Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Agnes (1892/04/24)

Bremer Bay

Agnes had one deck, a flat bottom, an elliptical stern and a figurehead of the bust of a woman. The vessel had a small cabin with limited accommodation for passengers, some of whom had to sleep on the softer cargo in the hold. Built in NSW by E.G. Beattie and first registered there (No. 11/1875), the schooner was later sold to George J.W. Freeman and registered in Adelaide (No. 10/1877). It then traded in South Australian waters, and in September 1876 was reported as having gone aground (some references say wrecked) at Wardang Island in Spencer Gulf en route from Port Pirie to Adelaide with a cargo of flour. It was salvaged, and by 1878 was owned by W.H. Jelly. In June 1879 the Agnes was bought by Frederick Douglas and Cuthbert McKenzie, 32 shares each, and registered at Fremantle (No. 2/1879). During a storm which struck Albany on 10 September 1883 the Agnes was driven onto the jetty and the bulwarks and one of the upper planks stove in. It also ran aground near Israelite Bay on the south coast of Western Australia in May 1886, but was got off. Douglas purchased McKenzie’s shares on 10 September 1891, and then became sole owner. The Agnes was stranded once more, this time at Fanny Cove on 19 October 1891. Again it was got off, this time with slight damage and leaking.

Captain Douglas had been hoping to sell the Agnes (which was not insured) in order to buy a larger vessel. The schooner departed Albany at 7.00 a.m. on 21 April 1892 for Bremer Bay where it anchored in John Cove, and loaded a cargo which included 40 tons of sandalwood.

The Agnes had three anchors down, but on Saturday 23 April 1892 ‘a terrific sea came in, but no wind’ (telegram from Captain Douglas quoted in Albany Advertiser, 27 April 1892: 3e). So great were the seas that the schooner was burying its bows. The strain on the anchor cables and windlass was extreme, and just after midnight the cables parted, having completely pulled away the windlass. Because of its flat bottom the Agnes washed quite high up on the beach, but seas continued to break over the vessel. The crew got ashore safely, and after the seas subsided they commenced salvage on the cargo and fittings, removing everything they could onto the beach.

Captain Douglas left Bremer Bay three days later to travel overland to Albany, arriving on Thursday 28 April. The two crew members left the wreck site by ship’s boat on the afternoon of Wednesday 27 April, and with a fair wind arrived at Albany the same afternoon as their skipper.

The crew of the Agnes salvaged all the cargo including the sandalwood, and stripped the vessel of masts, sails ‘and everything on deck that was moveable’ (Albany Advertiser, 25 April 1892: 3a). The vessel was described as ‘breaking up fast’ (Albany Advertiser, 27 April 1892: 3e). There is a report that the wreck was purchased by John Wellstead who owned a property at Bremer Bay, and who used much of the timber for various buildings on his station. The figurehead was given by the Wellstead family to an Albany resident, and is now in the Albany Residency Museum. Some small items of rigging are held in the museum at the Wellstead homestead at Bremer Bay.

Richard McKenna stated that as a child in the 1930s he had seen the wreck of the Agnes, a substantial amount of which remained high up on the beach at that time.

Ship Built

Owner Captain Fred Douglas

Master Captain Fred Douglas

Country Built NSW

Port Built Brisbane Water

Port Registered Fremantle, 08/8/1879

When Built 1874

Ship Lost

Gouped Region South-Coast

Sinking At anchor, went ashore in storm

Crew 4

When Lost 1892/04/24

Where Lost Bremer Bay

Port To Esperance Bremer Bay

Cargo General

Ship Details

Engine N

Length 18.96

Beam 5.50

TONA 43.28

Draft 1.65

Museum Reference

Official Number 71814

Unique Number 1203

Sunk Code Wrecked and sunk

File Number 195/72, 69/72

Chart Number BA 1034

Protected Protected Federal

Found N

Inspected N

Confidential NO