Loch Sloy Shipwreck

On 24 April 1899 the 1280 tons iron barque Loch Sloy built in 1877, was wrecked in Maupertius Bay on Kangaroo Island. En route for Adelaide the captain missed sighting the Cape Borda light and his ship crashed into the Brothers Rocks. The ship became a total wreck almost immediately as the heavy surf of the Southern Ocean smashed her against the rocks. Passengers and crew climbed into the rigging in the hope of finding safety there, but the mainmast broke and carried people and rigging with it into the sea. Only four men made it safely to the shore, some 800 yards (732 metres), to scale steep cliffs before they could even begin to get help. Crew member McMillan left to find assistance, but after three days he had not returned, and the remaining three men decided to try and reach Cape Borda lighthouse. McMillan returned and finding the others gone, again set out for help, this time finding the May family at the Rocky River homestead, one of whom rode to the lighthouse where a search was organised. Only three of the four men who reached the shore survived; all others aboard Loch Sloy perished. Some bodies were recovered by search parties.

State Library SA, http://www.samemory.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=719&c=7192

INTERVIEW WITH MITCHELL. (1899, May 11). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73222360

Watercolour by G. P. Wiseman

Of 25 aboard, only four reached the top of the precipitous cliffs—three members of the crew, and Mr. Kilpatrick, who was on a health trip from Scotland. "At daylight," Mr. Hart writes, "the three members of the crew, having no idea where they were, decided to separate. Two went west toward Cape Borda, the other east. As Kilpatrick was too weak to walk far, they decided he should remain at the scene of the wreck until help came. The two sailors were found in extreme exhaustion, by a Cape Borda light-keeper three or four days later, and this was the first public intimation of the tragedy. The sailor, who went east, reached a settler's home.


Kilpatrick's fate was particularly sad,'' Moss Hart adds. "One of the sailors reached the cliff top wearing two pairs of wool socks. He gave a pair to Kilpat-rick before going off to seek aid. When the search party from Kings-cote reached the scene of the dis-aster, however, Kilpatrick was not there. The party had wisely included in their number Black Ted, a tracker of local repute. He cleverly traced the man's wanderings over some miles of stony country mainly by the detection of tiny pieces of "fluff" from the socks adhering to the stones. When found Kilpatrick had been dead some days from hunger and exhaustion. The Loch line lost three ships in quick succession off the KI coast — Loch Sloy, Loch Vennachar, and Loch Tay. Then Cape de Couedie lighthouse was built."

Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), Thursday 12 February 1942, page 2

Posted on: April 23rd, 2012 by Marketing and Communications

Students from Flinders University believe they have discovered the exact location of a Scottish sailing ship which sank in waters off Kangaroo Island more than 100 years ago.

A group of four archaeology students searched the sea and land on Kangaroo Island’s west coast earlier this month in a bid to find the historic Loch Sloy and the burial sites of 11 bodies recovered from the sea when the barque, en-route from Glasgow to Port Adelaide, sank on April 24, 1899.

Records show 30 people, including the captain, six passengers and most crewmen, died when the ship ran into rocky waters while heading towards the Cape Borda lighthouse.

There were four survivors, one of whom died after reaching land, but the exact location of the shipwreck and the bodies recovered from the waters, except for one, has remained a mystery.

During the week-long field trip – led by Department of Environment and Natural Resources Maritime Archaeologist and Flinders graduate Amer Khan – the team excavated an area between Cape Borda and Cape du Couedic in the hope of finding any remnants from the tragic incident.

Flinders archaeology masters student Lynda Bignell said the researchers believed they had found the exact position of the wreck, using a magnetometer.

“Historically the whereabouts of the ship has been roughly documented but we used a special maritime metal detector at that location and it came up with a high reading, indicating that something is definitely down there,” Ms Bignell said.

“It’s quite exciting because we originally went out there to look mainly for the graves, the search for the shipwreck was just one part of our extensive research into the incident.

“We’ve been researching the Loch Sloy and the graves since last October, and we staged a preliminary trip in December, so it’s great to see that work is paying off.”

While the expedition primarily hoped to unearth the graves of those who died in the sinking, Ms Bignell said the team had no luck finding any burial sites.

“The site we thought had a good chance of being a grave actually wasn’t,” she said.

“Excavation of the site went down to the bedrock and didn’t find anything but it was a good experience for the students involved.”

Ms Bignell said the team hoped to return to Kangaroo Island later this year to find the shipwreck, although no definite plans had been made yet.

She said the ship was an important part of South Australia’s maritime history.

“The Loch Sloy is one of four historic shipwrecks on the west coast of Kangaroo Island and between those four ships 82 people lost their lives, making the stretch of coast one of the most treacherous in SA,” she said.

“Yet the Loch Sloy was particularly important because public opinion after the incident resulted in the construction of another lighthouse at Cape de Couedic.”

Ms Bignell also thanked the Kangaroo Island community for their enthusiasm and participation.


Monument to David Kilpatrick.
Maupertuis Bay, Flinders Chase National Park

Memorial at the grave of David Kilpatrick, who was a victim of the wreck of the ship Loch Sloy. He was one of the few who made it to shore from the Loch Sloy after it was wrecked on a nearby reef in April 1899, and it is a reminder of the hazards of shipping in South Australian water.

On April 24, 1899, Loch Sloy sunk and only four men made it to shore with Kilpatrick dying soon afterwards. Seventeen days after the Loch Sloy sunk, John Simpson and William Mitchell were found about seven miles south of the Cape Borda Lighthouse. Mitchell was in a very bad way. He was found with a penguin carcass draped around his neck and he was taking bites of flesh as he went along. They and another man named McMillan, finally made it to safety while another thirty-one passengers and crew drowned on the Loch Sloy.