Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Bunyip (1877/05/24)

Eyre Twilight Cove

Cartabunup or Bunyip (?-1877)

Rig Type: Cutter
Hull: Wood
Tonnage: 60
Port from: Albany
Port to: Twilight Cove
Date lost: 25 May 1877
Location: Twilight Cove
Chart Number: BA 1059
Protection: The site when found will be protected under the general provisions of the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976
Significance criteria: 1

There has been much confusion regarding the name of this vessel. It has been suggested that ‘Bunyip’ is the idiomatic corruption of the name ‘Cartabunup’. The Cartabunup (also variously spelt Catabunup, Cartaburnup, Caltaburnup, Cuttyburnup, Cuttabunup and Carter Bunyup) was a 60-ton cutter said to have been built by John Odgers Peters on the King River at Albany. It was supposedly named for the hill near the building site. The Minang people who built fish traps in Oyster Harbour called the place ‘Kaatbornup’ meaning ‘wooded hill’, referring to the very large marri trees which once grew nearby. The vessel Cartabunup was owned by John McKenzie of Albany. There is no registration record of either Cartabunup or Bunyip (or any of the derivations) in Western Australia. Despite this the Bunyip was reported by the Inquirer as being an ‘Albany cutter’.

The cutter Cartabunup/Bunyip, about which so little is known, was under the command of Captain John Foote, and had been chartered by Mr Gilham to carry wire and insulators for the construction of the overland telegraph line between Adelaide and Albany.

In late May 1877 the Cartabunup/Bunyip and another cutter, the Twilight, also chartered by Gilham, were anchored at Twilight Cove discharging cargo which was sufficient to construct 100 miles (160 km) of the line.

About midnight on 24 May 1877 a severe gale struck, and the anchor cable of the Twilight parted and that cutter was driven ashore and wrecked (see entry). Only 2½ hours later the Cartabunup/Bunyip also parted its cable, drove onto the beach and was abandoned. The crew of both vessels made shore safely. The loss of the cargo was stated to have set the telegraph line construction back some six weeks. Gilham, on his arrival in Adelaide from King George Sound aboard the R.M.S. Bangalore, advised the South Australian Register of his loss. That newspaper subsequently telegraphed the news to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The newspaper reported that the cargo was buried in the sand and considered impossible to recover.

The wreck of the Cartabunup/Bunyip was reported as being 180 m west of the wreck of the Twilight, however the exact position of neither wreck is now known.

The building of the Overland Telegraph Line provided steady work for a number of mainly Western Australian coastal traders. These included the Agnes, Cartabunup/Bunyip, Mary Ann, Planet, Tribune, Twilight and Walter & Mary.

Henderson, G. & K., 1988, Unfinished voyages: Western Australian shipwrecks 1851-1880. University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands.

Hydrographic Department, Admiralty, 1973, Australia Pilot, Vol. I. South Coast of Australia from Cape Leeuwin to Green Point. HMSO, London, (6th edn).

Marshall, G., 2001, Maritime Albany Remembered. Tangee Pty Ltd, Kalamunda.

Shardlow, R., Personal correspondence to author, 16 October 2011.

South Australian Register, 22 June 1877: 5c.

Sydney Morning Herald, 30 June 1877: 5b.

The Inquirer and Commercial News, 13 June 1877: Supplement 1e.

Western Australian Museum, Department of Maritime Archaeology, File No. 6 /86 – Bunyip, Twilight, Swift.

Western Mail, 27 January 1927: 18a.
Co-ordinates 5' off

Ship Built

Country Built WA

Port Built King River

Ship Lost

Gouped Region South-Coast

When Lost 1877/05/24

Where Lost Eyre Twilight Cove

Port From Albany

Port To Albany

Cargo Store

Ship Details

Engine N

Museum Reference

Unique Number 1575

Sunk Code Unknown

File Number 6/68, 102/91

Protected Protected Federal

Found N

Inspected N

Confidential NO