Starting a Loch Ard Historical Society

April 20, 2009

Dear Sir,

My friend, Len Sherrott, who lives in Melbourne and I are contemplating starting a Loch Ard Historical Society, to gather all information surrounding the the 1878 shipwreck and stir national and international interest as it is starting to slip away from the consciousness of the present generation.

My personal interest is gained from the fact that I am a direct decendant of Eva Carmichael, the sole surviving passenger of the wreck. I am presently working on a screenplay for film or more likely television series of the wreck's story.

My purpose for writing is that I was wondering if you would be interested in giving us some assistance in  developing the above Society, as it appears you must be rather interested in ships.

Thank you for you attention.

Sincerely, Richard Townshend 
Colorado USA

Hello Richard,

Thank you for your invitation, I do not know how I might be of assistance in getting a Lock Ard Historical Society up and running.
I should point out that Eva was not the sole survivor of that Maritime tragedy, see my article about her loss below: 

Loch Ard was a steel clipper ship built on the Clyde by Barclay, Curle and Company, and was launched on the 8th. of November 1873. She was 1,693 tons, with a length of 263 feet and 7 inches, a beam of 38 feet and 3 inches, drawing 22 feet, a handsome clipper as were most of her contemporaries, carrying three masts reaching upwards some 150 feet.

She sailed from Gravesend ( in hindsight not an auspiciously named port ) on the 2nd. of March in 1878 bound for Melbourne, with a crew of 36, and 18 passengers, 6 of whom all belonged to the Carmichael family who were migrating to the new Colony.

When she was almost three months out from England, only a few days from her destination, Loch Ard ran into bad weather with poor visibility. Captain George Gibb was way off course, when sheer cliffs almost at the waters edge were sighted, only some 2 kilometers away, he fought to gain more searoom for his ship, dropping anchors. All to no avail, his clipper struck Mutton Bird Island with an awful crash, to sink within 15 minutes.

Loch Ard had come to grief off the now named Loch Ard Gorge, situated in Port Campbell National Park, on the southern coast of Victoria, about 250 kilometers west of Melbourne.

The clipper Loch Ard wrecked off Victorian coast. 1878

The clipper Loch Ard wrecked off Victorian coast. 1878

View of Great Ocean Road
View of Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road.
To reach this area by road one drives The Great Ocean Road, claiming to be one of the most spectacular coastal drives in the world. Construction of this road commenced in 1918 as a memorial to all the Australian Soldiers killed in WW1, it was completed in 1932, and was literally carved out of the precipitous cliffs that cling so close to the pounding surf of the Southern Ocean.

Wonderful seascapes rush before your eyes as you negotiate each bend in the road, a sheer drop to the ocean below, on the left side of the road on the journey towards Port Campbell.

The ocean floor in this part of the Victorian coast is indeed littered with the bones of ships that have been wrecked over the years on what is now called The Shipwreck Coast, something like 700 vessels have finished up on the bottom here.

Seascape from Great Ocean Road

Seascape from Great Ocean Road

Back to the wreck of Loch Ard.

Eva Carmichael.
But 18 years old, Eva Carmichael, dressed in her night gown found herself in the water after the ship grounded, she clung to some wreckage and drifted into a small bay, she could not swim, and was too weak to reach the shoreline. Tom Pearce, also only 18, a young apprentice aboard Loch Ard, had made it ashore, and scrambled up a cliff to seek aid, he noticed Eva's plight, and swam out to rescue her.

These two young people were in fact the only survivors, 53 crew and passengers including 5 members of Eva's family all perished when the ship foundered. Eva and Tom were taken to Glenample Homestead where they spent some time recovering from their ordeal.

Glenample Homestead where Eva and Tom were taken after their shipwreck ordeal

Glenample Homestead where Eva and Tom were taken after their shipwreck ordeal

Clamour from the Media.
Two 18 year olds, the only survivors, one young girl, one young man, all over the Colony, and of course fuelled by the media of the day, everyone could see the potential for romance. Would these two fall in love and marry? it was on the lips of the people in the Colony everywhere, but no! it did not happen. Eva after a spell, returned to Ireland and eventually married, Tom also went home, to complete his training, in due course, Captaining his own ship.

Only 4 bodies were recovered from the wreck and the sea, to be buried atop the cliffs looking down on the scene of the shipwreck, in what is now called the Loch Ard Cemetery.

Ceramic Peacock
Ceramic Peacock
The Peacock Ceramic Piece.
A beautiful piece of ceramic in the form of a Peacock managed to survive the wreck of the Loch Ard, and was washed up intact onto the beach at Loch Ard Cove, it was duly rescued, and may be viewed when you visit the Flagstaff Hill Museum at Warnambool.

Loch Ard another victim.
The tragedy of the Loch Ard is but one of the threads that go to make up the quilt that may be woven about all the ships that started out on their voyage,to end up as one more victim on this beautiful but highly dangerous coastline of Southern Victoria, the Shipwreck Coast.

Best Regards, 

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