to make a thorough search. "Calculating," he says, "the effect of the winds and prevailing currents, I concluded that the rafts, unless stopped by some obstruction, would strike the mainland 60 or 70 miles north of Cardwell, and therefore I proceeded to Cooper's Point, and sent out boats north and south to examine the coast." [Two Admirals, by Admiral John Moresby, chapter XXV]. His calculations proved correct.

GROUP 1: We were awakened at daylight next morning by a great commotion in the camp, and a loud shouting and jabbering. On looking out, we saw some of the blacks rushing wildly about; two of them had spears in their hands; each of these was struggling with another whose intention evidently was to prevent their fighting. Several spears were broken in their struggles, and they afterwards seized their wooden swords and shields, but were still restrained by the others. After a considerable time they appeared to be pacified, and returned quietly to their huts, and the noise subsided. We were now able to ask for our breakfast. They brought us a few of the green fruit, but very little, as they seldom keep much food until next day, except in the family gunyahs where there is generally some put by for the children in the morning. The little fellows were very good to us, generally bringing us half of what they had.

As usual, we were unsatisfied, and on asking for more one of the blacks motioned me to fellow him. I did so, and afterwards found that some others were bringing Phillips in the same direction. They led us to the beach, and along it for about a mile, when we came to a small river which we were then unable to cross as it was high tide. Our escort swam it, and we waited two or three hours when one of them returned and led us over. The water was up to our waists and the current pretty strong, but our friend gave us the end of his spear to hold on to, and we got over safely. He led us to where other blacks were cooking some food. We fared very well, for they had yams, bananas, fern roots, and some small crabs. Meanwhile some more of them were fishing for shrimps. They did not get many, but these were a pleasant addition to our banquet. The blacks then left us, with the exception of one man and a boy who remained to take care of us. This man had a small palm-leaf parcel which we had been curiously observing for some time. He now took hold of it, and led us a short distance to some rocks. He then carefully washed out a small hollow in the stone and, filling it with fresh water, opened his parcel. To our surprise we saw that it contained a nest of ants and ants' eggs, as they are commonly called. They are, however, really pupae or chrysalides. He then emptied them into a basket and commenced mashing them with his hand, letting the juice run through into the pool of water. When he had expressed all the moisture, he began eating the dry mass left in the basket, giving us all a share. When we had finished this we began to drink the water which was as white as milk. This preparation had a very pleasant flavour, slightly acid, somewhat resembling lime juice, and had evidently been reserved to the last as a great delicacy. These ants are of a pale-green colour, about half an inch long and stingless. They are, I think, found in dead wood.

After our repast was concluded we went to a large hut near the mouth of the river, and made ourselves comfortable for the night. This was a family camp, most of the blacks having gone to another in the bush. With us there were only two men, two or three women, and six or seven children. We always found that we were better fed under these circumstances. The gins and pickaninnies were very kind, giving us plenty to eat.

GROUP 2: Just before daybreak we heard a "Coo-ee!" I went out of the hut and saw that we were surrounded by blacks, I said to Smith, "It's all up with us now, they are going to kill us for certain!" As I looked around I could see heads popping up here and there, and then about 20 or 30 blacks advanced armed with spears, and wooden swords. They came to the entrance of our hut, and began to pull Smith's clothes and my hair. Then a spear came through the back of the hut, and stuck in the sand between Smith and me. Thinking our time had come, we were determined to die fighting. I got a spear through the calf of my right leg. I pulled it out and threw it back. Smith was also wounded with the flying spears, and he, too, threw them back, but did no damage. When we rushed at the blacks, they ran away; but continued to throw spears. I was next speared in the hip, and then just below the spine. Bardon and Siddell called out to us that the blacks wanted our clothes, and as we were nearly fainting with loss of blood, and the pain of our wounds, we pulled off our clothes and gave them up, after which the blacks left us.

I noticed particularly one big native as he wounded me more than twice. I made an attempt to get hold of him, for I was so enraged that I think I would have choked the life out of him. He took my belt and wrapped it around his head, but I eventually got it back again. Smith and I were so exhausted that we fell into a heavy sleep.


Lieut. John Thomas Ewing Gowlland,
master of the "Governor Blackall"
(Click to enlarge.)

March 10
SEARCH VESSEL 4: When news reached Sydney, official steps were taken for the rescue of survivors, and on the 10th March, the steamer Governor Blackall, in the charge of Lieut. Gowlland, R.N., at that time chief of the Australian Naval Survey, left Sydney. When this arrangement was made, the presence of H.M.S. Basilisk in the neighbourhood of Cardwell was not known.

BOAT 3: The Hon. John Bowie Wilson was Premier then. The Basilisk (a Man-of-War) arrived about ten days afterward to search for the missing men and to punish the blacks. They found some of the murdered ones but could recognize only a few. One we were sure was poor Jack Parnell. They also went to the wreck where the vessel went down and saw a sorry sight. The mast still stood out of the water and a lot of clothes were hanging on the masts - either put there for signals or so that their owners could swim without them. The place was alive with sharks so we feared they had had a horrible death. - Crommelin

GROUP 1: Soon after breakfast next morning Haydon appeared on the opposite bank of the river, accompanied by some blacks. They left him there till the tide went down low enough for him to cross, when one of them went back for him. We passed the day in much the same way as the previous one, faring just as well, but in the evening we were conducted to a hut in the bush, about two hundred yards from the beach. This was the largest we had seen. It had three entrances and was about 7 ft. high in the middle. There were three fires in it and about twenty occupants. We were rather crowded, but as it was a wet night, we were very glad of the shelter.

