THE three-masted iron barque, Fiji, inward bound from Hamburg to Melbourne with a crew of 20 and a general cargo including 200 cases of dynamite, was nearing Cape Otway when she struck rocks at Moonlight Head about 300 yards from the shore on September 6, 1891.
Within minutes, the 26 crew were driven to the forecastle head, bowsprit and jibboom and there they clung expecting the ship to go to pieces or be washed off into the raging surf. Several men made it to shore whilst others drowned in the surf. Twelve lives were lost. Strong criticism was levelled through the press at the complete failure of the sea rescue attempts, and the comparative failure of those by land.
The Warrnambool lifeboat did not arrive, the steamer, Lady Loch, reached the scene a day too late and the tug, Racer, started for the wreck but also failed to arrive. The continuous heavy seas which roll in onto Wreck Beach largely prevented organised salvage attempts but in 1894 several divers managed to salvage some of the hundreds of tons of coiled wire rope which had formed part of her cargo. (Source: Shipwrecks of Victoria)