The Wreck of the ''Osmanli''

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Date: 25 Nov 1853
Location: Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australiamap
Surnames/tags: Kangaroo_Island Shipwrecks South_Australia
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Categories: Shipwrecks | Kangaroo Island, South Australia | Osmanli (1846).

This Account of an 1853 shipwreck off the coast of Kangaroo Island has been provided by the Kangaroo Island Early Settlers Project


An Ill-fated Voyage

This much-admired steamer, 403 tons, arrived on Tuesday, as elsewhere reported, her dates being—Sydney 18th, and Melbourne 24th August. The extreme length of the Osmanli is 180 feet, and her commodious saloon is 40 feet in length. The accommodations for passengers are excellent, though limited, but her general capacity is such that she can take on board in Sydney coal enough for a voyage to Melbourne and Adelaide and back to Sydney.[1]

The Osmanli was to ply Australian waters less than three months before she fell victim to a reef off D'Estrees Bay, Kangaroo Island. She left Melbourne before daylight on the 23rd of November 1853 bound for Port Adelaide, carrying passengers, coal, pig iron, and mail from Sydney and Melbourne. On board were thirty-five crew and forty-seven passengers. The Victorian gold rush was at its height, and more than one passenger was carrying gold.

En route from the East, the Captain's challenge was to find the narrow "Backstairs Passage" that led into Gulf St. Vincent and thence to Port Adelaide. If he had steered correctly, land would be sighted on both bows in daylight, or the lights at Cape Willoughby and Cape Jervis at night. Friday 25th, before sunset, the Osmanli crew sighted land on both bows. After dark the sighting of the land became hazy and indefinite. The Captain expected to make the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse at about nine o'clock. When the time arrived, and the lighthouse was not in sight, he put the vessel off course and stood out to sea, then stopped the engines and lay to. After about half an hour the engines were started and the vessel proceeded. At five minutes before midnight the vessel struck with great violence amidships. The instant the ship struck, the propeller broke and the engines "flew round with great violence". Captain Corbett split his thumb up to the wrist in his efforts to control the wheel of the vessel. They had struck Tinline Reef in D'Estrees Bay.

The lifeboats were lowered, the crew and passengers abandoned the ship. Last to leave, but first to make shore, was the lifeboat commanded by Robert Davidson, the ship's engineer. He'd prevented the Captain going down with his ship by man-handling him aboard. All those on the Osmanli were landed without incident, but most were in their nightclothes and without supplies. A huge fire was built on the beach to keep warm. Next day, small parties set out in all directions in search of water and supplies. Food and clothing was brought from the ship, thankfully still standing upright, and a small amount of water obtained from a whaler's trypot at McEuen's and Bennett's whaling station.

The chief officer Mr. Gooch set off in the lifeboat with a crew of volunteers for Port Adelaide The boat was not well supplied with sails, so they rowed. On the way they called at Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, 40 miles from the wreck, where Captain Cawthorne, Head Keeper, promised to send what supplies he could spare to the stranded survivors. Sure enough, Second Keeper Nat Thomas and a party including Betsy Thomas, arrived on Monday bearing supplies. Betsy led them to a place among sandhills where they could get fresh water by digging down a few feet. [2]

Meanwhile the lifeboat crew rowed on to Cape Jervis, on the mainland, where they found themselves too exhausted to continue.

On Tuesday the beached survivors were visited by another party of locals. One account says it was Tom Clark, and that he stayed a few days but rendered no assistance. (See Note 3.) Another says that a party brought supplies "on a black horse".

The lifeboat then met the Tamar, a schooner which took the exhausted crew to Port Adelaide, arriving on the morning of the 29th November1853, 3 days after they left D'Estrees Bay. They carried letters appealing for help, and lists of the crew and passengers. The government schooner Yatala was dispatched to the aid of the survivors, who were picked up and taken to Adelaide 1st December 1853.


