20a["Terrible Disaster on the Pearling Grounds", The West Australian, Friday 29 April 1887, page 3]




The Colonial Secretary, yesterday afternoon received the following telegram from Cossack:--

"At the request of Captain Mayne I beg to make the following report: On Friday, 22nd instant, a strong easterly gale caught the pearling fleet off the Ninety-Mile Beach; the s.s. Australind arrived at Gourdon Bay on the 25th inst. and left next day. 48 craft were there, many of them damaged. Captain Mayne was outside with foremast gone and all stores spoilt. The Sree Pas Sair, under jury masts, was towed into Cossack by the Australind. She reports seeing many drowned men floating about, and supplied several luggers with food. The Annie Taylor only native diving boat in; lost all dingies. The Australind sighted a vessel and steered for her, but night came on and she could not find her, no lights, and water shoaling rapidly; supposed to be at anchor. Sunday and Monday no wind. Tuesday, strong S.E. winds. Fear disabled craft outside will be blown away to sea, many being dismantled, and most of them short of food and water. Strongly advise Australind being sent out towards Scott's Reef to cruise for a few days as there are over five hundred men missing. Mayne's Eloise foremast gone; Bayne's Sree Pas Sair and Telephone dismasted, and twelve luggers safe, five missing; blown(?) three luggers safe; Venture, Lady Loftus, and some luggers missing; Riddell's three luggers safe; Dairymaid and six luggers missing; Clark's Mavis and five luggers safe, three lost; Walton's Lady Dennison, and five luggers safe, one missing; Price's John S. Lane dismasted, and five luggers safe; Smith's Harriet and four luggers safe; Potts, Paul, & Co's Herald and one lugger safe, one lost and two missing; Ericson and Hood's Annie and three luggers safe, one missing: Mogg's three luggers safe; Scott and Henderson's two luggers safe; Osprey and one lugger missing; Finlay and Baynes's Pearl supposed to be at Port Headland, three luggers safe, one sunk; Gale's Eagle, Keenan's Idalia, W. Bruce's Victor, Biddle's two luggers, Seymour's Veronica, Joe's (Jose's ?) two luggers, Stewart's Iolanthe, all safe; Brennan's Mary Anne, Sullivan's Le Grande and Bruce's Maggie all safe ; Vagg's Yule dismasted but reported safe; the following native swimming boats, Expert, Dawn, Myra, Jessie, Waterlilly, Gipsy, Harriet, all missing; Annie Taylor safe, steering gear and all dingies gone.


Cossack, April 28.


To the Colonial Secretary.

The Telephone reports the following news; Myra dismasted; Jessie at Condon; Water Lily seen by Amy all right; Harriet safe, all dingies gone; Amy gone to search for Dawn with J. McRae. Telephone saved two men from Herald's lugger. Ranger sunk. The mate of the Dairymaid is safe on board a lugger.

J. H. HAYNES. Cossack, April 28, 1 p.m.


The Australind has arrived towing in Sree Pas Sair dismasted. The Telephone has arrived dismasted. Five luggers belonging to these vessels are missing. The Myra, John S. Lane. Annie Taylor, Eloise, Yule. Jessie and Harriet are all dismasted and damaged. The Gipsy, Expert, Dawn and others are missing. The Dart was last seen on her beam ends with thirty tons shell and sixty native divers on board. The Gipsy was seen going out to sea on light canvas. Thirty-seven lives are known to be lost, chiefly Malays. About four hundred and fifty souls have to be accounted for, not yet turned up or heard of. The hurricane lasted twelve hours, and blew from E and N.E. The Australind is waiting for instructions. The boats were shelling at the Ninety-Mile Beach, and getting from one ton to two per diem.

The following telegrams were received yesterday at Fremantle and Perth:--

To Messrs. J. and W. Bateman.

"Terrible news from pearling fleet. Gale last Friday. Forty boats lost, and about 550 people missing. Price dismasted, but safe and all luggers saved.


Cossack, April 28.

To Messrs. W. D. Moore & Co.. Fremantle. Australind arrived all well. Delayed by hurricane, and having towed Sree pas Sair in. Cannot say when we sail, pending Government instructions to proceed to search for missing boats. Five hundred lives reported lost and many boats.


Purser Australind.

Cossack, April 28.

To E. F. Sholl Esq., Perth.

Later news by Telephone just in, dismasted. Myra, Yule, Annie Taylor, Jessie, J. S. Lane, and Harriet all dismasted. The Gipsy is missing, was last seen standing out to sea under light canvas. The Dawn and Expert are also missing. Know of thirty seven lives lost; about four hundred have yet to be accounted for."


Cossack, April 28.

