It was a dark Sunday morning, on this day 158 years ago, as my Great Great Grandmother Susan Kelleher and her sister Bridget were sailing north along the coast of South Australia and were only 40 miles from their final destination when the “Nashwauk” ran aground. The young Irish servant girls were carried ashore on the sailor’s backs and violent storms over the following days ripped the ship apart and all my Susan’s worldly goods went down with it. The emigrant ship left Liverpool on 13 Feb 1855 with Captain McIntyre, as master, and 268 mostly Irish emigrants aboard and now met its fate on this lonely strip of South Australian coast exactly 3 months later.
I’ve written about the shipwreck on many occasions and today, on the 158th Anniversary of that fateful morning, discovered some recent photographs of the location of the wreck and decided to share. They are taken by an amazing young South Australian photographer, Joel Dawson, and I encourage you to visit his facebook page to enjoy many more stunning sights Joel has captured of my beautiful state of South Australia.
“The night was clear, with starlight and a fresh breeze, and one yellow point of light glanced across the water from the shadow of the land. At 4 a.m. the watch was changed. Clouds obscured the coast. Less than an hour later the Nashwauk was aground off the mouth of a creek that wanders half heartedly through the Moana sand hills.”
View from the end of the Port Noarlunga jetty looking toward the wreck site.
“For half an hour after the Nashwauk struck the crew ‘made sail on her’ in a desperate effort to get her canted off, but, although her sails were all drawing, the surf, pounding in about her, shook the wind out of them and left her helpless. There she remained until the wind, setting in from the southward and westward next day drove her firmly on the reef, which in those waters lies some six feet beneath the sand.”
The passengers all made it safely to shore but one young woman, a servant girl Catherine Stanley, died later of exposure as did Captain McIntyre. The emigrants walked, or were taken inland by dray, to the township of Noarlunga and cared for overnight by the residents.
The Port Noarlunga jetty which was constructed in 1855 just prior to the wreck
The following morning the passengers were taken to the newly built Port Noarlunga jetty to be transported aboard the mail steamer “Thomas Melbourne” to be transported to Port Adelaide.
“Here the sea was so rough that boarding was impossible. The Thomas Melbourne had to be relocated at the mouth of the Onkaparinga. So the passengers trudged another four kilometres along the cliff tops from Harriott’s Creek and reassembled at Gray’s Store near the present day footbridge.”
My Great Great Grandmother spoke of the terror she faced walking along those cliff tops with the raging sea below.
Cliffs at Port Noarlunga
By the time they reached the boarding spot it was dark and only seventy girls agreed to get on the lurching steamer for the journey. The remainder were returned to Noarlunga and the following morning were taken overland, by dray, the city of Adelaide. My Susan, and her sister Bridget, were amongst those who refused to travel by sea and were lodged in the newly built “German Hospital” in, Carrington Street, until arrangements were made for their employment.
Some months later both Susan and Bridget travelled to the newly established “Servants Depot”, in the mid north township of Clare, and were soon employed within the district. However, that is another story… for another day.
Joel Dawson for the magnificent photos. Please visit Joel’s facebook page, to enjoy more of his work, by clicking HERE.
Jean Callen, author of “What Really Happened to the Nashwauk?” from which the quotes are taken. Printed by Butterfly Press, 225 Main North Road, Blackwood, South Australia. 5051. Tel: 08 8278 2899. ISBN 0-9595356-2-4 © 2004
Copyright © Catherine Ann Crout-Habel