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Deseret News Archives,
Wednesday, March 19, 1997
By Jason N. Swensen, Staff Writer

Much is known about the hardships endured on the Mormon pioneer trek to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Lives were lost and the faith of pioneers was strengthened as waves of covered wagons and handcarts rolled across the American plains to the Salt Lake Valley.

Now marine research a world away casts fresh light on trials that once faced seafaring pioneers headed to Utah. Five Mormon immigrants, including three children, drowned in 1855 when the American ship Julia Ann rammed into a reef in the South Pacific and split in two. Much of the remains of the 118-foot vessel lay dormant until they were recovered this year by archaeologists from the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Artifacts and film footage from the project will be included in an exhibit on Australian immigration - coinciding with sesquicentennial celebrations of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers to Utah. The exhibit will be on display at the Australian museum and may tour Utah, said Paul Hundley, curator of the USA Gallery.

The Julia Ann left Newcastle, Australia, en route to San Francisco on Sept. 7, 1855. Among the 41 passengers were 28 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including two American missionaries returning home. On the evening of Oct. 3, 1855, the ship was about 400 miles west of Tahiti when it struck a reef surrounding the westernmost atoll of the Society Islands. The Julie Ann's captain, B.F. Pond, had just stepped below deck when he heard the cry, ``Hard down the helm!'' The Julie Ann slammed into the reef before he could reach the deck. The ship broke in two, the stern heaving onto the reef and the bow falling into the sea.

Two Mormon women and three children were washed overboard and drowned. Crew members attached a rope harness to the reef and ferried the surviving passengers to land. The castaways remained on Scilly for about two months until members of the crew could patch up the ship's rowboat and travel to nearby Bora Bora for help. After a stay in Tahiti, the Mormon immigrants found passage to California, and many later settled in Beaver, Utah.

The resiliency of the Julie Ann's LDS passengers, noted Hundley, is a testament of their determination. ``It does say a lot about their faith,'' added Hundley, who is not a member of the LDS Church.

Although Australian Mormons continued their journeys to Utah, the Julie Ann's ill-fated voyage ``did throw in a bit of concern about migration for the church,'' Hundley said.

The five Mormons who drowned were reportedly the only 19th-century pioneers to lose their lives at sea.


Deseret News Archives,
Saturday, May 4, 1996
Associated Press

U.S. and Australian archaeologists will help a French team in its undersea campaign to find the wreckage of an English ship that sank in 1855 with 41 people aboard.

The expedition, announced Sunday, is set to begin on Dec. 30 and run through mid-January. It will focus on waters off Manuae Atoll in French Polynesia, where the three-mast Julia Ann went down on Oct. 2, 1855.

Most of the passengers were Mormons, and they were sailing from Sydney, Australia, to San Francisco when the ship struck a coral reef off the South Pacific atoll about 500 nautical miles from Tahiti.

Two women and three children drowned; the others spent 48 hours in the sea before finding refuge on Scilly, an uninhabited islet in the area. The Julia Ann's captain and four sailors built a small boat from the wreckage and eventually reached the island of Raiatea after a harrowing four-day journey.

Help didn't reach the survivors until nearly two months after their shipwreck, and they survived by eating coconuts and fish and drinking water from holes dug deep in the sand.

The account of their adventure was made public in 1858 by the ship's captain, Benjamin Franklin Pond.

Ten French research archaeologists will begin looking for the wreck, aided by two representatives from the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney and three members of the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum in Newport Beach, Calif.

Paul Hundley, director of the Sydney museum, said the wreck was important because it promised to bear the characteristics of other shipwrecks in isolated regions like those described in 19th-century adventure novels.


"The Wreck of the Julia Ann,"
by John Devitry-Smith,
a 25-page article in BYU Studies, spring 1989.

Expensive though her passage was, the light and seaworthy bark Julia Ann provided impressive service to Latter-day Saint immigrants on an 1854 voyage.

Her crew showed "every kindness" to the Great Basin-bound Australians. Her captain, in turn, was impressed with the orderliness of the converts on the voyage.

Tragedy deepened this mutual respect.

When the Julia Ann arrived in Sydney July 24, 1855, for a second voyage, 28 members, including some of the founding families of the Church in Australia, were prepared to emigrate. They joined 28 others, including crew. The ship was burdened by a cargo of 350 tons of coal as well. Julia Ann cast off on a rainy, windy afternoon of Sept. 7, 1855, bound for San Francisco.

