South Australian Parliamentary Papers 1875 No 22

Report of Commission appointed to inquire into the subject of Railway Construction. Parliamentary Committee sat at Guichen Bay, Tuesday, 9th March 1875. In the minutes of evidence and Appendix, the Koning Willem II is mentioned three times.

1. Witness Mr. Thomas Barrett Brown.

Q: You came here to give evidence as to the Port?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you see the wrecks of the 5 vessels?

A: I saw 3.

Q: Which 3?

A: The King William, the Alma, and the Livingstone.

Q: Was it very violent weather when they were wrecked?

A: No.

2. Witness Mr. Arthur Banks.

Q: I see you have the 5 wrecks, the King William, the Sultana, Phaeton, the Alma

and the Livingstone. Are you under the impression that they were wrecked

from extraordinary causes?

A: I can only speak of the last two.

3. Appendix: List of Vessels wrecked in Guichen Bay, from the year 1857

Date:         June 25, 1857

Name:       Koning Willem

Tonnage:   800

Master:     Giezen

Whence:   Hongkong

Remarks: A Dutch ship, very old, had landed 397 Chinese passengers,

and was ready for sea; during a N.W. gale, while riding with

only sixty fathoms chain, cut her windlass in two, and lost her

cable-did not part it-and was driven ashore on the sandy

beach. Fifteen of the crew were drowned by the boat upsetting

in the surf.


(1836 – 1875)


Trouble always comes in threes – according to an old sailor’s saying. It certainly seemed to be the case for ships from the Far East bound to Guichen Bay in 1857.

The ill-kept, or poorly-found Dutch barque, KOENIG WILHELM II, Capt. Giezen, arrived at Guichen Bay June 15, 1857, at the end of a tiresome voyage when many of the Chinese passengers were called upon to assist with pumping, day in, day out, trying to cope with the leaks that allowed between 12 to 14 inches of water into the hold every hour.

Luckily all the 397 passengers were safely landed before disaster struck. The weather turned bad but when worse threatened the Captain did not think his ship sound enough to put to sea – and safety. The weather turned into a bad gale that seemed to reach its height on June 30, and when the windlass was torn from the forecastle deck the master felt the only thing left was to try and beach the ship and he ordered all sail to be made.

She drove onto the Long Beach, about 3 miles south of Robe, and almost at once became a total wreck. The crew then readied a boat and prepared to abandon the wreck. While they were quickly getting into the lifeboat the weather seemed to worsen and as the Captain, the last man aboard, was about to jump into the boat, the painter snapped marooning him on the wreck. Those in the boat were only little better off – they had no oars. Within moments the boat had swamped and capsized, tossing all the 25 in it into the boiling surf. Nine were rescued by a human chain formed out into the breakers by some local residents, the other sixteen, that included two young apprentices, were swept away and drowned.

Meanwhile the focus of attention had switched to the captain who continued pacing the few feet of stern left to him, that had been driven so close to shore that his every gesture could be seen and from time to time his voice could be heard desperately calling for help. Once he gestured to the boats lying further down the beach, imploring someone to come to his aid, apparently unable to see that they had all been stove in. At nightfall nothing had been accomplished although Mr. George Ormerod, the virtual founder of Robe, had offered a substantial reward to anyone making an attempt to save the captain.

Then, while various schemes were under consideration, word was received in Robe that the captain was safe. A slight shift in the wind had permitted him to float a cask ashore with a line attached. When this was made fast it was possible to draw him safely through the surf.

A few bodies were later found washed up on the beach. They were very badly battered and had to be buried where they had been found, but many were never recovered. All that is known about this vessel is that she was a barque rigged craft of about 800 tons.


Jack Loney 1979

Sixteen lives were lost when the Dutch barque KOENIG WILLEM II, from Hong Kong was lost at Guichen Bay on 30 June 1857, after all her Chinese passengers had been safely landed.

The ship had been ready to sail for several days but bad weather had prevented her continuing her voyage. On the morning she was lost the strong wind had increased to a gale from the southwest. Although all the upper spars and fittings had been sent down she drifted from her anchorage until about noon when the force of the gale tore the windlass out of the ship, forcing the master to raise sail in an attempt to beach her.

