The wreck of “Tigress” in 1848

Event Dates:


The wreck of Tigress was the first shipwreck in the district to involve fatalities. Two people died in this event.

Tigress was a 218-ton, two-masted wooden brig from Leith, Scotland, travelling to Port Adelaide and Port Melbourne. Tigress was blown onto rocks near Seaford Beach in a gale so violent that the sea made frequent breaches over her through the night. The sea was so rough that little could be done to save the ship. Mr Frances Frew, the only cabin passenger, and Captain Alexander Guthrie drowned attempting to swim ashore. Although Mr Frew’s body was recovered, only the hand and arm of the captain were later found. The vessel was wrecked, but much of the cargo was saved and later sold.

The cargo included various objects, including books, glassware, bricks, ink wells, whisky, millinery, wine, flooring boards and even engravings from the Scottish Art Union Society. One local farmer, William Brown, was caught illegally taking books from the beach and sentenced to three months in prison. The Governor later pardoned him as a man of hitherto unimpeachable character.

After being lost for many years, the Tigress wreck was discovered by the Society for Underwater and Historical Research (SUHR) divers in 1981. Unfortunately, the wreck’s discovery led to looting by selfish and irresponsible divers despite the wreck being declared a historic shipwreck by the South Australian government. The SUHR delivered artefacts from the Tigress site to the Department of Environment and Planning. After government restructures, the artefacts were finally in the care of the Department of Environment and Water, which has now transferred them to the Willunga Branch of the National Trust of South Australia.

The Tigress shipwreck site is still protected under the Historic Shipwrecks Act, 1981.


Harris, C. A., 1951- & Society for Underwater Historical Research Inc. (Maritime Archaeology Association of South Australia). 1986, The discovery and survey of the wreck of the ‘Tigress’ / compiled by Chris A. Harris. Society for Underwater Historical Research Inc. (The Maritime Archaeology Association of South Australia) North Adelaide [S. Aust.]

1848 ‘WEEKLY INTELLIGENCE. LOSS OF THE BRIG “TIGRESS,” FROM LEITH.’Adelaide Times , 2 October, p. 2. , viewed 02 Mar 2024

1848 ‘LOCAL INTELLIGENCE.‘, Adelaide Observer , 21 October, p. 2. , viewed 02 Mar 2024

1848 ‘ADELAIDE MARKETS.’Adelaide Times , 23 October, p. 2. , viewed 02 Mar 2024,

1848 ‘LAW & POLICE INTELLIGENCE.’Adelaide Times , 4 December, p. 4. , viewed 02 Mar 2024,

1848 ‘LOCAL NEWS OF THE WEEK.’, South Australian Gazette and Mining Journal , 16 December, p. 3. , viewed 02 Mar 2024,

1981 ‘IN BRIEF Wreck found near Adelaide’, The Canberra Times , 29 October, p. 3. , viewed 02 Mar 2024

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