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John Oxley Library

Queensland Places - Torres Strait - Wreck of the Conqueror

By JOL Admin | 17 August 2016

The vessel Conqueror was a wooden, three masted barque weighing around 340 tons, which was mainly engaged in the transport of cargoes of various kinds between Australian ports and various locations to the north and elsewhere, becoming well known along these shipping routes.  In July 1866, the Conqueror sailed from Adelaide, calling at Newcastle for a cargo of coal, then headed onward for her destination of Bombay.  This was to be her last voyage.

After encountering poor weather and conditions along the Queensland coast, the Conqueror was passing through Bligh’s Channel, on 6 July 1866, when she struck an uncharted rock or reef, near Bet Island.  Initially it was believed that the vessel had only suffered relatively minor damage, however this was not to be the case, with water entering rapidly.  A report in the Brisbane Courier of 15 September 1866, reported that attempts had been made to run the damaged vessel onto a reef to the north of Bet Island.  This desperate action failed and the vessel eventually foundered around two hours after first striking the reef.  Faced with this scenario, the crew was forced to leave the Conqueror very quickly, in two boats, taking virtually nothing with them.  It was to be nearly two weeks before they were finally able to make their way back to a major settlement and safety.

Once away from the wrecked Conqueror, Captain Noel had decided to proceed towards the vicinity of Wednesday Island, hoping to meet with any vessels travelling through the Torres Strait.  It was to be nine days before the survivors met up with the brig Ingarina which resupplied them with provisions and directed them to Somerset, Cape York where they were to arrive at in the next few days.  They were then taken on to Port Denison (Bowen) by Captain Nares and crew of the Salamander.  Sometime later they were then taken on to Sydney by the steamer Boomerang.

The Conqueror - an artist's depiction, John Oxley Library Neg. No. 66921

The Conqueror - an artist's depiction, John Oxley Library Neg. No. 66921

This image, undated, shows an artist's impression of the Conqueror in full sale and as she would have appeared when on her final voyage along the Queensland coast.

Brian Randall, Senior Librarian, Original Content, John Oxley Library


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