GROUP 2: When they woke, Ingham's leg was very bad, and he found that the ants had eaten into the wound. However, they managed to struggle on in the hopes of leaving the blacks behind. The tide being out, they crossed the river and got round the point. They had not gone far when they saw a mob of blacks coming towards them, and decided to go and confront them. They struggled on, prepared to die, and quite reconciled to their fate as they were thoroughly miserable and exhausted. But as they came nearer they recognised tne friendly blacks, and hope once more revived as they saw it was the same blacks who had gone with their mates north a few days before. There was a most welcome greeting and handshaking, and they made signs to know what had become of their four mates who had gone away with them. The blacks held up three fingers, which they could not understand. However, they went with them until they come to a scrub when the blacks held up one finger, then at the same time three fingers pointing north. They followed the direction given by the one finger, and went into tne scrub, and on getting out at the other side saw a small township of about twenty gunyahs ; about fifty blacks were there and a white man. On getting closer they saw it was Coyle, who had to remain behind with a bad foot. Ingham told Coyle about the blacks attacking him and Smith. Coyle said they should not have given up their clothes, but Ingham said it was only done to save their lives. Forster, Hayden, nnd Phillips had gone further north, but returned the same day, and the blacks brought in something to eat - fruit and shrimps. Ingham and his party were starving, and they held out their hands and got a fruit like a rosella and a shrimp which was devoured at once. They could find nothing themselves, though they looked carefully - for anything edible. - Thomas Ingham

I was awakened by the intense pain caused by hundreds of black ants, which had eaten into my wounds. The tide was now out, and it was possible to cross. So we hobbled off, and managed to get over and round Point Cooper. Then, to our horror, we saw a mob of blacks coming towards us along the beach. But after so many terrible experiences, the desire to live was rapidly disappearing, and we determined to struggle on and meet our fate, not caring how soon we were put out of our misery. But as we drew near hope revived again, for they turned out to be our friends. When the greetings were over, they took us to a native township of about 20 huts, similar to those we had previously seen. They were huge old-fashioned reed bee-hives. The tops of small saplings had been pulled down and fastened to each other, and with the arch thus formed, twigs and leaves were interwoven till it was water-tight. One or more openings about 2 feet high were left to crawl in and out by. The interiors were dry and fairly comfortable. Some were large enough to accommodate a dozen or more. There were about 50 natives in this township, and with them was Coyle, who had to remain behind because of a very bad toe. Forster, Haydon, and Phillips had gone further to the north, but they returned later in the day, and all the blacks brought in something to eat. Some had fruit like rosellas, and some had shrimps. We were starving, and we held out our hands to the blacks, and begged for food. They gave us what they had, but it was a poor meal. Our hunger was so great that we looked for frogs, snakes, and lizards, but could find none. From this township we could see the Bellenden Kerr Range with its lofty peak rising 5400 feet above the sea the highest mountain in Queensland, distant some twelve to fifteen miles. There we rested that night. - Thomas Ingham

March 11
GROUP 2: On the third morning after we reached the township, Smith was unable to move, owing to his spear wounds. I was in no better plight; my wounds were inflamed and swollen to a terrible size. We found that the least painful position was when lying on our faces. In spite of our great pain, the cravings of hunger were very keen. Bardon was evidently thinking of what he would give for a square meal, for he asked me how I would like to be dining at the Royal Hotel. I said, "Never mind about the Royal Hotel, but if ever I get back to Sydney again, I will go to Carpenter's pie stall, and have a dozen pies."

About midday I was on the beach, and saw a sail in the offing. It was a great way off, and apparently did not notice our signals, A heavy storm put out our signal fires, and we were more cast down than ever. - Thomas Ingham

The following day Ingham saw a vessel going north, which passed without noticing their signals. This was the vessel which reported the shipwreck to the Basilisk; she was from Cardwell. The heavy rains put out the signal fires made by Ingham and his party and they were more downhearted than ever. They camped in a big gunyah, three blacks camping with them.

GROUP 1: On the following day we decided to leave our good quarters, and go back to see how Coyle was getting on. We stopped at our friend's hut on the beach to wait for low tide. While there, the women and children caught some small fish that had been left by the tide in a shallow pool. We had a good meal of them, eating them whole, after roasting them on the coals. In the evening we crossed the creek, escorted by a larger number of blacks. We, however, made signs that we did not want them, and they went back.

When we had reached the camp where we had left Coyle we found it almost deserted, there being now only a few blacks and their families there. Our four companions whom we had left south of Point Cooper had arrived shortly before we did, and stated that Smith and Ingham had been maltreated by the blacks. We were rather puzzled to account for this, as we had received nothing but kindness at their hands. The only solution I could arrive at was that they had failed to understand their signs, and consequently had done something to displease them. As soon, however, as they had started in our direction the blacks had left them alone. There were thus eight of us depending for our support on a very small party of the natives - a burden we had endeavoured to avoid by distributing ourselves among them.

About midday the blacks drew our attention to a small vessel sailing to the northward. We made a large fire and put green bushes on it to make a thick smoke, but the weather was very squally and she passed without seeing us. We afterwards heard it was the Coquette, a cutter from Cardwell. Soon after she had passed out of sight we were joined by our four companions. They had also seen the sail and had done everything in their power to attract attention, but without success. We slept that night in some gunyahs on the beach, the blacks going to their camp in the bush.

Fortunately, however, this evening there was no lack of food, the chief article being the fruit, or rather seeds, of a kind of ginger. These have a very pleasant sweet taste. I have been since informed that there are fifteen species of this plant in this part of the country.

Coyle's toe had become much worse during our absence. He was suffering great pain in his foot and leg, and was scarcely able to move. He had, however, been well cared for while we were away. We were about ten miles north of Gladys River, and five or six from where we first landed. The blacks appeared to be gradually shifting to the northward, apparently as the food became scarce.

March 12
SEARCH VESSEL 3: Eight survivors on RAFT 1 were discovered and rescued by the Basilisk on the 12th March. Captain Moresby had calculated the current and drift from the wreck and proceeded to Cooper's Point and sent out boats north and south to examine the coast.

