Art Gallery of South Australia  O.1272  Charles Hill  oil, “The Rescue”  

Nationality: Australian

Vessel type: Auxiliary screw steamer

Date lost: Saturday, 6th August, 1859

Cause of loss: Ran aground of Carpenter Rocks

Number of Casualties: 86+ drowned

Discovery date: Monday 8th August, 1859

Location/water depth: Carpenter Rocks, Port MacDonnell, S.A., 5-20 metres

Departing Adelaide, with 113 passengers and crew, Admella, too close inshore, struck the Carpenter Rocks on Saturday morning, a mile from the beach. The massive swell broke the hull in three and lives were lost immediately. Three crewmen perished attempting the swim to shore to summon help, before two reached the beach, and found the MacDonnell lightkeeper, on Monday morning, who took the news to Mount Gambier.


Locals set out for the wreck, but they needed boats. In Melbourne, the Lady Bird steamed for Portland and then the wreck, but failed to locate the hulk.


Returning to Portland, the steamer, towing the Portland lifeboat and crew, returned and located the 22 starved and parched survivors. The wild sea on Friday frustrated their attempts. On Saturday, the lifeboat with an attendant boat, gathered the survivors from a certain death, to spite the sea.    


Rescued from the rocks of death (George Fife Angas)

To east and west the tidings fly,

Borne on the flashing wire;

And distant cities hear the cry

From that far reef of agony

And burning words of fire

Wake to the rescue all the land

To save them ere they die;

And many a noble bend,

With stout resolve and purpose high,

Go forth to save them, or – to die!

Portland Maritime Discovery Centre -“Portland” lifeboat (1859) that saved 19 survivors  

M. Syme -Board of Trade medal (by Wyon) presented to James Cambray, coxswain of lifeboat 

 wood panel segment from Admella. South Australian Maritime Museum, History Trust of SA


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

  • Portland MDC – Portland lifeboat, Memorial tablet (marble) 
  • South Australian Maritime Museum– wood carved panel,
  • Art Gallery of South Australia-  three contemporary paintings
  • Port MacDonnell Historical Society – Admella ship’s bell, porthole scuttle, signal cannon, model of Admella, copper billets, mug
  • Private collection – Board of Trade bronze medal for rescuer (James Cambray)
  • History House, Portland – image of Capt. James Fawthrop

AMMC Member Institution

Port Fairy Historic Lifeboat Station

submitted by Marten Syme

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