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Three men working with spades and a wheelbarrow outside Troubridge Island lighthouse, South Australia.

State Library of South Australia - PRG 280/1/44/269

District Council of Yorke Peninsula - Troubridge Island

Troubridge Island was named by Captain Flinders in 1802 after the Commander of the fleet at the battle of the Nile, Sir Thomas Troubridge.

Around southern Yorke Peninsula, in the hundred years from 1838 to 1938, a total of 45 vessels were wrecked and those Troubridge Shoals claimed 12*. *Map of Southern Yorke Peninsula. By B. J. Braund.

After the first 9 vessesl were wrecked a prefabricated iron tower 24.3 metres (80 feet) was brought from England and erected here. In February, 1856, it firs shone its light to warn mariners of the shoals*. *Colonial Architecture in South Australia, Page 242 and 243.

On the 19th September, 1902, the structure was badly damaged by an earthquake which was felt at Orroroo and which stopped the Glenelg Town Hall clock*. *The Geology of Yorke Peninsula, Page 62.

In 1915 the Commonwealth Government assumed control of all lighthouses and the island too, in this instance, because it had a lighthouse on it.

I n 1980 the light was converted to automatic operation and did not need attendance and the lighthouse keepers were no longer required. After the new lighthouse commenced operation on Troubridge Hill in September, 1980, in the light here was declared surplus and the island was to be sold for $42,000.

Troubridge Lighthouse

The South Australian Government immediately purchased the island and dedicated it as a Conservation Park. The 7.5 hectare island supports about 18 species of bird life and native vegetation. The island and the 2 lighthouse keepers' cottages are not let out to a caretaker for $10 rent per year*. *"The Advertiser," 12th March, 1982; 28th May, 1982; 15th December, 1982.

Troubridge Island and Vicinity.

Pioneer (Yorketown, SA : 1898 - 1954), Trove

Friday 15 May 1936, page 4

Reminiscences by Felix Gulin, of Edithburgh

Troubridge is the only island that "grows" around,the Australian Coast. The sea around that part of St. Vincent Gulf is fast drying up, and-where once coastal vessels could sail,-the sea is now all dry land at iow water. The sea bottom is getting pushed up every year near to the port of Edithburgh, which is situated close to the mouth of St. Vincent Gulf.

Before the steel tower was erected and completed in 1873, the lighthouse on Troubridge Island was a wooden house of two rooms. This was built up on piles some 10 feet high, and attached to this structure was a jetty some 100 fet long, 5 ft. high, and about 2 feet wide on the top. The island then was only a sand-bank, on which the wavelets would play about in fine weather. On rough days it was all breakers.

The lighthouse keepers had a cutter, and would visit Edithburgh on steamer days to get their mails and stores. The cutter's dinghy would be moored to this jetty. One dark, stormy night a lightkeeper went'out on to this jetty to see if the dinghy was riding safe, and fell into the breakers, and was drowned. His body was never recovered.

In the year of 1873, the year that the Iron King struck; a sunken rock near Troubridge Shoal, about two miles from the lighthouse, Edithburgh, was thinly populated, and it was then all virgin country and the aborigines were numerous. The only industry was Mr. Geo. Hart's chaffmill, Mr. C. Gotch's lime kiln, and the fishing industry.

I shall now try and relate in the following story of some old-time history, and one of my experiences when out on the Marion Reef fishing with a visitor. An acquaintance, who would sometimes fish in the motor boat, Heather, which belonged to the late Joe Johncock (known as "Paley"). When the Iron King struck the sunken rock the wind was from the S.S.E., and she, now lies some 100 yards west of the reef of rocks where she first struct. Had she been steered 200 yards to the south she would have missed the dangerous reef. There was supposed to be 373 people aboard the Iron King, and they were all landed at Edithburgh. At that time of writing, Edithburgh had only a few scattered houses in amongst the timber trees, and drinking water was scarce. Being no accommodation in Edithburgh for the shipwrecked people, they camped at Wattle Point, in Wattle Bay, in the Investigator's Straits. It is here that the native wells are situated. This place was known as Wells Hut, once owned by Ansty & Giles, of Penton Vale Station, and at the Shepherd's Camp at these hills wild horses would be shot as they came in to drink at the wells.

