Fides Shipwreck


The Fides was a 387 ton three-masted, wooden sailing barque built in Kristinestad in 1857. In January 1860, it set sail from England loaded with a range of household and farming equipment - including beer, spirits, clothing, gunpowder, candles, taps, pickles and paint - which were the comforts and necessities of the white settlers of southern Australia. On the dark and stormy night of May 21, 1860 the Fides come within a few kilometres of Kangaroo Island. Early next morning the vessel smashed onto the rocks near Snug Cove, its captain and nine crew drowning as it became a total wreck. Five surviving crew managed to scramble ashore, salvaging pickled herrings and a sheep from the scattered cargo for sustenance. They struggled through dense scrub for three days to reach the Cape Borda lighthouse. Cape Borda is the site of a small tribute to the Fides' crew, one of whom was buried nearby. This memorial was initiated in 1989 by Eric Sandlund, the great grandson of Fides' owner Carl Gustav Hyden.

- KIPA Newsletter #36 Summer 2008

See map of survivor movements


On Thursday, about half-past 2 o'clock, a whaleboat arrived at the Port from the Cape Borda Lighthouse, with intelligence that the Finland barque Fides, Aspland, master, had been wrecked within a short distance of the lighthouse. The boat was in charge of Mr. C. Johnson, second keeper, and had on board the five men who were saved. It appears from their statement that the vessel struck at 2- o'clock on the morning of the 22nd May about 16 miles east of Cape Borda.

The night was intensely dark, with lightning and thunder, as well as a strong wind. The vessel was under close-reefed top sails when it was discovered that she was closeunder the land. She was immediately put about, but at that moment it fell suddenly calm, aud the vessel, which would not answer to her helm, drifted ashore among the rocks, which for some miles along this part of the coast are most precipitous. The chief mate, the carpenter, the steward, and two boys succeeded, by clinging to the rocks as they were washed up, in saving themselves, but the captain and second mate and eight seamen were drowned. Those who survived contrived to exist by killing a sheep which swam ashore from the wreck.

On the morning of the 24th they started to walk along the coast, and reached the Cape Borda Light house at 10 a.m. on the 27th. They remained there 10 days, under the care of Messrs. Tapley and Johnson, the first and second keepers. The following letter from Mr.Tapley to the Secretary of the Trinity Board, has been handed to us for publication, and will explain the course adopted by the lighthouse-keeper : —

'Cape Borda Lighlhous?, May 3', 1860. ' Sir— I write to you to state ot the wreck of a Finland barque named the Fides, from London, bound for Adelaide. ' On Monday, 28th instant, I proceeded in our boat with the five men to the wreck, to endeavour to recover the bodies for interment, and also to secure any of the cargo. ' I left Harvey's Return about 9.33, and arrived at the wreck about 3 p.m. Proceeded along the rocks, but could only find one of the bodies, which we interred with some fragments of the wreck, and surrounded it with large stones, some distance up the cliff. 'On arriving at the place, found the vessel broken upin small fragments, and showed up in different places among the rocks, and only a small portion of the cargo saved, say— 1 case of cloth boots, 1 do. of note paper, 1 do. of common prints and felt hats, and 2 casks of oil. 'After securing these few things as far as possible we proceeded up the top of the hill, and made a large fire in case of any settlers being about. I think the name of the place where the wreck lies is called Seal Beach, about 15 miles to the eastward of Harvey's Return. There is a large rock, detached from the island, with a pole stuck on it, as if it had been for a survey mark. 'There is also on the top of the hill over the wreck a flagstaff with a shirt on it, which we erected for a mark to point out the place where she lies. 'On Tuesday, the 29th, at daylight, we left the place for Harvey's Return, after seeing we could do no more by remaining there, and having looked if we could find any more of the bodies, and the sky looking overcast was afraid of bad weather coming on, pulled all the wayback to the Return, where we arrived at 4 p.m., and landed safe. There is a heavy surf on the coast, and also at the Return. "If the weather continues fine intend to forward the second keeper, with the boat and vessel's crew, 0n to the carpenter's place, or still further, as think proper and safe.

"I have, &, "Wm. Tapley. "G.W. Tinkler, Esq."

On Tuesday morning Mr. C. Johnson started from the lighthouse with the five shipwrecked men, and proceeded in a whaleboat to Port Adelaide. During their voyage they were almost without provisions, as in launching the boat through the surf what they took with them became swamped. On Tuesday night they laid alongside the barque Scandia, which was hove to off Point Marsden; and on Wed-nesday night the boat was beached at PointMalcolm, and started the following morning for the Port. The following extracts from the log-book of the lighthouse will show that the weather was very bad at the time of the wreck : —