As the voyage began, passengers gathered to sing a traditional embarking song, ``The Gallant Ship is Under Weigh.'' But with the prospect of a nearly 3-month voyage ahead, remembered Andrew Anderson, the effort came out ``more like a funeral hymn than the occasion it was.'' Strong head winds and rough weather made harsh going, and many passengers became seasick.

Some 27 days out, on Oct. 3, Captain Benjamin Franklin Pond appeared to be deeply concerned as the ship approached the uninhabited Scilly Islands. The islands were surrounded by dangerous reefs that were poorly mapped. After a nerve-wracking day, Captain Pond presumed the dangerous reefs were past and went below for rest. Neither stars nor moon were visible in the dark night. At about 8:30 p.m. was heard the cry: "Hard down the helm!" At that moment, the heavily laden Julia Ann thundered headlong into a coral reef. A gaping hole widened beneath; heavy waves pounded the vessel sideways against the reef.

Indescribable confusion followed as ``mothers holding their undressed children in their arms as they snatched them from their slumbers, screaming and lamenting,'' Captain Pond later described. The vessel was not sinking - it was breaking up on the reef.

Two girls, Mary Humphreys and Marian Anderson, were washed off the deck and seen no more. Other passengers, bruised and soaking wet, clung to the deck. Wildly swinging booms smacked some of them.

""The scene that presented itself to my view can never be erased from my memory," recalled passenger Esther Spangenberg. ""Mothers screaming, and children clinging to them in terror and dread; the furniture was torn from its lashings and all upturned; the ship was lying on her beam ends; the starboard side of her was opening and the waves were washing in and out of the cabin."

Captain Pond left the sails up so winds would drive the ship higher on the reef. Minutes and hours passed with no relief.

Elder John McCarthy, a missionary, said, "I saw mothers nursing their babes in the midst of falling masts and broken spars while the breakers were rolling twenty feet high over the wreck."

The life boats, useless in the rocks and waves, were torn loose. A crew member volunteered to swim to the reef in search of firm footing. He managed somehow to fasten a rope to a rock. Women and children were evacuated on the rope. The first was plucky Rosa Clara Logie, a 17-year-old mother and convert. She made her way, hand-over-hand to relative safety of the chest-deep waters of the highest point of the shark-infested reef. Others followed to the reef. Eliza Harris strapped her 6-month-old son, Lister, to her breast to go to the rocks when ``an awful sea struck the ship, tearing up the bulwarks, threatening death and destruction to everything within reach.'' The Julia Ann broke in two across the hatch. Eliza and her son were swept from the deck and drowned. Martha Humphreys, the mother of Mary, was swept from the deck and drowned as well. Just before drowning, she pleaded that her children be protected and taken to Great Salt Lake City.

Captain Pond ordered his Second Mate Owens, who had hauled a bag with $8,000, to drop the sack and carry a girl. History records to his credit, "The child was saved, but the money was lost."

At a critical point, the ship slipped back toward the ocean. The rope snapped and those on the ship appeared doomed. Providentially, the ship broke up further. The deck separated from the heavy cargo hold and washed high on the rocks.

This ordeal had lasted three hours. The 51 survivors waited out the night. When morning came they despaired seeing no land on the horizon.

As the sun rose, they saw a distant barren island - essentially a large sand bar - and crew members managed to reach it on a badly leaking lifeboat that they recovered and patched. Others waited on the reef, without drinking water, faces swollen, clothing nearly torn off, and encircled by sharks. After the women and children were carried by boat to the island, the remaining men walked and bobbed towing rafts along the miles-long underwater reef. They swam over gaps in the reef. They scrambled on the rafts when sharks came too close. On one occasion, they counted 20 sharks. After hours of struggle and a day and a night and a day without drinking water, they arrived on the island.

Children led them to holes in the sand where seeped fresh water. For two months the survivors lived on this island. They subsisted on turtle meat and eggs, shellfish and sharks. Water was collected in coconuts and a barrel embedded in shallow wells. The women made a kind of pancake from shredded coconut, and turtle eggs mixed with flour.

Captain Pond had wisely saved his navigational instruments and used them to determine their location. They were far from ship routes and inhabited islands. He estimated the island to be 300-500 miles west of the nearest of the Society Islands (now French Polynesia). Rescue was out of the question. They would have to go for help. The boat was repaired and stocked with meager supplies.

Because of heavy easterly winds, they at first planned to go west some 1,500 miles to the Navigator Islands. For two days they searched for a break in the lagoon through which they could enter the open sea.