On Tuesday, 12th March, about mid-day, a black came running into camp, shouting, "White burra. White burra!" Smith and I were too far gone to take much notice, but presently Phillips came running to the camp, and shouted, "Hurrah! lads, a boat has come ashore! Come along." This glorious news seemed to put new life into me. I was able to get up, and Smith also got on to his feet, and hobbled off. Coyle, who was suffering agonies from his toe, hopped along on one leg. We caught hold of Phillips and cried, "Is it really true? Has a boat come for us?" "Yes," said Phillips, "It's quite true; come along." And along we went, and got to the shore just in time to see the boat run on to the beach, with the bluejackets of dear Old England pulling, and Captain Moresby in the stern in uniform, with the familiar gold lace and buttons. Our feelings quite overcame us, and one and all we all sobbed like children, and then poured forth our heartfelt thankfulness to Almighty God for our deliverance. We shook hands with Captain Moresby and his boat's crew as though we were long lost brothers. Some of the sailors wept with us, and our kind black friends seemed to rejoice with us that we had been rescued. - Thomas Ingham

On reaching the beach next morning, the 12th of March, 1872 a day ever to he remembered I heard some blacks shouting, and, on looking at them, saw them pointing to the sea. Following their directions I spied the masts of a vessel from six to eight miles to the northward, near the Franklin Islands. I shouted to Haydon and Phillips, who were some little distance behind, and we commenced making a fire to attract attention. Smith and Siddell soon afterwards joined us, and after sending Siddell with the blacks to look for food, as he was too lazy to work, three of us went up the hill and made another fire. When there we made out the vessel to be a man-of-war; we then felt sure it was the Basilisk, as we knew she had been up at Cape York.

On the third day poor Smith was too ill to move, caused by his spear wounds ; Ingham was also very bad; his wounds were greatly swollen and inflamed and in a terrible state which was increased by the cravings of hunger. Fortunately help was at hand. Some of the stronger ones had gone to the beach and saw H.M.S. Basilisk in the offing. Fires were lighted and signals made which were noticed by the Basilisk, as she was seen to be coming in to the shore, and anchored, and a boat was seen to leave her and come towards them, as they evidently had been seen. - Thomas Ingham

After going round the Franklin Group, she steamed slowly past at a distance of three or four miles and went out of sight round Point Cooper. We then came down the hill onto the beach where we had left Smith. Haydon meanwhile bemoaned our hard fate. After about half-an-hour, however, she again appeared in sight and anchored immediately opposite us. It was now about midday, and we anxiously watched her for another hour or so, waving our shirts and coats, when to our unspeakable joy we saw a small black speck a little distance astern of her. This we knew must be a boat, and as soon as she came near enough to leave no doubt that she was coming in for us, we fell on our knees on the sand and offered up thanks to God for our deliverance. Meanwhile, I had asked Phillips to go back to the camp and bring down Coyle, Ingham, and Bardon. They arrived on the beach just as the boat grounded and Captain Moresby and his crew jumped out and welcomed us.

Forster at once sent off the blacks to help tbe crippled ones down from the blacks' camp, and at noon a black fellow came running into the camp, shouting, 'White Burral White Burra!' Ingham and Smith were too ill to move, and did not take much notice of the black fellow, not knowing what he meant, but when Phillips came running into the camp and shouted, 'Hurrah! lads. A boat has come ashore! Come along!' it seemed to put new life into Ingham and Smith, and though they could not move a few minutes before, they got up ready to hobble away, and Coyle, wno was in the camp suffering very much with his foot, came hopping along on one leg. He caught hold of Phillips, and said, 'Is it really true, Phillips? Has a boat come in for us?' ' Yes.' said Phillips, 'it is quite true; come along.'

The poor crippled wretches managed to get to the beach just as the boat ran on to the bench, with old England's blue jackets pulling. and Captain Moresby (now Admiral) in the stern in the dear old uniform. They were so overcome that they sobbed like children; these men who had suffered all kinds of privations, hardships, and almost certain death with dry eyes poured out their thankfulness for their deliverance in floods of tears. On their knees thanks were offered to the Almighty, for they seemed to see the finger of God in all that had taken place. Some of the sailors wept with them when they saw the pitiful condition they were in, and the blacks too seemed to rejoice that the whites had been rescued.

Captain Moresby had brought a bottle of sherry ashore, and each shipwrecked man was given a glass. It seemed indeed a drink for the gods. Captain Moresby wished to see the native township; he was taken there by Forster, and greatly admired the skill and neatness shown in making the rainproof huts. The kind blacks were all pointed out, and subsequently presents were sent to them, though not very appropriate ones. Ingham, Smith, Bardon, and Coyle were so bad they had to be carried to the boats, and the whole eight who were cast ashore from the larger raft were taken on board the Basilisk. This was Tuesday, the 12th of March, 1872 a day never to be forgotten by any of the eight so long as life should last. - Thomas Ingham


The paddle warship "HMS Basilisk", built in 1848. She sailed on
the Australian Station under Capt. John Moresby who rescued 8
members of RAFT 1 in 1872, and later charted 600 miles of the
New Guinea Coast line and much of the Australian Great Barrier Reef.

(Picture Source:)

SEARCH VESSEL 3: The Paymaster of the Basilisk, Mr. O'Neill, was the possessor of an excellent spy glass, and as he stood on the bridge scanning the coast, he called out, "I see white men on the beach!" To call away a boat was the work of an instant. Captain Moresby, provided with food and wine, jumped in and the boat was pulled rapidly in shore. Suddenly it was noticed that the men seemed to have disappeared and a number of blacks were standing in their place. Seeing this, the men gave way with a will that sent the boat flying through the water. But just as the rescuers landed, the white men rose into sight again. They had fallen on their knees to give thanks to Almighty God for their deliverance. The feeble voices with which they tried to raise a cheer showed that they had only been rescued just in time.

I should think that meeting will never be forgotten by any of us. Never did I feel such pleasure in grasping an honest English hand as at that moment. Although we had been so kindly treated by our black friends, and although we had never given up the hope of being rescued, yet now that we were saved I was almost unable to believe it. The thought uppermost in my mind at that moment was that I would soon see again those who were most dear to me on earth, and who perhaps were thinking they would see me no more; and that in a short time they would receive intelligence of my safety. In fact, some of us would have cared little about our sojourn among the blacks could we only have let them know we were alive.

Captain Moresby had brought ashore with him a bottle of wine, which proved a great boon to the weaker of our party. Indeed, ws were all glad enough to get it, though I felt at this exciting moment equal to any exertions. We tried to get the blacks to taste the wine, but they would not touch it. We then accompanied Captain Moresby to the camp, a few blacks coming with us. These poor, ignorant creatures appeared to rejoice in our joy, though expressing sorrow at our departure. They had embraced Coyle most affectionately when he left them, and on hearing of the arrival of the boat, many of them cried bitterly.