"Monday. May 21.— Commences wlth'moderate breeze at N.W, and squally with rain till 3 a.m., and lightning all round. From 2 till 4 a. m. ditto, breeze at N., light ning at N.W, ; till 6 a.m. breeze at N.N.E, with thunder and lightning at N.E. From 6 a.m, till 4 p.m. breeze at N.E. and cloudy. From 4 to 6 p.m. ditto, breeze and cloudy, with lightning at N.N. W. From 6 till 8 ditto, wind at N.E., dark and gloomy weather, and lightning at N.W. till 10,thunder and lightning all round. At 10 p.m. a suddcu shift of wind to W.N.W., with heavy thunder and light ning and rain. Very dark weather. Trimmed lamps at 1.10 a.m. ' At 3 p.m., two barques in sight bearing N.W. Dis tance, one of them five miles, the othcr eight miles, both bound up the Gulf. ' At sunset one barque bore north five miles, the other N. by W. seven miles. Tuesday, May 22 —Commences with moderate breeze at N.W. Thunder and lightning all round, very dark thick gloomy weather till 2 a.m. From 2 a.rn. till 6 a. m. ditto wind,, very dark and lightning all round. From 6 a.m. till 8 p.m. light breeze at N.W., W., and W.N.W.; cloudy and passing showers all day. From 8 till mid night breeze at S.S.E., dark and gloomy, lightning all round. Trimmed lamps at 1.15 a m.

The names of the survivors are: — A. H. Hjahman, chief mate ; F. Hogman, carpenter ; F. Kosenlund, C. Spets, C. Martens. The Fides was a Russian Finland barque, consigned to Elder, Stirling, &, Co., with a general cargo from London, and was 131 days out when wrecked. She was a very fine vessel it appears. We learn from Mr. Martin, of the firm of Messrs. Martin, Gaedechens, & Co., that, during his recent sojourn in England, he went over her with the view of sending out goods on board. She was, he says, built in the newest style, and appeared to him to be a very compact and symmetrical clipper, and in every respect qualified for the voyage she undertook. From English papers we get the following particulars of the cargo on board : —

Agricultural. implements £573, ale and beer £968 apparel, slops, and clothing £1,803, sacks, etc., 9,000,woolpacks 1,000, barley, malt, &c , 600 bushels, blankets, quilts, &c.,£73, boots and shoes £441, bricks and tiles £192, brushware £15, butter 20 firkins, candles 94½ cwt., cheese 5½ cwt, chemicals, drugs, &c, £17, coals and coke 36 tons, confectionary, jams, &c., £98, cordage and twine £158, plain cottons £174, coloured do. £670, printed do. £47, china and earthenware £10, cutlery £37, fish £85, flannels £55, fruits, jams, &c., £130, gun powder 11,025 lbs, haberdashery £150. hardware and ironmongery £440, hats, caps, &c., £661, hosiery, &c., £188, hoop and sheet iron £55, ironwork £1615, sheet lead, &c., £1,385, leather, &c , £505, linens £28, millinery £206, musical intruments £80, muslins £22, nails £158, oils 1,544 galls., oilmen's stores £137, paints, varnish, &c, £30, paper, stationery, &c, £170, pickles, sauces. &c., £85, plated goods, &c, £180,. saddlery £515, reids £85, silks £123, soap 8.5 cwt., brandy 537 galls., British spirits, &c,, 582 galls., geneva, &c., 26 galls., rum 2,472 galls, steel £189, tobacco-pipes £12, toys, combs, &c, £223, upholstery £205, red wine 114 galls., wire £32, woollens £487.— Total declared value, £?1,868.

We need hardly say that much consternation was created by the news of this unfortunate wreck when it arrived in Adelaide ; and it was remarked, as a matter of striking coincidence, that a very general report — of course, without any known foundation— prevailed as to the vessel's loss seven or eight days ago. But this, no doubt, originated out of the long time which had elapsed since she left London. Of the particulars of the wreck we shall, no doubt, be better informed in a day or two. At present all the intelligence we have besides that given above is contained in the subjoined telegrams : —

'Ship Fides, from London, lost 15 miles east of the light on Kangaroo Island. The captain and nine men drowned. The vessel left in fragments; all the cargo lost. The mate and four men came up in a whaleboat to Port Adelaide.' [From Captain Malcolm to Messrs. Elder, Stirling, & Co.]

' I have spoken to the mate of the Fides. She was lost at Snug Cove, 15 miles from Cape Borda Lightkouse, on a rocky coast. Went all to pieces in four hours ; cargo totally lost. Accident happened on 22nd May, at 2 o'clock in the morning. I have sent, and wait your instructions.

WRECK OF THE FIDES.—TEN LIVES LOST. (1860, June 8).South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 2.

THE WRECK OF THE FIDES. (1860, June 20). The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889), p. 2.

Loch Vennachar Expedition. ...In February 1977, a party of 34 people arrived in 2 major movements at a camp site set up at West Bay for a stay of 2 weeks. Due to unsuitable diving conditions, the first week was spent diving the Fides shipwreck on the north coast of Kangaroo Island. The second week was spent at the Loch Vennachar wreck site ... " Wikipedia

Fides Bluff is a headland on the north coast of Kangaroo Island in South Australia immediately west of Snug Cove and about 70 kilometres (43 mi) west of Kingscote. It was named by the Government of South Australia on 23 October 2003 to commemorate the loss of the Finnish barque Fides which was wrecked on the nearby coastline on 22 May 1860 with the loss of her captain and 10 of her 14 crew. A plaque was unveiled at Fides Bluff by Mike Rann, the Premier of South Australia, and Anneli Puura-Märkälä, the Finnish Ambassador to Australia on 7 December 2003 to commemorate the naming of the headland. - Wikipedia