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Fraser Island has claimed many ships with 23 wrecks recorded in Fraser Island waters between 1856 and 1935. The Sandy Cape Lighthouse was switched on in 1870 but this, and a smaller light on Woody Island did little to alleviate the number of ships wrecked.
The Maheno - is the most famous of Fraser Island’s wrecks and has become a landmark attraction. Built in 1905, the SS Maheno was one of the first turbine driven steamers. She plied a regular route between Sydney and Auckland until she was commissioned as a hospital ship in Europe during World War I. She also served in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
In 1935, she and her sister ship the ‘Oonah’ were sold to Japan for scrap.
The rudders of the boats were removed and they were being towed to Japan. When they reached Queensland waters, a cyclonic storm snapped the tow chain and the Maheno drifted helplessly onto Fraser Island’s ocean beach.
The Seabelle – was one of the first ships to be recorded lost off Fraser Island. The 158 ton schooner left Rockhampton on 7th March 1857 and was wrecked the following day on Breaksea Spit, the north eastern tip of the island. Rumours abounded about survivors of the Seabelle. A white woman & 2 white girls were reported to be living with Fraser Island aboriginals. NSW authorities commissioned the captain of the ‘Coquett’ to investigate and he bought back to Sydney two young girls who were albino. They were never returned to their parents as he had promised, and they died in an institution in Sydney at an early age.
The Sterling Castle – whilst enroute from Sydney to London struck a coral reef north of Fraser Island on 22nd May 1836. A longboat containing crew, Captain James Fraser and his wife Eliza landed near Waddy Point. Half the party walked south and were rescued by hunters from the Moreton bay settlement. The others subsisted with the aborigines for seven weeks, during which time Captain Fraser died. A rescue party set out from Brisbane with two former convicts who had lived with the aborigines. Eliza and three survivors were rescued. Mrs Fraser became a celebrity and her exaggerated accounts of her ordeal lead to wide spread hostility towards the aborigines.
The Panama – an American sailing ship hit Breaksea Spit and was beached at Rooney’s Point in 1864. The passengers and some crew were camped on the beach, but returned to the ship when aborigines entered their camp and took their goods. Later, the aborigines attempted to get aboard, but were rebuffed by the sailor’s cutlasses. The captain & several of the crew escaped in a lifeboat & were picked up near Woody Island.
The Ottowa – was grounded just south of Indian Head on 28th March 1879providing a boon for the aborigines who raided the ship’s cargo of spirits while the crew were away looking for help.
The Marloo – a luxury Italian liner, hit the sandy Cape shoal in calm water on September 27th 1914. The ship was beached and help sought from sandy Cape lighthouse.
The Aramac – was another of the Breaksea Spit. In 1904 it bumped hard several times on the sand spit but continued on. However, after 24km it was leaking badly. The crew & passengers took to the boats and safely reached Burnett Heads and Baffle Point. The captain & six men remained onboard and finally succeeded in anchoring Aramac in the protection of platypus Bay.