Sydney OutBack’s Lost Family found among 150 Shipwreck Tales of Broken Bay

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Shipwrecks 2016From one of Sydney’s best lookouts at West Head in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Sydney OutBack’s guests admire the serenity and expanse of Broken Bay, the only place in the world where five waterways meet. Yet, more than 150 shipwrecks have succumbed in these deceptively peaceful waters since 1803, many perishing near the bay’s mouth and at the base of Barrenjoey Headland.

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Among these shipwrecks is the Argument, a nine year old Australian sloop*, which perished in a wild gale in early March 1809. Bound for Sydney from Broken Bay with a full cargo of wheat, the Argument departed Pittwater with two other vessels. One of these, the Hazard, perished in sight of the Argument with its only surviving crew, a boy, being dragged from the surf near Pittwater by aborigines – most definitely Guringai people, the traditional custodians of the land now known as Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Survival of shipwrecks was slim at a time when few knew how to swim, there were no life jackets and cumbersome lifeboats easily capsized in gustily seas. However, despite the tragedy of human loss, the loss of a ship in the early colonial years was devastating because shipbuilding was prohibited to prevent convict escapes at least until after 1815, and trade shipping was restricted until around the same time (a rare exception included local trade sloops to the fertile Hawkesbury River from 1801 as roads through wild bush were yet non-existent).

Sadly, despite watching the Hazard wreck real time, the Argument made its own fatal navigation decision and wrecked on Short Reef. All crew and passengers drowned including ex-convict Mary Kirk, an ancestor of Kaje Pickering, the co-founder of Sydney OutBack (alongside husband, Paul). Kaje’s since unbroken family connection to Broken Bay, Pittwater and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park – and the knowledge that Guringai people were watching the tragedy of the Hazard and Argument unfold, willing to help any survivors – are among the many inspirations behind Sydney OutBack and its commitment to sharing rich, balanced historical narrative (both indigenous and colonial) on its tours. (Ironically, the third ship to set sail that fateful day, the Experiment, reported to merely ‘losing sight’ of the Argument in the squall in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser: Ship News on 2 April 1809. The Experiment survived this gale, but – it too – eventually wrecked in Broken Bay around nine years later, with no lives lost.)

Aerial National Park EastSydney OutBack shares personal and fascinating stories of colonial times, including shipwrecks and smuggling, alongside stories about the ancient traditions and culture of the land’s traditional custodians, the Guringai Aboriginal people. To learn more about Sydney OutBack’s Wilderness and Aboriginal Explorer Tour and Cruise, just click here.

Our tours are also part of Tourism Australia’s Indigenous Tourism Champions Program (ITCP), recognizing that we offer a quality experience that that meets the needs and expectations of international visitors.

Norfolk Photo2To find out more about shipwrecks in the area, a fascinating summary can be read online at
* For those less familiar, a sloop is traditionally a timber sailing boat with a single mast – one head-sail – and a fore-and-aft rig. The photo of a model of the 25t Norfolk Sloop gives an idea of the boat style, although the Argument would have been almost a third its size at 9t. (Photo credit:

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