Uninhabited Gabo Island lies between Malacoota and Cape Howe, the border between Victoria and New South Wales. Shaped like a clenched fist and vertical pointed finger, the granite-base outcrop is only 2.5 kilometres long and about a kilometre wide, with the finger pointing to, and just offshore, from Telegraph Point. Apart from Mallacoota 16 kilometres due west, the coastline is mainly sandhills and desolute. A light stands at the southern end of the island. She has claimed a seamingly disproportionate number of victims, due to its location near the far south-east coast of the Australian mainland, where vessel would be making their turn north if heading, say, from Melbourne to Sydney.
The first light on the island was established in 1853, a wooden tower pre- assembled in Sydney. The current red granite lighthouse, quarried on the island, was constructed in 1862. The revolving light was fitted in 1913. The light was converted to solar power in 1993, and its significance as a navigational aid downgraded. The largest vessel lost off the island was the steamship Cumberland, ashore after having hit a mine laid by the German raider Wolf, in 1915. She was subsequently salvaged from Gabo, but sank on her tow to Sydney. Seven steamship have been lost on or nearby Gabo Island, including the 1489 ton collier Easby, lost in 1907, and the 774 ton steamer Monumental City, lost in 1853. Both wrecksites are known and vissited by recreational divers.
Virtually all listings are references from Loney, specifically Victorian Ships [lLV], and Wrecks on the Gippsland Coast [LG].
Associated links: VICTORIA
Annteak. Fishing trawler. Disappeared near Gabo Island, eastern
Victoria, 1983. Three crew lost. [LG]
Balclutha. Steamer, 456/432 tons. (Sister - Aldinga). Built Greenock, 1860. Lbd 202.1 x 23.3 x 13.3 ft. Bought by A.S.N.Co. In 1863, sold 1881. Ran several trips to San Francisco. Left Melbourne for Sydney on 18 October 1881, and was last seen three days later by the steamer Cahors steaming through heavy seas off Gabo Island, far eastern Victoria coast. Twenty two seamen disappeared without trace.
On 28 October 1861, involved in collision with steamer Aphrasia, Yarra River, Port Phillip.
[LG],[LV],[WL - lost 1885],[WPP]
Barwon. Steamship, interstate freighter, 4239 tons. Built
at Dundee, 1939. Sold to Panama interests 1969. Lbd 331 x 47.9 x
26.1 ft. [LSS indicates.][LG indicates 3353 tons; built 1922.]
Attacked by a submarine when 35 nautical miles south of Gabo; hit by shells, but torpedoes fired at her missed and she managed to escape, 4 June 1942. The freighter SS Iron Crown was attacked and sunk off Gabo Island the same day. [LG],[#LSW]
Bermagui. Steel steamer, 402 tons. Built at Troon, Scotland, 1912. Sold in 1955 and converted to barge. In 1917, assisted salvage of SS Cumberland, near Gabo Island. [LSW]
Buster. Schooner. Ashore at Gabo Island, eastern Victoria, 1889. Apparently
salvaged and returned to service. [LG]
Ceduna. Steel steamer, 2600 tons. Built at Barrow, England, 1894. Sold to Chinese interests in 1924. Reported sigting of mine off Gabo island, 6 May 1918. [LSW]
Chikuma. Japanese light cruiser, 5040 tons. Built 1910. Attended the stricken steamer Cumberland off Gabo Island, 1917. [LSW]
Christin Fraser. Steel screw steamship, 717/299 tons. #152012. Built
Aberdeen, Scotland, 1925; reg. Sydney, 16/1925. Lbd 182.2 x 28.1
x 14.3 ft. Captain Queen. Left Newcastle for Geelong, but disappeared after
having been sighted hove to in a gale ten kilometres off Gabo Island about
24 June 1933. Presume foundered. Eighteen lost. An extensive sea and air
search failed to sight her, although wreckage and deck fittings were found
on the beach near Lakes Entrance. [ASR],[SAN],[LAH],[LG],[LV],[LC]
Loney refers to her as Christina Fraser.
Clara Ethel. Ketch, 80 tons. Lost off Gabo Island, eastern Victoria, 1886. [LV]
Clarence. Two masted wooden schooner, 67 tons. Built 1841. Lbd 51 x
16.3 x 8.7 ft. Master PPPWilliam Dalton. From Melbourne to Hobart with
sheep; totally wrecked when she anchored at Indented Head, western Port
Phillip, 1 or 2 September 1850.
