Four Hundred Die On Doomed Cataraqui
By James Donahue
The Cataraqui was a 138-foot wooden barque laden with immigrants and making its way from England to
Australia when it wrecked in a severe storm off the coast of Tasmania on Aug. 4, 1845. An estimated 400 passengers and crew
members perished, making it among the worst Australian maritime disasters of its day.
The disaster struck near the end of what had been a long four-month voyage from Liverpool. The vessel
was under the command of Captain Christopher Finlay. When it departed England the ship’s manifest numbered 369 emigrants
and 41 crew members.
During the voyage one crew member was lost overboard, five babies were born and six other children
The storm struck as the Cataraqu was entering Bass Strait. The ship was slammed into the rocks on
King Island. People were washed overboard attempting to save themselves. Eight crewmen reached shore by clinging to floating
wreckage. There they met up with the only emigrant survivor, Solomon Brown. They were the only survivors.
The five castaways were stranded on King Island for five weeks before they were rescued by the cutter
Midge and taken to Melbourne.
The Cataraqui was built in Quebec, Canada in 1840. It carried the translated name of Katerokwi, the
Mississauqgas Nation’s name for the area now known as Kingston, Ontario.