The publication of my article Large Anchors Found at Normanville may have been a little hasty. It did, however, lead to discussions with local Normanville residents David Muirhead, Des Gubbin and Kym Clarke. Those discussions also led to further research by me.

I duly discovered that there are several shipwrecks in the Normanville area by referring to several of the books and maps in my collection. I also searched wreck details online via Naturemaps.  Although I struggled with some of the technology needed, I managed to find out the coordinates for 3 of the local wrecks and the approximate position for two more wrecks.

It ends up that the 1887 wreck site of the Guldax is down by the Beachside Holiday Park (-35.4562, 138.3003). Kym Clarke told me that his family tried to retrieve some wreckage from the vessel back in 1974.

A nearby wreck is that of the Cowry (or Cowrie) which was wrecked in 1889 (-35.4462, 138.3055). It seems that there may have been a couple of anchors left on the seabed from the vessel. A boiler from the vessel ended up on the beach. It was eventually removed for safety reasons.

(1/4/22 – Robert Ryan, Chairman for the Yankalilla Historical Museum reports that the boiler is now in the Museum along with a story board and some details about the wreck.)

An 1875 wreck called Éclair is said to be adjacent to the Normanville jetty. There was a wreck called the Elsie at Haycock Point, Carrickalinga in 1939. It was a cutter, and the site was ½ mile north of Carrickalinga jetty (-35.4388, 138.3119). There is also a wreck called the Rose off of Seaspray Avenue, Carrickalinga.

All of the above suggests that the anchor retrieved by David Muirhead and his father in the late 1960s was probably not from the Guldax, and was possibly from a vessel such as the Eclair or the Cowry/Cowrie.

Further details about the aforementioned wrecks can be found in books such as:

“South Australian Shipwrecks – A Data Base 1802-1989” by Peter Christopher, Society for Underwater Historical Research

“Shipwrecks in South Australia – Book 2 1876-1899” by Ronald Parsons

“A Cruising Guide to Historic Gulf Ports – Volume 1” by Graham Scarce

It has been reported that proposed extensions to the Normanville kiosk are being held up until a thorough investigation of cultural artifacts in the area, including shipwrecks, has been completed.

(The above photos, including the header image, were taken by David Muirhead)

(As reported in Large Anchors Found at Normanville, the Guldax was a 556-ton wooden barque built in Norway in 1878. ….  “The wooden barque Guldax was wrecked (due to a captain’s error?) whilst she was anchored in Gulf St Vincent, waiting to pull into port during early September 1887.  The 556-ton Guldax was 11 years old at the time. She had been built at Lillesand, a municipality in Aust-Agden county, Norway by OP Knudsens Verft for Krogh & Henschien in 1878. She had left Gottenburg, Sweden, on 17th May 1887, bound for Melbourne. On 2nd September 1887, she was under sail just off Normanville between the jetty and Gorge Creek. It is said that her crew had underestimated the nature of the reefs in the area. She ran aground about ½ mile from shore, nearly one mile south-west of the Normanville jetty. The assistant harbourmaster at Normanville beach reported by telegram to the marine board that the Guldax had anchored very close inshore and that she was probably unable to get clear unless the wind turned west. She was said to be making no signals and was deeply laden. A later telegram stated, “barque ashore, two boats trying to land, all hands appear to have left her, sea running high”. Her bow was firmly stuck on a reef and the crew abandoned ship. The Port Adelaide Tug Company sent the steamer Yatala to her aid. With 11 ft of water in her hold within a week, the Guldax was lying on her side. One week later, she drifted closer to shore. Her structure was severely damaged. The wreck was heavily salvaged at the time.”)


(My thanks go to David Muirhead, Des Gubbin and Kym Clarke for their assistance with the above details.)

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.

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