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Admella (ss) shipwreck 1859

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Wreck of the Admella

The wreck of the SS Admella may not rate as the worst in Australia's maritime history, in terms of loss of life or the monetary value of its cargo, but it is without a doubt, one of the most horrifying in its closeness to land, and the inability of those at hand, both ashore and afloat, to provide assistance.

SS Admella was an iron single screw steamer of 392 tons, built Glasgow in 1857. She was extensively praised for her appearance, and construction. She was equipped with four lifeboats, 2 pairs of lifebelts and 12 swimming belts. A special safety feature was the watertight bulkheads that divided the ship into three atertight compartments. She had made 36 round trips between Adelaide and Melbourne when she prepared for what was to be her last. With 93 tons of copper, flour and general merchandise, as well as seven horses, she also carried 84 passengers and a crew of 29. She left Adelaide on Friday 5 August and by 1 pm was off Cape Willoughby. High seas caused one of the horses to fall in his stall and the ship's direction and speed were modified somewhat to enable the horse to be got back on his feet. Admella was then returned to her usual course, parallel to the shore. At 5 pm 6 August 1859 she struck The Carpenter Rocks near Cape Banks and was immediately lifted high onto the rocks by the following sea. Within 15 minutes she was broken in three sections along the lines of the bulkhead rivets. Passengers in their night clothes clung to the vessel; rockets were fired to attract the attention of the lighthouse keepers at Cape Northumberland, but these were damp and failed to fire properly. Daylight revealed a deserted coast, and a steamer (SS Havilah) in the distance, but they were unable to attract its attention. Three separate attempts were made to get a man ashore. All died in the attempt. That evening another ship passed close by but the survivors were unable to attract its attention. Some passengers were successful in crossing to the poop section, but the women and children remained in the fore section, unwilling to risk the hazardous crossing. They died shortly after when the fore section broke up. A raft was constructed and some men got ashore, after a three hour struggle with the sea. After reaching the lighthouse at Cape Northumberland, and a desperate ride to the Post Office at Mt Gambier, news finally reached Adelaide on 8 August. The nearest lifeboat was at Portland in Victoria. The lighthouse's small boat and one of the Admella's lifeboats which was repaired with soap and canvas attempted to reach the wreck but were deterred by the rough seas. By now the remaining survivors were clinging to the rigging and the hull. SS Corio arrived from Adelaide but was powerless in the strong seas. Its boat was forced onto the beach. The survivors meanwhile built another raft but lost it in the waves. They were also now beginning to die of cold and exhaustion. SS Ladybird arrived from Portland with the lifeboat and a whale boat; SS Ant arrived from Robe. The Corio left as she was running low on coal. By Friday 11 August, only 30 of the passengers/crew remained. The Portland lifeboat's Captain Fawthrop and Ben Germein the head lighthouse keeper from Cape Northumberland worked assiduously and finally by Saturday 13 August the remaining survivors were safely ashore. Only 24 in all survived.

An Admella Relief Fund was vigorously subscribed to across the country and the money raised was used to pay for clothing, lodgings and doctors' bills for the survivors and medals and awards for the rescuers. A book was published dealing with the wreck; Narrative of the shipwreck of the "Admella" intercolonial steamer on the coast of South Australia written by Samuel Mossman it was "drawn up from authentic statements furnished by the rescuers and survivors".

A commission into the cause of the wreck decided the principal cause was a strong inshore current, but that a contributing factor had been the way in which the watertight bulkheads had been inserted - the holes for the hundreds of rivets had weakened the metal. Other methods would have to be found for this safety device to be truly effective. The wreck was also instrumental in the establishment of a lifeboat service in South Australia.

List of subscribers to relief fund

Passengers perished

  • Arthur, Patrick
  • Bade, Fernando
  • Baker, Benjamin
  • Battrick, J
  • Beith, Mrs. and four children
  • Bowie, Mrs
  • Chambers, Edwin
  • Carmichael, John
  • Coxell, Mrs. and child
  • Davidson, James
  • Davis, Captain
  • Fisher, George
  • Forster, George
  • Forster, Mrs.
  • French, Alfred
  • Glynn, Patrick
  • Glynn, Mrs.
  • Goode, Mrs
  • Goolde, Mrs.
  • Grosse, Henry
  • Harris, Captain
  • Haynes, Edward
  • Hermann, Wilhelm
  • Holbrook, Mr.
  • Jackson, Edwin
  • King, Richard
  • Mensforth, Thomas
  • Magerey, James
  • Meagher, Margaret
  • Murray, Mr.
  • Murray, Mrs
  • Nugent, Miss
  • O'Brian, John
  • Paul, Eliza
  • Ramsay, mrs.
  • Rosewell, William
  • Short, Charlotte, and four children
  • Taylor, William
  • Tregeagle, John
  • Underwood, Mr. Jnr.
  • Vaux, Dr.
  • Watson, Mr.
  • Watson, Mrs. and two children
  • Watkins, George
  • Watkins, Hester
  • Wetherall, mrs.
  • Whittaker, James
  • Wood, Mr.
  • Webb, Allan

Crew perished

  • Johnson, second officer
  • Munro, first engineer
  • Brown, second engineer
  • Hare, assistant engineer
  • N/N, assistant steward
  • N/N, assistant steward
  • Clendenning, Miss, stewardess
  • Orr, first cook
  • N/N, stoker
  • N/N, stoker
  • N/N, stoker
  • N/N, trimmer
  • N/N, seaman
  • N/N, seaman
  • N/N, seaman
  • N/N, seaman
  • N/N, seaman

Passengers rescued

  • Carrig, Patrick
  • Davey, Thomas
  • Dyer, William
  • Fisher, Hurtle
  • Forester, Michael
  • Ledruth, Miss
  • McInnes, Hugh
  • Millar, James
  • O'Halloran, Thomas
  • Richardson, J.W.
  • Rochford, Mr (Benjamin Rochfort was a patner with Charles Brown Fisher, (brother of Hurtle above and George above who perished) in the Mount Schank station)
  • Webb, John

Crew rescued

  • McEwan, captain
  • McNair, purser
  • Hutchinson, cheif officer
  • Hills, fore-cabin steward
  • Mcdermott, under cook
  • Peters, fireman
  • Wright, trimmer
  • Locke, seaman
  • Fuller, seaman
  • N/N, seaman
  • N/N, seaman
  • Duckering, lamp trimmer
  • Ward, cabin boy

At least 79 perished, the list needs some work, possibly families will be able to assist.