You Yangs Shipwreck

SS You Yangs was a steamship of 690 tons. Built at London, 1856, to carry water to the Crimean War. She was originally named SS Kief, then purchased in 1864 by William Howard Smith & Company for trade between Melbourne, Sydney and Tasmanian. She struck a rock, took water, and was abandoned East of Kangaroo Island, near Pelorus Island, on the 14th June 1890.
See also THE WRECK OF THE STEAMER YOU YANGS. (1890, June 18). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 8.

Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), Saturday 21 June 1890, page 5


CRUISE OF THE MUSGRAVE. [By our Special Reporter.]

On Monday night when the Musgrave made its start for the You Yangs wreck the rain, wind, and darkness were enough to out a gloom over the most exuberant spirits.  ...

... Arriving at Gape Willoughby anchor was cast on the north side, and a party put ashore, being cordially welcomed as they landed. Among the first met was Captain Veitch, who was in good health and spirits in spite of the hardships he had undergone. Waiting at the top was Mr. McKillop, chief engineer of the You Yangs, an elderly man, who still carried evidence of the strain of the disaster. The men being ready for embarkation without further delay they proceeded aboard the Mulgrave to return to Port Adelaide. 

All being snug a start was made, when it was noticed that those ashore had lighted a fire. Upon sending off to learn the cause a telegram from Commander Walcot was received by the captain instructing him to cruise round the south coast in search of the first mate's boat. As nothing could be done that night the vessel anchored till daybreak and then started for the scene of the wreck. Passing round the headland the captain pointed out the spot where he and his crew landed, and looking from the steamer, in spite of the comparative calm then prevailing, it seemed incredible that a boat could be beached there without all hands being lost. Chief engineer McKillop graphically described the ordeal they passed through. 

Landing at daybreak on Sunday, the captain subsequently decided to sail along the coast to Cape Willoughby, but went ashore at night. On Monday morning they again took to their boat, cold, hungry, faint, and almost hopeless. Making from headland to headland until they arrived off Cape Willoughby, round which they dared not go. The island at this point has a bold precipitous coastline, but at one point the cliffs are divided and there is a grassy slope down to the sea, its base being strewn with heavy boulders. It was decided to attempt a lauding at this spit. Just off the land a heavy roll capsized the boat, and the four men who could swim made to the shore, the first to land being A. Bergland. 

The four left in the water—although some of them were right under the boat when she capsized— managed to get clear. The captain, who was one of them, was carried out by the wash some 20 yards, and his cries for help were most piteous. "My God, won't anybody save me ?" still rang in the memory of the engineer, and seemed thoroughly to soften his sturdy old heart. One brave fellow, whose name deserves to be chronicled, who had only just saved his own life, moved by the appeal, swam out to the captain and placed a rope in his hands, by means of which he was pulled ashore. This sailor's name is Geo. E. Luckett, A.B, late of the Governor Musgrave

Three others still clung to the keel of the boat, which providentially floated end on to the seas, and each successive roller carried her nearer and nearer the shore. The seconds seemed like minutes as they eagerly scanned the beach waiting for the final decision whether they were to live or die. Nearer and nearer she was washed. Would they arrive without mishap? A roller heavier than the rest washed them all off the boat, and heaven being with them carried them on to the rocks. The back wash came and tried to tear them off; they felt themselves giving way, but the providence that had guarded them so far still abided by them, the water passed by and they were able to crawl out of the reach of the waves; then commenced the weary climb to the top of the hill. 

Stiff with their exposure, the strength acquired through sustained nervous excitement departed. Cold and feeble from hunger they seemed un able to penetrate to the warm homes and hearts ready to welcome them. Climbing a few yards they fell on their faces from weakness, then gaining strength made a fresh attempt, only to fall again, the poor engineer being the last. 

Meantime the first man had reached the nearest cottage. He staggered in and fell, articulating as he did so the one work "men." Those within guessing the meaning ran to their succor, one of the ladies bringing a jug of hot cocoa. Warmed by this treatment they all reached shelter, and being fed and warmly berthed slept off the ill effects of the severe ordeal. 

