The SA Maritime Museum preserves the oldest nautical collection in Australia. In 1872 the Port Adelaide Institute began a museum collection to complement its library and its educational and social programs. That collection grew over the following century reflecting the seafarers and the ships that visited Port Adelaide. It is now held in trust at the SA Maritime Museum.

The Maritime Museum’s collection ranges from the Port Adelaide Lighthouse that was first lit in 1869 to a plaque that explorer Matthew Flinders left at Memory Cove in 1802 to mark the loss to eight seafarers. It includes figureheads, nautical instruments, bathing costumes, shipwreck artefacts, paintings, models and vessels.

Our scope is the maritime heritage of South Australia from the coast to inland waters. The collection of over almost 20,000 objects and over 20,000 images is at once a window to the heritage of the local community and to the ships of the world.

Wreck of Star of Greece

Watercolour painting of the wreck of the Star of Greece at Port Willunga, 1888, by George F. Gregory, Jr.

Built in Belfast in 1868, the Star of Greece was one in a line of eleven clippers called the Irish Stars and famous for breaking records. Today, the ship is renowned to South Australians as one of the most tragic maritime disasters in our history. A violent storm off Port Willunga caught the clipper too close to land and cast it onto the rocks in the early hours of Friday 13 July 1888. Travelling a terrible road with near useless horses, rescue equipment did not reach Port Willunga until 4:00 pm. By then there was no one left to save.

George Frederick Gregory junior was a nineteenth century marine artist who worked in several states over the course of his long career. The quality of his output was diverse and his work ranged from postcard-sized watercolours to large canvases. While living in South Australia his most famous paintings were reconstructions of maritime tragedies. In 1888 he captured the wreck of the Star of Greece near Port Willunga. Although it was common for marine artists to make preliminary sketches on site the opportunity to do the same at wreck sites was rare. Gregory's painting was probably inspired by both sketches made on site and eyewitness accounts. He created many versions of the scene.

Artist: George Frederick Gregory junior 

Tags: shipwreck, Star of Greece, GF Gregory, George Frederick Gregory

Associated Locations: Port Willunga, Willunga, Adelaide, South Australia

Caption: Painting - wreck of the Star of Greece

AccessionNo: HT 2010.0678

Framed mm

Depth: 55 mm

Width: 830 mm

Height: 660 mm

Material: wood, paper, gilt

Date Created: 1888

Physical Description:
Watercolour of the wreck of the Star of Greece ( Port Willunga, 13 July 1888) by marine artist G.F. Gregory. The scene, painted just after the event. It depicts the ship in distress in stormy sea with people watching from the shore. It is presented in an ornate gilt frame.

The wreck of the Star of Greece on 13 July 1888 shookthe colony of South Australia. Not only did it lead to a devasting loss of life and cargo, but highlighted the grossly inadequate measures for maritime safety. There was no rocket apparatus to fire a line to the ship at Port Willunga and by the time, the apparatus was retrieved from Port Adelaide, 17 crew had perished in the stormy seas. The ship was heavily laden with a cargo of wheat destined for the UK. The object links to one of the most infamous shipwrecks in South Australia's history - one that inspired a major revision of maritime safety in the colony. With no photographs of the event, the painting evokes the desperation and drama of the incident better than any other medium.

Noted Australian marine artist GF Gregory paiinted this watercolour just after the sinking of the Star of Greece in 1888. The tragedy shook the colony and both artists and writers documented and memorialised the event. Victorian based Gregory worked in South Australia sporadically before establishing a busiiness there in 1888. His reconstruction of the Star of Greece wreck was probably pieced together from eyewitness accounts, his observations after the wreck, and a dash of artistic license. There was a great market for the saile fo scenes of maritime calamaties and Gregory created many renditions of the scene as 'souvenirs' of the event. They remain his best known works. The painting was originally donated to the Port Adelaide Nautical C.B. Fischer on 4th July 1938.