RMS Quetta, sank 28 February 1890
Lynne Hooper, BIHS president
Guest speaker at BIHS meeting December 2016
At our December meeting BIHS president Lynne Hooper, through a PowerPoint presentation, gave us a glimpse of the fascinating story of the RMS Quetta, which sank off Thursday Island on 28 February 1890.
Amongst the passengers who didn’t survive were two gentlemen (and their wives) who were well known in the Caboolture Shire: Alexander Archer and Claudius Whish.
Alexander Archer was that delightful man who wrote a letter to his niece describing a trip by boat to Bribie. Alexander at the time of the voyage the General Manager of the Bank of NSW and was one of the famous Archer brothers of Durundur. Claudius Whish at one time owned the Oaklands sugar plantation on the Caboolture River and the Captain Whish bridge is named for him. When the Quetta sailed he was working for the Government as the Surveyor of Roads in the Lands Department.
10 days after leaving Brisbane and steaming to its next port, Thursday Island, the RMS Quetta hit an uncharted rock at 9pm in Torres Strait and sank in 3 minutes.
133 people drowned with 158 surviving. Out of 34 women and 30 children only 2 teenage girls and 1 baby girl were amongst the survivors.
TOTAL LOST SAVED
Saloon passengers 33 27 6
Steerage passengers 65 56 9
Deck passengers (Javanese cane cutters) 71 15 56
European Officers 29 14 15
Asian Crew 93 21 72
291 133 158
The Australian/European passengers who survived:
Saloon Class: Alice Nicklin (Brisbane – parents died), Emily Lacy (Mackay- sister & uncle died), Mr. S.T. Debney (Brisbane), Henry Corser (Maryborough –wife and child died), Mr. Clarke (Tasmania) and Mr. A.H. Renton (England).
Steerage: Messrs: Wrathall (Townsville – wife & 2 children died), Davidson (Melbourne), Cameron (Brisbane), Ashford (Brisbane), Dunn (Brisbane), Train (Rockhampton), Gregory (Townsville), Murphy (Port Douglas) and a baby girl who was either the child of Mrs Copeland or Mrs Davidson – who both had 3 children with them.
The loss of the Quetta devastated both city and country-town alike. The Quetta had sailed its London – Brisbane – London voyage 11 times bringing with it many emigrants to Brisbane. One of our members, Monica Nunn’s, great-grandparents and grandmother arrived on the Quetta in 1886.
Using newspaper interviews and statements made at the inquiry, Lynne spoke about the ship’s final minutes and how the passengers survived when the Quetta sank at night in crocodile and shark infested waters.