Ship Details





Built In




62.2 x 18.1 x 10.9


1844: William Owen ( Albany). 1848 May: William Owen & John Ridley, reg. Port Adelaide. 1849 Apr 2: W.Owen. 1851 Dec.6: Wrecked in the Feejees en route San Francisco to Sydney.



The Emma Sherratt Based mainly on Newspaper References from the National Library of Australia website. There are several conflicting references to the construction of the Emma Sherratt. Dickinson1 considers the vessel was built on the Kalgan River in 1846, but then refers to it whaling at Two Peoples Bay in September 1844. Robert Stephens2 considers the Chance was built on the Kalgan in 1842, and that the Emma Sherratt was built at Torbay two years later. Douglas3 says the Chance was built at Torbay in 1842, and the Emma Sherratt also at Torbay in 1844. It seems most likely that the Emma Sherratt was constructed at Port Harding on the western side of Torbay over four years between 1838 and 1842. The construction site may have been at one of the two beaches, which are now known as Cosy Corner and Hartmans. This site was probably chosen as a consequence of the exploration of the area in 1835 by John Roe4 on his journey from the Swan River Colony to King George’s Sound. On that journey he arrived at Torbay, and named Migo and Richards Islands, before climbing Torbay Hill. In his report he referred to this hill as Guarinup, and commented on the timber on its slopes which would be suitable for shipbuilding and repairs, especially as it was adjacent to the sheltered water behind the two islands. In April 1838, Captain Francis Harding had brought Governor James Stirling on H.M.S. Pelorus to examine the settlement in King George’s Sound. Harding sent the Pelorus under the command of Mr Forsyth to investigate Torbay, who also reported5 on the suitability of the timber, and noted that a vessel of about 150 tons was under construction there for a Mr. Sherratt. There was reference to Mr Sherrat’s boat being still under construction in 1842.6 The vessel was named the Emma Sherratt after Sherratt’s daughter, who, after the death of her mother had taken over domestic responsibilities for running the Sherratt household. 7 The ship was constructed by Mr Jenkins8, a carpenter, who was assisted by Mr Gill9, who had both come to King George’s Sound in 1833 with Sir Richard Spencer, the first Government Resident. Also assisting was an escaped prisoner called Hankerson.10 One description of the vessel is as follows: “64.5 feet in length, had a breadth of 20.1 feet and a depth of hold of 10.11 feet. As built she had 1 deck, a standing bowsprit, 2 masts, a square stern, carvel built and no galleries.” 11 Thomas Brooker Sherrat had arrived in Albany in 1834 with his wife and six children, and set up as a merchant, with a house and business premises in York Street.12 He soon became involved with bay whaling and set up a site on the Vancouver Peninsula. In 1844, Court records13 suggest that the Emma Sherratt was involved in bay whaling at Two People’s Bay east of Albany. In September and October of that year there were cases involving the desertion or absconding of crew. The captain at that time was James Harding (apparently no relation to Francis). It is unclear as to what role Harding had in the management of the vessel. Early on, Sherratt held a half share, while his son in law, Hugh McDonald, and a Mr Hassell, both of Albany, jointly held the other half share.14 As whaling was a seasonal activity, concentrated in the latter half of the year, vessels such as the Emma Sherrat could be employed in general trading at other times. From October 1844 to early 1845 there were advertisements in the Perth Gazette for cargo and passengers to be taken from Fremantle by the Emma Sherratt.15 In fact, the vessel did not arrive in Fremantle until early February 184516 when she was loaded with wood, fish, fruit, vegetables and livestock (including leeches), plus five or six passengers, and departed for Mauritius on February 18th.17 Also taken was mail for Mauritius, Cape of Good Hope, London and Sydney NSW. Immediately after departure, the ships agent in Fremantle were charged with supplying spirits to the captain of vessel, James Harding, without a licence18. The mail carried by the Emma Sherratt was trans-shipped from Mauritius by other vessels, and arrived in London on the 20th of July, and Sydney on the 23rd of July19. This first voyage appears to have been designed to test the Mauritius market. Financially, it was not a great success, and took much longer than expected. Prices for produce in Mauritius were below expectations20, and the vessel was detained for seven weeks in Mauritius as a consequence of a court case brought by one of the passengers about the care of his livestock on the voyage.21 On the return trip, easterly winds extended the journey by two weeks, and the Emma Sherratt did not arrive in Fremantle until July 2nd. 22 The retuned cargo of sugar, however, seemed to have been financially more rewarding, and the interest in samples of sandalwood taken to Mauritius suggested opportunities for future trading. A second trip for Mauritius was advertised23, but did not commence until late August, 1845. While anchored off Fremantle, the second mate, Thomas Ellis, who apparently had been suffering hallucinations, disappeared during a period of bad weather and was presumed drowned. 