Captain Moresby brought some sherry with him. Such sherry was never surely drunk before or since. Captain Moresby visited the native township and rewarded our black friends. Then we parted with them. Smith, Bardon, Coyle, and I had to be carried to the boat to go on board the Basilisk. There, under the kind care of Dr. Goodman, the sick and exhausted men with poor constitutions began to mend slowly while the strong ones were soon practically all right. - Thomas Ingham

After taking leave of our black friends we embarked on board the gig, and in about an hour reached the Basilisk. Captain Moresby then sent back the gig with a bag of biscuits and some preserved meat as a reward to the blacks for their kind behaviour to us. This mark of kindness they richly deserved, for in all probability we should have starved but for them. They would always, when we travelled with them, give us a helping hand or go into the bush to get a walking stick if any of us were without one.

We were heartily welcomed on mounting the deck, then taken below and clothed in respectable garments, for our own had suffered considerably from the rough treatment they had undergone, and most of us had lost our hats and boots. When our toilet was completed, we found dinner awaiting us in the ward-room, and sat down to perhaps the most delightful meal we had ever tasted, after which we went on deck and indulged in a smoke - another luxury we had long been deprived of. The rest of the evening was spent in recounting our adventures, and in learning the fate of our fellow-passengers in the Maria.

The doctor of the Basilisk. Dr. Goodman (a most appropriate name), had been watching through a telescope what was being done on shore, and had preparations for the reception of half-starved men, and by the time the poor fellows arrived at the ship, side basins of nice hot beef-tea were ready for them. Even the smell of the food was delightful, though it made them almost ravenous. The basins were quickly emptied and eyes cast round for more, and to see what was 'coming next'. The mute appeal was promptly answered by the stewards bringing in roast beef and other dishes. There was no delay in getting to business, but just as they were in the full enjoyment of this glorious feast, Dr. Goodman came in and exclaimed, "Good heavens! Why, you will kill all these poor fellows if you feed them in this way!" And the eatables were quickly removed, to the disappointment of the still-ravenous men. Each man was then taken to a separate cabin where his few rags were removed and he was given a warm bath. The doctor then made an examination of Ingham's wounds. The spear wounds were in a frightful state, mortification having set in in the one on the hip. The spear tips were fortunately not poisoned, but the poor state of the blood had caused the wounds to fester. Dr. Goodman was most kind and assiduous.

We then heard for the first time, to our surprise, of the murder of the captain and two of his crew by blacks at Tam o' Shanter Point, not many miles south of where we had been living on such friendly terms with others. We at first conjectured that this was because the natives with whom we had been living had had no intercourse whatever with whites; but this could not be the only reason as was proved by the subsequent discovery of the murder of seven of the poor fellows who had started on the other raft on the southern side of the mouth of Gladys River [now Johnstone River at Innisfail]. We had been on the northern shore of this river, on the third day after landing, but were unable to cross. We had, however, met blacks there who treated us in the kindest possible manner. And these men were evidently in the habit of crossing, as they had both rafts and canoes. The only solution, therefore, that I can arrive at is that the occupants of the other raft had made no attempt to conciliate them, but had endeavoured to live on their own resources. The blacks, being naturally shy, would then never make any advances, but would look upon any strangers as intruders, and, consequently, as enemies. [The same thing happened to those on BOAT 3.]

Captain Moresby told the rescued men that he had been instructed by the Admiralty to follow the Maria to New Guinea, and had kept a sharp lookout. In following the Maria, the Basilisk had also encountered the monsoon which had wrecked the brig. Captain Moresby came to the conclusion that if the Maria had been caught in the monsoon, which was almost certain, she would most likely be wrecked, and he kept a sharp lookout for wreckage or any evidence of the whereabouts of the brig. As the Basilisk was working her way south, the schooner Coquette, from Cardwell was met and interrogated, and from her Captain Moresby heard that the Maria really had been wrecked on Bramble Reef, and a lot of men had gone off on rafts. The captain at once worked out which way the rafts would have floated by the currents, and where they would reach the shore. He then started looking for the missing men in that direction. The accuracy of the captain's calculations was proved by his finding them almost exactly where he expected, and to his ability in all probability the lives of most of the party was due for it was impossible for several of them to have lasted much longer without medical aid and food.

Lieutenant Mourilyan, who had been searching along the shore south of the Johnstone River, arrived on board the Basilisk soon after the shipwrecked men had been saved, and reported the discovery of the smaller raft. He had also discovered Mourilyan Harbour, which was named after him. He found two dead bodies, which had been stripped of all clothes except the boots. He brought one body on board to be identified, and it proved to be the leader of the mining party, and the other was identified as that of Parnell.

Soon after we were taken on board the Basilisk. Lieutenant Mourilyan came on board, and reported the finding of the smaller raft. He brought one body on board to be identified. It turned out to be that of the leader of the mining party. - Thomas Ingham

March 13
The smaller raft [RAFT 2] was found by the Basilisk boat, under command of Lieutenant Smith, the day after we were picked up, and lying near it were the bodies, or rather skeletons, of two men. These had died apparently from exhaustion soon after being washed ashore.

Captain Moresby, meanwhile, not knowing of this discovery, as the boat had been away the previous night, had continued his search as far as Fitzroy Island, thinking that perhaps the other raft, being lighter, had drifted to the north of where we were found. Seeing no signs of any white men, he returned, and steamed as far as Double Point where he anchored to await the return of the cutter which came on board a little before midnight.

March 14
The next day another search was made in the vicinity of the little raft, but no more discoveries resulted. Captain Moresby had asked me to go with Lieutenant Smith on this occasion, to try and get some information from the blacks. We succeeded in getting hold of an old man in a canoe up the river, but could make nothing of him.

