Nationality: North American
Vessel type: Whaling ship
Date lost: 8 July 1840
Cause of loss: Blown ashore
Number of Casualties: Nil
Discovery date: 9 February 2016
Location/water depth: Buried in reclaimed land
Captain Francis Coffin in his ship Samuel Wright pioneered North American whaling off Western Australia’s coast. While anchored in Koombana Bay during the 1840 bay-whaling season, a ‘perfect hurricane’ blew the ship ashore. The entrepreneurial captain and his crew continued whaling using the ship’s boats, built a farm out of the ship’s timbers and rented the beached wreck out as a storehouse, making it one of Bunbury’s first buildings.
During the first official survey of Bunbury in 1841-42, Samuel Wright’s still-standing main mast was used as a trig point, making Bunbury the only town in Australia to have its town plan based on a shipwreck. Historical survey data provided an accurate position for the wreck, buried in reclaimed land beneath a car park. In 2011 and 2015 water probe surveys located a large wooden structure buried in this area, which an archaeological excavation in 2016 confirmed to be Samuel Wright.
A blessing in disguise?
In 1842 Captain Coffin sold his whaler’s farm and cottage to Church of England clergyman John Wollaston, and returned to America. Reverend Wollaston built a small timber chapel on the land making it the first Anglican church in the southwest, which is the second-oldest church still standing in Western Australia.
Objects of interest (artefacts, images or other collection items) associated with the shipwreck story.
Artefacts and images associated with 2011 and 2016 excavations, historical imagery of Koombana Bay wrecks, maps and charts.
AMMC Member Institution
Western Australian Maritime Museum
submitted by Ross Anderson
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