8[Henderson, Graeme & Kandy-Jane, Nedlands, WA, Unfinished Voyages: Western Australian Shipwrecks 1851-1880, 1988, pages 185-188, University of Western Australia Press]

Wild Wave, Lily of the Lake and Blossom

The pearling fleet in and around Exmouth Gulf was struck by a severe cyclone on 23 December 1875, resulting in the loss of several vessels and fifty-six lives. Pearling masters still had little appreciation of the dangers of operating during the cyclone season, so pearling craft lay fishing in vulnerable positions all along the coast. To the east of Tien Tsin Harbour were the schooners Good Luck, Mary, Pearl and Venus, and the cutters Gypsey, Maud, Rover, Edward James, Prince of Wales, Firefly, Arabian, Start, May and Gift. The Mazeppa was at Flying Foam Passage, the Nautilus at the Fortescue River, the Na Malole and Victoria at Hampton Harbour, the Adur, Mystery and Ethel at Wormbrau Creek, and the Onward, Mira, lone, Amy, Challenge, Waterlily, Swan, Bessie, Argo and Marten at Mary Ann Patch.[l] Other vessels lay further west.

On 22 December at the first squall, the Morning Star, Cygnet, Fortescue, Twilight and Emma ran in from the Mary Ann Patch to Coolhera Creek. On the morning of the 23rd, the level of the barometer fell from the usual 765 millimetres to 754 millimetres, and by the 24th, had fallen to 734 millimetres.[2] The Swan, having parted one chain cable, slipped her other anchor, and at daylight, ran into Coolhera Creek, where she was made fast to the mangroves. At Beadon Creek, the Subahani was taking in water and went ashore over the inner reef, high and dry on the beach, but little damaged. (See map on p. 186.)

The coasting schooner Agnes had delivered stores to the boats at the Mary Ann Patch on the morning of the 22nd. With the gale increasing, the master got under weigh the next morning and stood out to sea. She was totally dismasted, had her decks swept and was thrown on her beam ends, but did not sink.[3]

The Blossom and the Hope were anchored in Troubridge Creek at the entrance to Exmouth Gulf. The Blossom, a small schooner worked by five Filipino divers, foundered, and all hands were lost. The vessel was later found by a Mr C. Annois as a partly burnt total wreck. The Industry, anchored outside Troubridge, dragged about with a short scope of chain as the cyclone veered, but the vessel survived.

At the southern end of Exmouth Gulf lay the Dawn, Azelia, Montiara, Lily of the Lake, Wild Wave, Dolphin, Governor Weld, Barringarra, Charm, Ada, Aurora, Eveline Mary, Helena, Victorian and Albert. The vessels were on the east side of the Gulf about 3 kilometres off the mainland, and the pearling masters, believing themselves to be well sheltered there, did not run for cover.

The Albert was driven ashore in the Bay of Rest, but sustained no damage. The Lily of the Lake weathered the first fury of the gale, but during the lull that ensued, her crew unwisely got the vessel under weigh, with the probable intention of running for the Bay of Rest. The next set of squalls came from the westward, dismasting the Lily of the Lake and swamping her when only 8 kilometres from the rest of the fleet. The owners, G. Long and W. Woods, together with a European crewman named O'Neil, and seventeen Malay crew and divers were lost when the vessel foundered. Six Malays swam at least 16 kilometres to shore at Mungina, where they were later picked up by the Barringarra. It was later found that the Lily of the Lake had gone down, head foremost, in 10 metres.

The Wild Wave, a well known craft formerly engaged in the coasting trade, had recently been purchased by Aubrey Brown and Charles Gill (part-owners of the ill-fated Fairy Queen) for the pearl fishery. The vessel parted her chains in the face of a terrific gale that lashed the sea in the Gulf into one sheet of rolling surf. She went onto a reef between 5 and 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Gill and his master, Watson, together with two Europeans named Shadwell and Cameron and twenty-eight Malays, were drowned.[4] Gill clung to the masthead for several hours before succumbing. Thirteen Aborigines and one European named Kennington survived by clinging to the rigging overnight and swimming ashore the next day. Kennington was found lying unconscious on the beach, and he remained delirious for at least 3 days.[5]

The 28-ton Wild Wave (Official Number 40482) was built in 1858 at Fremantle as a wood-framed ketch with a square stern. In 1864, the vessel was converted to schooner rig.[6] Her dimensions were 15.4 metres by 4.6 metres by 2 metres. She had been owned by John and Walter Bateman as late as July 1875.

The 26-ton schooner Lily of the Lake (Official Number 61108) was built in 1873 at Fremantle by James Storey for storekeeper John Lewis, who later sold her to William Owston.[7] The jarrah vessel had two masts, a round stern and the dimensions 17.7 metres by 4.2 metres by 2.1 metres. The Lily of the Lake was used initially in the coasting trade. In February 1874, she was for a time feared lost off Geraldton, and the local policeman wrote:

Captain Mitchell informed me she had large quantity of beer and spirits on board and that the passengers were rather a rough lot.[8]

In mid-1875, the Lily of the Lake was taken to Coepang to recruit men for a pearling cruise. When she was boarded by a quarantine officer at Roebourne, he reported that, besides the master and mate, the vessel carried twenty-one Malay divers and crew, one cook, and one woman, whose function on board was not given.[9]

Virtually nothing is known of the Blossom. The vessel was variously described as a cutter and a small schooner.


1. Herald, 29 January 1876.

2. Western Australian Times, 14 January 1876.

3. Board of Trade Wreck Register, 1875.

4. Herald, 29 January 1876. The report of the Roebourne police (22 January 1876) implied that the men lost were Shark Bay Aborigines.

5. Inquirer, 12 January 1876.

6. Register of British Ships, Fremantle.

7. Register of British Ships, Fremantle.

8. Joseph Armstrong, Geraldton, 4 February 1874, Police Records, Acc. No. 129, Battye Library.

9. Government Resident, Roebourne, to Col. Sec., 7 December 1875, C.S.R. 809, fol. 183-187.