Uncovering our fascinating shipwreck history

Australia’s coast is the final resting place of more than 11,000 shipwrecks – roughly one wreck for every three kilometres of coastline.

Striking the Great Barrier Reef’s Myrmidon Reef in 1989 was Foam, a British topsail schooner.

Foam was on its way to the South Island Seas.

Sovereign was a paddle steamer from Moreton Island which was bound for Sydney when it was swamped by waves in the treacherous South Passage Bar, Moreton Bay, in 1847.

Aboriginal men risked their lives and rescued 10 people while the remaining 44 passengers and crew perished.

Foam and Sovereign are just two of the 14 “most compelling” shipwreck stories that were selected from the nominations of 46 Australian Maritime Museums and Heritage institutions.

Another of the stories is of the oldest wreck, WA’s Batavia.

Its 1629 loss on Beacon Island, and subsequent mutiny, is one of the most dramatic events in Dutch and Australian history.

These 14 stories will be told at the national touring exhibition “Submerged – Stories of Australia’s Shipwrecks”, which will be visiting Rockhampton.

The exhibition is on tour in regional Australia for two years.

This next story, like the others, features some important discoveries.

The reversed propeller and Crimean War-era gunboat engine on shipwreck SS Xanthro prompted investigators to do further research into the ship.

It was discovered that it belonged to Melbourne-based farmer Charles Broadhurst, a “promoter of one of northwest Australia’s most controversial pastoral schemes”; pearling.

He used 140 Indigenous and ‘Malay’ boys aged 12-14 as “naked diving mode” pearling divers and was a parliamentarian of the Western Australian Legislative Council.

When he was being studied, it was discovered his wife Eliza’s youngest daughter Catherine Elime Broadhurst was one Australia’s first suffragettes.

The Western Australian Museum states that as a suffragette, Catherine endured “imprisonment and hunger strikes for the women’s movement” due to being inspired by “her mother’s interest”.

In addition, “as a result of her and women like her, Western Australia became one of the first states in the world to secure the women’s vote”.

The Australian Iron auxiliary steamship was lost in 1872 and discovered in 1979.

Submerged – Stories of Australia’s Shipwreckswill be at the Northside Library until June 4 and from June 7-30 at Rockhampton Regional Library on the south side.