The night before they were to embark, a typhoon raged over the island and blew away the boat. Captain Pond calmed their hopelessness and started a search. The boat was nearby, swamped but intact. At the last minute, Captain Pond changed his mind and decided to row against the wind to the east. A double crew of 10 rowers was selected. On the day of departure, the winds shifted and came from the west. After four days of hard rowing, against shifting winds and deep swells, the party reached Bora Bora.

Here the crew split up in search of a rescue vessel. A schooner, Emma Packer, docked at Huahine awaiting a cargo of oranges, was diverted to the Scilly Islands. On Dec. 2, 1855, 60 days after the shipwreck, the survivors sighted the schooner.

The shoeless, nearly bare, destitute company arrived in Tahiti Dec. 19 where they were cared for by the United Order of Masonic Lodges.

The crew that had split up included missionary John McCarthy. He borrowed two small schooners and also returned to the island. The boats arrived after all of the remaining 41 survivors had been removed. But McCarthy preached to the schooners' crew and baptized an interpreter, through whom he preached to the natives. Others were baptized by him as well.

All the original survivors of the wreck eventually found passage from Tahiti and the members made it to San Francisco. Most trekked east to the Great Basin.

Captain Pond, whose bravery and presence of mind are largely credited for saving many lives, eventually made it to San Francisco where he wrote an account of the ordeal.

John S. Eldridge, a returning missionary, expressed his feelings: ``I need not attempt to describe our feelings of gratitude and praise which we felt to give the God of Israel for His goodness and mercy in thus working a deliverance for us."


Deseret News Archives,
Saturday, May 4, 1996
By John L. Hart

The Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney is preparing an exhibit to feature a shipwreck of Mormon immigrants in the 19th century - the bark Julia Ann, which broke apart on a reef near the Society Islands in 1855.

Ambitious plans are also being made to eventually raise the wreckage and include it in the display.

Of all the ships that carried Mormon immigrants from 1840-1890, the Julia Ann was the only ship to wreck. Some 85,000 converts crossed the ocean safely to take part in the gathering of Saints to the Great Basin. The Julia Ann carried 28 LDS immigrants, including two returning American missionaries. Five of the immigrants perished in the wreck, including three children. Survivors said the courage and presence of mind of the captain prevented a much greater loss of life in a nearly hopeless situation.

The seaworthy, well-run ship was destroyed when it hit a reef that was mapped 12 miles off its true location.

This 141-year-old-tragedy has intrigued the curator of the Australian National Maritime Museum of Sydney, who hopes to feature the incident in a major exhibit of Australian-United States shipping links of the 19th century. Not just the wreck, but the very voyage was unusual in the history of Australia. While thousands of people immigrated to Australia in the 19th century, the LDS converts are among the very few who emigrated from that land.

The curator, Paul F. Hundley, is searching for descendants of the ship's survivors in hopes of locating a sketch of the Julia Ann, letters or journals about the vessel and its crew that would be of interest.

"Family members have precious artifacts including a hollowed-out coconut shell used by their great-grandparents, Charles and Rosa Clara Logie two survivors as a drinking vessel during the several weeks they spent on an uninhabited coral atoll waiting for rescue," said Marjorie B. Newton, an Australian LDS historian who is working with Mr. Hundley.

"We are wondering if descendants of other survivors have similar family treasures."

In addition to the museum exhibit, Mr. Hundley has plans to mount an underwater archeological expedition to raise the wreck, and to search the barren island in search of artifacts from the survivors' two months there. He has aerial infra-red photographs of the coral atoll where the Julia Ann foundered, and believes he has located the wreckage.

"Between LDS records and consular records, we are fairly sure we have a complete list of all the passengers and the three LDS crew members who were working their passages,'' said Mr. Hundley. He will visit Salt Lake City in May and would like to meet descendants of the passengers.

Latter-day Saints in the wreck include: Andrew and Elizabeth Anderson and children Elizabeth, Jane, Agnes, Alexander, Marian, John, Andrew, Joseph and James; Charles and Rosa Clara Logie and their daughter, Annie Augusta; John and Elizabeth Penfold and sons Peter and Stephen; Martha Humphreys and children Eliza, Mary and Frank; Eliza Harris, daughter Maria and infant son Lister; John McCarthy; John Pegg; and returning missionaries John S. Eldredge and James Graham. Drowned in the wreck were Mary and Martha Humphreys, Eliza Harris and her infant son, Lister; and Marian Anderson, age 10.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Marjorie Newton, care of the Public Affairs Office, P.O. Box 350, Carlingford, NSW., Australia 2118, or by e-mail to

A non-member descendant of the Humphreys family from Australia now living in California, Barbara DeBernardo, is also seeking to contact descendants of orphans Eliza and Frank Humphreys.