Saturday, March 5, 2011


After discovering the wonderful Trove site we have found even more about Captain John!
In November 1885 he took over as Captain of the barque 'Deodarus' 286 tons in Brisbane Australia. The 'Deodarus' had been in the news when her captain had been accused of attempting to scuttle her by drilling holes in her side under the water line! She was then sold at auction and Captain John Austen employed as her master. He spent the next 18 months sailing her from Brisbane to Cairns and Townsville and also down to Adelaide and Sydney.
And then she struck the Great Barrier Reef and was abandoned. Yes another shipwreck! This was reported in the Cairns Post:
A COURT of inquiry was held on Wednesday last, touching the loss of the barque Deodarus, on the Barrier Beef to the S.E. of Fitzroy Island, on the morning of Saturday, the 25th day of June, before M. O'Malley, Esq., P.M., and R. T. Hartley, Esq., J.P., with John Mylchreest and Thomas James Chaplin, Master Mariners, as nautical assessors.
The evidence of Captain John Austin, the master of the wrecked vessel, showed that she had left the anchorage in Trinity Bay at about 9 o'clock on the Friday evening, and had tacked down the channel until day-light, when they were between Cape Grafton and Fitzroy Island. He (the Captain) went below at 8.30 a.m., leaving the Mate (Mr. J.E. Connon) in charge. The sand bank was then bearing about E. by N. and distant eight or nine miles. It was not visible, but he judged the distance by the chart. He felt the vessel strike at 9.45, and went on deck, saying to the Mate, " Why, the vessel is ashore," Mr. Connon replied that he had been aloft and seen a schooner standing in from the shore, so that they could not be ashore. Everything was then hove aback and the vessel worked on the reef for about half-an-hour, when she slipped off into about five fathoms of water. It was blowing hard at the time with a fresh sea on, and he had no time to let go the anchor, as she gathered way and went on the reef again. He then got out a kedge and hove her off, but she got on again and knocked a hole in her, and she soon had six feet of water in the cabin. As it was no good doing anything further, everything that could be got hold of was placed on the poop, and all hands left the vessel and made for Cairns in the boats in the face of the heavy sea. They were nearly swamped twice in coming across, but got in safely on Monday evening at 5 p.m. He valued the ship at about £2500, and the cargo at about .£300. Mr. J. Connon, the mate, was examined, and gave corroborative evidence, and said also that he attributed the wreck to the current. Edward Haywood, an A.B., who was steering at the time of the disaster, was also called, as were two others of the hands ; after which the Court considered the evidence, and found "that the cause of the vessel being wrecked was owing to the careless navigation by the mate, Mr. John Reid Connon, who was in charge when she was wrecked, and particularly by his action in not seeing that a continuous look-out was being kept ; his allowing his attention to be taken from his duties by making or mending sails instead of attending to the navigation of the vessel ; also by his not having the log and not determing the exact speed at which the vessel was going." In view of his conduct the Court suspended his certificate for three months. It was also found that Captain Austin had been guilty of carelessness in not taking cross bearings when he left the deck, and he was cautioned to be more careful in the future."
The wreck of the Deodarus was sold for just £20.
John Austen was in his sixties at this time and I have found reports of him still sailing as a mate when he was 70!

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