24 The Emma Sherrat sailed from Fremantle on August 21, with three passengers, a racehorse called Napoleon, several cattle, and a few tons of potatoes., arriving in Mauritius on the 13th of September. 25 There is some doubt as to where the vessel went next. There was a report that she had sailed to Singapore, as a cargo of sugar may not have been available in Mauritius. 26 The vessel returned to Fremantle on January 27th 1946, with a cargo of sugar, and news that Napoleon was sold for the good price of £112, and was immediately entered into a race in Mauritius by the new owner, and won £700. 27 The voyages of the Emma Sherratt during 1846 and early 1847 are unclear. Harding appears to have been replaced as captain after his return from Mauritius, first by Captain Smith 28, then later in the year by Captain Charles Chinnery . During this time, she seems to have made several trips to Port Adelaide, via King George’s Sound, and at least one trip to the Cape of Good Hope and Mauritius, from where she returned to Fremantle on October 25th 1846. 29 There is evidence of the Emma Sherratt with Captain Chinnery being involved in bay whaling at Two People’s Bay in late November 1846 30, but this seems to conflict with her reported arrival in Port Adelaide on December 23rd from Mauritius.31 In April 1847 the Emma Sherratt arrived in Fremantle from Port Adelaide under the command of Captain Spears. 32 On board was Mr William Owen and his wife from Adelaide. Mr Owen may have acquired Mr Sherratt’s half share in the ownership of the vessel, but this is unclear. One subsequent report says that Owen chartered the Emma Sherratt from Younghusbands in Adelaide who were acting as agents for the owners. 33 The purpose of the charter was to sail to Mauritius and return with a cargo of sugar for Adelaide. The Emma Sherratt left Fremantle on April 25th 1846 34 with Mr Owen on board, but did not return to Adelaide until nine months later in January 1848. 35 Thomas Sherratt appears to have been in some financial distress during this time, and in the new year he placed an advertisement in the Perth Gazette calling for the apprehension of the Emma Sherratt by authorities, as she was sailing under “false register”. 36 From later accounts37, it appears that on this voyage, the Emma Sherratt arrived in Mauritius to find no sugar available, and Mr Owen decided to employ the ship in trading between Mauritius, the Cape of Good Hope, and Bourbon (Reunion). At least one trip was made to the Cape, and four to Bourbon before returning to Port Adelaide on the 12th January 1848 with a cargo of sugar consigned to Messrs. Elders & Co.. At some stage during this voyage, Captain Spears died, and the mate, Mr Germain was appointed by Owen to command the vessel. Mr Owen returned to Fremantle from Mauritius on another ship. Shortly after her arrival in Adelaide, a dispute arose at the port as to the status of the vessel and its cargo which involved Mr Germain and his crew, Mr Younghusband (agent for the owners, Sherratt, McDonald and Hassell), Captain Elders (to whom the cargo had been consigned, and who was the agent for Mr. Owen), the Port Adelaide police (reinforced by police from Adelaide), and the Collector of Customs, Mr Torrens38. This dispute, which at times became quite physical on the deck of the Emma Sherratt, eventually resulted in Germain, on the decision of Mr Torrens, being replaced as captain by Mr Reid, who until then had been the mate on another vessel in port. The ship was then impounded under the jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court until the result of a court case, which was heard in the Vice Admiralty Court on February 8th. The judge stated that this court did not have jurisdiction to settle the ownership issue, but could only deal with the detaining of the ship39. A petition to release the ship was dismissed and costs were awarded against Mr. Sherratt. A subsequent libel case was found in favour Mr Owen, who was by then in Adelaide, and he was awarded damages of £2040. The final outcome is unclear, but the cargo of sugar ended up with Elders, the half share of McDonald and Hassell was sold at auction for £36041, Mr Reid sailed off in command of the Emma Sherratt, and Mr Torrens subsequently became premier of South Australia42. . On the 29th of July 184843, the Emma Sherratt sailed from Fremantle under Captain Reid for Hong Kong with a cargo of sandalwood. The ownership of the vessel at this stage is not known, but presumably Sherratt was not involved – he returned to Albany early in 1849 financially ruined, and in a poor mental state44. The Emma Sherratt had a favourable outward voyage taking six weeks to Hong Kong. She was reported as passing Anger Point on the 18th of August45. Anger is a town on the east side of the Sunda Strait, between Java and Sumatra, where Lloyds of London had an agent who recorded the many vessels which passed through the strait which was used by most ships travelling to the Far East. However, at Canton the market for