Three Months in a Leaky Boat

As you sit down to Christmas lunch spare a thought for the Sapphire castaways who spent 25 December 1859 in a struggle for their lives.   Theirs is a remarkable story of perseverance in the face of unimaginable hardship served with a healthy measure of good luck. Christmas Day saw William Beveridge and his men kedgingContinue reading “Three Months in a Leaky Boat”

The Spanish Silver of Torres Strait

Sometime around 1891 a group of beche-de-mer fishermen stumbled upon a huge hoard of Spanish silver coins on the eastern entrance to Torres Strait. The men had been out searching for trepang in the shallow waters around Ashmore Reef when they made the discovery. It was low tide and much of the reef was exposed,Continue reading “The Spanish Silver of Torres Strait”

The Macabre case of the Mignonette

Authenticated acts of cannibalism among shipwreck survivors are remarkably rare.   But when they have taken place, those involved have often been met with revulsion and sympathy in equal measure. Such was the case with the survivors of the small yacht Mignonette which foundered on its way to Australia in 1884. The Mignonette was a smallContinue reading “The Macabre case of the Mignonette”

The Bogus Count and Hamlet’s Ghost

Some things you just can’t make up.    This is the story of the bogus Count von Attems and Hamlet’s Ghost. In May 1868 a dashing young man stepped ashore in Sydney claiming to be Count Ignaz Von Attems, a blood relative of Archduke Albert of Austria.   The Von Attems family could trace their aristocratic lineageContinue reading “The Bogus Count and Hamlet’s Ghost”

The Post Office in the middle of nowhere

It might seem strange that one of Australia’s earliest post offices was also one of its most remote.    It was established on Booby Island in Torres Strait in 1835 but passing ships had already been leaving correspondence there for many years by then. Booby Island, known as Ngiangu to Torres Strait Islanders, lies about 3200Continue reading “The Post Office in the middle of nowhere”