On this day, the 14th, the body of Williams had been discovered at the entrance of Mourilyan Harbour (so-called in honour of Lieutenant Mourilyan, of H.M.S. Basilisk and formerly known as Shoal Haven), which is the mouth of the Johnstone River (formerly Shoal Rivulet) emptying itself at Double Point. He had been most cruelly murdered. His was the only body that could be identified and Dr. Goodman of the Basilisk was of the opinion that he had not been dead more than thirty hours. The six bodies afterwards found by the Governor Blackall were in too far advanced a stage of decomposition to be identified.

March 15 - Friday
SEARCH VESSEL 3: On Friday, the 15th, the Basilisk left Double Point, and in the evening arrived back in Cardwell with the 8 survivors of RAFT 1.

RAFT 1: We were at last able to send the intelligence of our safety to Sydney, and were informed that the Governor Blackall under command of Lieutenant Gowlland was expected the following day. On hearing this, Captain Moresby decided to await her arrival at Cardwell and to keep us on board till then. His kindess was fully appreciated by us as we were in far better quarters than we could hope to find in the township, and I, for one, shall never forget the old Basilisk and all that were in her, both for the timely assistance rendered to us and the hospitality received on board.

March 16 - Saturday
Second news flash sent from Cardwell regarding the survivors rescued by the Basilisk on March 12.

On Saturday, then, we remained in Rockingham Bay, and in the afternoon Dr. Goodman and Lieutenant Mourilyan took me with them on a shooting excursion to Hinchinbrook Island but, unfortunately, the tide was so low that we could not get close enough to the beach, and were compelled to return with only two curlews.

SEARCH VESSEL 4: Governor Blackall arrives at Cardwell.

After taking in 240 tons of coal at Newcastle, the Governor Blackall proceeded north with all speed, and arrived at Cardwell on 16th March. There the Basilisk was found at anchor, and from Capt. Moresby, Lieut. Gowlland learned of the finding of Mr. Ingham and his seven fellow survivors of the larger raft, and that he had discovered three dead bodies further south, supposed to be those of men who had landed from the second raft. Lieut. Gowlland, in his official report to the N.S.W. Government says: "The reception on board the Governor Blackall of these poor fellows was a scene that none of the spectators will be likely to forget. They were all in a more or less destitute state, and most of them suffering from ulcerated sores on the body and low fever, the result of three days' and three nights' partial submersion on the raft without food or water, of bad or no food at all whilst with the blacks, and of some seven or eight days weary journeyings along burning beaches and sharp, jagged rocks, in search of sustenance and succour."

The Governor Blackall was now in sight, and while Captain Moresby and I were dining, she was reported to have anchored less than a quarter of a mile further in shore. Shortly after this she sent a boat on board. Lieutenant Gowlland was announced and entered the cabin, and, to my great surprise and pleasure, just behind him were a number of my relations and friends. I will not attempt to describe the meeting; suffice it to say that it was a joyous one for all of us. They declared that they were not going to let me out of their sight again, so took me back with them to the other steamer.

March 17 - Sunday
The next day being Sunday, Captain Moresby kindly asked me on board the Basilisk to be present at service, as he intended returning thanks for our merciful preservation. After this we were all shifted to our new quarters on board the Governor Blackall.

The Basilisk took the survivors to Cardwell and the rescue was duly reported throughout Australia. Before leaving, a thanksgiving service was held at Cardwell, at which a large number from the ship, many residents from Cardwell, and the survivors were present. Captain Moresby delivered a fervent and suitable sermon, whilst those particularly concerned offered up their heartfelt and grateful thanks for their deliverance from a horrible fate. Captain Moresby had a trained choir on board and these singers were present at the service, and sang Pilgrims of the Night magnificently, and the poor, weak fellows who had been brought safely through a most trying ordeal were greatly moved by it.

We started with some native troopers on board to renew the search for the missing men. It was during this trip that the six bodies above mentioned were found. and there now only remained two men unaccounted for, but no traces of them were discovered. It is quite possible, when we consider that five men were lost from the larger RAFT 1, that at least two of those on the smaller RAFT 2 did not reach the shore. However this may be, the exhaustive searches of Captain Moresby and Lieutenant Gowlland leave no doubt that there were no living white men in the neighbourhood.

While in the vicinity of Point Cooper, a few of us went ashore with some blankets and fish-hooks, presented by Mr. Sheridan, the police magistrate of Cardwell, as a reward to the blacks for their kind treatment of us, but unfortunately we could not find them. Evidently they had been frightened by the black trooopers who had been there the day before. However, we left the articles at their camp and have every reason to believe that they received them eventually, as there were very recent traces of them.

March 22
SEARCH VESSEL 4: Having abandoned all hope of finding any more survivors the Governor Blackall returned to Cardwell.

March 23
SEARCH VESSEL 4: The Governor Blackall with 34 of the 36 survivors aboard sailed for Sydney, arriving at Port Jackson on March 28. George Crommelin and the doctor, Tate, for some reason did not accompany the Governor Blackall and the sufferers were, therefore, without any medical attendance except that which Lieut. Gowlland could afford.

After spending a week in the search we returned to Cardwell, and then taking on board the men who had gone in the boats, started for Sydney. We had a very pleasant trip down, with beautiful weather the whole way; but some of us began to feel the effects of our exposure, all being more or less attacked by fever, and many having had ulcerated sores. Coyle's toe was now healing, but very slowly. It had been an extremely bad case, for Dr. Goodman told him that had he been another day without medical treatment, in all probability he would have lost his toe.

I was struck with the beauty of the islands known as the Whitsunday Group, through which we passed on our southward journey. We entered the passage shortly before sunset, a time which greatly enhanced the beauty of the scene. These islands, picturesquely clustered, are for the most part very precipitous, while groves of lofty pines ascend the sides and cap the summits of the hills, with here and there gentle declivities clothed with grass of the richest green.

After leaving these, no objects of peculiar interest presented themselves, and the remainder of the voyage passed without any events of importance occurring. The time passed very pleasantly, the kindess of Lieutenant Gowlland, and the gentlemen accompanying him, adding much to our enjoyment.

