On The Sands Of Fraser Island Can Be Found The Rusting Hulk Of The Maheno Shipwreck
It’s 98% pure sand.
The other 2% of Fraser Island is rock.
And over the years the rock, currents and violent cyclones have combined to cause shipwrecks along the great sandy coastline of Fraser Island.
One of those shipwrecks is the SS Maheno, a rusting hulk which has come to rest on the beautiful white sands.
K’gari: The Paradise Island
Fraser Island was known to the first white settlers as The Great Sand Island.
For obvious reasons.
The island is the largest sand island in the world, but unusually for a large mass of sand, it’s also home to an impressive rainforest eco system and fresh water lakes, and before Captain Cook first sailed past and the Europeans landed and began to colonise Australia, this great sandy island was known to the local indigenous people as K’gari.
These people called the island home for many months of the year, and the abundance of fresh water and marine life gave the island its name, as K’gari translates best into English as paradise.
Today, tourists flock to Fraser Island to see this sandy paradise, but for many who sailed along the eastern coast of Australia, this was a place known for its shipwrecks.
The Shipwrecks of Fraser Island
North of Fraser Island is the Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the largest reefs and tourist attractions in the world.
To mariners, especially in the early days of European exploration, the reef was a dangerous obstacle to navigate.
Life and death could hang in the balance when traversing the coastline of Australia, and even Captain Cook’s famous voyage floundered on the reef, his ship and crew almost being lost to the razor coral.
While Captain Cook survived to return with news of Australia to England, many ships over the years have floundered, never to return to port.
Many wrecked along the reefs drifted into the giant sand bar of Fraser Island, while others were hit by the vicious and sometimes unpredictable cyclones that ravage this tropical coastline each year, and came to rest on the beaches of the great sandy island.
The island was synonymous with wrecks in the 18th, 19th and even early 20th century. So much so that the current English name- Fraser Island- is itself the result of a shipwreck.
The Shipwrecked Frasers
In 1836 the Stirling Castle was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef, The survivors jumped into lifeboats and drifted south into The Great Sandy Island.
Captain Fraser never left the island, he died there, but his wife Eliza was rescued several weeks later.
She brought with her tales of her wreckage on The Great Sandy Island, and her ‘capture’ by the local Aboriginal islanders, and for the rest of her life spun stories and flamed rumours of what had happened there.
Before long, the island became known as Fraser Island to the European world.
The SS Maheno
A century after Fraser Island was named for a wreck the SS Maheno met its final fate on the white sand beaches in 1935.
The ship started life in 1905 in Scotland, before being used as a passenger liner on routes between Australia and New Zealand.
World War I saw the Maheno transformed into a hospitable ship, and she soon saw service in 1915 during the Gallipoli Campaign.
After the evacuation of Allied Forces from Gallipoli, the ship was transferred to Europe, where for the rest of the war she operated in the English Channel and on routes to New Zealand.
The Wreck Of The SS Maheno
With the end of World War I the ship returned to service as a passenger liner and in 1935 was nearing the end of its working life.
The Maheno was being transported to Japan, to be scrapped and broken down when a savage cyclone hit the east coast of Australia.
The Maheno was cut adrift from the ship that was towing it, and drifted into the sandy beaches of Fraser Island.
This would prove to be its final resting place, as the Maheno was left to rust and deteriorate in the sand, being used as target practice by the Australian Navy during the war and eventually becoming a tourist attraction on the white beach of Fraser Island.
All Photographs Property Of Richard Collett