While Engineer McKillop was relating this the steamer Musgrave was slowly traversing the coast, every bay being carefully searched by telescope. Half-way round D'Estre Bay something was noticed on a post on shore, but a gun being fired without effect the boat proceeded. About a mile further on a white patch was seen on the out skirts of the thick scrub. A boat was manned, and it was found to be a deserted cottage with a tent and a few culinary utensils inside, but the place had not been used for years. A note recording the visit was placed within by Mr. Stokes, of the Customs. Steering round Tinline Point the coast again became precipitous and rocky, and there was no sign of life. 

About half-way between Tinline and Gantheaume a boat was noticed in a little cove between the cliffs high up out of reach of the water. The steamer was hove to, and a search party again despatched, but owing to the heavy rollers it was impossible to land. They did not return, however, until convinced there were no persons about. Not far off one of the men landed from the mate's boat and pointed out the spot where they first put ashore. 

Passing round Cape Gantheaume at some distance from the land to avoid the rocks, we saw in a little bay what was left of the ill-fated You Yangs, while by the aid of glasses a horse and man could be distinguished on the shore. As it was impossible to land the boat returned to a little bay two miles off, where a party was landed without difficulty. Arriving above the wreck we scrambled down the cliffs to the beach, but the horse and rider had departed. The wreckage was searched in the hope of finding clothes, but nothing was found but a few lifebelts. Broken spars, cabin and deck fittings, and timber of all descriptions, with about 50 to 60 bags of flour, lay on the shore; but of the vessel nothing was to be seen but the stump, to which was still attached the fallen foremast. There was nothing to break up and nothing to salvage. 

A few relics of different kinds having been selected as mementos, a fire was lighted from the wreckage saturated previously with kerosine from a tin washed ashore. Mr. Stokes wrote a letter to leave on the spot for the horseman should he return. 

While Mr. Stokes was thus engaged all the rest of the party had climbed to the summit of the hill, but Captain Clare seeing the danger there was of the party becoming separated and, as the ran had set, probably bushed, instructed all to wait for Mr. Stokes. This delay, in keeping with that providential care that had watched over the men from the You Yangs, was probably the means of saving squatter Melville a weary night in the bush. 

Attracted by the fire, he saw the heads of two men disappearing over the hill above. He cooeyed, and the faint cry just caught our ears. We were starting off again when a faint cooey was once more heard, this time more distinctly. " It is a man" was the general conclusion, and a return was made for the fire. 

We then noticed a horseman coming down the opposite tide of the hill leading his horse. Going to meet him we found it was James Melville, who had searched for the five men and found them and had then gone to search for the two others who were supposed to be still missing. Learning that Melville would have to spend the night in the bush, as his horse was dead beat, both having been without food and drink all day, and with no prospect of obtaining either, he was invited to come aboard and bring his horse with him. 

Clambering down to the cove below we found the tide had receded some twenty yards, leaving the boat high and dry. After much exertion the boat was got afloat, and when all were aboard they pulled during a lull to get dear. Melville's horse, which was to be towed off to the ship, held back. It was a case of boat against horse, and while the contest was undecided a roller came in, passed the boat safely, and washed the horse off his legs. There was then no delay in getting clear, which was done successfully. The horse, how ever, was too tired to swim. He dragged be hind the boat at first, but at last turned on his side and in that position was towed to the ship. Then came the difficulty of getting him aboard, but it was solved by passing the side ladder under the horse and then fastening it to the winch, by which means he was hoisted aboard. 

All being snug a start was made to Kingscote, where Melville and his horse were to be landed and the five saved men taken aboard. Melville deserves all honor for the exertions and privations to which he submitted. On Tuesday morning, at half-past 4, he started in search of the men alone, leaving his wife ill in bed, and rode for 25 miles across the island toward the scene of the wreck. 

