I am just putting this out there!

In June 1968, a “Staff Reporter” for The News reported an 1889 shipwreck at Cape Jervis (South Australia) called the Ben Loric. According to the front page article on Monday 17th June 1968 (“Body of diver, 26, found”), the “old wreck (of the Ben Loric was) about 150 yards off the coast”.

The article concerned the recovery of a spearfisherman’s body from the wreck. Further in the article, it was reported that the wreck was an “old steel vessel Ben Loric”.

The article continued on page 34 where it was (again) reported “The Ben Loric sank 150 yards off Cape Jervis in 1889. The bow is only 8 ft. from the surface at low tide.” Yet another reference was made regarding the Ben Loric.

I had not heard of a wreck called the Ben Loric, so I looked through my many reference books and searched online for any details regarding it. When all that drew a blank result, I asked several of my veteran shipwreck enthusiast friends. None of them had heard of the Ben Loric either, and none of them could find any reference to it as well.

A couple of my friends would suggest that it was quite likely that the reporter was referring to the wreck of the Cowry, which also sank in 1889.

The Cowry was, however, a wooden screw steamer. Its wrecking occurred when it was “Driven from her moorings at Yankalilla (Yankalilla Bay, Normanville) in a terrific gale on June 6, 1889 to become a total wreck”.  There is no suggestion that the wreck of the wooden steamer ended up down at Cape Jervis at all.

No other known wrecks from 1889 fit the description of the Ben Loric and neither do any wrecks known to have been wrecked at Cape Jervis.

The ‘wreck of the Ben Loric’ is therefore a complete mystery in 2021.

According to the Shipwrecks of Victoria at http://oceans1.customer.netspace.net.au/vic-wrecks.html , the “Ben Voirlich (was an) Iron ship (of) 1474 tons Built (in) 1873. Lbd 255.6 x 37.1 x 21.8 ft. Operated in the wool and passenger trade until 1885; sold to German interests in 1891 and re-rigged as a barque. Sold in 1903, renamed Cognati, and almost lost after a collision with an iceberg off Cape Horn in 1908.”

A photo of the Ben Voirlich can be found at https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/PRG+1373/18/105 . Details about the photo say that it is “One of the ships owned by The Ben Line / Watson Bros., Glasgow”. According to Wikipedia, “The Ben Line or Ben Line Steamers, Limited was a Scottish shipping company based in Leith, Scotland founded in 1825 which was primarily involved in the Far East to Europe trade. A private company, it was largely owned by members of the Thomson family from Leith and the Mitchell family from Alloa.”

The State Library of Victoria has a photo of the Ben Voirlich, taken at Williamstown, Victoria circa 1880. The photo features on page 100 of “The Missing: Tales of Those Who Never Came Home” by Paul W. Simpson.

In Scotland, a ‘ben’ is “a high mountain or mountain peak”. According to the web page found at https://www.visitscotland.com/info/towns-villages/ben-vorlich-p250881 , “Ben Vorlich (NOT Voirlich) lies close to the Highland boundary (the dividing line between the central Highlands and the Lowlands) and gives excellent views into the Lowlands. This steep sided, shapely hill of 3,232 ft (985 m) offers excellent views into the Lowlands and to the north and west. The mountain name derives from the Gaelic Mur-Bhalg which means `sea-bay` and describes the small bays in the loch beneath.”

According to https://passengers.history.sa.gov.au/node/921128 , the Ben Voirlich was “Damaged after a collision with an iceberg off Cape Horn (in 1908), so that is not our mystery ship.

Whilst searching ‘Ben Voirlich’, I came across ‘Ben Larig’. At https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/find/Ben+larig I found a photograph of “The ‘Ben Larig’ at Port Adelaide [PRG 1373/18/111]”. According to the summary for the photo, “The iron ship ‘Ben Larig’, 1734 tons, at Port Adelaide. [Iron ship, 1734 tons, ON95002, 260.2 x 38.2 x 23.3. Built 1887 (8) Birrell Stenhouse and Co. Dumbarton. Owners: Watson Bros. Registered Glasgow.”

This looks more like possibly being our mystery ship, especially as it was in South Australia around 1889, but no further information about the ship is available. Other than that, there have been many Ben Line ships with names starting with ‘Ben’.

I found a list of all Ben Line ships at https://www.theshipslist.com/ships/lines/ben.shtml . Many ‘Benvorlichs’ and ‘Benlarigs’ are listed (yes, all one word though, and no ‘i’ in ‘Benvorlich’). This list dismisses any thoughts about the Benvorich or the Benlarig, and there isn’t a Benloric listed. I am therefore no closer to solving the mystery about the Ben Loric/Benloric wreck at Cape Jervis.

(The header photo features the Screw Steamer Sorata which was grounded east of Cape Jervis in 1880. In 1968, the same year as The News article about the Ben Loric, the Sunday Mail suggested that it occurred in Jervis Bay!)

By Steve Reynolds

Steve Reynolds is the current President of MLSSA and is a long-standing member of the Society. Steve is a keen diver, underwater explorer, photographer and is chief author of the Society's extensive back catalogue of newsletters and journals.

2 thought on “The Mystery Wreck at Cape Jervis”
  1. Interesting thanks Steve,
    Rather peculiar that even you have been unable to find more information about this shipwreck.
    And I wonder who was the unfortunate spearo who died at the Cape Jervis wreck site in 1968.That was between the death of Mr Skinner by great white shark during an interclub spearo competition off Carrickalinga’s north cliffs in 1964-5 and the subsequent attack on Rodney Fox later in the decade, but I guess it is safe to assume that the Cape Jervis spearo died from something unrelated to sharks. (Perhaps overbreathing to prolong breath holding times, drowning, or a medical episode relating to a pre-existing condition?).

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