March 28 - Thursday
We all returned to Sydney, some on the Blackall, and others, including myself, on the Basilisk. On arrival the friends of many came to meet them - wives and sisters. It was terribly sad and not easily forgotten, remembering all the missing ones. Some that came back had lost all they had. A big party of us went to Punch's Hotel. [This was presumably the "Swan with Two Necks" Hotel kept by Stephen Punch at the corner of George and Park streets.] He gave us an open house. Also Gus Wongannie (renowned as the lightning sketcher) was to the front with his hospitality.

After remaining a few days in Sydney, Father came for me and took me to Albury where he was then living at the Rose Hotel kept by Mr. and Mrs. King. Father was then Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Riverina. I then went to Gingerrick on the Murray to see my brother James. Gingerrick was managed by Mr. Sindwick. I stayed a few weeks there for my brother James was taken very ill with inflammation of the lungs and I had to help nurse him. - George Whiting Crommelin

At about nine o'clock on the evening of Thursday, the 28th of March, we arrived in Sydney, greatly rejoiced to see it again; and thus ended our adventures and the New Guinea Expedition of 1872. - W.T. Forster


EPILOGUE
  • Of the men saved, eight were rescued by the Basilisk where RAFT 1 landed, four men of the captain's BOAT 1 struggled along the shore from Tam O'Shanter Point to Cardwell, and twenty-eight arrived in BOATS 1 & 2 at Cardwell having taken different routes. Therefore 40 were saved; 12 died on the wreck; 5 drowned off the large raft; and about 18 died at the hands of hostile aborigines.

  • The bodies of most of the others on the smaller raft were also found by Sub-inspector Johnstone. Search was made at Tam o' Shanter Point for Captain Stratman and his boat's crew. The captain's skull was found in the blacks' camp, and was identified by his artificial teeth. His remains and those of the men who were killed by the blacks were found in the blacks' camp, and had evidently been eaten, for Sub-inspector Johnstone found dilly-bags in a native hut containing pieces of partly roasted human flesh, which evidently belonged to the massacred men.

  • The cannibals and those who had mistreated Ingham and Smith, and murdered the captain and his crew, were punished by the native police under Sub-inspector Johnstone. No doubt the innocent paid the penalty of the guilty, and the possession of any articles of clothing belonging to the whites was regarded as evidence that they had taken part in the butchery of the shipwrecked people. The big black fellow who had tried to kill Ingham was one of them. He had decked his head with Ingham's belt (an ordinary elastic cricketer's belt, so fashionable at that time), evidently wearing it as a trophy won by his prowess. Sub-inspector Johnstone secured that belt and returned it to Ingham, who treasures it to this day as a precious relic of the eventful fortnight he spent among the natives of North Queensland.

  • Captain Moresby was greatly impressed with the kindness of the tribe of natives who had befriended the shipwrecked whites and sent them presents of provisions on shore. By this time, apparently, Sub-inspector Johnstone must have been in the neighbourhood, for no blacks could be seen by the party who took the things on shore, and they were left at the huts. Amongst the things left were tins of meat and biscuits. It was afterwards reported that the blacks trundled the biscuits along the beach as playthings. The tins were taken away but the contents were thrown out on the beach. The blankets, no doubt, were made use of, so that if the right parties got hold of them, they would understand that the presents were made in consideration of their kindness to the hapless whites.

  • During the return voyage to Sydney most of us recovered. Poor old John Bardon, however, never rallied, and within a week of our return, he passed away, worn out by the sufferings and privations which he had undergone.

  • The moment I arrived in Sydney I took a cab, and drove straight to Carpenter's pie-stall. Mrs. Carpenter knew all about me and she would not let me pay for the pies. I did not eat the full dozen, however, for my friends ate two of them.

  • I attended a Thanksgiving in St. Andrew's Cathedral, but I was so weak that I fainted away during the service.

  • Sub-Inspector Johnstone gave short-shrift to the cannibals, who had eaten the Captain's party, and the brutes who had mistreated us. The big fellow who had speared me and taken my belt was seen to be wearing it around his head like a crown. That sealed his fate. This belt saved my life when I gave it to him. It made him a king when he crowned himself with it, and it brought about his demise. Sub-Inspector Johnstone gave it back to me, and I have kept it ever since.

  • Of the rest of our party of eight on the big raft, none are now alive. Mr. W.T. Forster, after his return, practised as a solicitor at Wilcannia, and afterwards in Western Australia. I last heard from him in 1903. Mr, Lawrence Coyle went to South America, and I believe died there. Mr. Peter Haydon's hair turned quite white. He is long since dead. Mr. E. Siddell, who was at one time employed by Mr. Wills at Cullin-a-ringo Station, where the massacre by blacks occurred in October, 1861, lived for many years in Rockhampton, where he died in June, 1914. Of the other survivors, William Barclay died in Sydney in August, 1905. S. G. Pegus died about 1901 at Maytown. Mr. Kendall Broadbent, who was in the Queensland Museum afterwards, died in January, 1911. Mr. Lawrence Hargrave died in Sydney on 6th July last, at the age of 65. He was a member of the New South Wales Branch of the Royal Society, and his experiments in aviation were of no little value. It is said that the German Taube is built upon his design.

  • I have a letter from Admiral Moresby acknowledging my reminiscences. It may be of interest. It reads as follows:

    Blackbick,
    Fareham Hants,
    21st April, 1910.

    Dear Mr. Ingham,

    It is very gratifying after all these 38 years to receive your recollections of the old Basilisk through whose efforts you and your surviving shipmates were so providentially rescued from death, and it is tempered with sadness, if it be true, as you suppose, that you and I are the only survivors. Not sadness that they have gone to be with God, but for those who loved and depended on them, and who are now desolate.

    My memory at over 80 fails me so that I cannot pick you out from amongst your comrades; but I can still see you in my mind's eye, all falling on your knees in prayer of thankfulness, as I in my boat approached you, and I well remember how kind Dr. Goodman was to you all.

    I have recently published a book, Two Admirals which describes all about your rescue. It has attracted much attention in Australia. I daresay if you ask the principal bookseller in Brisbane about it, he will put you in the way of getting it.

    I am glad to see you are, apparently, at the head of a flourishing business.