On approaching the south side of the island he found tracks of the men, which he followed up until he came across them. Had he not found them they would have been hopelessly bushed, as they were off the track. Having given the famished seamen some provisions he had brought with him, they were put on the right track for Kingscote. 

On their way there they were met by Trooper Withall, accompanied by Mr. Snelling, who took them into their charge and sent Melville back in search of the two men still missing. He returned to the scene of the wreck, where be found the boat in which they landed, but saw no trace of seamen. He then went on to the wreck, and had just arrived there when met by the steamer. 

Having taken the five men on board the Musgrave at Kingscote early on Thursday morning a course was shaped for Cape Jervis, which was reached about 1 o'clock. There two plasterers were taken aboard, and the boat steamed up the gulf, reaching the anchorage at 10.30 p.m. on Thursday. 

Arthur Henderson, second mate of the You Yangs, was at the head of the men who were ashore on Kangaroo Island. He waited off the coast in his boat after leaving the wreck until daybreak. Then as two men wished to be put ashore he landed them at once. These were the two men who were picked up by the captain, but after whom Melville went in search after finding the five. On landing these two men they again pulled along the shore a short distance, but thinking it advisable to land they selected a suitable spot, and abandoned the boat. This was on Sunday. 

They walked inland about 10 miles intending to cross the island, but finding this impossible they returned to the coast, luckily coming across Melville's camp, where they found an opossum, some flour and onions, of which they made a stew, which, having been without food 48 hours, they thoroughly relished. This tramp had taken them two days, and on Tuesday morning they made a fresh start. 

This time they were met by Melville, who saw them safely on their way till Trooper Withall took them into his care. They walked ten miles further, but being thoroughly exhausted they had to wait until a trap could come to take them into Kingscote, which they reached at 12.30 on Tuesday night. 

During the run up the gulf some of the men proposed to the captain that they should make some recognition of the kindness they had received from everybody they had met. The captain had made preparations for such acknowledgments, but was pleased to hear the men give expression to their feelings. Two letters were accordingly composed, one addressed to Mrs. Taylor and her family, at Cape Willoughby. This letter read thus:—

 We, the undersigned members of the crew of the ill fated steamer You Yangs, which was lost near Pelorus Island on Saturday, June 14, beg to express our most hearty thanks for your great kindness and attention to us in our dis tress when cast upon your hospitality at a moment's notice. We tender you our most hearty thanks, hoping at some future date to have the pleasure of renewing our acquaintance under more favorable circumstances. Wishing you and your kind family every success in this life, we remain, your sincere friends —S. H. Veitch, master; Alex. McKillop, chief engineer; Geo E Luckett, William Luring, William Kneale, John Humphrey, A.B.'s; A. Beegland, Thomas Bravey, firemen. 

A similar letter of thanks was forwarded to Mr. Carter and his family, who also attended to the shipwrecked men. A letter conveying their thanks was also handed to Captain Clare, whose health was drank. Similar messages recognising kindness received were forwarded to Messrs. Melville and Snelling, and Trooper Withall, and thanks were accorded to Mr. Howard, of the firm of W. R. Gave & Go., who are the agents for Messrs. W. Howard Smith & Son, the owners of the You Yangs, for his attentions. He had come at great self-sacrifice, and had during the whole time worked hard for their comfort and in providing them with outfits. Messrs. W. Howard Smith & Son had telegraphed that no expense should be spared in rendering assistance, and be carried out his work well. The toasts of Mr. Stokes, who had also done much for them, Mr. Clarke, and the press, were drunk and acknowledged.

THE YOU YANGS WRECK. (1890, June 21). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 5.  

The captain of the wrecked You Yangs, says that when he sighted land he thought it was Port Victor, but it turned out to be Kangaroo Island!

OUR DISTRICT. (1890, June 27). The Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser (SA : 1880 - 1954), p. 3.  


