Almost 3 years after writing The Mystery Wreck at Cape Jervis, more information has unexpectedly come to light.

The article stated, “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.” “

I had later stated, “I came across ‘Ben Larig’. At  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 . 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.”

Upon reading “Wrecks on the South Coast of South Australia” by JK (Jack) Loney, donated to me by a friend, I read that a ship called the Benlarig (one word) was stranded (“Ashore at Cape Jervis”) in 1900 (NOT 1889). It was reportedly towed free by the tug Euro.

So what does this mean regarding our mystery ship? It means that there once was a grounded ship called the Benlarig at Cape Jervis, but not before 1900. It seems that the ship was soon towed away from the site. It is unlikely that the 26-year old diver who died in the area in 1968 was diving on the Benlarig.

According to Trove, The Marine Board opened an inquiry into the stranding of the Benlarig today (3/2/1900).

The findings of the Marine Board were reported in Trove on 5/2/1900: –

“The following is the finding of the Marine Board in the enquiry into the grounding of the ship Benlarig, near Cape Jervis, on Saturday night. January 27:— ‘The Board are of opinion that the grounding was caused by the master navigating the vessel unnecessarily close to the Cape Jervis shore, so close thereto – that he came within the influence of the local wind and eddying effect of the current near the land. The two combined prevented the ship answering her helm at a critical time. In other respects the master had evidently taken a good deal of care, and as the vessel, according to the report of the diver and the evidence, has not sustained any material damage. the Board do not propose to take any further action.’ The Benlarig left for the United Kingdom on Sunday morning.”

According to this 1904 photo of the Benlarig found at , it was a cargo liner with “a clipper stem with bowsprit and figurehead”: –

© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London


I have now discovered details on Trove stating that “the barque Benlarig was ashore at Sorato (SORATA) Point and required the assistance of a tug.  The sea is moderate and the vessel is in no immediate danger. The tug Euro has been sent to her help, and a life saving apparatus has been despatched from Normanville. The Benlarig arrived on December 28th from Java, and cleared again for the United Kingdom on Friday last laden with wheat.”

By Steve Reynolds

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

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