Medal awarded to Charles Patterson by Victorian colonists for his heroic efforts to save lives during the wreck of the 'Admella' on the South Australian coast on 6 August 1859. One of 39 silver medals and 3 gold medals awarded as a result of efforts to save survivors of the wreck, in which 60 people drowned. 22 survived out of 113 aboard, only one a woman.
Scene of shipwreck near beach, text around; 'THE ADMELLA STEAMER WRECKED ON HER PASSAGE FROM ADELAIDE TO MELBOURNE OFF CAPE NORTHUMBERLAND / (6 AUG,1859) / HOPE TO THE LAST / D.G. & L.'
'AWARDED TO / CHARLES PATTERSON, / BY THE VICTORIAN COLONISTS / FOR / HEROIC EXERTIONS, IN SAVING LIFE(UNDER DIVINE PROVIDENCE) / FROM THE WRECK OF THE ADMELLA'.
The steamship 'Admella' left Port Adelaide on Friday 5 August 1859, bound for Melbourne. It carried 82 passengers, a crew of 31 and four racehorses. Late that afternoon a heavy swell unsettled the horses, and the ship was brought round to quieten them. The change of course caused confusion, a landmark was missed and a compass misread, and by 4.30 the next morning the ship had struck a reef between Robe and Port MacDonnell in South Australia, near the current Victorian border.
The ship was only one mile from shore, but it was a whole week before all the survivors had been taken off the ship. All of the lifeboats were lost, and by Sunday morning more than half of those clinging to the sloping deck had been washed off or were drowned when the forepart of the ship broke up. By Sunday afternoon two crew members had reached shore on a makeshift boat and walked 20 or so miles to Cape Northunberland lighthouse. The remaining 56 survivors continued to cling to the wreckage for five more days without food or water as futile attempts were made to rescue them. It was not until the following Saturday that the 22 survivors, all men except for a single woman, were rescued. Ironically, the four horses also survived and one of them raced in the Champion Stakes in October.
Victorian colonists were stirred by the tragedy, and arranged for a medal to be struck in London and presented to rescuers at a special gathering at the Exhibition Building on 28 July 1860. Three gold medals were struck, and were awarded to the harbourmaster at Portland and commander of the Portland lifeboat, Captain Fawthrop, Cape Northumberland lighthouse keeper Captain Germein and Captain Peter Greig of the 'Ladybird', which carried rescuers to the scene of the wreck. 39 more rescuers received silver medals, and 36 received a sum of money, ranging from 100 to 120 pounds.
Transfer from National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), George H. Wannenmacher, 15 Mar 1976
Plain (edge) THE ADMELLA STEAMER WRECKED ON HER PASSAGE FROM ADELAIDE TO MELBOURNE OFF CAPE NORTHUMBERLAND/(6 AUG,1859)/HOPE TO THE LAST/D.G. & L. (obverse) AWARDED TO/CHARLES PATTERSON,/BY THE VICTORIAN COLONISTS/FOR/HEROIC EXERTIONS,IN SAVING LIFE(UNDER DIVINE PROVIDENCE)/FROM THE WRECK OF THE ADMELLA(reverse)
Type of item
Exhibition Collection Management
89 mm (Height), 51 mm (Outside Diameter)
References: 'The Wreck of the Admella', Sydney V. Hagley. The South Australian Numismatic Journal. Vol.1 , July 1950, p.29. -D. Tout-Smith 6/10/2003. Ca 1859/1