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The Shipwreck

The true story of the Dunbar, the disaster that broke the colony’s heart and forged a nation’s spirit

It is a delight to read The Shipwreck, an Australian History expansion. The style of writing is informative, while being immensely interesting and descriptive. A massive storm hit Sydney on the night of August 21st in 1857.

The young colony was always anxious for word from home. Every day they hoped to see ships on the horizon. However, the day after the storm, a beach walker saw the gruesome results of the wrecked Dunbar and its passengers. Word quickly spread but 121 souls were lost that night.

Larry Writer begins the story of the Dunbar with a detailed description of the Colony at that time and uses a huge number of sources to assure an accurate and correct mood. From the 1820s the British Government subsidised workers and their families to emigrate to the new colony.

The Colony was beginning to flourish and opportunities to acquire land were being taken up. In the 1840’s and ‘50s, John Capper described Australia as a region, “rich beyond exaggeration.”

Following on, Writer uses diary entries from people on similar sailing ships to paint a picture of the Dunbar’s voyage. They are fascinating to read with the details providing an intimate awareness of conditions. In one diary entry, a man describes how a fellow passenger died and his possessions were auctioned off. Some of the passengers on the ill-fated Dunbar were traced to families and their life stories were able to be told.

Reading the Acknowledgements at the back of the book is revealing. Larry Writer was able to locate people who were descendants of those who had knowledge of the ship or the passengers. Dr James Hanson the great, great grandson of the Dunbar’s sole survivor, had stories of his rescue. The Shipwreck is riveting and reveals many facets of our early little known Australian History.

Author Larry Writer.
Publisher Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760879105
Distributor Allen & Unwin
Released August 2022