The ringleaders only were shot. It was the late Mr. Tom Hayes, of Edithburgh, and the late Mr. Ned Giles, of Yorketown, who were then the boundary riders of the Penton Vale Station.

Wattle Point is nearly two miles south of Edithburgh, and the people off the Iron King had no fear of starving, for kangaroo, rabbit, wallaby, emu, wild turkey, geese, ducks, and fish ' were in abundance. They lived well while in Edithburgh.

The Iron King, besides carrying passengers, also had a cargo of general merchandise on board, and in amongst the cargo were casks of rum. There is one thing that is always dear to all Jack Tars, and its name is rum. When the Iron King was being pounded on the reef she was beginning to break up. Salvage work was to be done. A lot of her cargo came ashore several months later at Edithburgh to be picked up by the people. The sailorg had done all they could to remove her freight ashore, and it now came to the last boatload. The rum was left till the last, and four sailors were told off to get it. These sailors were told not to break the barrels, but on going aboard the. Iron King they saw that some of the barrels were broken. On seeing the casks broken and the ruin going to waste they helped themselves to it. The rum on thees vessels was 40 per cent, overproof. Unfortunately, the sailors, on leaving the Iron King, had their boat capsized and all four were drowned. Although a search was made for them, their bodies were never found.

Troubridge Tommy.

There was a large shark that went under the name of ''Troubridge Tommy"' that used to haunt the Troubridge Reef. He was a shark of some repute. Often he would follow the fishermen's boats and all were scared of him. It has been said that huge barnacles had grown on his back and he would come into shallow water to roll in the sand to get rid of them. When "Troubridge Tommy" would follow the fishermen, fish would be thrown to him to keep him quiet, as he would come alongside their boat. On one occasion he met with the Chinamen. These people did not intend to waste any of the fish on "Troubridge Tommy" and the shark followed them right into Sultana Bay into shallow water, keeping alongside of the boat all the way. When coming near Sultana beach the shark gave the boat a blow with his tail and smashed some of her planks, which caused water to rush in, and the Chinamen stripped off their clothes and blocked the flow of water. Two Chinamen bailed with hat and bucket while the others rowed for their lives to shore. They just managed to get there as their boat became waterlogged. When the Government heard of this incident, a reward of £20 was offered for the capture of "Troubridge Tommy." Two fishermen, W. Lazell and Will Everett, who also lived at Sultana, went to capture the monster. Gear and tackle were bought and in the boat Susan they went to try to catch the shark. The boat was nearly 22 feet over all. On this day they hooked the shark and he took a plunge and the boat and anchor parted company. The shark took the Susan in tow, and to save their lives and boat they cut the ropes and let him go. The shark was as large as the Susan and was larger round than any horse. Other means were now tried to capture the shark, but all failed in their efforts to secure the reward. One day a French barque called in at Edithburgh for freight. The vessel carried sheep, pigs and poultry, which were rations for the crew. When the captain heard of the shark and the reward offered he decided to capture it, as £20 was a lot of money at that time. He sailed out to the schnapper grounds where the fishermen were fishing. He then dropped anchor and put a line out for "Troubridge Tommy." The shark was hook shy. He would come within a foot of the bait, have a look and then dart away like a flash. Several times he did this. If there is one thing a shark likes it is pork. Pig to a shark is like a dog to an alligator. The captain ordered a pig to be killed, and some of this was put on the hook. It was the last resource. When that bait was put into the sea the shark took it and a fierce fight now took place between the sailors and the shark. The Edithburgh fishermen were looking on. The struggle lasted for nearly an hour before the shark came to the surface. The captain then put a sneider rifle bullet into it. The sailors let the line slack and the shark got its head, and with a mighty plunge and the swish of its tail and all its weight and strength he broke away, taking the captain's hook and bullet with him. "Troubridge Tommy"' was a blue pointer, the swiftest and most powerful and treacherous of all fishes. That was the last ever heard of "Troubridge Tommy."'

