~ EXHIBITION SPOTLIGHT ~
As a land that has witnessed the journeys of explorers for the past 500 years, Australia has also been home to some of their shocking ends. The Australian coast is dotted with shipwrecks, all of which comprise of tales of difficulty, survival, fear and sometimes of hope. These shipwrecks leave behind not only the story behind its sinking but also the many cargo and objects that were being traded or delivered at that time. The Maritime Museum now houses some of these items; as a homage to the many ships that have met their untimely end – at the hands of the ocean.
The coast of South Australia is home to a large number of shipwrecks, some more prominent than others. Most of us know the story of the infamous Star of Greece who met its fate in July 1888 just 200 metres from the shore of Port Willunga or even the SS Admella who sank off the coast of Mt Gambier in 1859.
The Clan Ranald
The Clan Ranald is another grizzly shipwreck tale. Considered one of the worst shipwrecks in South Australian history, the Clan Ranald was bound for South Africa with a crew of 64 people. Unfortunately, on the 31st of December 1909, rough seas and turbulent wind led to the vessel being sent towards the cliffs near Troubridge Hill, off the coast of the Yorke Peninsula. With their lifeboats smashed and no assistance from other ships (despite sending off distress rockets) the Clan Ranald capsized and sank about 700 metres from the shore. The crew members were left to fend for themselves; some being swallowed by the ocean as the ship sank while others perished from the steep cliffs and sharp rocks. The locals at Troubridge attempted to assist the rest of the surviving crew but were traumatized by the bodies that scattered the shoreline.
During this time, the White Australian Policy was at full force which meant that the surviving crew members who were of non-Caucasian descent were given the dictation test, which was rigged for failure. This resulted in the men being treated as illegal immigrants despite their recent tragedy. As such, they were quickly sent off the Melbourne to board a ship headed for Sri Lanka.
Remembering the shipwrecks
Several artefacts from the Clan Ranald can be seen as part of our Wrecked! Exhibit at the Maritime Museum today. Artefacts from other shipwrecks such as the SS Gothenburg, who wrecked off the coast of north Queensland, and the HMS Buffalo, who served the state of South Australia until its untimely end in 1840, can also be seen at the Museum as a reminder of the dark side of Australia’s maritime history.
There are approximately 850 shipwrecks that line the coast of South Australia. The artefacts within the Maritime Museum provide a way to get a closer look at these shipwrecks and the stories behind them, giving you the chance to further understand the diversity of our maritime history.