Gabo Island by FA Sleap showing memorial to those lost from Monumental City. State Library of Victoria


Nationality: Baltimore, USA

Vessel type: Wooden hulled screw steamer

Date lost: 15 May 1853

Cause of loss: Ran ashore, navigational error

Number of Casualties: 37

Discovery date (if applicable): 11 March 1982 (registered as a shipwreck with Heritage Victoria)

Location/water depth: Off Tullaberga Island, near Gabo Island, Victoria / 1-5 metres


At the height of the gold rush, the luxury steamship Monumental City entered the burgeoning inter-colonial trade between Sydney and Melbourne.

The first steamship to cross the Pacific, but with only one successful journey in Australia, the vessel disastrously ran ashore in calm weather near Gabo Island.

Attempts to save the 28 passengers were hopeless and most perished. The survivors battled huge waves and jagged rocks to get ashore.  The only surviving saloon passenger wrote “suddenly the bow split in two, and precipitated men, women and children among the breakers, where we only saw them for a moment. The whole ship disappeared in a few seconds, and this fearful tragedy was at length brought to a close”.

The Captain and the Chief Officer were severely reprimanded for gross misconduct, incautiousness and indiscretion.

This event led to a wooden light-tower being constructed on Gabo Island, followed by a permanent lighthouse in 1862.


Monumental Bravery

Jumping, rope in hand from the stricken steamer into a lifeboat, seaman, Charles Plummer heroically guided 54 people through the towering surf to safety, along a hawser onto the rocky shore. The survivors spent some days marooned on the tiny island of Tullaberga before making it to the mainland on a raft they built of timbers from the wreck.

Heritage Victoria relic recovered from Monumental City

Monument on Gabo island.

Shipwreck survivor by W. H. Hardy 1853. 



Objects of interest (artefacts, images or other collection items) associated with the shipwreck story.

Heritage Victoria hold a number artefacts from the Monumental City shipwreck. One is in the file of images.

AMMC Member Institution

Parks Victoria

submitted by Catherine Bessant

Like this story? Vote now

Views: 891

Comments are closed for this blog post

© 2022   Created by Peter Rout.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service