The Chinaman.

It was these people who lived near the coast who used to buy the local fish from the fisherman. Ah Wang was the buyer and had three other countrymen with him. Ah Wang had his depot down at Sultana, which is situated about a mile south of the Edithburgh jetty. The fish the Chinaman would buy were mostly schnapper and they paid £4 per ton. These fish would he cleaned, salted, and dried in the sun and later sent on to Melbourne, and the returns would yield them £36 per ton. There was no fish market in Adelaide, as Mr. E. Haw was then our local butcher. Mr. H. Lazell, who owned the fishing boat Susan, and who lived down at Sultana, had brought in a load of schnapper, and when these fish were getting cleaned, a heel of a man's foot was found inside one of them. This was sent on to Mr. E. Matthews, the Post Master of Yorketown, who was a collector of curios.


"Sails," says Eric Ahschwager. "What about a trip out to Troubridge Shoal Reef? There is no whiting to be caught, and I would like you to come with me to-day and spend a day out on Marion Reef. You are the most experienced fisherman in Edithburgh, and knowing every inch of Troubridge Shoal Ranks and should know where the fish live. Leave your boat here and we will pick her up on our return." I left my boat in shallow water near Hungry Point Passage, and then got aboard the motor boat. Heather, taking the tiller steered for the schnapper grounds. It was one of those days when clouds throw a haze over the landscape making everything look dull. We tried several patches without sucess. It was now my intentions to try what is known to the fisherman of Edithburgh as "The Cape Jervis Patch." In steering on to this particular spot I lost my bearings, and could only get on one mark, the other I could not pick up. Fishermen have marks on land and sea, to go to different patches, otherwise one "goes bush," as the saying is. "Eric, get up foreward and look out for rocks, as we are somewhere near a sunken reef by the look of the sea bottom." As we were out of the deep water, I had the engine just kicking over, and had not gone far when Eric exclaimed, "Sails. Whatever is that?" pointing to something I could not see. I could see Eric had received a shock. He looked amazed. He had seen something he had never seen before. I steered to where he was still pointing. On coming near to the place where he had first caught sight of it, he exclaimed again, "Sails. There it is. Just look at it. Whatever can it be. Sails, and just look at the fish." I then again saw the Iron King wreck, and inside its skeleton were hundreds of fish. There were sweep and trevalli. The last time I saw the Iron King her iron ribs were level with the water, and also her poop deck. Some of her iron plates were still holding on to the sides. The only part left of her now is the iron girders, stanchions, her iron ladders, and the full length of her iron frame, which is all twisted and bent. To anyone not knowing, and thus to come on to the skeleton of a once noble ship, fills one with awe. It is indeed an awe inspiring sight. We were now fishing right on the top of the Iron King wreck. The fish on this day would not bite. We only caught about 1 1/2 cwts, out of what I should call 2 tons of fish. On leaving the wreck and making towards Edithburgh, some of the local fishermen were making for their moorings. These had been fishing in Wattle Bay in the Investigator Strait. They went after snook. As they sailed into the Hungry Point Passage, the fisherman saw my boat at anchor in shallow water. They had a look around, and could see no one oboard the boat. Calling out my name and on getting no response, they then made a search. After drifting around the boat and finding no signs of me, they took my boat in tow and towed her to Sultana House Break water. Then they put her on her moorings. I was now reported as missing. Later it was reported I was found dead, and the flags were at half mast. Thus ended another experience in my life's story.

EDITHBURGH JETTY in 1873 Making the Cutting. Note the Wooden Rails.