Sydney Cove Wreck 1797
In February 1797, a vessel named the “Sydney Cove” was ship wrecked on Preservation Island between Tasmania and the Australia Mainland. On 28th February the long boat was equipped and dispatched in an effort to reach Port Jackson with news of the wreck. On board this small boat was Mr. Thomas – Chief Mate, Mr. Clarke – supercargo, 3 European seaman and twelve Lascars (labourers from India/Asia).
However ill fortune was still to be their lot and after a few days at sea, the boat was also wrecked and the men were cast ashore somewhere on 90 Mile Beach on the Victorian Coast. They were able to collect some food, including some rice from the wreck and these 17 seaman started to walk on 15 March 1797 along the Coast in an endeavor to find their way back to Port Jackson.
Only an imperfect record of their trails and setbacks was kept by Mr. Clarke – who kept an incomplete diary written in pencil. It was later published in a Calcutta Newspaper. The shipwreck sailors traveled thought the Ulladulla District.
Extracts from Historical Records of NSW page 767. Mr. Clarke – supercargo – ‘Wreck of the Sydney Cove 1797’. Notes in brackets have been placed by Cathy Dunn.
April 20th – Got over the river (Clyde River) and had a long walk, about 18 miles through an immense wood, the plain of which was covered with long grass. We had the good fortune this day to have a friendly native in company, who undertook to be a guide, by whose good – natured assistance we were able to avoid several high points and cut deal of ground.
April 21st – Had a pleasant walk for about 14 miles, during which we met a party of natives who gave us plenty of fishes. It seems they had met the Moor whose friendship was experienced yesterday, and were by him informed of our distress, so that we were indebted to that kind-hearted fellow for his guidance and this days protection.
April 22nd – The natives accompanied us a few miles and returned, leaving us a plentiful supply of fish. This day we walked 12 miles.
April 23rd, 24th, 25th – Walked 10 or 12 miles each day, without meeting any natives, and wholly without nourishment also perished for want.
April 26th – (Jervis Bay) – “a very deep bay”
April 30th – (Shoalhaven River) – “largest river we had met”
The final chapter of this tale was that about the middle of the month of May 1797, some miles south of Botany Bay, the 3 surviving men – Mr. Clarke, a European sailor and a Lascar was picked up in a deplorable state by a fishing boat and taken to Sydney. On which a rescue boat was sent to Bass Strait to the “Sydney Cove”
THE LONG WALK 1797 – 1997
During February of 1797, the vessel ‘Sydney Cove’ was wrecked at the Furneaux Islands in Bass Strait. On 27 February, seventeen of the survivors set off in the ship’s longboat towards Sydney for help. The longboat was washed ashore near here, and the group, headed by the supercargo William Clarke and the first mate Hugh Thompson was forced to walk north along the coast towards Sydney.
The party of 17 set out on March 15, and after a walk of almost two months during which period many died from exhaustion and starvation reached Wattamolla near Sydney on 15 May 1797. Of this group, only three survived the journey.
This remarkable walk was the first known European exploration of the south eastern coast of Australia and marked the first contact between Aboriginals and Europeans in this area. In 1997 this journey was re-enacted by the Scout Associations of Victoria and New South Wales, following the original diary and dates of the event. Artefacts from the wreck of the ‘Sydney Cove’ were carried on this journey and placed with the remains of the Captain, Guy Hamilton, in Sydney.
Unveiled by Mr. David Treasure M.L.A March 15th 1997
Plaque to commemorate the event. Lakes Entrance,Vic
Cambage, Richard. Captains Cook Pigeon House and Early South Coast Explorers, 1928.
Nicholls, Mary. ‘Do You Remember No.8’, Ulladulla and Milton Times, 1 November 1 1957.
Historical Records of NSW, Vol I and III – (ed. F.M. Bladen) Government Printer 1892; Facsimile reprint Landsdowne Slattery: Mona Vale 1978.