How A Sailor Recovered His Sea Chest

On June 15,1890, the barque-rigged steamer You Yangs, which had been engaged in carrying troops during the Crimean War, left Port Pirie for Sydney with a cargo of railway iron and flour. 

The weather was very stormy, and when the vessel cleared Cape Willoughby she ran into a heavy sea. The iron, being badly stowed, shifted, and the captain feared that it would go through the ship's side. 

During the night, the ship was kept head to the wind, as a nor'-west gale was blowing.  Just before daylight a loud scraping sound was heard, and on an examination being made the ship was found to be making water rapidly. 

The ship's three boats were quickly launched, and as the roar of the surf could be heard on the shore, the men pulled out to sea. The ship drifted on to a small beach just west of Cape Gatheaume.

When dawn broke, the three boats found themselves between high land and a large rock about 40 feet in height, over which the waves were breaking and throwing the spray high into the air. 

The second officer's boat, having no sail, pulled close along the shore and managed to make a landing under very high cliffs. It struck the only place at which the cliffs could be climbed for miles on either side. 

After climbing to the top the men found a hole in the rocks full of rain water. The country was covered with dense scrub, so they started to follow the coast to the eastward. 

Just before dusk they came to Point Tinline, and, following the Osmanlie Beach a little way, they struck a cave, which had steps cut in the rocks leading down into it. 

They entered and found a fireplace and chimney in it. This cave had been inhabited in the early whaling days, and was occupied at the time by an old opossum trapper. In it they found some flour and opossums. A fire was quickly made, the opossums roasted, and the flour made into doughboys. Next day the trapper, who had been absent when they arrived, returned and took them overland to Queenscliff. 

The other two boats continued on an eastward course, and just before sun set Cape Willoughby lighthouse was sighted. The captain decided to land on the south side. During the attempt the lifeboat capsized in the surf, the crew being thrown on to the granite boulders. Although several of them were badly knocked about they all managed to get ashore except the captain. He had been imprisoned underneath the boat. When this was discovered a young sailor pluckily dived into the surf and pulled him out, for which he was subsequently awarded the Royal Humane Society's medal. 

The men made their way to the lighthouse, where they were looked after. Next morning the steamer Governor Musgrave arrived and took them to Port Adelaide. The crew of the chief officer's boat were too exhausted to pull round the east end of the island, and the boat was blown out to sea, the wind being from the nor'-west. The boat was kept running before the gale, a ship's bucket being used for a sea anchor during the night. The men suffered severely from the cold, and from having constantly to bale water out of the boat. They repeatedly begged the chief officer to haul down the sail, but he refused. 

Shortly after sunrise low land was sighted, and a successful landing was made near Kingston, the boat having sailed about 130 miles in 12 hours. Among the wreckage found on the shore was a letter addressed to the young sailor who had saved the captain's life. It contained a lock of his sweetheart's hair. The finder sent the letter on to its owner, then the hero of the hour, with the result that he received it four weeks later, it being the only article, and possibly the most treasured of his sea chest's contents he recovered. 

A few years ago a lighthouse keeper was transferred to the western end of Kangaroo Island. As he had to travel overland to his destination he hired a horse and dray to take his wife and family. The roads were very rough and narrow, and the dray overturned, breaking the shafts. As they were not far from a farm cottage they sought help and shelter for the night. 

The owners of the cottage made them welcome, and after supper, as they sat around the fire, the keeper suddenly sprang to his feet crying excitedly. "My sea chest!" 

Explanations followed of the finding of the chest among the wreckage, and the forwarding of the letter containing the lock of hair. To the surprise of the farmer and his family, the keeper pointed to his wife, who was sitting on the chest and said, "She was my sweetheart." The chest was subsequently exchanged for a new one.

— 'Sou' -Wester.'

Real Life Stories Of South Australia (1934, September 6). Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), p. 16.

See more about the owner of the sea chest, George Ernest Luckett

Luckett's sea chest, at the home of his g.g.g.daughter  Mandy Whitford, who contributed this photo.