Adelaide has so many great experiences to enjoy, some of them well kept secrets. I write about how you can Live Like a Local.
Published July 1st 2014
Aldinga - the resting place of lost Star of Greece sailors
A gale was whipping up a raging angry sea. Towering mountains of white water were crashing against the shore. The noise was roaring in my ears. The wind was pushing me off my feet. I thought of the sailors who came to grief on the Star of Greece ship at Port Willunga 126 years ago on Friday 13 July 1888. Could I hear echoes of those 18 lost voices on the wild winds?
"Oh hear us when we cry to Thee, For those of us in peril on the sea".
I stood in the drizzling rain and read this poignant inscription on the shrine to Captain Harrower and ten sailors who lost their lives in the shipwreck. They are buried in a small cemetery in Aldinga where the locals at the time erected the shrine to their memories.
The lines are from a hymn written in 1860 by William Whiting Headmaster of the Winchester College Choristers' School, Great Britain. William wrote the hymn to allay the fears of one of his young students who was about to embark on a sea voyage to the US. The hymn has been in widespread use ever since for naval and seafaring people. It is also possibly the last song sung at the church service aboard the Titanic on that fateful Sunday 14 April 1912 only hours before she sank.
A perfect day at Port Willunga Beach
How is it possible for a 1257 ton steel ship laden with 16 000 bags of wheat to sink only 200 metres from shore and 18 sailors lose their lives? Sadly not all of the sailors bodies were recovered from the sea.
The aftermath of the storm at Port Willunga beach
The picture perfect beauty of Port Willunga Beach hides the deceptive nature of the sea. Winter storms uncover the harshness that the sailors on the Star of Greece would have faced that terrible dark night. Huge seas and ferocious winds that would make it impossible to swim to shore. Seas reported to be 50 feet high (16 metres) and winds of 80 miles per hour (129 kilometres). Some sailors were lucky enough to cling to debris from the ship and float to shore. They were taken to the nearby hotel in the scrub to recover. You can see the hotel ruins if you walk up from the beach near the car park.
Photo of interpretive sign in the carpark Port Willunga. Painting of the Star of Greece.
The locals were devastated to watch from the cliff tops as the Star of Greece broke up and sailors who were clinging to the rigging fell in to the raging sea to meet their fate. Oh cruel sea. There is reports of a mystery man on board who had a shady past and was trying to escape the police. Was there an extra man on board? Only the ghost of the Captain can answer that question.
The Aldinga cemetery and Shrine to the sailors lost in the Star of Greece shipwreck
Stand on the cliffs above Port Willunga beach and remember the men who risked their lives to sail cargo from the settlement of South Australia. Take a visit to this small cemetery and lay a flower in memory of these brave men who lie here forever. Their Shrine is a little neglected and in need of love.
Underwater sign on the Star of Greece wreck, courtesy of Ron, Diving Adelaide website.
The more adventurous can snorkel or dive on the wreck and explore this piece of South Australian maritime history. At low tide the ship is in about three metres of water and the tip of the wreck can sometimes be seen above the water line. Diving Adelaide offers guided underwater tours of the wreck during summer. Remnants believed to be from the Star of Greece can be found at the Aldinga Beach Library and the Maritime Museum at Port Adelaide.
Bow of the Ida wrecked in 1857, rarely seen above the sand.
The storm had also revealed another long lost ship, the Ida, which ran aground in a gale on 15 January 1857 loaded with copper en route to Victoria. Another secret hidden in the sands of Port Willunga Beach. As I got in the car to drive back to my warm and cosy home looking over this very patch of ocean was it the wind that made my eyes water or was it the memory of those 18 men lost to the sea?
It is interesting what you said about the Titanic. Do you know whether they sang that because they knew the ship was sinking, and it was a way to try to stay calm/find peace with their fate, or was is it a poignantly ironic song before they knew they were doomed?