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1899 Pearling Disaster - Cape Melville

Recognition Expeditions

Recognition expeditions to Cape Melville and Princess Charlotte Bay to formerly recognise the "300 coloured" crew who had be nameless and without identity for more than 155 years. Learn of the first Indigenous woman to receive a Bravery Award for her role during the event.


Why do these memorials refer to the Coloured Crew?


As Australia was back then, little importance was placed on Indigenous and indentured labour By their European Pearling Masters. Everyone that was not a white European was “coloured”.


Why is this maritime disaster not as public as the wreck of the Quetta?


Again, given the lack of importance placed on their crew, this disaster has not gone into the history books? If 300 European/white crew perished it would be in all the museums and public displays.

The Coloured Crew

Monuments at Cape Melville and Thursday Island, installed in June 1899, list the 11 European Pearlers by name but make only simple mention that:


”300 Coloured Men Also Drowned”


Our research and records have identified 298 of the 300 crew and led to the 2015 Recognition Expeditions to take the names and cultures alongside the memorial there. To search the list of names click the link below.