1. Entry from The Register
Official number: 76257; Where built: Stockton-on-Tees, Durham, Scotland; Registered: Belfast, Ireland
Rig type: ship; Hull: iron; Tonnage: 2 405; Length: 91.4 metres (300 feet); Breadth: 12.8 metres (42 feet)
Depth: 7.4 metres (24.4 feet)
Port from: Freemantle; Port to: Newcastle; Date lost: 18 May 1893; Location: Stragglers Rocks
Chart number: DMH 001; GPS position: Latitude 32° 03.4600 ' S; Longitude 115° 37.7300 ' E
Finders: Olley and the Underwater Explorers Club (1950s)
Protection: Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 (gazetted 1977)
Unfinished Voyages, volume 3:20810, MA file number: 187/76, ASD number: WA 340
Significance criteria: 1, 4, 5, 6
Ulidia was given an A1 classification at Lloyd's and was a fully rigged ship built by Richard Duck and Company, with one bulkhead and two decks. The forecastle measured 10.3 metres and the poop 11.6 metres. The underdeck tonnage was 2 263 tons and the net tonnage was 2 378. It was owned by P. Iredale and Porter.
The vessel was engaged in the Cape Horn trade route visiting ports in Europe, Australia and South America. This trading network involved the shipment of general goods from Europe to the colonies and then the export of coal or other primary produce to South America where fertiliser and goods for the industrial and agricultural needs of Europe were obtained.
Ulidia had arrived in Bunbury on 13 February 1893 after a fast voyage of 87 days from Newport, Monmouthshire, with a full cargo of railway iron, rails and fittings. The next day the vessel was grounded at the jetty and although it was refloated the captain lost his ticket for one year. Under Captain Abbot the vessel anchored at Careening Bay to unload the rest of the cargo. It then took 1 000 tons of sand ballast on, was cleared for Sydney on 5 May and made ready for sail under the command of Captain McAdam.
Owing to contrary winds the vessel did not leave until the morning of 18 May. On a close haul, starboard tack, with all sails set Ulidia made for Rottnest Island. A wind change to the north about thirty minutes later forced the captain to tack, but the vessel missed stays and hung in the chains owing to a lack of way and a heavy swell. A tack was attempted but the vessel remained four points from the wind and would not come round any further.
The wreck event
The starboard anchor was let go but after 192 metres had been paid out it snapped at the hawse-pipe. Before the anchor could be cleared Ulidia was on a reef 550 metres north-north-west of Stragglers Rocks. Although the vessel initially struck gently the moderate breeze and heavy seas together with the 1.5 knot tide flowing south forced the vessel on more heavily. The crew hoisted flags for assistance. The pumps were used and it was some time before there was leakage, but later the hull rapidly filled with water.
Dolphin and Rescue were sent out from Freemantle to render assistance. By 11.00 a.m. there was nearly 12 feet (3.6 metres) of water in the hold and all hands were ordered off. Four crew stayed aboard the vessel to protect it from unlawful salvage. Binnacles, compasses, sails, two boats and the personal effects of the crew were removed. However, the chronometers were not saved (Pollard, N.D.).
The vessel was declared a total wreck when it was found impossible to tow off. It lay in a crevice with a pinnacle of rock through the bottom. The soundings over the site were port bow 1.5 fathoms (2.8 metres), aft 3 fathoms (5.5 metres) and with the quarter and starboard bow rock awash.
At the inquiry it was suggested that one of the reasons that the vessel did not respond to the helm was that in ballast it drew only 3.7 metres instead of the fully laden 6.6 metres. This left 2.7 metres of rudder out of the water and this in conjunction with the mild breeze stopped it from coming around. However, the captain's certificate was suspended for six months.
The hull of Ulidia was sold at auction for £425 in early June. Operations were commenced to refloat the vessel and about twenty men were employed to remove the sand ballast. This proved an unsuccessful venture. With a large quantity of the sand removed, the vessel was lighter and more unstable, the action of the waves causing further damage. A number of investors in the wreck soon fought in court over the £1 500 that had been spent in the attempt. It was then sold to the Freemantle Stevedoring Company who intended to break up the vessel. By February 1894 the topgallant masts had been removed and Ulidia was in the process of being dismantled (Cairns & Henderson, 1995:210).
The vessel is 600 metres north-north-west of the northern-most point of the Stragglers Rocks on the eastern side of a breaking reef.
The wreckage lies on an east-west axis with the stem on the reef rising nearly to the surface in 3 metres of water and the stem on a sand bottom in approximately 6 metres. The vessel seems to have struck upright with the sides and stern section subsequently falling out. Large iron I-beam ribs lie in neat rows on the iron plating. The overall wreckage is spread over 99 metres. The stem is particularly interesting in that it is almost complete but lying backwards propped up by the iron strokes of the bow section. It measures 6 metres. A heavy iron hatch coaming can be seen aft amidships. There are three spar sections visible, together with cables and dead eyes. At the time of survey the site was covered in extensive weed growth and marine organisms. The location of the site means that it is subject to heavy swell conditions.
Statement of significance
This site is of historical significance as one of the largest sailing vessels to be wrecked on the Western Australian coast, and for its association with the Cape Horn trade route.
Cockram, C., 1988, in Wells, S., 1988a.
1989b, The Ulidia: more detail added to earlier drawing, Maritime Archaeological Association of Western Australia Reports, Vol. 3, December 1988June 1989:13.
Pollard, M., N.D., Ulidia, Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Maritime Museum, File No. MA 187/76.
Wells, S., 1988a, The Ulidia: a picture emerges, Maritime Archaeological Association of Western Australia Reports, Vol. 2, July December 1988:1012.
1989, The Ulidia, Maritime Archaeological Association of Western Australia Reports, Vol. 4, July 1989June 1990:1217.