FIFTY POUNDS REWARD. LOST, from the wreck of the steamer Osmanli, TWO BARS of GOLD, weighing from 79 to 80 ounces, and marked PPGC. The above reward will be paid to any person giving such information as may lead to their recovery, by M. and S. Marks. Hindley-street [3]

When the crew of the Osmanli returned to the ship to recover the passengers' baggage, it was soon discovered that bags had been cut open and rifled. Two gold bars belonging to Mr. Morris Marks disappeared from his trunk. Various members of the crew were accused of theft, in particular, Mr. Grey, chief steward and Mr. Hassett, understeward. Both men appeared in court but were released due to lack of evidence. The gold has never been recovered.[4]

TO THE EDITOR OF THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN REGISTER. Sir — Nothing would give me more pleasure than to hear that our respected fellow-colonist, Mr. Marks, had recovered his lost gold ; nevertheless, I cannot help entering my disclaimer against the cruel and un-English manner in which this stranger has been treated — twice brought before the Courts of our colony on suspicion and twice discharged. It was surely cruel (even if fresh evidence were obtained) to chain this very decent-looking young man's hands together, drag him about the Port in a conveyance looking for more passengers ; thus publicly brand ing him as a felon, and irretrievably blasting his prospects of obtaining an honest livelihood amongst us. I have read in your paper an account of the affair with Mr. and Mrs Bristow, at Aldinga, and should have been disinclined to have believed it, had I not with my own eyes witnessed the scene I have above described. — I am, &c., CHAS. CALTON. Port, Jan. 20, 1854.

Crew of the Osmanli

Captain G.D. Corbett | Mr Gooch, Chief Officer (Appointed to go for help to Pt Adelaide in a life boat)| Mr Hutchins, Purser | Mr Robert Davidson, Chief Engineer | Mr Moore, Second Officer | Mr Grey, Steward (accused of theft)| George Hassett, Under Steward (accused of theft) | Ireland, Fireman | About 25 others


T. Bremen | P. Bren | Timothy Broderick | S/J. Ford | Alfred France | Mr Haddy | Daniel Hall/Hull | S. Ireland, wife and two children | Mr Leigh (sketched the scene of the wreck) | S. Leimart/Lienart | Morris Marks [5] (Owner of two bars of gold, stolen. See Note 2.) | Samuel May and wife | Hugh McManus | McManns | C. Mitchell | Mrs Murray and child | S. Nicholson | Mr Parker | Mr Parsons | Mr Edward John Peake (Volunteered to row the lifeboat for help) | H. Piets/Piertz | Mr Powell | James Sabel/Sabeh | Mr Smith | Mr Solomon | Samuel Standard/Stanton | Rev. Mr. Strong/Storey and lady | Mr Teckermann | Richard Thomas | William Thomas | Mr and Mrs George Tinline | William Walker | William Wane/Warne | William Wilson | Mr Wood, wife and child | Mr Wolff Jr | Mr Wolff Jr's mother |
"Six or seven others whose names are unknown"

Islanders Who Offered Aid

Captain Cawthorne, Head Lightkeeper, the Sturt Light, Cape Willoughby. Sent bread and water to the survivors.
Nat Thomas, Second Keeper, carried supplies from Cape Willoughby (forty miles away), with a party of four others,
Betsy Thomas located a spring of fresh water.
Tom Clark from American River came to the beach with a horse and a party of two white and two black men. [6] (See Note 3.)

About the Osmanli

The Osmanli was an iron screw steamer of 403 nett tons. The vessel was built by William Denny Brothers at Dumbarton, Scotland in 1846. The Denny list states that the vessel was built as a schooner but the Lloyds Register for 1846 records the vessel as a screw steamer. The original dimensions of the vessel were; length 127.1 feet (38.74m), breadth 23.3 feet (7.10m) and depth 13.3 feet (4.05m). In 1852 it was lengthened to 180 feet (54.86m) and 23.7 feet (7.22m) breadth. At the time of wrecking the vessel had two direct acting steam engines built by Caird and Company of Greenock. The boiler was new in 1853 manufactured by Denny, Tullock and Company, of Dumbarton.

