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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..

Turtle shell commemorative plaque - SS Gothenburg

Turtle shell is inscribed with the list of survivors from the SS Gothenburg shipwreck. It was created 50 years after the event and presented to individuals who assisted in the rescue.

The SS Gothenburg traded along the British and then later the Australian and New Zealand coastlines. In February 1875, enroute from Darwin to Adelaide it encountered a cyclone-strength storm off the north Queensland coast. Gothenberg was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef north-west of Holborne Island on 24 February 1875. Survivors in one of the lifeboats were rescued two days later by the Leichhardt, while the occupants of two other lifeboats that managed to reach Holborne Island were rescued several days later. Twenty two men survived, while between 98 and 112 others died, including a number of high profile civil servants and dignitaries.

Associated locations: Holborne Island, Great Barrier Reef, Darwin, Adelaide

Caption: Commemorative plaque , Turtle Shell

AccessionNo: HT873060(m)

Depth: 45 mm

Width: 190 mm

Height: 275 mm

Material: Turtle shell

Date Created: 1925

Physical Description:
Relic of the Gothenburg (Originally named Celt and often spelt Gothenberg) with record of survivors of wreck. Gift of J.J.Fitzgerald, 1932, scribed on turtle shell.

Significance:
Part of the Historical Relics Collection.The plaque illustrates the sense of good fortune associated with shipwreck survivors - over 100 people died when the Gothenberg sank off the coast of Queensland. Many of them were South Australians voyaging to Darwin in the Northern Territory, then under the administration of South Australia. It is example of commemoration, death, survival and heroism - JJ Fitzgerald, one of the South Australian survivors and rescuers, inscribed the names of the survivors on the shell 50 years after the event in a private act of remembrance and commemoration. Immediately after the shipwreck, Governor Musgrave of South Australia presented Fitzgerald with a gold watch and medal for his heroism. The shell itself is said to have been taken from a turtle killed for food while the survivors waited on Holborne island for rescue.

Provenance:
Relic of the Gothenburg (Originally named Celt); records survivors of the wreck. Created 50 years after the wreck. The SS Gothenburg traded along the British and then later the Australian and New Zealand coastlines. It was an Adelaide, Melbourne, and Otago Steamship Company vessel. In February 1875, enroute from Darwin to Adelaide, it encountered a cyclone-strength storm off the north Queensland coast. Gothenberg was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef, north-west of Holborne Island on 24 February 1875. Survivors in one of the lifeboats were rescued two days later by the Leichhardt; the occupants of two other lifeboats that managed to reach Holborne Island were rescued several days later. 22 men survived, while between 98 and 112 others died, including a number of high profile civil servants and dignitaries. Commemorative plaque a gift of J.J.Fitzgerald, 1932, scribed on turtle shell. Transcribed text: Wreck of/ S.S. “Gothenberg”/ Wednesday 24th February/ 1875 at 6.30 P.M. Coral Reef/ long way E of our course - E.S.E. by/ ¾ E. List of souls on this Island = 18/ John Cleland David Wylie a.b./ Pat Hogan. William Roberts./ James Campbell. James J. FitzGerald./ Wm. Cockrain/ Dave Harris 28 February Boat/ Stewart Andrews left with 15-/ William Thomas all except the last/ John Krueger 3 named./ Jack Reynolds a.b./ Bill Griffiths a.b./ Paddy Brazil (Fireman)/ James Marten a.b./ William Falk a.b./ George Cooper (Fireman) Richard Biles a.b. Object file - extracts from The Bowen Independent March 1978.(newspaper articles and photos re Gothenburg wreck)See also Gothenburg and Cleland notes. John Cleland, James J Fitzgerald and Robert Brazil were presented with gold watches and gold medals for bravery by the South Australian Government, presented by Governor Musgrave. Also presented with a gold chain from the Gothenburg Relief Fund Committee. Mr CA Cleland of 8A Bright Street, Gawler has both the watch and medal given to his father J Cleland. John Cleland worked on the Adelaide to Darwin telegraph link and was returning to Adelaide from Darwin when the vessel was wrecked. The three rescuers were considered heroes. They clung to the ship's rigging and managed to right the fourth lifeboat. While doing so, Fitzgerald injured his leg. The survivors in that lifeboat made it to Holbourne Island, where this turtle was probably killed for food. There they also found survivors from the second lifeboat, which had since been washed away. Because of his injuries, Fitzgerald stayed on the Island with two men while the others sailed for help. They were eventually rescued by the BUNYIP. The Northern Territory Government named Fitzgerald Street in the Darwin suburb of Millner after him. Cleland was travelling as a sterrage passenger. He was rescued by Robert Heron and returned with 11 others aboard the SS VICTORIA. Cleland immigrated to South Australia from Britain, son of R. Cleland. In 1864 he arrived in the Northern Territory with the Finniss expedition to Escape Cliffs. He was also involved in pearling and mining ventures. He returned to the Northern Territory after the shipwreck and spent his working life there. He retired to South Australia and died aged 93 from appendicitis, c1943. He also had a street named after him in Millner. Brazel was a crew member, a fireman. During the wreck he hung onto rigging and tried to save many. With Fitzgerald and Cleland he righted the Fourth lifeboat and made for Holbourne Island. He left with 14 others and was rescued by Robert Heron. A few days later he returned to the wreck with salvage workers in an attempt to rescue the gold.