In 1847, stranded under suspicious circumstances after she apparently parted her anchor, Warrnambool, 11 September; refloated, but went ashore again at Port Fairy on 19 November 1847.
Cumberland. Steamship, steel, 9471 tons. Built 1915. Lbd 474 x 60 x
36.6 feet. Owned by the Federal Steam Navigation Company when lost. Captain
McGibbon. Struck one of the fourteen mines laid in June by the German raider
Wolf, and was beached near Gabo Island in a sinking condition, 15 July
1917. A salvage crew worked for some weeks patching and refloating the
vessel, but after rounding Green Cape on the tow to Sydney, heavy seas
forced her abandonment and she foundered. It was not until 1952 that salvage
crews finally recovered her cargo of valuable metal, estinated at the time
to be worth £300,000. An attempt was made to tow the patched-up Cumberland
to Sydney but she foundered whilst underway. SS Merimbula involved in the
rescue of crew. [LG],[LSS],[#LSW],[LPA],[#MGS],[LAH],[DG - 8993 tons]
Dauntless. Ketch, 43 tons. Built Melbourne, 1878. Foundered near Gabo Island, October 1887. [ASR],[LG],[LV],[LPA]
Easby. Iron steamship, collier, 1489/969 tons. Built Stockton, England, 1873. Lbd 250.7 x 32 x 21.4 ft Captain Wallace. Struck Skerries Reef, twelve miles east of Point Hicks, and was subsequently beached, wrecked, in the tiny harbour on the northern side of Gabo Island, 16 April 1907. Crew of 26 escaped unharmed. The remains of the Easby are still visited by divers, although she has broken up considerably in recent years. She is probably best remembered for her tragic collision with SS Gambier.
[LG],[LV],[LAH - lost 6 April],[DG - blown up in 1926.]
In 1879, involved in collision with vessel Lake Superior, Yarra River, Melbourne. [LV]
In 1891, ploughed into the passenger ship SS Gambier, just inside Port Phillip Heads near the Popes Eye Shoal, which sank, taking twenty-one lives. [LV]
@ She lies in about twelve metres, and is reasonably intact. [LAH]
Euroa. Steamship, steel, 3353 tons. Built at Williamstown, Port Phillip,
1922. Lbd 331 x 47.9 x 26.1 ft. Renamed Iron Crown, sank after being
struck by a torpedo when forty-four nautical miles of Gabo Island, 4 June
Federal. Iron steamship, 1859/1540 tons. Built at Sunderland, UK, 1890. Lbd 290 x 40 x 19.6 ft. Captain Coull. Carrying a crew of twenty-one and more than 3,000 tons of coal, left Port Kembla for Albany in March 1901, and was last seen by the crew of SS Melbourne on 21 March 1901 heading into heavy weather south east of Gabo Island. In 1919, when the tug James Paterson and the old steamer H.M.A.S. Coogee were clearing the German raider Wolf's minefield near Gabo Island, they were about four nautical miles off shore, midway between Ram Head and Point Hicks when the mine sweep fouled a submerged object. The Coogee let her end go and the badly chafed wire was hauled on to the James Paterson. Captain Watson, her master, believed that the object they had fouled may have been the Federal. [LG],[LV],[LAH],[DG - 2403 tons]
Foremost 17. Steel vessel, 246 tons. Built 1926. Involved in the salvage
of cargo from the stricken steamer Cumberland, destroyed when she hit a
mine off Gabo island, 1917. [LSW]
Garthsnaid. Three-masted steel barque, 1360 tons. Built 1892. Dismasted seventy miles south of Gabo Island, then towed to Melbourne and converted into a coal hulk, 1923. [LV], [LG - stranded on the Ninety Mile Beach, Gippsland coast, 1923],[LAH]
Gippslander. Schooner, 39 tons. Lbd 65 x 17 x 5.3 ft. Was sheltering
in a gale at Gabo Island when driven ashore, wrecked, 1882. [LG]
On 4 August 1875, involved in collision with schooner Alcandre, Hobsons Bay, Port Phillip. [LV],[WPP]
Gipsy Moth V. Ketch, 17 metre. Built for the famous yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester, she was chartered for the B.O.C. Challenge round the world single handed yacht race by Desmond Hampton. Ashore, wrecked on Gabo Island near the lighthouse, 19 December 1982. [LG]
Gurrigar. Fishing boat. Sank north of Gabo Island, 10 December 1991.