sandalwood was over supplied, and prices were reported as low, with port charges very high46. On the return trip, the Emma Sherratt rescued the remaining crew of the barque, Sarah Crisp which had been wrecked on a reef two days out of Canton46. Thirteen of the crew had died, and the remaining 19 crew were in poor shape, having been stranded on the wreck for 24 days. Shortly after the rescue, the Emma Sherratt was becalmed for a month in the China Sea, and did not arrive back in Western Australia until December46. For the next year and a half, the Emma Sherratt was mainly employed carrying cargo and passengers between Fremantle, Albany and Adelaide. William Owen was listed as a passenger on some of these journeys47, so must have retained some interest in the vessel. Captain Reid was replaced in mid 1849 by Captain Cock48. One trip, with a cargo of sandalwood, was made to Batavia leaving Fremantle in August 184949 and returning in January 185050. It was reported in the Perth Gazette in mid 1850 that the Emma Sherratt left Port Adelaide for Shark Bay on May 17th 1850. The Gazette, quoting from the South Australian newspapers, says the real destination was California51. This was the time of the Californian Gold Rush. On September 14th a San Francisco newspaper52 advertised “1000 sacks flour, new crop, now landing from schr Emma Sherratt from Port Adelaide”. The Maitland Mercury has a report on San Francisco Shipping stating that the Emma Sherratt “cleared out for Sydney on the 25th of September”53. The Sydney Morning Herald, reporting Honolulu Shipping Intelligence54, states that the Emma Sherratt left that port on November 12th for Sydney commanded by Captain Bache. It also states that The Emma Sherratt had previously been sighted by another vessel in San Francisco. The final news concerning the Emma Sherratt comes via the Sydney Morning Herald in May55 based on a report by the captain of the “unfortunate vessel”. The Emma Sherratt had left Oahoo in the Hawaiian Islands on the 14th of November for Sydney and sailed through the Samoan Islands and on the night of December 6th struck an uncharted reef near Turtle Island to the north of Fiji. The ship was aground with the rudder torn off, and the next morning the crew abandoned her and went ashore on Turtle Island. Local natives robbed them of their clothes, and they remained on the island for three weeks. They were rescued by one of the chiefs from Fiji who took them to Lakemba where they were looked after at a Misson. On the 5th of February they were taken by a trading boat to Ovalou and subsequently returned to Sydney. References 1 Rod Dickinson, History of the Whalers on the South Coast of New Holland, Hesperian Press, Perth 2007, p 270 2 Robert Stephens, Albany Merchant started ship-building venture, The Countryman, November 25, 1965, p 58 3 Les Douglas, et al, Maritime Albany Remembered, Tangee Press, Kalamunda, 2001. p 51 4 J. S. Roe, Journal of an Expedition from Swan River Overland to King George’s Sound, Perth Gazette, 20 Aug. 1836, 5 Perth Gazette, 14 Apr 1838,p 58 6 Perth Gazette, Letter to the Editor, 17 December 1842, p 3. 7 Robert Stephens, op.cit. p 58 8 Adam Wolfe, Albany Maratime Heritage Survey 1627-1994, Heritage Council of W.A., 1994, p 20 9 Adelaide Advertiser, 5 Jan 1903, p 4. 10 Cleve W Hassell The Hassells of Albany,no publisher given, p 35. 11 Dickinson, op.cit., p 270. 12 Register of Heritage Places – Whaling Cove (Ruins), Heritage Couulcil of W.A., 2002, p 4. 13 Dickinson, op.cit., p 271 14 Donald S Garden, Albany – A Panorama of the Sound from 1827, Thomas Nelson, Melbourne, 1977, p 77. 15 Perth Gazette, 5 Oct 1844, p 2. 16 Perth Gazette, 8 Feb 1845, p 2. 17 Perth Gazette, 22 Feb 1845, p 2. 18 Perth Gazette, 1 Mar 1845, p 2. 19 Perth Gazette, 6 Dec 1845, p 1. 20 Perth Gazette, 5 Jul 1845, p 1 21 Perth Gazette, 26 Jul 1845, p 3 22 Perth Gazette, 5 Jul 1845, p 2 23 Perth Gazette, 5 Jul 1845, p 1 24 Perth Gazette, 2 Aug 1845, p 3 25 Perth Gazette, 23 Aug 1845, p 2 26 Perth Gazette, 3 Jan 1846, p 2 27 Perth Gazette, 31 Jan 1846, p 1 28 Perth Gazette, 1 Aug 1846, p 3 29 Perth Gazette, 31 Oct 1846, p 2 30 Dickinson, op.cit., p 299. 31 South Australian Register, 25 Dec 1846. 32 Perth Gazette, 24 Apr 1847, p 2 33 South Australian Gazette, 22 Jan 1848, 34 Perth Gazette, 1 May 1847, p 2. 35 South Australian Register, 12 Jan 1848, 36 Perth Gazette, 1 Jan 1848, p 2. 37 South Australian Gazette, 22 Jan 1848 38 South Australian Register, 19 Jan 1848 39 Vice Admiralty Court, Adelaide, 8 Feb 1848. 40 Perth Gazette, 22 Apr 1848, p 2. 41 Perth Gazette, 27 May 1848, p 3. 42 Australian Dictionary of Biography, 43 Perth Gazette, 29 Jul 1848, p 2. 44 Robert Stevens, op.cit, p 58. 45Perth Gazette, 28 Oct 1848, p 2. 46 Perth Gazette, 30 Dec 1848, p 2. 47 Perth Gazette, 23 Nov 1849, p 2. 48 Perth Gazette, 20 July 1849, p 2. 49 Perth Gazette, 17 Aug 1849, p 2 50 Perth Gazette, 11 Jan 1850, p 1. 51 Perth Gazette, 26 Jul 1850 p 2. 52 Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 24 December 1850 53 Maitland Mercury, 7 Dec 1850, p 2. 54 Maitland Mercury, 15 Jan 1851, p 2. 55 The Argus, Melbourne, 30 May 1851, p 2.

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