The Register newspaper

Monday 14th May 1855


Reported Shipwreck- A messenger arrived in town yesterday to report to the authorities that an emigrant vessel, with three hundred and fifty passengers, had been stranded at about 3 o’clock in the morning, two miles to the south of Onkaparinga. A policeman was immediately ordered off to Noarlunga to ascertain particulars; and the steam-tug, under an order from His Excellency the Acting Governor, was got under weigh without delay to render all possible assistance. We have despatched a special reporter to the scene of the disaster, and hope to be enabled to lay full particulars before our readers tomorrow. It is not probable that the vessel has been driven ashore through any stress of weather, as the night was not boisterous, and therefore no loss of life need be apprehended. The messenger had forgotten the name of the stranded ship, but remembered he was told that she was from Liverpool, and had only been about three months on the voyage, so that she is, most probably the Nashwauk, appointed to sail from Liverpool in February, was not to leave earlier than the 18th.



Wreck of the Nashwauk

15th May 1855


The Nashwauk, a fine ship built 18 months ago, as the captain informs us, of between 700 and 800 tons, sailed from Liverpool for Adelaide on the 13th February, under the command of Captain McIntyre. She had on board nearly 300 emigrants, chiefly Irish, among whom there were 130 single girls and a general cargo. She made a quick and favourable passage, but on Sunday morning (the 89th day) unfortunately went ashore in the Gulf. The accident happened exactly opposite Mr Harriott’s house, about 2 miles below the mouth of the Onkaparinga, and notice reached Noarlunga by daybreak. Mr Birrell, the postmaster, sent instantly to the wreck, urging the captain to land the mail and to put the passengers ashore, as there was at that time every prospect of rough weather. At 1 o’clock the landing of the passengers commenced and the whole came to Noarlunga in the course of the afternoon and evening. the surgeon-superintendent also came to the township, and afterwards Captain McIntyre and the ship’s crew, the mates remaining on the beach to watch the wreck. By the exertions of several inhabitants the passengers were lodged in the mill cottages and other empty houses; and a quantity of bread was baked, 8 or 10 sheep were killed and tea was prepared by bucketsful. In short, every thing was done that the kindest hospitality could suggest, but the conduct of the emigrants has led to much remark. Many of the girls behaved in a most discreditable manner, showing plainly that they were either unfit to have been sent as emigrants, or that they had been sadly corrupted on the voyage. On this painful subject we need not enlarge, as there can be no doubt a very searching enquiry will be instituted by the proper authorities, not only into the circumstances attending the loss of the ship, but into the conduct of all concerned during the passage, and after the catastrophe.


In the course of the night Captain Douglas, the Harbour Master arrived from Port Adelaide with the Melbourne steamer and the Government schooner Yatala both which anchored off the wreck and on Monday morning the emigrants, after breakfasting at Noarlunga, were ordered back to the beach. Meanwhile the Nashwauk was lying in two fathoms water, close under the high cliffs of clay and limestone about a quarter of a mile below the reef on which the Tigress was lost. the Nashwauk’s bottom was much damaged, she had had twelve feet of water in her hold, and it was clear that no hope remained of saving her. The sea was rather rough and there was a heavy rolling swell outside the breakers, which induced Captain Douglas to abandon his first intention of putting the emigrants on board the steamer where she then lay and they were directed to walk along the beach on the top of the cliffs to the mouth of the Onkaparinga. About half of them obeyed orders, and assembled in front of Mr Gray’s store, but the remainder cared not tempt again the element from which they had so narrowly escaped, and went back across the country, saying they would get to town as they best could. A few accepted situations in the country. Those who remained, consisting chiefly of females, were taken across the Onkaparinga in boats, and again mustered near the jetty at Port Noarlunga, opposite which the Melbourne was then lying. there the sea outside the breakers was tolerably calm; and at about 3 o’clock the first boat load was safely taken on board. The embarkation was proceeding when our reporter left, and Captain Douglas intended sending the steamer away in the course of the evening with all who were willing to go; but several more deserted and made their way back to Noarlunga. The emigrants luggage was for the most part brought round in drays, by which, or by the Yatala, it was to be sent forward.