Heroic. Steel tug, 268 tons. Built 1909. Lbd 125.3 x 24.2 x 10.8 ft. [LSS]
In 1910, despatched to search for the ship Loch Katrine, well overdue from Melbourne to Sydney. Located her 150 miles south-west of Gabo Island, having been dismasted. [LSS]
Iron Crown. Steamship, freighter, 3353 tons. Built at Williamstown, 1922/23. Lbd 331 x 47.9 x 26.1 ft. Formerly named Euroa. Captain A. McLellan. Sank after being struck by a torpedo on the port side abaft the bridge when the vessel was forty-four nautical miles ssw of Gabo Island, 4 June 1942. Only five of her crew of 42 survived. Survivors picked up by SS Mulbera. The freighter SS Barwon was attacked off Gabo Island the same day, but escaped. [LG],[LSS],[LSW]
Koraaga. Auxiliary minesweeper/ trawlerof 221 tons, built in 1915. Requisitioned by R.A.N. 1917. Lost 1931. In 1917/18 involved in minesweeping operations off Gabo island. [LSW]
Loch Katrine. Ship, (barque?), 1197 tons. Built at Glasgow 1869. Lbd 226 x 35.8 x 21.5 ft. Hulked in 1911. [LSS]
In 1890, 26 April, struck by a squall and dismasted off Gabo Island. Three of her boats were damaged beyond repair, but a fourth containing seven men obtained assistance, and the vessel was towed to Sydney to be fitted out for the coastal trade. Sold in Australia in 1910 and worked in the coastal trade carrying coal. Lost in Rabaul, New Guinea. [LV],[LSS],[LC]
Maramingo. Schooner, 250 tons. Carrying timber from Melbourne to Gabo Island, ashore, wrecked, at Gabo, 13 November 1930. Crew of six saved. [LG], [LV]
Margaret Nicol. Schooner, 118 tons. Built at Perth, Scotland, 1842. Lbd 72.1 x 18.4 x 10.9 ft. Sunk while at anchor off Gabo Island, December 1859. Crew rescued by steamer Wonga Wonga. [LG],[LV]
Mary Warner. Barque. Ashore at Gabo Island, eastern Victoria, 1892. Apparently salvaged and returned to service. [LG]
Mary Wilson. Brig, 185 tons. Built 1849.Captain Richardson. From Oporto, Spain, bound for Sydney with a full cargo of wine, struck unfavourable winds in Bass Strait and was forced to take shelter in a bay off Gabo Island, eastern Victoria. After several days she attempted to leave but was forced ashore on 6 December, 1852. The vessel Waratah which happened to be passing at the time rendered assistance. Salvagers succeeded in recovering portion of her cargo, and stripped the vessel, leaving only her anchors and chains. [LG],[LV - 150 tons]
Merimbula. Steel steamer, 1111 tons. Built at Troon, Scotland in 1909. Wrecked in 1928. In 1917, assisted salvage of cargo from stricken steamer Cumberland off Gabo Island. [LSW]
Monumental City. Steamship, single decked, ship rigged, wood, 737 ton.
Built at Baltimore, U.S.A., 1850. Lbd 174.8 x 29.7 x 15 ft. The first
steamer to cross the Pacific Ocean under screw propulsion. Captain W.H.
Adams. While returning to Sydney from Melbourne with 91 passengers and
crew she ran ashore on Tullaberga Island near Gabo and became a total wreck,
15 May 1853. The ship broke in two almost immediately, but the survivors
were landed on the island, while a boat containing eighteen men rowed to
Twofold Bay for assistance. Although fifty-four persons were saved using
a hawser fastened to a rock, thirty-seven lost their lives. A silver medal
was presented by Sydney residents to Charles Plummer, the man who swam
ashore from the wreck with a line. In 1919 a Melbourne syndicate decided
to locate the wrecked steamer and recover the £250,000 gold she was
believed to have been carrying. They engaged George Beckett, Australia's
most experienced hard hat diver; he found the strong room but the door
was wide open and the strong room empty. The speculators were rewarded
to a small extent by the salvaging of brass and other fittings. Within
months of her loss, and after a three-day enquiry denounced the captain
and his officers, a wooden lighthouse was errected on Gobo Island, replace
in 1862 by the current granite tower.
