Shipwreck Galleries – Fremantle

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The Urban Sketcher Perth met up yesterday morning for our monthly sketch-meet, this time in Fremantle at the Shipwreck Galleries.

I arrived a little early on the train and had time to scribble this quick sketch above from a conveniently placed bench in the shade. This solid limestone building sitting on the corner of Cliff Street and Croke Lane was built sometime in the 1850’s as a government stores. At that time the seashore was much closer and a jetty allowed large ships to offload their cargo into this building….supplies for the new settlement of Perth had to be carried by smaller boats as the Swan river was not navigable for ships until after 1897.

It turned out to be a hot (38’C) day so most of us sought sanctuary inside the Shipwreck Galleries museum which has lovely air-conditioning!


There’s quite a variety of artifacts in the museum, from the infamous “Batavia” to lesser known but equally fascinating brig “Stefano” which sunk in a storm¬†after hitting Ningaloo Reef south of Point Cloates in 1876. The 3 masted barque was carrying 1300 tons of coal from Cardiff (Wales) for Hong Kong with crew of 17 (16 Croatian, 1 English, the master of the ship was the oldest at only 25 years old!). Seven crew drowned, the remaining crew made the 6km distance to shore on flotsam and headed South towards Gascoyne River. Here they met the local Aboriginal people who though they could not converse were able to get some directions and were given a map that had washed ashore. The survivors of the storm then tried to find their way south but became disorientated in the desolate scrub-land and blinding sand/salt lakes. The crew scattered in desperation searching for water and died of exhaustion and thirst….all except for 2 lads (16 year old Miho and 20 year old Ivan) who headed inland and found the Aboriginal mob again. The Aboriginals were very humane and nursed Miho and Ivan back to health, looking after them forr 3 months, teaching them about the land and animals, Aboriginal ¬†language and culture. A passing cutter later picked them up and took the pair to Fremantle where they were treated as marvels for their survival. The two returned to Croatia but stopped on the way to give gifts to the Aboriginals who had saved their lives. The wreck was discovered in 1997 between 2 and 9 meters deep.

20161126-samuel-plimsollThis is a fountain pen sketch of the Samuel Plimsoll figure head that once gazed hopefully from the bow of the ship the “Samuel Plimsoll”.

Samuel Plimsoll (1824-1898) was failed coal merchant who experienced hard times and later dedicated his life to improving maritime safety. At this time shipping was largely unregulated, overladen and unseaworthy ships were commonly known as “coffin ships”. Plimsoll became an MP and campaigned against the wealthy and powerful shipping magnates to introduce the Merchant Shipping Act enforcing maximum load levels – the Load or Plimsoll line is still on every ship today.

The passenger clipper “Samuel Plimsoll” was an iron hulled 3 masted full rigged ship built in Aberdeen in 1873 as an emigrant ship for the colony of Australia. The ship’s owner (Thompson’s Aberdeen Line) named the ship in Plimsoll’s honour (and invited him to the launch) after Plimsoll mentioned the Aberdeen company in parliament as an example of a reputable shipping company who never overloaded their vessels. It seems that the ship had a number of collisions and lost its gear quite frequently but was surprisingly fast when all was well …. in 1878 sailed Plymouth England to Melbourne Australia in 86 days. Catching fire in 1899 on the Thames in London and scuttled was the end of passenger days, re-floated in 1900 intended for New Zealand service the ship was dis-masted off the NZ coast. Not worthy of repair the ship was used as a coal hulk for the next 40 years before finally colliding with another ship “Dalgoma” in 1948 in Gage Roads shipping lane just outside of Fremantle.



The UsK Perth group sketches, 7 of us in total, great sketching everyone.

Freo Cranes on a sunny afternoon

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A sunny spring time stroll down the beach from North to South Cottesloe, stopping on the rocky groyne to watch the beach……people swimming, kids digging, beach soccer and sun baking….

Looking South the Freo cranes were ready for work, I counted 8 ships out at sea waiting for the high tide, the kite surfers only needed to wait for the sea breeze to arrive…. skittering across the tops of the waves in a warm southerly breeze….