The registered owners of the vessel were Wianne, Jones and Chapple. The Osmanli steamed out from England in early 1853 with the intention of being used on a steamship service between Australia and England. After arrival in Australia the vessel was used on intercolonial shipping runs. [7]

The wreck was purchased by Mr. William Rogers for 230 pounds. On 21st December 1853 his agent Mr. Lomax proceeded to the wreck accompanied by eight men in an attempt to refloat the vessel and salvage fittings and stores. For a considerable time the Osmanli was still upright and appeared as if at anchor. On the night of Tuesday 31st January 1854 however a heavy gale from the south-west broke up the Osmanli completely. The fore part of the vessel was reported alongside the poop and the sea was making a complete breach over the wreck, only a small portion of the hull was above water. Most of the salvaged material stored on deck was lost.

The Wreck Site

The scattered remains of the vessel, including machinery, lie on a weed covered rocky bottom. The wreckage includes the propellor shaft, metal plating, parts of the engine and a metal ladder. The wreck site covers an area of approx 35m x 20m. [8] Relics can be seen at the Kingscote Museum. [9]


  1. Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904) Saturday 3 September 1853 p 5 Article
  2. " A black woman (Betsy Thomas) conducted us a few miles to the Eastward, where we found water by digging a few feet amongst some sand hills near the beach." (Account of passenger Alfred France) Another account says water was found in a gully about five miles eastward of the encampment, and two miles eastward of the Hawk's Nest. They found a good supply, "which ought to be made known, as it was not more than a quarter of a mile from the sea."
  3. South Australian Register Thursday 1 December 1853 p 2 Advertising
  4. [ THE STEWARD OF THE "OSMANLI" AND THE MISSING GOLD. South Australian Register Saturday 21 January 1854 p 3]
  5. Wikipedia - Mr Morris Marks
  6. Letter from Thomas Clarke to South Australian Free Press, , 4th March 1854
  7. South Australian Government Maritime Register
  8. South Australian Government Maritime Register
  9. Kangaroo Island Shipwrecks


1. The Rev Strong could have been Robert Strong of St Mary's Church, Sturt.
2. Ten years later, Morris L. Marks was again shipwrecked in the Oscar off Invercargill, New Zealand. He gave a lengthy account in a letter to the Melbourne Argus
3. Thomas Clarke's letter to the press in 1854 included the following:
"So far from not rendering assistance, I brought a bag of flour from my residence to American River—which is fifteen miles' distance therefrom, and twelve miles more from the wreck. Six of the crew of the Osmanli were going to fetch the flour when the Yatala hove in sight; and again, I divided my provisions with the shipwrecked people. Mrs Tinline herself divided them amongst all the hands and passengers. Further, I remained one day on the ground, and not " some days" When the captain of the Osmanli went away, he thanked me for the services I had rendered, and promised to pay me on his return. It was also arranged by Mr Marks and others that, should they purchase the wreck, I should superintend the breaking up, and receive one-fourth of the profits for my trouble. It is not long since the West Wind, and a vessel from England, commanded by Captain Till, were saved by my exertions. As an old bushman and whaler, none can say I am wanting in the sterling character of an Englishman : that is, hospitality and relief to the shipwricked and distressed. I am, Sir, &c., THOS. CLARKE

Images: 5
Map of South Australia
Map of South Australia

Boiler from the Osmanli on Kangaroo Island Beach
Boiler from the Osmanli on Kangaroo Island Beach

Whaler's Trypot at a farm on Kangaroo Island
Whaler's Trypot at a farm on Kangaroo Island

The Steamship "Osmanli"
The Steamship

Cape Willoughby Lighthouse
Cape Willoughby Lighthouse


On 11 Dec 2018 at 22:00 GMT Dina Grozev wrote:

On a side note, the word "Osmanli" is the word for "Ottoman" in Turkish, as referring to Osman I's dynasty.