[LG],[LI],[#NH],[#RM],[LV - 768 tons],[WL - 768 reg. tons],[DA],[DG - 768 tons, built 1852]
@ Divers exploring the remains of the steamer on a reef near Tullabera islet, between Gabo Island and the mainland, will also find her propeller shaft, propeller, cylinder, some iron plate, and chain in the gutters between the reef. Three anchors from her lie to the north east. [LAH]
~ A monument to the wreck stands on Gabo Island.
Mulbera. Steel steamer, 9100 tons. Built at Glasgow, Scotland, 1922.
In 1943, picked up survivors from the steamer Iron Crown, torpedoed off Gabo island. [LSW]
Nell. Wooden paddle steamer, 71 tons. Built at Brisbane Water, NSW, 1878 as a ferry for Sydney Harbour. Sold for service on the Gippsland Lakes in 1883 but stranded at Gabo Island on her delivery voyage same year. Refloated in 1884 and used at Lakes Entrance until 1897. Stranded near Marlo, Gippsland coast, 1898. Converted to sail 1898. Auxiliary motor fitted 1913. Broken up 1931. [LPA],[LG]
Phoeba. A vessel of this name was lost off Gabo Island, Victoria, 1856. [LV]
Pizarro. Iron ship, 1439 tons. Built at Belfast, 1875 by Harland and
Wolff. Lbd 233 x 36.3 x 22.8 ft. From Barrow, England to Cooktown, Queensland
with railway material, passed Gabo Island, Victoria on 2 March 1884, ninety-two
days out, but was not seen again. About two months later two broken
iron beams and a part of a poop were found at Walkers Bay near Cooktown,
Queensland, and were thought to have come from her. [ASW6],[LQ]
Riverina. Steel steamship, 4758 tons. Built at Sunderland, 1905. Lbd 370 x 49.7 x 22.8 ft. Arrived in Australia from UK in 1905 for Huddart, Parker Limited. Traded to WA, then on the Tasmania run between Sydney and Hobart. Ashore in a squall, eventually wrecked, near Tullaberga Island, west of Gabo Island, 17 April 1927. All passengers landed safely and reached Mallacoota after a 13 km walk along the coast, and were eventually taken to Sydney aboard SS Bombala. Several attempts were made to salvage the vessel, but this proved in vain. Those ships involved include SS Kurara, ketch Nell from Eden, and SS Glenreach. The wrecked Riverina was a great tourist attraction for many years and could be boarded in good weather, but during World War 2, she and the Easby in Gabo Harbour were bombed and strafed by the R.A.A.F. with the inevitable result. These days, apart from the bow and stern posts very little remains visible above the sand at low tide.
[LG],[LH],[LV],[LAH - built 1895],[DG]
Santa Maria. Schooner. Took Commissioner Tyers and a survey party to Cape Howe, Victoria, in 1846, to select a site for a lighthouse; Gabo Island, five miles south-westward was selected. [NH]
Tajo. Fishing boat. Sank off Gabo Island, 27 July 1990. [LG]
Talina. Fishing boat. Foundered near Gabo Island while under tow, 1984. [LG]
Tammy R. Trawler. Rammed and sunk off Gabo Island, 1990. [LG]
Victory. Brigantine, 142 tons. Built 1873. Lbd 91.2 x 24.2 x 9.1 ft. Foundered near Cape Howe when she sprang a leak near Gabo Island, 6 November 1892. The barque City Of Adelaide stood by in a strong easterly gale until daylight when the crew were taken aboard shortly before the brigantine foundered. [LG],[LPA],[LV]
Wolf. Single screw steamship, 5809 tons. Built 1913 as the Wachtfels.Used as a German raider in WW1. Left Kiel on 30 November 1916 and during a cruise lasting fourteen months she destroyed 38391 tons of shipping, and mines laid by her accounted for a further 73988 tons. After successfully evading the British blockade she returned to grmany in February 1918. After the war she was transferred to British, then French ownership. She was responsible for laying mines off Gabo Island during winter months of 1917, and managed to contrinute to the loss of SS Cumberland, 15 July 1917. She was also responsible for the loss of four steaamships in New Zealand waters: freighters Wairuna and Port Kembla, the trans Tasman liner Wimmera and the American four-masted schooner Winslow. She survived the war, and given to the French as reparations, calling at Geelong in 1921. Finished her days as the Antinous.
Wollongong.. R.A.N. patrol boat. Stranded near Gabo Island, eastern
Victoria, 1985. Apparently salvaged and returned to service. [LG]