150th Anniversary of "Cataraqui" ShipwreckPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Arthur Garland

The cairn commemorates the 150th anniversary of the the wreck of the ship "Cataraqui" which sunk with a loss of 400 people. This is the largest loss of lives in a shipwreck in Australia.  The cairn has been erected at the site of the mass graves and marks the largest of the sites which contains 206 victims. The grave was located in 1993. 

On 20 April 1845 the Cataraqui left Liverpool, England, with 367 passengers and a cargo of slate bound for Melbourne under a British government scheme to encourage immigration to the colony. The vessel was commanded by C. Finlay and carried a crew of 44.

By early August the Cataraqui was approaching Bass Strait and on the night of the 4th August the vessel struck rocks on the south-western coast of King Island. The Cataraqui began to immediately break up under the heavy seas, sweeping passengers and crew overboard. Less than an hour later the vessel tipped over to port and remained there despite attempts to cut away the masts. Despite the close proximity to land the surrounding reefs and high seas prevented most of those on board from reaching shore as the Cataraqui broke up.

By mid afternoon only nine of the 409 passengers and crew had reached safety; these were the chief mate Thomas Gutherie, seven seamen and a lone passenger Solomon Brown. The survivors were assisted by the `Straits Policeman` D. Howie, who was hunting on the island. It was not until six weeks later that they were finally taken onto Melbourne on the cutter Midge. Howie eventually buried over 340 bodies in a number of large graves and was subsequently rewarded by the colonial government for his efforts.


Address:Pearsons Lane, Behind Dunes, Memorial Rock, Fitzmaurice Bay, King Island, 7256
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -39.962902
Long: 143.868678
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Disaster
Actual Event Start Date:04-August-1845
Actual Event End Date:04-August-1995


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Friday 4th August, 1995
Front Inscription


IN THIS VICINITY are five mass graves and over 40 individual graves of the victims of the Cataraqui shipwreck.  This cairn marks the site of the largest of the mass graves, containing the remains of of 206 victims.  It was erected by the Lions Club of King Island Inc. to commemorate the 150th anniversary of its sinking.

The grave was located in 1993 with the assistance of a sketch (below) of the original grave site drawn by Bishop Nixon, who visited the area in 1854.  The original grave was 16 feet long, 12 feet wide and 12 feet deep, surrounded by a paling fence which was destroyed by fire in 1867.

The exact location of the other graves are unknown.


Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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