Recently I came across a story about a series of shipwrecks way back in 1829. It reported about plight of the crews of the ships “Mermaid”, “Swiftsure”, “Governor Ready”, “Comet” and “Jupiter”. At first I found it hard to believe that each ship could be wrecked, crew saved and then wrecked again, and again and again. So I decided to do some research on Trove, and found that this remarkable story is true.
It was reported in the Sydney Gazette on 26th November 1829, that it all started when the “Mermaid” was wrecked on Flora Reef east of the Frankland Islands, [ roughly east of present day Gordonvale ]. All on board, including the Captain Nolbrow, were saved by a nearby rock, three days later they were rescued by the ship “Swiftsure”.
Just three days later this ship was wrecked off Cape Sidmouth, Cape York.
A day or two later, the “Governor Ready”, passing within sight, took the shipwrecked people onboard, and was in three days itself wrecked, between Murray Island and Halfway Island in the Torres Strait, but all the people saved. The ship “Comet” soon after , took the whole of the collected crews of the lost ships on board, and was herself wrecked also in a day or two, also in the Torres Strait, and again all the people saved. At last the ship “Jupiter” came in sight and taking all on board steered for Port Raffles, at the entrance of which harbour she got on shore and received so much damage that she may be said to be half wrecked. There however, Captain Nolbrow found the Government brig “Amnity” in which he embarked, and strange to say this vessel also was, as we have stated in the former part of this article, nearly wrecked in Gage’s Roads, on its way back to Sydney.
No mention is made on the fate of all the crews, but I bet not many of them continued their nautical careers.
NOTE: Port Raffles was the second attempt to form a settlement in Northern Australia. It was situated on the north side of Cobourg Peninsula. The settlement was known as Fort Wellington. It was abandoned in 1829.
Gage’s road, was the area where Freemantle is today.