Wreck of the
On the 20th of June,
she left Liverpool bound for Sydney, Australia carrying 4000 tons of
general cargo, including machinery, rock salt, oil cloth and a 1000
cases of Bulldog Ale Stout. Her compliment of crew was 31, five of them
apprentices, she, also carried one passenger.
Captain William Griffith had
sailed many times between Liverpool and Sydney, he had also sailed his
ship round the Horn and up the West Coast of the Americas and had been
Master of the Carnarvon Bay for sixteen years and was a very experienced
mariner. Until September the 10th the weather had been good,
but it changed the winds increased from the West and it became very
stormy. Captain Griffith said, “It was terror. Sea after sea raced after
us and broke over our quarterdecks. They were never free from water.
About 11.30 am several huge waves broke aboard in succession and our
cabin doors were burst in”. The stormy weather continued until they had
nearly reached King Island, which is between Tasmania and Australia.
They had not seen the sun for days and had sailed further south than
usual when King Island appeared. Having realised that he had gone too
far south, Capt Griffith decided to sail up north and round Stoke Point.
The Carnarvon Bay was sailing at around 8 knots and the wind was
moderate. At about six o clock the captain heard the warning “Breakers
Ahead”. He changed her course immediately to between 7 – 8 points.
Everything seemed fine, but without warning the ship struck a reef with
a tremendous noise, and this would prove to be the end for the Carnarvon
When the Captain saw the
condition of his ship, he ordered the crew to launch the lifeboats
immediately as it was getting dark even though there was a moon. The
Captain had 15 men in his boat and there were 16 in the Mate’s. In the
darkness the two boats became separated and the wind was rising from the
south west. They had little food on board the boats. Two vessels were
sighted but they were unable to attract their attention, but within two
days, one of the lifeboats was sighted by the ‘Tarcoola’. “The ship’s
boy was made to remove his trousers which was used as a distress
signal”. They eventually reached Melbourne and two vessels the ‘Lady
Loch’ and the tug ‘Alacrity’ were sent out in search of the other
lifeboat. But the end of the second day, they had landed on a sandy
beach and had walked inland, eventually arriving at Mr Colliers, farm.
The following morning the SS Mauchope came to fetch them from Launcseton.
Apart from The Captain, two
other men were from Llyn, 21 year old John Jones, carpenter from
Llanbedrog and William Charles Morris Assistant Steward from Pwllheli.
Below when the ship struck John
Jones of Llanbedrog, carpenter of the ship, when interviewed said he was
on the first dog watch on the day the ship struck. He came off duty at 6
o clock and was down on his cabin having tea. He was told later that the
Captain had called out for the carpenter to take soundings but when he
came on deck the only order he received from the Captain was to lend a
hand to get the starboard boat out. He was engaged doing this, when the
stewards asked him to take a sounding, he went away to get the rods,
when he returned both boats were swung out and the men were nearly all
away; he dropped the rods and took his place in the boat. The order had
been given whilst I was away.
The man at the
wheel (before and after the disaster)
I took the wheel at 4 pm on the
Thursday, said John Campbell, A.B. in reply to a question.
Land was then in clear view. It
must have been sighted before 2 o clock. We just cleared Stokes Point –
the most southern point of King Island – and were sailing in clear water
when we struck at just 4 bells – 6 o clock – finished striking.
The Captain said to me ‘Is she
paying off?’ I told him ‘no’, and as he saw the case was a bad one, he
ordered out the boats.
There was no disorder as alleged
in Melbourne and there was no disobeying of orders given by the Captain.
Seaman’s tale of
Privations of Captain Griffith’s nerve.
In a cosy room of the Institute
of Victoria’s Missions to seamen clad in a rough jersey and pants, all
he could save from the wreck in the desperate moments of Thursday night,
William Charles Morris (of Pwllheli) one of the starboard watch of the
Carnarvon Bay told his story: ‘It was about five past six o clock as
near as I can remember in the dog watch. We had passed a reef off King
Island when we struck a rock. I know nothing about navigation of the
boat but there was supposed to be 30 fathoms of water under us and the
rock must have been an un-chartered one. Our first knowledge that we had
struck was a fearful bang forward and a deuce of a crash amidships. The
sea was terribly rough and had drenched us all. Indeed the other watch
was below at the same time changing its clothes and having some tea.
There was a scare of course
amongst us because the boat seemed lifted up and likely to smash at any
moment, when the Captain gave orders to man the boats. The discipline
was splendid. My word, the Captain is a grand chap; his nerve was
wonderful. He put us all in our place and gave his orders quickly,
thought of us first, and through it all smoked a cigar as cool as an
All through the business the
captain was a brick, and took his share of the discomfort with a
cheerfulness that kept us fit in the most desperate moments of the next
two days. Everyman on the ship got away. It was a ticklish business
launching the boats owing to the ship heeling over, first on one side
and then the other. We had with us the captain – who was the last to
leave the ship – and Mr Smalley the second mate. The seven apprentices
were divided between the two boats.
Captain Griffith was a personal
friend of Captain Davies, one of the assistant harbour masters in
Melbourne, and on landing he was accommodated at Captain Davies’s
residence and given a change of clothing. Over a cup of tea he related
‘We commenced our voyage from
Liverpool on 20th June 1910 in light contrary winds and fair
weather. We worked down as far as Cape Finistere in these winds, and
then picked up a northerly wind veering to the north east which carried
us comfortably on to about 15N. Then came light SW monsoons and very
little trouble until crossing the equator when the weather began to tune
up. However it gave us little trouble until 1st September –
seas broke in the cabin doors. On that day we met a hard westerly gale,
which simply blew us over. It was terror; sea after sea raced after us
and broke over our quarter. Our decks were never free from water and we
were hard put to it. About 11.30am several huge waves broke aboard in
succession and our cabin doors were burst in.
The cabins were in an instant a
swirling mass of sea water, furniture and clothes, our officers apparel
being washed out of their chests. Everything was carried overboard and
The gale continued all the way
when running down the eastings. We did not have a minute’s peace from
then on. Several of our sails were blown away; we had a really trying
time. Never since I took charge of the ship 15 or 16 years ago have I
met such boisterous conditions. We had them right from 36S until we
struck the rocks, and it was my heaviest passage of the eastings.
The crew of the boats
The Captains Boat.
Capt W Griffith (master)
JG Smalley (Second Mate)
LF Coe (Third Mate)
E Pilmer (Sail Maker)
Edward Dean (Seaman)
Otto W Hank (Seaman)
William Charles Morris
John E Terry (Seaman)
A Lourin (Seaman)
C Gilligan (Seaman)
Alan E Jones (Apprentice)
Robert Filkin (Apprentice)
Willie Hambly (Deck Boy)
The Mate’s boat.
Charles Newman (Chief
William Jones (Boatswain),
John Jones (Carpenter),
L Stengel (Cook), Germany.
John Campbell (Seaman),
Fredrick King (Seaman),
William Brown (Seaman),
Owen Jones (Seaman), Rock
Edward Jones (Seaman),
Charles Sinclair (Seaman),
David W. Hardy
Philip A. Labely
Humphrey C Cook
Errol Monk (Apprentice),
Captain William Griffith was
also the brother in law of Captain Griffith Jones, Langdale, Pwllheli,
who was Master of the Langdale and later the Grenada.
Thanks to Mr B Hughes for the three crew