Lists (None yet)

Login to create lists

Tagged (None yet)

Add Tags

Comments (None yet)

Add New Comment

No corrections yet


A passenger wanted to stay behind on a sinking liner ott the Leeuwin

Wreck of the Pericles


THE first news we had in Perth of the loss of

the Pericles, there being no wireless in those days, was a telegram from the Lighthouse keeper at Cape Leeuwin. Late one afternoon towards the end of March, 1910, he reported that an unidentified vessel was flying distress signals a few miles south from the Cape. Next morning we learnt that the ship was the Pericles, that she had sunk about sunset, and that all hands had been safely landed.

With her cargo consisting of ¿90,000 worth of butter as well as quantities of tallow and fruit, the great liner was steam- ing over a calm sea on her way to Fremantle. On his last voy-j age before retiring, Captain Simpson, with some of his of- ficers, was on the bridge; pass- engers were beginning to think about afternoon tea, when sud- denly a muffled, grinding sound was heard from the depths of the ship. An uncharted, sub- merged rock had torn à hole in the bottom right through the three front holds. Five minutes later reports ,of the alarming rate the sea was pouring in compelled the luckless captain to give the fateful orders to "abandon ship/'

Ah Odd Request

JN an orderly and quiet way

everyone went to boat sta- tions. The 363 people on board, except one-of whom I will tell you directly--quickly got into the lifeboats, and were

NOT UNSINKABLE: The Aberdeen White Star liner Pericles,

wrecked off Cape Leeuwin on March 31, 1910.

lowered into the sea, as if being wrecked was an every- day occurrence. Within 35 minutes of the first alarm all the boats were afloat and ready to set out for the land.

lt was then, when Captain Simpson and his chief engineer were making the last inspection to see that no-one had been left behind, that they found a passenger who did not want to leave the ship. He maintained that the Pericles could not sink

and wanted to stay on board and claim ber as salvage. He was persuaded to get into the cutter. Some readers may won- der why anyone could be so foolish, but it must be remen> bered that the safety device of j water-tight compartments had!

been dramatically tested only a j

few years before when the R.M.S. Suevic ran on some rocks on the south coast of England. Under her own steam she had backed off leaving her bows held in the reef, and pro- ceeded to port. Later tugs pulled the bows off and towed them to shipyards where the twp parts were joined, and she put to sea again. The lone pas- senger might have had this in his mind.

But to return to the Pericles. The sun was getting low and the decks awash when the master finally went over the side into

his cutter and cast off. The|

stricken ship had drifted about two miles with her bows slowly!

sinking and her stern gradually; rising before she made the

plunge to the bottom. After- wards it took a fortnight's hard work for^ marine surveyors,! working in the s.s. Penguin,; commanded by Captain Airey, to locate the reef that caused the mishap.

It was nearly dark when the boats got close to shore. The thoughtfulness and resource of the lighthouse-keeper, who lit fires to guide them to the saf- est landing beach, was very much appreciated by the cast

SANCTUARY: The «pot where the Pericles passengers landed, showing the ship's boats as they were left in the little cove

between the lighthouse and Flinders Bay.

aways. They landed in a small cove between the lighthouse and Flinders Bay. Local settlers and the staff of Millar's Karri and Jarrah Company, headed by the branch manager (Mr. Sidney Smith) bedded down and boarded their unexpected visi- tors. Some were accommo- dated at the Flinders Bay set- tlement, and about 120 were taken 12 miles inland by tim- ber train to the mill town of Karridale for the night. Next day one of the English gentle- men from the wreck was in the store. The storekeeper com- miserated with him on the loss of his gear, but the answer was: "Yes, yes, old chap, but have you any toothbrushes?"

Monaro to the Rescue

JUST at this time the Mel-

bourne Steamship Company's s.s. Monaro was loading cargo at Bunbury. At 7.30 on the night of the wreck she had orders to stand by. At 9.30 instructions came to proceed to Flinders Bay and pick up the survivors. Captain Neale of the Monaro claimed that his engineers never got steam up so quickly, and at 9.45 p.m. his ship was under way. A strong breeze had sprung up during the night and the sea in Flin- ders Bay was too rough to tranship people in open boats, so Captain Neale manoeuvred his ship alongside the timber! jetty. In flying spray, and with many getting wet through, the castaways got safely on board.

The arrival at Fremantle of nearly 400 people, some with- out much ready money, and having only the clothes they stood up in, provided plenty of work for the charitably minded, and it is to the credit of the people of Western Australia of those days that no case of dis- tress went uncared for. The* shipping company provided free board and lodging for passen- gers until another boat could pick them up and take. them on their journey, and any wanting to return home had their fares refunded and pas- sage paid for them to their original port of embarkation.

Later a tremendous lot of cargo from the Pericles was washed ashore near the Leeu- win; cases of fruit and butter, casks of tallow and coconut oil were piled high on beaches in favourable spots. For the

underwriters, Captain Arundel took charge of whatever official salvaging could be done. The tug Una, once* a North Sea trawler, went down from Fre- mantle, and picked up quite a lot still floating about. Later she went in as close to the shore as was safe, boats were low- ered and lines taken to the beach. The salvage was put into great nets and the Una's winch pulled the load out thrbugh the surf and hoisted it on board. Often the boats taking the lines ashore were swamped in the breakers and the men handling them had a very wet job.

There was much correspond- ence about the wreck in the newspapers at the time. Some letters criticised the ship's offi- cers, claiming there was more fuss made of the first-class

travellers, but these were aug swered by disclaimers frons! both steerage and saloon. "The¿; West Australian" printed a long* letter from a Mr. W. S. Gar-, diner who finished a paean of praise for all hands with a versed

which went as follows:

All honour to the Monaro,

her captain and her crew. They had to do the hard

work and well they did it


"Thc Liner she's a lady," her

course is cut and dried,

Our Liner's down below thl

tide from Leeuwin foi miles wide.

The Marine Court that aftei wards inquired into the eau: of the disaster found tnt

Captain Simpson and his offll cers were not to blame for th{

loss of this fine vessel, th( Pericles.

LAKE DON: A small reed^i lagoon about six miles south oil Mt. Barker east of Albany-! highway. Of the naming Sui-! veyor General John Septimus J

Roe recorded in his Journal onl

December 16, 1835 (p. 527 ):{

"Small reedy lagoon named* Lake Don." I