    With every good wish for your success.
    I remain, Your old friend,
    J. MORESBY

    - Thomas Ingham, 3rd May 1916

  • Lt. Gowlland, who volunteered to be master of the Governor Blackall in a temporary assignment to search for Maria's survivors, was accidentally drowned in Sydney Harbour in 1874, some five months after he gave his report on the search to the N.S.W. government. In earlier exploits he was involved in surveying around Vancouver Island and the coast of British Columbia, Canada.


  • Captain Thomson, who occupied the chair of the Historical Society of Queensland at the meeting on 3rd May 1916 said:
    My acquaintance with the Maria went back a very long way. She was said to be twenty years old, but really she was very much older. She first appeared in these waters under the name of the Drucut. she traded from San Francisco. In 1852 she had as the mate a man named Cottier. On the death of her captain. Cottier married his widow, and got the brig. She was then sold to a man named Sayers, who re-named her the Maria, and used her in the sugar trade with Mauritius. She then passed into the coal trade. Cottier afterwards had the Lady Bowen, and the Clarence in the Queensland coasting trade. He lived in George Street, Brisbane.

    In January, 1872, I was in Sydney, and hearing that the Maria needed a captain, I went on board. She was then lying in Woolloomooloo Bay. My reception was chilling. I was told that they needed men, not boys. However, in consequence of something I heard, I determined to try again, and went on board, and as I did so caught hold of the backstay and pulled it down. That was enough for me. Someone asked what I wanted, and I said "Nothing, thanks. Your ship is rotten! Good-day!"

    Some twenty years after I heard that Dr. Thomas Tate, a schoolmaster at Normanton, had written an account of the Maria, I asked him to dinner with me, and in the course of conversation he asked me why I was so interested in his little pamphlet. I said, "Do you remember a lad offering his services as sailing master on the deck of the Maria?" "I do," he replied, "and I wish we had taken him on." "Well, I am the young fellow," and we shook hands.

  • The spot where the Maria is lying is not far from where the Lady Bowen was wrecked, so that these two ships, both commanded by Captain Cottier, were wrecked on the same reef.

  • Sir Alfred Cowley said:

    I was not in Queensland at the time of the wreck of the "Maria," but I was at the Johnstone River shortly afterwards, and have been all over the ground, and I have heard the story from many persons, such as Mr. B. G. Sheridan, P.M., who took part in the rescue of the survivors. I have just returned from New Guinea. There is no doubt whatever of its richness and fertility.

  • In 1872, Cardwell was the farthest north of the coastal settlements, and the coastline had been carefully surveyed, but beyond this nothing had been considered necessary.

  • The history of the founding and settlement of the Innisfail district had its genesis in the discovery of Mourilyan Harbour and the Johnstone River, under the tragic circumstances surrounding the wreck of the brig Maria on Bramble Reef. Cardwell was then the farthest north of the white settlements till Somerset was reached. Till that time the coast from Cardwell to the Endeavour River had suffered no promise of harbours for the ships of early navigators. The dense scrub and mangroves, crocodile infested tidal estuaries and inlets, and the ferocity of the natives to ship-wrecked crews, together with the absence of anything offering a reward for enterprising settlers, were all factors that contributed to deter any attempt to explore the coastal lands. Kennedy in 1848, and Hann in 1872, each had experienced a set-back by the jungle belt, which so far held its secret of potential wealth.

  • The actual settlement of coastal lands in the rain-forest belt began in 1873 with the founding of the port of Cooktown. Cairns, in 1876, and Port Douglas, in 1877 were established to serve the needs of the interior. The Johnstone River [Innisfail], though discovered first, was the last to be settled. This was only after the liberalising of the land laws making large holdings available, together with a boom in sugar-growing.


Ship Mates...



[Above extract from 'First Attempts at Settlement in New Guinea'
which contains the account of W.T. Forster and that of Thomas InghamSource:]

George Whiting Crommelin

John Henry (Jack) Parnell

Lawrence Hargrave, engineer

Dr. Thomas Tate, surgeon, botanist

Captain's Boat 1
- largest boat with only 7 aboard
- deserted the sticken vessel
- could have held 25

Finney (saved - wounded by blacks)
Wilson (saved - naked and wounded)
Capt. Thomas Stratman (German, killed by blacks)
B. Sullivan (saved - naked and wounded)
Wallen (saved - wounded by blacks)
Total: 5 [2 unknowns also killed]

Boat 2
- whaler
- carried 19 people south of Hinchinbrook and up the channel to Cardwell

Arps
William Barclay (O.S.)
Kendall Broadbent (O.S.)
Hugh Chalon (A.B.)
L. Dickman (A.B.)
R. Fox (A.B.)
James Gray (O.S.)
Ashley Goble (storekeeper)
Richard Good (O.S.)
David H. Hyman (O.S.) (short, Jew)
Hess
Thomas O. Croft (O.S.)
Joseph King (O.S.)
Louis Konig (O.S.)
Arthur Lane (A.B.)
C.F. Le Fin (steward)
Jacob Maag (boatswain - has charge of sails, anchors, cables)
W. Misdell (O.S.)
S.G. Pegus (O.S.)
Mark Powell (O.S.)
Joseph Robinson (O.S.)
J. Ramsay (A.B.)
Schwelfling (O.S.)
G.F. Sonnichsen (chief officer, fired rifle at Captain's boat which deserted the others)
Dr. Thomas Tate (surgeon)
E. Wright (O.S.) (sailor, fought with the captain)

Total: 26 [All the above survived; some of these were in Boat 3.]

Boat 3
- built to hold 8, had 12 or 13 aboard
- arrived at Cardwell with 9 aboard following a fight with the blacks

George W. Crommelin (A.B.)
Lawrence Hargrave (sailmaker, tall and powerful man, took charge of building the rafts)

[Nine of the above survived attacks by black cannibals, food poisoning, and crocodiles.]
[Note: The discrepancies in names and numbers above arise from ambiguities in the accounts of Crommelin and W.T. Forster. Where uncertainties exist, all boat survivors are lumped under 'Boat 1'. Several obviously belong in 'Boat 2'. Clarification may be forthcoming by reading Peter Maiden's book.]
Total: 2 [7 others to be included from the names of Boat 2 above; plus 3 unknown casualties from the list below.]

