Queensland Places - Cape York - HMS Salamander

In the latter part of the 19th century the small ship HMS Salamander played a little known but prominent role in the early settlement of the Cape York region.  This 818 ton paddlewheel sloop, under the command of Captain J. Carnegie, first arrived with supplies and equipment at the new settlement of Somerset in July 1864, not long after this isolated but strategically important outpost had been established.

HMS Salamander provided a vital and on-going link for Somerset, bringing in supplies by sea, on average three times a year.  As well, in February 1867, HMS Salamander was to bring the Reverend F.C. Jagg and Mr. W.I. Kennett to the new settlement.  Jagg, a missionary priest and Kennett, a school teacher, were both representatives of the England based Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts and were charged with establishing a mission at Somerset.  However, despite making a concerted effort, these early missionaries were unable to overcome the challenges they faced, including a general lack of financial and logistical support as well as experiencing continuous conflict with the local Indigenous peoples.

John Jardine, the recently appointed government resident at Somerset, also used the HMS Salamander to bring in his own equipment, labour and supplies, particularly once he had gained permission to establish a cattle station at the tip of Cape York, later bringing in his two sons, Frank and Alex, to assist in this operation.

HMS Salamander, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 168785

This image shows an artist’s impression of HMS  Salamander around the time of the establishment of Somerset.  HMS Salamander’s role in the early history of Cape York is now largely forgotten, however, its name does live on in at least one Queensland location, this being in the North Queensland coastal locality of Salamander Reef.

Brian Randall - Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland



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Salamander Rf -some 3 miles off Cape Cleveland - was named after HMS Salamander (hardly a small ship btw) upon running aground on those rocks ca. 1865.Deck cargo was jettisoned and eventually the crew got her off. Pieces of this cargo can still be seen strewn about the rocks; lengths of drain pipes have been mistaken by divers for cannon.

Would you know where I could access the passenger and crew lists of ships to Somerset/Albany Island (e.g. Salamander, Golden Eagle, Woodlark, Bluebell) ?

HiIf you would like submit your question via our online enquiry form, one of our library staff will assist you. http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/services/ask-usMyles Sinnamon – blog editor

Did Salamander do any dredging for marine specimens near Holborne Island in the Whitsundays?

Hi Dr WatsonCould you please fill in our online enquiry form with your details and one of our helpful librarians will assist you. http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/services/ask-usRegardsMyles Sinnamon – blog editor

Hi Myles,The vessel did not go aground on these rocks as Commander Ingleton said in his book Charting a Continent.That painting in his book was done by the Surgeon on the Salamander at that time(Alexander Rattray).If you have a look at his Album in your Library you will see that it was on Stephen's Island right up close to New Guinea.I will call in and have a chat with you.Cheers Bill Kitson