The Nashwauk brought no regular mail but a small bag of letters was sent in on Monday. Our reporter made every effort to obtain papers, but was assured by the captain that there were none on board. He also enquired for the manifest, but was told it had been sent ashore with the captain’s boxes. On examining them in the evening at Noarlunga the captain ascertained that the box containing the manifest had been left on board. He stated that the ship was consigned to Messrs. Stilling & Co., and brought a general cargo. It is his opinion as well as Captain Douglas’s that she must inevitably go to pieces.

Captain McIntyre says that up to the time of his leaving England, no ministry had been formed, and that no further news of any importance had been received from the seat of war.


Nothing could exceed the promptitude with which Captain Douglas made his arrangements nor the anxiety he manifested to spare the passengers an unnecessary inconvenience. He mentioned that he was much indebted to Captain Pain of the Northern Light and to Captain Robertson of the Murray steamers, both of whom accompanied him, the former lending him a life boat.


On Monday evening, Captain Warburton, Commissioner of Police, arrived at Noarlunga with four troopers. Two or three of the same Force had been in attendance near the wreck during the day. Soon afterwards Dr. Duncan, the Immigration Agent and Health Officer, was also at the township. We understand there are only four cases of sickness-one woman suffering and two recovering from low fever, and one disabled by an accident. These were attended on Sunday night by Dr. Knipe, of Noarlunga, the ship surgeon being at the time unfit for his duties from intoxication.

We shall probably have further news from the wreck tomorrow. At present we are unable to say how the accident happened, having only heard from the captain that he was below at the time and that after two night’s watching, he had fallen asleep. The second mate, we understand had charge of the ship and the cry of “breakers ahead” was immediately succeeded by her striking. In ignorance at present of the exact facts we are not disposed hastily to cast blame on any one. But that on a quiet night a ship, within a few hours sail of port should go on shore, is prima facie calculated to excite at least surprise. A light on shore was mistaken, it is said for the Lightship, and hence the accident. But though the light of the Lightship may not be easily distinguishable from any other light on shire, it is only natural to suppose that a captain would know his whereabouts better than to miss his mark by forty miles. He must have been in sight of land on the previous day, and ought to have been acquainted with his position with tolerable accuracy. Why he was not so must be explained. The credit of our local waters and the safety of immigrants alike demand a thorough and searching investigation.


Thursday 17th May 1855

Capt. Douglas the Harbour Master, returned to the Port last evening after making a second visit to the Nashwauk, which vessel he reports is breaking up fast, and is now almost full of water. The Harbour Master whose exertions have been very great in relation to this unfortunate catastrophe, left again for the wreck last evening in the Yatala with the intention of saving all the boxes and baggage still above water. Before he set out for Adelaide preparations were being made to cut sway the masts, and her total destruction seemed quite certain at that time.


The South Australian Government Gazette

dated the 12th July 1855


Immigration Office, Port Adelaide 6th July 1855

The Nashwauk was wrecked on the coast near the moth of the Onkaparinga on the 13th of May. All the immigrants were safely landed and taken to the township of Noarlunga, from which place some were taken by the steamer Melbourne to Port Adelaide, and some were sent overland in drays to Adelaide.

An investigation was ordered by his Excellency the Officer Administering the Government into the treatment of the people by the master and surgeon-superintendent of the ship. The Immigration Board sat for this purpose on the 2nd June when it appeared to the Board that there was no foundation for any complaints against the surgeon-superintendent during the voyage. The Board was adjourned to the following Tuesday on purpose to investigate the conduct of the master of the ship, but information having in the interval been received that he had died in Adelaide, the inquiry of course terminated. One hundred and sixty seven young women arrived by this ship and the greater number were a most ineligible class of persons.



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