Cervantes was originally built as a whaling brig with one deck, square stern and a billet head. It was copper fastened and had a coppered bottom. It was built in 1836 in Bathe, Maine, and registered in that port on 4 October 1836. The vessel’s owners were Richard McManus of Brunswick and Frederic G. Thurston of New York. The vessel was subsequently owned by a consortium consisting of Benjamin Brown, Jonathon Coit, Amos Willets, Samuel Willets, Nathan Belden and her master, Captain Sylvanus Gibson. They had it converted to barque rig in June 1841, and the registration was changed from Bath to New London. The first whaling voyage to Western Australia had taken place in late 1841. This had been under the command of B.F. Brown, possibly the Benjamin Brown mentioned above as being one of the owners.
In 1841 while in Albany re-victualling three crew, Joseph Clark, John Morrison and James Wolley, deserted. After being captured and gaoled they broke out of gaol and hid, giving themselves up to the authorities only after the Cervantes had left port. They were each fined 10 shillings, in default of 10 days hard labour.
When it was wrecked the Cervantes was on its second whaling voyage to Western Australia, having left New London on 23 June 1843. The barque must have spent some time on the Western Australian coast, as it was in the Geographe Bay area during January and February of 1844. Despite this it had managed to obtain only ten barrels of oil at the time it was wrecked.
The Cervantes was anchored in Jurien Bay and the crew were fishing when a gale blew up. Before the vessel could make sail and weather the gale out at sea it was driven on to a sand-bar. The crew got ashore, and three of them arrived in Perth on 6 July to report the loss. On 9 July the master, Sylvanus Gibson, and more crew arrived. He reported that one man had been left some 30 miles (50 km) north of the Moore River, while another six crewmen had returned to the wreck site. They intended to get a boat from the Cervantes in order to sail to Fremantle. Henderson (1980: 208) says that Captain Gibson said that the vessel had suffered only minor damage. However its keel was broken, and because of the distance from Fremantle, which was the nearest place where effective repairs could be carried out, it was decided to sell the vessel.
L. & W. Samson conducted the auction of the Cervantes and its contents. The wreck with all its stores and whaling gear fetched £155. The ship’s chronometer sold separately for £23 (Henderson)/£28 (WAM File MA-409/71). The salvors sent by the purchaser, Mr Wicksteed (or Wickstead), reported the wreck as still standing when they salvaged gear in August. In fact Joshua William Gregory said it was still visible above water when he surveyed that section of the coast in the schooner Thetis in 1847. Mr Wicksteed contemplated setting up a whaling station using the salvaged gear as the crew of the Cervantes had reported many seals in the area.
The wreck lies in 2–3 m of water about 0.5 n mile WSW of Thirsty Point.
EXCAVATION AND ARTEFACTS
During the first exploratory wreck inspection various materials were collected and analysed to aid in determining the name of the wrecked vessel. A local person recovered some timber in July 2002. Pieces of old timber, probably from this wreck, are sometimes found on the beach near Cervantes.
Owner Benjamin Brown, Jonathon Coit, Amos Willetts, e.a.
Master Sylvanus Gibson
Country Built USA
Port Built Bath, Maine
Port Registered New London
When Built 1836
Gouped Region Mid-West
When Lost 1844/06/20
Where Lost Jurien Bay
Position Information GPS, 2012
Port From Fishing ground
Port To New London (end of whaling trip)
Cargo Whaling Oil
Minimum Depth of site 2.00
Length of site 25.00
Unique Number 1151
Sunk Code Wrecked
File Number 2009/0087/SG _MA-409/71
Chart Number PWD 47233
Protected Protected Federal
Date Inspected 2004/01