Tag Archives: Loch Sloy

Drowning in a sea of information: The search for the graves of the victims of the Loch Sloy shipwreck (1899)

The Loch Sloy project: Part 3

For over six months in 2011 and 2012 I was involved in a research project which was conducted by Amer Khan at DEWNR (Department of the Environment, Water and Natural  Resources), the purpose of which was to find the graves of the people who had perished when the barque Loch Sloy sank off the south-western coast of Kangaroo Island.

We had already looked at primary documents from State Records of South Australia, which pretty much confirmed what had been documented previously by both Robert McKinnon (1993) and Gifford Chapman (2007).  We had met with Mr Chapman and had gained valuable connections to the May family of Kangaroo Island (see blog post number 2), whose ancestors had been predominant in the rescue of the four survivors and in the burial of eleven bodies.  The only clue we had from these sources was a cairn that supposedly pointed to where the wreck was sited, and the grave of Mr Kilpatrick who had survived the wreck only to die onshore (see blog post number 1).

The cairn indicating the position of the wreck of the Loch Sloy, courtesy Amer Khan, 2012.

A photograph in both texts by McKinnon and Chapman indicated a cliff face that denoted the beach where the ship had sunk.  Our next task was to pull together all these pieces of information to try and locate a possible grave site for the 11 bodies that had washed to shore in the weeks following the wreck.  Then we discovered Trove!  Trove is a resource of online newspapers organised by the National Library of Australia and here I issue a warning!  It is very addictive!

Two newspapers on Trove, the Adelaide Advertiser and the S.A. Register, provided vital information on the possible position of the graves.  On Friday 19th May 1899, The Register reporter, who was part of the search party, reported that 11 bodies had been found and stated that nine of them had been ‘rudely buried within half a mile of each other’, and that Trooper Shegog had made notes.  The article also gave us the information that the bodies had been found on the beach and on the rocks below the cliffs.   Another report detailed an interview with Charles May.  This also provided good information and pinpointed the discovery to the foot of the cliffs.  Mr May also described, in detail, the route that he and Mr Hoskings took in their search.

A view of cliffs on Kangaroo Island, courtesy Cameron Hartnell, 2012

While this information was extremely useful, we still did not have a definitive location for the burials.  One reason was the naming of the beaches, which have changed over time and, secondly, our inability to locate the notes made by Trooper Shegog.  Our next source of information was to provide us with possibilities.  We examined the coastline with the aid of Google Earth and pinpointed possible locations that fitted in with the descriptions from the newspapers, texts, and our meeting with Mr and Mrs May, the descendants of Charles May.

Armed with all this information, it was decided that it would be worthwhile organising an expedition to Kangaroo Island to see if any further excavations or investigations would be useful.

My next blog will detail the discoveries we made on two expeditions to Kangaroo Island.

References

Chapman, G. 2007 Kangaroo Island Shipwrecks. South Australia: Chapman.

McKinnon R. 1993 Shipwreck Sites of Kangaroo Island. Adelaide: State Heritage Branch, Dept. of Environment and Land Management.

South Australian Register, Friday 19 May 1899, p6.

Adelaide Advertiser, Thursday 18 May 1899, p6.

The Killer Coast of Kangaroo Island

By Lynda Bignell
Masters Candidate, Flinders University, South Australia

In September 2011 I was invited to do some research on a maritime archaeology project on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.  This opportunity arose from me expressing my interest in coastal archaeology to Jennifer McKinnon, lecturer at Flinders University.

I was to work with Amer Khan, maritime archaeologist at DEWNR (Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources), South Australia, on a project investigating coastal archaeology on a section of Kangaroo Island from Cape Borda to Cape du Couedic.  In particular, we were investigating four shipwrecks along that coast.  These were the Emily Smith (1877), the Mars (1885), the Loch Sloy (1899) and the Loch Vennachar(1905).  These are well known shipwrecks and the task was focussed on finding the graves of the victims of the Loch Sloy shipwreck.

Funding had been acquired from the Commonwealth Government for projects involving coastal archaeology, in an attempt to learn more about the coastal history and archaeology of Australia.  Other research volunteers, who were already working on the project were Terry Smith and Adrian Brown.

My first task was to follow up some enquiries that Adrian Brown had initiated with State Records at the facility at Gepps Cross, Adelaide.   I had used the State Records facility in the city a few years ago, and it was easy to re-activate my membership card.  The archivists were very helpful, both in instructing me in the use of the database search system and suggesting other resources that could be helpful.

There were two obvious resources that could have given us information on the location of the graves.  These were the official inquiry records and the coroner’s report.  The coroner’s report was quickly discounted as these records had been recycled in World War II.  The inquiry records proved to be more useful, and I photographed each page, as reading it there would have been too time consuming.   These records are handwritten and obviously written at the time of the inquiry, making the writing more and more illegible.  However, they produced a lot of useful information that would lead to further sources of information.

The inquiry included information about the ship, the crew, the cargo and the passengers and its movements from Glasgow to Adelaide.  The Loch Sloy was owned by the Glasgow Shipping Company and was part of a fleet including the Loch Vennachar, which also sank in this area off Kangaroo Island.  The inquiry interviewed people associated with the shipwreck including the apprentice Simpson, one of the survivors.  It also gave an indication as to where the ship had foundered, which was of particular interest to the project group.

In my next blog, I will talk about the oral histories we conducted and how we met the descendants of the May family, who assisted the survivors, and also how easy it is to become addicted to Trove, the online newspaper resource of the National Library of Australia.