The Loss of Trial in 1622, Oldest Wreck on the Australian Coast
The Loss of Trial in 1622, Oldest Wreck on the Australian Coast
The English East India Company in 1621, dispatched their ship Trial on a journey to the East Indies via the Cape of Good Hope.
It had only been 10 years earlier that this supposedly faster route to the East Indies had been pioneered by the Dutch.
Ships rounded the Cape, then steered easterly, altered course to the North East to make a landfall in the East Indies, but, if a ship sailed too far to the east, before changing course towards the Indies, what is now Western Australia was likely to prove a navigational hazard.
In those early days of seeking out the East Indies, the actual position of those islands and of Australia with its nearby islands off its north west coast were not known with any accuracy. I caused problems for those early navigators and Masters of sailing ships attempting to visit and trade with the spice islands of the East Indies.
Longitude could only be estimated, and one's dead reckoning after a long haul across the Indian Ocean could and usually was very inaccurate.
Latitude was calculated with reasonable accuracy, but the ship's position east or west of the zero meridian of longitude depended on how far it was estimated that the ship had sailed over a given time span.
At this time navigation at sea was by no means an exact science, it took until late in the 18th. century and early into the following century for longitude to be calculated with accuracy.
First mention of Trial.
At that time in England, there were three ships carrying the name Trial - The Triall of Aldborough, The Triall of London, and The Trial of Orston.
The Triall of London was most likely involved in the abortive venture at Virginia in 1606-7, and was a vessel of 160 tons, belonging to a group of fishmongers and citizens of London.
The Traill of Orston, was separately reported as being both 40 and 30 tons, and would be too small a ship to journey to the East Indies.
The records of the time do not make further mention of the Triall of Aldborough.
There is an interesting report on July 10, 1621 that
Mrs. Newport was very obviously not satisfied, because it was reported on the 10th of August 1621:
The Trial sailed from Plymouth on the 4th of Septemver, 1621 with 143 good men.
Loss of Trial.
On the 25th. of June 1622, Captain John Brookes arrived at Jacartra (Batavia) in a skiff with 9 others to announce the loss of Trial off the Great Southland. It is learned from Brooke's letters that Trial safely arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, where he me the Charles, a returning East Indiaman commanded by Captain Bickle. Brooks wanted the Master Mate from Charles plus some additional personnel from that vessel to join Trail, as they had not before made the journey from the Cape to Jacatra - but, no one would volunteer!
He sailed from the Cape on the 19th. of March 1621, and shaped a course south to latitude 39 degrees south, then turned east.
On the 1st of May, he made a landfall in latitude 22 degrees south, it was logged as an island 18 leagues long, Brooks sailed 10 leagues southwards of this island and then steered north east by east for Java.
However, from the 5th. of Ma until the 24th. of Many, winds prevailing from the north east prevented his ship form making any headway towards his target of Java.
On the 24th. of May a large island with three smaller ones at its eastern end hove into view, Trial, steered north east hoping to reach the western end of Java.
Brookes evacuated his ship over a rope our of the poop into a skiff at 3 A.M., at 4 A.M. the boat got of, and half an hour later the forepart of his ship broke up. Out of 139, (presumably 4 died on the outwards voyage, as Trial had saided with a total of 143) ten including the Captain, excaped in the skiff, and , another thrity six in the logn boad, that made ti to Batavia on the 8th. of July. The remaining ninety three died.
There seems little doubt that Trail came to grief on "Trial Rocks," situated to the north west of Monte Bell islands.
On his arrival at Jacarta ( Batavia ) Brooks, arranged his evidence to maintain the fiction that he had followed his instructions from the East India Company, and saild north easterly as had been described in Fitzherbert's journal, thus he should not be blamed from the stranding of Trial.
He initially took the stance that the Straits of Sunda lay north east by north of the wreck's position, but after reaching the eastern end of Java by steering a north east by north course, h corrected the Trial's position ot allow for this, and moved the location of "Trial Rocks" 200 leagues* further eastwards, making them due south of the Sunda Straits.
For Brooks to have reached the eastern end of Java he would have had to sail due north from the wreck site, if as he maintained he had sailed north east from his stranding of Trial, ths course would have taken his skiff to the east of the island of Timor.
Thus to cover up his lying about the course he had taken after leaving his wrecked vessel, Brooks needed to relocate "Trial Rocks" 200 leagues eastwards.
The East India Company were entirely fooled by this hoax. and never places any blame what so ever on Brookes for the total loss of Trial.
Thomas Bright who had sailed in Trial - held Brookses totally guilty of negligence and responsible for the ship's loss.
In a letter from Jacarta dated the 22nd. of August 1622 he made the point that if one compared Captain Fitzherbert's journal with that of Captain Brookes, in the latter journal you would find that Trial sailded 400 leagues further east thatn any ship had ever sailed before, and when Trial foundered, they were steering north east, and Sunda Straits bore north west.
Having sailed so far towards the coast of the Great Southland, and steering to the north east, Brooks was placing Trial in a very vulnerable and hazardould position, and so it proved when she ran aground.
Brookds undetook some work around Sumatra for his East India company, and then in 1625 he came home to England in Moone.
The date was the 15th. of September 1625, and Moone was lost off of the coast of Dover.
Bookes and the Master, Churchman were charged with negligence and wilfully casting away the Moone, and both were imprisoned within Dover Castle.
On the 1st. of May 1626, Brookes petitioned the House of commons in an attempt to bring his case to a conclusion, he blamed the weather and the general rottedness of Moone's sails and ground tackle for the ship's loss.
Proceedings dragged on for yet another two months, until the 4th. August of that year, Brooks made a submissive petition ot the East India company praying their pardon, by now he had no estate, and finally on the 18th. of August 1626 both Brookes and Churchman were released and all suits against them for the loss of Moone and Trial, were dropped.
Routh to the East Indies.
The Admiralty, initially stated that Trial Rocks did not in fact exist. Later their position we given to a group of islands in the general area, but, it took until 1934 for a reef known as "Ritchies' Reef" to be designated as "Trial Rocks."
The Australian Pilot of the area was then amended, thus 314 years after causing the loss of Trial, these roks were at last correctly located and recognised.
Search for wreck of Trail
A wreck site was found, and iron cannons and anchors were recovered.
In JUne 1971, the Western Australia Museum mounted another expedition, evidence indicates this, the present day Trial Rocks, is the actual site where Trail actually came to grief, but it is dificult to be absolutely certain the wreck site is that of Trial.
There is not written tradition extant at the time of the foundering, Western Australia was not settle until 1829, thus positive identification of the associated anchors/guns found in the vicinity of Trial Rocks linking them to the Trial still eludes us.
On the other hand, there is really nothing to indicate that this wreck site is not that of Trial, but should a further wreck site be found on Trial Rocks, one would have doubts that this reck site is that of the Trial.
The guesswork as to ones actual longitude was finally removed.