Large Raft 1
- the 'large raft'
- had 13 aboard
- 8 arrived safely

John Bardon (he and Siddell left the group after landing and weren't seen again for eight days)
Charles L. Coyle (A.B.) (tall, dark, great horseman)
William T. Forster (A.B.) (red-haired, strong, thickset fellow, son of the Agent-General of NSW)
Peter Haydon (O.S.) (notable for his long beard, red hair, and the Bible which he managed to save and from which the group drew comfort)
Thomas Ingham
Robert Phillips (steward)
Edward Siddell (selfish, lazy, uncooperative)
Thomas Smith (carpenter, in his 50's, bald)
Total: 8 survivors

[The survivors above were helped by blacks who shared their food and lodgings with them. They were picked up by the 'Basilisk' on March 12, 1872.]

- 5 died aboard Raft 1
Anderson*
Hazelbrook (O.S.) (German)
J. Morris (O.S.) (captain's steward, French, good swimmer)
Patrick Roden (A.B.) (or 'Soden')*
Alexander Sanderson (O.S.) (sailor)
Trenchard*
Percy Tanner (O.S.) (tall, dark and delicate-looking man, popular cartoonist and reporter for Sydney Morning Herald)
Taylor
Total: 8 [only 5 actually were lost, so 3 of these belong to a different category, perhaps the 3 that were killed from Boat 3.]
[The above drowned when they were washed off the large raft which often overturned.
* Anderson, Roden and Trenchard are not mentioned to be on either raft in W.T. Forster's account of the ordeal.]

Small Raft 2
- had 12 aboard
- all died by drowning or killed by blacks

Angel
William Dalgleish (O.S.)(tall, thin, and athletic)
Walter Davis (A.B.)
Alexander Grant (O.S.) (drowned - swept off small raft and could not be picked up by the large raft)
William Hardy (O.S.)
Heakman
S.W. Hooker (carpenter's mate)
O'Malley
Jack Parnell (reddish, tall, athletic, very gentlemanly)
Daniel Polin (O.S.)
Joseph Rowe (O.S.)
Robert Solomon (assistant cook)
W. Thompson (A.B.)
Owen Williams (A.B.) (body found 6 miles south of the raft, naked, murdered)
Total: 14 [2 probably belong to a different category]

[All the above, except for Grant who drowned, were killed by hostile black cannibals who were short in stature. This raft landed 6 miles south of the large raft.]

Stayed on Maria Wreck
- all drowned or taken by sharks

John Meehan (A.B.)
R. Cork (A.B.)
Charles T. Andrews (second officer)
J. Arkley (A.B.) (sailor)
H. Bolton (O.S.)
G. Cockburn (O.S.)
Coot
William Crout (O.S.)
John Crookes (O.S.)
Repran
Andrew Shewell
Stewart
Weeham
C. Zimmerman (O.S.) (older, gray-haired Jew)

Total: 14 [Most accounts claim only 9 went down with the ship. All these were victims of drowning or sharks.]

Also Mentioned in Various Articles - some perhaps erroneously, or misspelled:

J. Reyssin (O.S.)*
James Sullivan (O.S.)* - [credible, since Crommelin mentions 'Sullivan brothers'; this Sullivan likely accompanied his brother on Boat 1. The other Sullivan survived, but this one may have been killed by blacks at Tam O'Shanter Point.]
Oscar O.P. Farmer (O.S.)*
Coburn (likely G. Cockburn (O.S.))
Hocroft/Hocraft (likely Thomas O. Croft (O.S.))
S. Burgell (first cook)*
H. Hickman (steward)*
Brightman - (perhaps 'Wright' or 'Wraight')
T. Murphy - (assistant surgeon) [perhaps the Irish chap who Crommelin says swam away from the wreck]*
Wallace - (likely 'Wallen')
Nilson - in Capt.'s crew (likely 'Wilson')
Rudolph Angus - (Third Officer, likely 'Angel')
Spefel - (perhaps 'Siddell')
W. Musdatt - (O.S.) (likely 'Misdell')
K. Broadhurst - (O.S.) (likely 'Kendall Broadbent')
Letin - (likely 'Le Fin')
Watson - mentioned in Crommelin's account, perhaps 'Wallen'
Coleman - mentioned in Crommelin's account, perhaps 'Coburn' or 'G. Cockburn'
Peagns - mentioned by Crommelin, likely 'S.G. Pegus'
Tom Hartley* - mentioned in Thomas Ingham's account but nowhere else
Arthur Patchett Martin - (poet, likely a bogus claim to having been on this voyage)
Total: 7 [* Seven credible individuals who are not already mentioned in the above categories]

Grand Total: 84

It is difficult to fix the exact number of men that sailed on the Maria because each survivor's account presents a different tally. Kendal Broadbent asserts there were as many as 98 men aboard the Maria while Thomas Tate said there were 76. Thomas Ingham's tally was 86. Certainly there seems to have been more than 75 men, the figure that William Forster declares, and the one most commonly used in various accounts regarding the tragic shipwreck.


PostScript

As noted earlier, there is a discrepancy between the route taken by Boat #3 as suggested by George W. Crommelin in his memoirs, and the route described in Peter Maiden's book, "ShipWreck".

Peter Maiden asserts both boats #2 and #3 took the shortest route to land from Bramble Reef, arriving on the E. coast of Hinchinbrook Island. There they met each other, went south around the S. part of Hinchinbrook, and then north to Cardwell through the Hinchinbrook Channel.

George Crommelin, however, makes no mention of Hinchinbrook Island or meeting up with Boat #2, and he describes being attacked by hostile aborigines - something that didn't happen to the Boat #2 occupants. I therefore presumed that Boat #3 landed in the vicinity of Maria Creek National Park. Verification of this discrepancy may be possible if some future researcher would take the time to examine the records and memorabilia of Minard Crommelin archived at Sydney University. She had some correspondence with Lawrence Hargrave which may shed light on the actual route taken by her father, George Whiting Crommelin, in Boat #3, and the names of its occupants. Then the last mystery surrounding the ill-fated brig Maria would finally be solved.