She finally grounded to the east of Robe on Long Beach and became a total wreck immediately as terrific seas swept over her endangering the lives of all on board. News of the wreck spread rapidly and all the men in the employ of Messrs Omerod hurried to the scene where they were joined by soldiers and police.

Soon after the barque struck a boat was launched containing the mate and crew, with the exception of the captain who was left stranded on the wreck when the boat’s painter broke. The boat had proceeded only a short distance when it broached, filled quickly, leaving the occupants struggling for their lives in the breakers. Of the 25 who had left the ship, nine, including the mate were dragged ashore more dead than alive. Those on shore now turned their efforts to the rescue of the master, clinging to the vessel’s stern. He pointed frantically to the boats lying on the beach but they were damaged and useless. Even had they been seaworthy it would have been impossible to attempt a rescue in the conditions.

After sunset most of those at the scene returned home, leaving a few on the beach in case the ship broke up during the night. John Omerod promised 50 Pounds to any boat’s crew if they succeeded in rescuing the captain while an aboriginal from Encounter Bay volunteered to swim out if he was paid a small reward. While these plans were being discussed the wind shifted slightly and this allowed the captain to drift a cask to shore with a rope attached, after which the men on the beach were able to safely draw him through the surf.

For the next few days wreckage and bodies washed ashore. The human remains were in such a decomposed state that it was thought better to bury them on the spot. Although police maintained a close watch on the beach, plunderers stole cargo, fittings, and also broke open chests belonging to the unfortunate seamen as they wash-ashore.

On 11 July the remains of the KOENIG WILLEM II were purchased by J. Chambers of Robe for 225 Pounds. He dismantled most of the wreck but left two cannon from her lying wedged between rocks. They were later salvaged and placed on the Flagstaff Hill in Royal Circus. Vandals destroyed one and the second was removed to a private home where it remained for many years before being returned to Flagstaff Hill. The KOENIG WILLEM II was a vessel of 800 tons under the command of Captain Giezen. (Photo of cannon accompanied story).



Jack Loney 1975


Yet another marine casualty occurred in Guichen Bay when the Dutch barque Koenig Willem II was wrecked with a heavy loss of life.

A vessel of 800 tons under Captain Giezen, she arrived from Hong Kong with more Chinese immigrants. Their landing had just been completed when a gale sprang up, forcing the vessel towards shore despite her anchors.

Captain Giezen decided he must hoist all sail and run her ashore to avoid loss of life, and she finally grounded about three miles to the east. A boat was launched containing all hands except the master, but it broached in the surf and only nine of the twenty-five occupants reached the shore alive.

Attempts to bring the captain ashore had almost been abandoned when a change in the wind enabled him to float a cask ashore with a line and he was soon hauled to safety.

Koenig Willem II left many relics. Most are in private collections, but among those to be seen today are a cannon on Flagstaff Hill and cabin doors in the now delicensed Caledonian Hotel.

From Australian Shipwrecks Volume II 1851 – 1871. Another version by Jack Loney.

Yet another casualty occurred in Guichen Bay SA on 30 June 1857, when the Dutch barque Koenig Willem II, carrying Chinese emigrants from Hong Kong, was wrecked with a heavy loss of life. Bad weather set in soon after she arrived and gradually increased to a heavy gale from the south west on the 29th. The ship had been well secured by sending down the upper spars and she held her anchorage until noon on the 30th when the windlass was dragged from its fastenings. Sail was made and the vessel ran ashore at Long Beach about three miles east of Robe where she became a total wreck.

Soon after the barque struck, a boat was launched containing all the crew except the captain, who was left on board when the painter broke. The boat had proceeded a short distance when it broached and filled, throwing the twenty-five occupants into the sea. Only nine survived to be dragged ashore unconscious. While plans were being prepared to rescue the captain he floated a cask with a rope attached ashore, and rescuers were able to drag him to safety.

Koenig Willem II left many relics. Most are in private collections but among those to be seen today are a cannon on Flagstaff Hill, Robe, and cabin doors in the guesthouse known as the Caledonian Hotel.

The Koenig Willem II was a barque of 800 tons. Her master was Captain Giezen.