Archiver > MARINERS > 2006-01 > 1138150695

From: "Raymond W. Henderson" <>
Subject: "Cataraqui" - Dreadful Shipwreck 1845
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 11:58:15 +1100

This was posted on my Melbourne List by a member but thought it might be of
interest to some of this list members as well?

----- Original Message -----
From: "Maureen" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 8:16 AM
Subject: [A.G.R. ] "Cataraqui" - Dreadful Shipwreck 1845

> The Examiner & Commercial Journal, 27 September,
> 1845
> Wreck of the 'Cataraqui' Emmigrant
> Ship,
> 800 Tons, 414 Lives Lost.
> By yesterday's overland mail from Port Phillip, we received Melbourne
> papers, containing the following melancholy account of the dreadful fate
> of the 'Cataraqui' -
> On Saturday morning, Mr. GUTHRIE, the chief mate of this unfortunate
> vessel arrived in Melbourne, in the 'Midge,' bringing the melancholy
> intelligence of the wreck of the 'Cataraqui,' emigrant ship, from
> Liverpool to Port Phillip, with the total destruction of all on board with
> the exception of nine. The following are the particulars of this
> disastrous event : - On the night of Sunday the 3rd August, at seven in
> the evening the vessel was hove to under close reefed topsail and staysail
> ; from the reckoning it was supposed the vessel was in longitude 151 22,
> and latitude 39 15 south. At half past four the following morning, the
> vessel struck upon a reef off King's Island, but for three quarters of an
> hour previous the vessel had been running before the wind. When the
> vessel struck the land was not visible, it was excessively dark, and the
> waves began to break over the vessel sweeping the decks and washing of
> [sic] many off [sic] the passengers who were unable to!
> maintain their footing. The vessel was sounded and there were four feet
> [of] water in the hold. The passengers were now got on deck with great
> exertion, but unable to maintain there [sic] footing there they were swept
> off by the violence of the waves. At first the crew prayed the Captain to
> cut away the masts ; but he replied that he would not, and would keep
> every rag of canvas spread, as that was their only chance of getting the
> ship over the reef, and this he did but the helm and the mizen mast went,
> and then the foremast, and lastly the main mast broke, and the crew were
> compelled to cut it away. The Captain now cried, "My lads go below and
> get hold of as many coils of rope as possible, and we will try and get it
> on shore, if once we had it fastened there we could all haul ourselves on
> shore." Five or six of the bravest went below, and at the imminent peril
> of their lives succeeded in getting up four coils of rope ; the cargo was
> unshipped and rolling about, threa!
> tening to crush these brave fellows. The last in the hold, a boy name
> d BLACKSTOCK, would have been smashed but for a black man who threw him a
> rope, the ladder having been locked away. Every effort to get the rope
> fastened on shore was unaviling [sic], and the crew were compelled to
> abandon it in despair. The shrieks of the women and children were at this
> time most awful, most of them were drowned in their berths [sic], a few
> who got on deck were washed away almost instantly. The Captain encouraged
> his men, telling them to keep up their hearts and that they would all get
> on shore ; but as time wore on all prepared for death. As a forlorn hope
> the Captain allowed the main mast to be cut away in hopes that the vessel
> would right, but all to no purpose, and all having now been done that
> human ingenuity could effect and there appearing no chance of the vessel
> righting or drifting over the reef, and the sea breaking over the wreck in
> all directions, the passengers and crew abandoned all hope of being able
> to do anything further, and for their !
> safety clung to the wreck in final despair. The awful situation of these
> poor creatures can hardly be conceived. About one half their number had
> already perished, the remainder were clinging to anything which offered to
> keep them from being washed away by the fury of the waves. Daylight
> arrived but gave them no hope of escape ; indeed it only served to show
> them their horrible position. Several attempts were made to get out the
> boats but to no purpose, nothing could live in such a sea. At noon the
> vessel parted midships, and nearly a hundred were drowned at this time.
> The remaining portion of the survivors still clung to the remainder of the
> wreck, and every assistance was given them to hold on. They continued
> during the remainder of the night clinging to the portions of the wreck
> that still remained, holding on by ropes and lashed to the wreck. During
> the night many were washed off or dropped dead through exhaustion, and
> when daylight once more arrived, there were !
> not more than twenty-five left about the wreck. As the morning advanc
> ed the sea was making a clean sweep over the remaining portion of the
> wreck, and it rapidly broke up. The survivors hung helplessly to the
> wreck until it parted into fragments, and they found a watery grave.
> A party of eight of the crew, including Mr. GUTHRIE, and one
> emigrant, (nine in number) were washed on shore ; they are not themselves
> aware of the manner in which they were saved, having been insensible at
> the time. One of the number, named BLACKSTOCK, already alluded to,
> relates that on the Monday night he was sitting on the anchor, holding on
> along with another boy, named ROBERTSON, at this time there were about
> twenty-five on the wreck, who had given up all hopes of being saved, and
> sat calmly awaiting their fate. BLACKSTOCK and his companion were at one
> time during the night washed off the anchor, but by a wonderful exertion,
> BLACKSTOCK regained his position, and stooping down drew his companion
> again on the anchor. He had not been up more than five minutes when he
> died, and BLACKSTOCK pushed him down into the water again. Soon after the
> sea washed the bowsprit away, and it could no longer afford them any
> protection, all of them laying hold of whatever spars c!
> ame their way, trusted themselves to the water. Nine only out of the
> whole number succeeded in reaching the shore, and some of them were
> terribly bruised on the rocks. A case of fowl and a bottle of brandy had
> drifted on shore from the wreck, and this was equally divided amongst
> them. Several old blankets were found, and they proceeded to the bush and
> lay down. The Captain had been of opinion that it was the main land near
> Cape Otway, and the survivors were afraid of being taken by the natives.
> When they saw the fire of Mr. HOWEY's party, they thought it was made by
> the natives, and they approached cautiously, until they recognised those
> around the fire to be white men. As soon as Mr. HOWEY's party perceived
> them, they were glad to see them, and did every thing for them in their
> power. They were nearly perishing with hunger and cold, until relieved by
> Mr. HOWEY and a party of sealers, and on Sunday the 7th instant they were
> picked up by the 'Midge,' and landed at thi!
> s place about 10 o'clock on Saturday last. In conclusion, every perso
> n speaks highly of the conduct of the officers ; they were all able and
> brave, and the Captain is particularly regretted. There was some ill
> feeling between him and the Doctor, but what it originated in we have not
> heard. The only fault the Captain committed was not laying to until
> daylight ; but it appears he thought he was close to Port Phillip, and
> wished to get up to Hobson's Bay with daylight on the Monday, and this
> caused him to run during the night with a good loot-out ; it was evident
> he mistook his position, as he died under the impression that he had been
> wrecked on the main land. The last words he was heard to utter were, "God
> grant that some one may be saved to tell the tale." Captain FINLAY was of
> Scots extraction, but born in Dublin, where he has left a wife and two
> children to regret his loss.
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