Eric the Red
Four lives were lost when the three-masted wooden ship Eric the Red was wrecked about two miles out to sea in a south-easterly direction from the Cape Otway Lighthouse on September 3, 1880. The 1580 tonne US ship was built in Bath, Maine, in 1871 and was on an American trade commission when it came to grief.
Eric the Red left New York on 12 June 1880, for the International Exhibition in Melbourne, loaded with exhibits, two passengers and a crew of twenty-five. On the 84th day of the voyage the captain believed the ship to be at least six miles off Cape Otway and steered towards the light, but he had badly misjudged his position. Captain Allen, the second mate and others clung to the mizzen mast which then fell into the sea, taking them with it.
The small coastal steamer Dawn, commanded by Captain Jones, was returning to Warrnambool from Melbourne and was about six miles off Cape Otway. Captain Jones spent several hours searching for survivors without success, and soon after dawn signalled the lighthouse with news of the disaster, which was immediately telegraphed to Melbourne.
All that remained of the ship was a large piece of wreckage awash on the north-east corner of the reef. An immense quantity of wreckage floated on to Point Franklin. More wreckage was picked up at Apollo Bay, Western Port, Port Campbell and Peterborough.
The Government steamers Pharos and Victoria left Melbourne soon after the wreck to clear the sailing lanes and the Pharos discovered the first large piece of wreckage near the Henty Reef south of Apollo Bay. The Victoria and the steamer Otway, bound from Adelaide to Melbourne, also recovered wreckage. Several residents at Apollo Bay rebuilt their homes with timber salvaged from the wreck.
Within a year of her loss, an auxiliary red warning light was shown from Cape Otway lighthouse, screened so as to be visible only to vessels approaching on a dangerous course. The exact location of her final loss is not known but substantial wreckage has been found along the coast. (Source: Shipwrecks of Victoria)