18 December 1908, The Argus (Melbourne).
THE ISLAND OF WRECKS
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ARGUS
Sir.-I was much interested in reading the article under the above heading in "The Argus" of Saturday last, "and to
some of us it has a sad celebrity as the scene of many disastrous shipwrecks." A great change appears to have come over the island since I first landed there, very much against my will, on July 14, 1866. At that time it was almost uninhabited, there being the attendants of the light-house at Cape Wickham and two hunters, one a
Mr. Hickmott, who turned out to be our guide and friend. At 7 o'clock at night on the above date, sailing before a fair wind, the ill-fated ship Netherby was driven hard and fast on a reef at the southern end on King Island with such terrible force that she filled to the decks in 10 minutes, with 450 souls on board. There was no time to save anything but what we stood on. The only provisions secured were three barrels of oatmeal, which was not much among so many (not "flour and cocoa," as Mr. Hickmott says). After the excitement and confusion we settled down for the
night, not knowing where we were. On the Sunday morning at 6 o'clock, we commenced to land passengers, finishing about 6 o'clock in the evening, finding shelter among the scrub for the night. Fortunately there was plenty of spring water not far from the wreck, and that, with a spoonful of oatmeal each day, kept life in us. On the eighth day the oatmeal was getting low (the vessel had not broken up); the captain called for volunteers to walk in the lighthouse some 30 miles distant. One hundred and eighty young men responded, and we started off on our trip over rocks and through scrub, which took a considerable time before reaching the lighthouse, when we were well treated by Mr. Spong, the lighthouse-keeper. In the meantime communication with Melbourne had been made, the Government sending the Victoria and the Pharos to the rescue, taking off all passengers and crew, the last batch arriving in Melbourne on July 28, when we were all housed in the old Exhibition-building (where the Mint now stands). We were treated and cared for by the people of Melbourne, being well supplied with food and clothing. The Netherby, on leaving London, was bound for Rockhampton, Queensland, many passengers being sent on by the agents of the company. I decided to remain in Melbourne, securing work as a fitter in an engineer's shop on the Monday. On looking back, I think it was a wise decision.-
Yours, &c. T. ARKLE.
Armadale. Dec. 12