Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Three Whale Boats from the Russell

The Russell was an American whaler. In 1839 this ship took the explorer George Grey and his party to the North West of Western Australia. Three whale boats carrying the explorers were set on Bernier Island, just north of Shark Bay, and the Russell continued on its way. Within a few days one of the whaleboats was lost along with the stores it contained and the other two boats went searching for water. On reaching the mouth of the Murchison River, both boats came to grief trying to run in the breakers. With all three boats wrecked, the group decided to walk back to Perth . The distance involved was 650 kms, which was quite a trek, especially as they were short of water. George Grey kept a journal of this trek. The party came into contact with Aboriginals several times during their journey. In the first instance the Aboriginals moved off when they saw Grey. A few days later he had another encounter that almost turned to conflict. A large number of Aboriginals had commenced following them, but would not communicate with Grey. ‘...we saw a number hastening to occupy a thick scrub through which we had to pass. The men now became so dissatisfied and alarmed, that I found I should be unable much longer to restrain them from firing, if I did not disperse the natives.’ Later that day one of the men from Grey’s party disappeared and he sent some others to look for him. When they did not get back within a reasonable time he became concerned, as one of his lookouts had seen ‘natives on the opposite cliffs, jumping about, and running up and down brandishing their spears, in the manner they do before and after a fight.’ For the rest of their journey Grey’s group continued to have a ‘stand off’ relationship with the Aborigines. Neither side made any real contact, conflict seemed to be threatened by both sides at times, but nothing happened. Eventually, just north of Perth they met with an Aboriginal group whom Grey had befriended before his northern exploration trip. They provided a feast for the party and were able to tell them that Perth was only a day away. The Aboriginal people could have been the Nhanta, Amangu, Yuat and Wajuk tribes.

Associated Tribe Nhanta, Amangu, Yuat, Wajuk

Contact Evidence Verified

Type of contact Unknown

Year 1839

Nationality American

Location Gantheaume Bay

Source European