The Wreck of the Mandalay

Mandalay Beach, near Walpole, takes its name from a Norwegian barque which was wrecked there in May 1911. This is how the story was reported in Perth's Western Mail, on May 26, 1911

Wreck Of The Mandalay - Thrilling Experiences - A Gallant Deed

Captain Emile Tonnessen and the officers and crew of the wrecked barque Mandalay reached Albany from Denmark by train this evening. They were met by Mr A, H. Dickson, acting Norwegian Consul, who took charge of the crew. None of them looked any the worse for their experience and each was provided with a handy-shied kit. The men were taken to the office of the agents (Messrs. Henry Wills and Co.) and informed that the Consul had given instructions for them to proceed to Perth. They were then given a meal and just bad time to .catch the train for the capital

From appearances there was nothing to suggest the adventures the shipwrecked mariners had experienced, but the tale they had to tell was none the less exciting. It transpired that the rescue of the castaways was a matter of the merest chance. The barque was beached between noon and 1 o'clock on Monday, May 15 and as the wreck was cast up high and dry, the crew were unable to provide for the requirements of a comfortable camp. At first, as fast as food and property were landed, most of it was washed away by the still terrific waves, but as the weather moderated the necessities of life were secured.

An exploring party, consisting of the first mate, the carpenter, and the steward, made for the interior on Tuesday. So many difficulties beset their path, however, that after two days' unavailing effort in the dense scrub and confusing country, they returned to the camp on the beach. From their report it came to be regarded that no help was to be expected from the land side and the thoughts of the castaways turned to succour from the sea. It was in that frame of mind that they sat down to console themselves as best they could while waiting for something to turn up.

On the following Friday, Fred Fincki, the second mate, with-out saying anything to the remainder of the party, started a wild experiment in exploration, which providentially resulted in the rescue of the castaways in remarkable circumstances. He first mounted one of the high points running close to the coast and convinced that the interior was a closed book, he studied out a course towards what proved to be Nornalup Inlet.

Returning to the camp, he obtained a stick and a knife, and so equipped started out on the journey mentally mapped out for himself. Following the lower lying country, he overlooked one danger, for he soon got into a swamp through which he waded for four hours.

Happily oblivious of the danger which beset him, he held on and in five hours reached the bank of the inlet just in time to see Mr F. S. Thompson who had made his usual quarterly trip to the coast for provisions making back in a boat for his homestead, four miles up Deep River, one of the feeders of the inlet. His cries attracted attention.

The afternoon was closing in and had he not met with assistance it is questionable if he could have found a dry spot on which to camp. Moreover, the weather was exceedingly cold. Mr Thompson took him in his boat and bore him home. On the following day, Mr Thompson and his son and nephew accompanied Fincki back to the castaways' camp where they arrived at about nightfall. On Sunday the party left the beach for Deep River, whence they proceeded into Denmark.

Such were the circumstances as presented by the second mate, who related the story all unconscious of the fact that his life was jeopardised by a march which is probably one of the most perilous in the venturesome pioneering history of this State. Of the incidents leading up to the beaching of the barque, Fincki was equally matter of fact. He said that all went well until they sighted land on May 13. It then commenced to blow and as the wind increased in fury it became necessary to take in all sail.

On Sunday it became apparent that the vessel was being driven in unpleasantly near the shore. The top canvas was spread on to foremast, but it was found impossible to keep any sail whatever on the mainmast. Do what they could to alter the course the ship, they could neither gel her to veer nor to 'bout. Saturday night was an extremely anxious one. The ship was well found and as tight as ever, but her position hourly became more dangerous. When it became evident on Monday morning that nothing could be done, it was decided to beach the vessel on a sandy spit seen nearby.

It would have been an easy matter to keep her moving forward, but she was ever being driven landwards and as there wan au ugly rocky point ahead, it was to give those on beard a chance for their lives that the captain, selected the best position possible to beach the barque. The ship strained and bumped on taking the ground about 100 yards from the shore and mountainous seas broke over her. While yet all was speculation as to what had best be done next, Able Seaman Knutson, a young man in his twenties, on his own initiative, got out a line and jumped overboard.

He timed his leap badly, however, for four great rollers crowded in on him in quick succession and his case was apparently hopeless. While all eyes were craned to witness what were deemed the hopeless struggles of the man in the water, another able seaman named Frank Ward, the only Britisher on board and almost a boy, dived into the angry sea. Ward was lucky in timing his plunge, and he was carried on the crest of a terrific wave to the shore. Choosing a cessation in the breakers he went back and was able to reach Knutson, whom he pulled ashore in an insensible condition.

With the rescued man the end of the line was get to land. Those on board then launched the lifeboat, and with the line attached to the bow the majority were dragged ashore on the boat, all lauding in safety. Communication with the vessel, which was every moment being driven further up tho beach, was still maintained by a stout line and as the weather moderated before nightfall those still on board were taken off, together with pressing requirements in the way of food. Material for a camp was obtained in due course and by nightfall the men had moderately comfortable quarters to sleep in.

The rest then obtained was most, welcome, as for the two preceding nights none had been able to leave deck for any time longer than it took to obtain food.  After the ship grounded her mainmast carried away and the fittings suffered considerably, although up to the time the crew left the beach the hull was apparently intact. The vessel was firmly embedded in the sand.

Captain Tonnessen, on being approached, had nothing to add, except that he expressed gratitude for the kindly reception accorded to his men by the settlers in the country.