Posted by: travelrat | January 14, 2011

Shipwrecked!

Fraser Island: 29th July 2010.

James Cook called it the Great Sandy Peninsula; subsequent explorers called it the Great Sandy Island. So, who was ‘Fraser’, after whom the island is named today?

Eliza Fraser was the wife of Captain James Fraser, Master of the Stirling Castle, which ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef in 1836. The crew took to the lifeboats, and the Captain’s boat, leaking badly, became separated from the other. The boats were making for Moreton (now Brisbane), but Fraser’s boat, becoming more and more unseaworthy, came ashore on the Great Sandy Island … carrying one more passenger than it set out with, for Eliza had given birth on the boat. Sadly, the infant died shortly afterwards.

What happened next is unclear. The survivors certainly met the Butchulla people, and lived among them for a short while, but many of them died; whether from disease, starvation or at the hands of the Butchulla isn’t known.

After six weeks, a rescue party arrived; presumably alerted by the crew of the other lifeboat. It was led by former convict and escapee John Graham, who knew the bush, and spoke the Aborigines’ language.

Shortly after her rescue, Eliza married another mariner, and moved to England, where she became an attraction, recounting her story. However, these stories became more lurid and far-fetched as time wore on. She told of white slavery, cannibalism, torture and murder, so nobody really knew what to believe.

We saw more tangible evidence of another shipwreck. The Maheno was a luxury liner, which usually operated between Australia and New Zealand, except for an interval in the First World War, when she served as a hospital ship in the English Channel. In 1935, she was declared obsolete, and was being towed to a breakers’ yard in Melbourne, when she broke loose from the tug in a tropical cyclone, and beached on Fraser Island.

And, she’s still there today, although in a rather sorry condition, after having been used as a bombing target by the RAAF, and for explosives and demolition training by the Australian Special Forces.

But, she’s still recognisable as a ship, and is an essential call for most tours.


Responses

  1. Hi Keith,
    Isn’t it always interesting the story’s that are behind ship wrecks, I have always found it fascinating, where they come from how they got there, what happened after they got wrecked, it’s good when you can see a shipwreck and know the story behind it. A great read.

    • I agree … there’s always been a sort of fascination about shipwrecks, especially if the proverbial ‘desert island’ is involved … for instance the tales of Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson (what was the significance of the common name Robinson?) The Coral Island, the Island of Doctor Moreau to name but a few.

      (Isn’t it strange that, in some ‘castaway’ stories, the carpenter’s tool chest gets washed up at a fairly early stage? :D)

  2. I enjoy your Aussie posts but of course, I am biased. I think you’ve seen more of Australia than I have. Love the photo!


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