There is only too much reason to fear that the above telegrams contain news which if terrible is only too true. The fleet when attacked by the storm was busy from 200 to 300 miles to the north east of Cossack. As it was the end of the season most of the boats were probably well loaded with shell, and the loss of property as well as of life must be most serious. On Western Australians the blow will chiefly fall, although Mr. Streeter, of London had a large number of boats engaged in pearling operations.

On receipt of the news, the Government took instant steps to meet the emergency and the telegraph office being closed the following message was telephoned to Messrs W. D. Moore & Co., Fremantle, Agents of the s.s. Australind, at half-past four o'clock:--"Serious hurricane, Friday 22nd, caught pearling fleet off Ninety Mile Beach. Great loss of boats and life. Advised by wire that if Australind could be be sent out to cruise for a few days in the direction of Scott's Reef she might be able to rescue boats and men of whom five hundred are reported missing. Can Australind go, and if so on what terms? Telephone reply."

To this the following reply was received from Messrs. W. D. Moore and Co. soon after 6 p.m.--"We consent to Australind going out four days at 55 per day."

On the receipt of this message the following memorandum was directed by His Excellency the Governor to tho Colonial Secretary at 6.30 p.m: "I think this should be accepted at once, and that the Australind should be immediately sent to sea, the captain having obtained all possible information from Mr. Haynes (the sender of the telegram to the Government) and others. The Australind to act for four days in the best possible way for the rescue of the pearling fleet in distress, or of any survivors from the wrecked vessels. The above to be communicated immediately to Messrs. W. D. Moore, at Fremantle, and to the Government Resident at Roebourne."

An acceptance of the offer was telegraphed to Messrs..W. D. Moore and Co. at 6.36 p.m. Later, at 8.8 p.m. the following telegram was received by the Colonial Secretary from the justices of the North District, the Government Resident being away at the time--

To the Colonial Secretary, Perth.

"The Justices North District, on behalf of the inhabitants of Roebourne and Cossack, in the absence of the Government Resident, request the Government to take steps to despatch the Australind in search of the survivors from the late fearful storm, and to supply them with the necessary provisions forthwith.

Cossack, Ap. 28.





A telegram was sent to those gentlemen at 8.30, informing them of the steps which had already been taken by the Government.

At the hour of closing the telegraph office last night (10 p.m.) no further information had come through. The Australind had not sailed for the scene of the disaster, but was evidently intending to make an early start this morning.

20b["Roebourne Notes", The West Australian, Friday 13 May 1887, page 3]


April 25.

The schooner Ethel, from Sydney, reported that a hurricane occurred in Beagle Bay on the 22nd ultimo - lasting for about twelve hours - in which she was caught, and that a sister schooner and three small smaller boats were with her which have not turned up, and are supposed to be lost. The captain says the hurricane was terrific, the spray dashing over the mast head and bursting over his deck, washing away two fine whale boats which cost 50 each. He has not seen a blow like it for 40 years. The s.s. Australind arrived shortly afterwards towing in the schooner Sree pas Sair dismasted, and reported that the pearling fleet at the Ninety Mile Beach was damaged; 5 luggers sank, 11 schooners and 26 luggers and about 500 men missing. The Sree pas Sair observed about 50 men in the water, but was only able to render assistance by throwing spars to them as it was night and she was crippled. The schooner Telephone arrived at Cossack dismasted under jury masts. No other boats have turned up as yet. Captain Mayne's boat, the Eloise, was dismasted, and he was struck by lightning, being blind for two days, but is now recovering. Captain French was seen struggling in the water, and is believed to be drowned. The decks of the Annie Taylor were swept. The captain's wife and child were on board, and almost submerged in water, but were saved and brought into Cossack. The schooner Harriet lost all boats, and had her decks cleared. The Dawn was seen on her beam ends, and is supposed to have foundered.

The Gipsy, with Mr. J. Spencer on board, was seen going out to sea under easy canvas. A Japanese boat suffered severely, everyone being swept away except a man who was clinging to a hatch in the water, and who was saved, arriving at Cossack on board the Australind. The Australind rendered what assistance she could on her way here; she saw some dismasted schooner in the distance, shaped her course towards her, but darkness coming on, and she having only six fathoms of water had to leave. The Australind blew her whistle several times, but the schooner showed no lights. I believe the police have been sent overland to the Ninety Mile Beach to render what assistance they can to anyone who has got ashore in that vicinity. The hurricane was from the E.N.E. The glass fell very little, and the pearlers though it was only going to be a strong easterly breeze, it being late for a willy willy; in fact, there has never been one so late for 20 years, so that they were taken unawares and had made no preparations. The boats were all doing well; they had got on to a fine patch of shells and were getting from 1 ton to 2 tons of shells per diem, and they were just on the eve of returning, as the native divers' time was up on the 30th ultimo, so that the catastrophe has been most severe and sad. The promptitude with which the Government despatched the Australind has been much appreciated. No doubt the Otway which is expected to-day will bring further news which I will ascertain and forward.