Sinking of the Cataraqui
The vessel was commanded by C. Finlay and carried a crew of 44.
By early August the Cataraqui was approaching Bass Strait and on the night of the 3rd the vessel was hove to west of King Island as bad weather had prevented accurate navigational observations. With increasingly poor conditions the Cataraqui resumed its eastward track and at around 4.30 am on the following day the vessel struck rocks on the south-western coast of King Island. The Cataraqui began to immediately break up under the heavy seas, sweeping passengers and crew overboard. Less than an hour later the vessel tipped over to port and remained there despite attempts to cut away the masts. Despite the close proximity to land the surrounding reefs and high seas prevented most of those on board from reaching shore as the Cataraqui broke up.
By mid afternoon only nine of the 409 passengers and crew had reached safety; these were the chief mate Thomas Gutherie, seven seamen and a lone passenger Solomon Brown. The survivors were assisted by the 'Straits Policeman' D. Howie, who was hunting on the island. It was not until six weeks later that they were finally taken onto Melbourne on the cutter Midge. Howie eventually buried over 340 bodies in a number of large graves and was subsequently rewarded by the colonial government for his efforts.
It is our painful duty to communicate to you, for the information of Her Majesty's Land and Emigration commissioners, the total loss of the ship "Cataraque," Captain Finlay; and we grieve to add, that out of the entire number of passengers and crew, only one of the former and eight of the latter were saved. The accounts which appear in the papers, and which you have no doubt seen, correspond in every particular with those which have been transmitted to us, and render it unnecessary for us to detail them. The "Cataraque" was only 100 days out when this melancholy loss occurred. The emigrants were all in excellent health, and five infants only had died during the voyage. We are informed that the reef of rocks on which she struck is a most fearful one, rendering it impossible for any vessel which unhappily was driven on them to escape destruction in a gale of wind. ”— Secretary to the Colonial Land and Emigration Board
As the Cataraqui entered Bass Strait in the early morning of 4 August, she encountered a severe storm. At about 04.30 hours, the ship was cast suddenly onto jagged rocks just off Fitzmaurice Bay on King Island off the north-western coast of Tasmania. Attempts to evacuate the ship were hindered by the large waves and heavy weather which washed many of the ship's occupants overboard. Eight crewmen managed to reach the shore by clinging to floating wreckage, where they encountered the only emigrant survivor, Solomon Brown. The nine castaways were stranded on King Island for five weeks until they were rescued by the cutter Midge and taken to Melbourne.