THE Joanna, a typical intercolonial trading vessel, was on its way from Launceston to Port Fairy in September 1843 when it was wrecked at the mouth of a small river, now known as Johanna River, 8 miles north west of the unlighted Cape Otway.
One member of the crew was washed overboard and drowned. Soon after the wreck was abandoned, Aborigines forced the hatches and stole most of the cargo which included spirits and wine.
Captain Irving attempted to return in the cutter Barbara, from Launceston, but was unable to reach the wreck-site due to bad weather and instead anchored at Port Phillip. (Source: Shipwrecks of Victoria)
The intrepid CJ La Trobe recorded the survivors’ story two years later: “The master, Irvine, made his way in eight days time to the neighbourhood of Geelong, having been in great distress and torn to pieces by the scrub; living upon dead whale and pig’s face [a plant] and in great dread of the blacks.”
La Trobe reported Captain Irving returned to the wreck attempt a salvage, but two men drowned as they were coming ashore, and another blew his fingers off after igniting a powder flask. (Source: Beacons of Hope)
The Joanna is a very significant wreck. Not only is the vessel well preserved, but to date it is the earliest known example of a Victorian Built sailing ship to be found in Australian waters. (Source: Heritage Victoria)