Strangers on the Shore - Stefano's survivors

Diver recording Stefano windlass. (Jon Carpenter, WA Museum)

Nationality: Austro-Hungarian (modern Croatia)

Vessel type: Wooden sailing barque

Date lost: 27 October 1875

Cause of loss: Struck reef and sank

Number of Casualties: 15

Discovery date: 9 April 1998

Location/water depth: Near Point Cloates, Ningaloo Reef in 12m depth

Stefano struck Ningaloo Reef at night during a voyage from Cardiff, Wales to Hong Kong carrying a cargo of 1300 tons coal. Eight of the seventeen crew survived the wreck by floating to shore on rafts of wreckage. Over the next four months the small band of survivors trekked hundreds of kilometres along Western Australia’s inhospitable northwest coast, reducing in numbers despite being assisted by local Payungu and Jinirigudi people.

By 6 January 1876 only two young boys, Miho Baccich (16 years old) and Ivan Jurich (20 years old), were left. After having resorted to cannibalism to stay alive, and in a piteously weak and disoriented condition, the local Aboriginal people generously assimilated them into their tribe and nursed them back to health. The boys were eventually guided to Exmouth Gulf where they were picked up by the pearling cutter Jessie on 18 April 1876, thus ending their six-month ordeal.

A miraculous rescue

On their return home Miho Baccich’s parents commissioned a book based on the boys’ experiences, and a votive painting by well-known maritime artist Basilije Ivankovic. This painting depicts the boys with their Aboriginal rescuers and cutter Jessie, and still hangs in the church of Our Lady of Mercy in Dubrovnik.

URLs

http://museum.wa.gov.au/maritime-archaeology-db/wrecks/stefano

View of Stefano site.  (Jon Carpenter/WA Museum)

Stefano survivors Miho Baccich (16 years old, left) and Ivan Jurich (20 years old) (WA Museum)

Map of Northwest coast of WA showing Stefano survivors’ trek marked with locations of interest. (Skurla 1876)

Votive painting depicting rescue of Stefano survivors with Aboriginal benefactors and cutter Jessie. Artist: Basilije Ivankovic Copyright: Church of Our Lady of Mercy, Dubrovnik, Croatia

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

Artefacts including bell, navigation light.
Underwater images of shipwreck site.

AMMC Member Institution

Western Australian Maritime Museum

submitted by Ross Anderson

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