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Australia’s Largest Civilian Maritime Disaster

June 19, 2022

One of the joys of blogging is being contact with cousins from all over the world who are researching the people who are in my family tree. This has happened many times during the years that I’ve been blogging. Recently I was overjoyed to be contacted by Mary, a cousin who is also researching the Waters family. Thomas Waters is my 2x great grandfather.

We have been going back and forth sharing information for a few months now. I must say that Mary has shared much more information than I have been able to share. Being from England, Mary is closely related to the English generations of my Waters family. Mary has been collaborating with Graham Revill, a family researcher who I was in contact with many years ago. Unfortunately, we lost contact when my email address was changed due to moving cities. Graham helped me out with Waters family research, in the early years of my research. I remember visiting him at his home in England in 2004, where he generously made us a lovely lunch and shared his Waters family research with me.

The Cataraqui

Recently, Mary shared information about The Cataraqui that I hadn’t come across previously. The SS Catataqui was involved in Australia’s largest civilian maritime disaster, when it struck a reef on the west coast of King Island, killing 399 people. The tragic shipwreck occurred at 4.30 am on 4 August 1845. More about the shipwreck:

The scene of The Cataraqui shipwreck disaster with Cataraqui Point in the distance

Amongst the passengers who died, were William IZZARD and his family. William was the brother of my 3X great grandmother Ann IZZARD. Travelling with William, and also deceased, were his wife Sarah, and their four children

Izzard Family

William Izard, age 33
Sarah Izard, age 32
Ann, Izard,age 10
John Izard, age 5
David Izard, age 3
Henry Izard, age 1

The above passengers were uncle, aunt, niece and nephews of my 2X great grandfather Thomas WATERS, who was born in Bedfordshire, England and came to Australia in about 1854.

The Voyage

The Carataqui was an 815 tonne, 73 metre long barque built in Canada and brought to Canada with the intention of transporting immigrants to Australia.

On 20 April 1845, The Cataraqui left Liverpool, England, bound for Port Phillip, Australia, with Captain Christopher Findlay at the helm. Many of the 411 passengers on board were British and Irish assisted emigrants.

Surviving the Wreck

One passenger, Solomon BROWN, survived the shipwreck, along with several of the crew. They had little food and water and sheltered overnight under a wet blanket from the ship. The next day, they were discovered by David HOWIE, a former convict, after he saw the wreckage. He wasn’t able to help them leave the island as his boat had also been wrecked. Five weeks later they were rescued by a passing ship that took them to Melbourne.

Cast iron tablet erected on King Island as a memorial to the victims of the Cataraqui shipwreck.

Memorial on King Island to commemorate Australia’s worst civil maritime disaster

#Please note: My records show Izzard spelt with two ‘Zs’. The ships passenger listed the name with
two ‘Z’s.

In The News

from: The Leeds Intelligencer, February 1846.

The Leeds Intelligencer, February 1846

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  1. Hello Jennifer,
    Many thanks for all your genealogical contributions online. I have followed them closely and discussed them with Mary and have left her the job of corresponding with you. Yes, I remember your 2004 visit and meeting up with your daughter in London a few days later. Is she still in this country? Wishing you all the best and looking forward to further collaboration in the future! Graham

    • Hello Graham. I’m so pleased to hear from you. Lisa stayed in London for another three years after you met her. She’s been back in Melbourne ever since. I do remember you met her because silly me left my device behind at your house. I’m trying to get as much information as possible onto the blog so that it is preserved for future researchers. I still have all the information you gave me but need to find the time to read it over again. I do appreciate all your input. Jen

  2. How interesting that you were able to come across this story of your 3rd great granmother’s brother and family. Such a sad story. How wonderful that you have met other distant cousins through your research! It’s even more wonderful that you got to go to England and meet one in person! Connecting your past, present and future 🙂

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