The wreck of the SS Admella in the early hours of August 6th 1859 was only the beginning of a horrific week for survivors who remained on board, in sight of land, while authorities struggled to rescue them from the stricken steamer. The loss of 89 lives, mostly due to cold and exposure, makes the wreck one of the worst maritime disasters in Australian history.
It was the first major rescue incident that involved the cooperation of a large number of organisations and individuals across the newly formed colonies of Victoria and South Australia. In many ways it was the basis of joining together these isolated communities into a regional group, and was the beginning of many ongoing organizations across the south east of Australia.
The Admella was sailing from Adelaide to Melbourne when it struck Carpenters Reef on the Southern Coastline of South Australia. A design fault in its iron hull caused the ship to break into three after only 15 minutes, leaving passengers and crew clinging to the wreckage with minimal water and food.