Maritime Heritage Unit
5/477 Collins St
Melbourne Vic 3000
In November/ December 1995 ten students of the Graduate Diploma in Maritime Archaeology run by the Curtin University of Technology and the Western Australian Maritime Museum organised and participated in a field trip as part of their studies. For two weeks we were based at Rockingham near HMAS Stirling naval base on Garden Island about 35 kilometres south of Fremantle, Western Australia. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has two historic wreck sites in its restricted waters and students divided into two groups to study and work on the vessels, the Day Dawn an ex-American whaler and the Finnish built wooden brig Dato (ex Ekenäs). Following is the historical research into the background of the Dato/Ekenäs which will hopefully provide an insight into maritime activities in Finland and Norway and its Australian connection. A Scandinavian connection exists at Garden Island today as HMAS Stirling is Fleet Base West for submarines built by the Swedish Kockums consortium for the RAN.
The Dato/Ekenäs currently lies in 15 metres of water with limited visibility - little other than badly degraded pine planking, the keel, stempost and some copper and lead sheathing are visible with other remains buried in the easily disturbed silt. An excavation of an area around the keel was undertaken and the site was mapped and photographed with a comprehensive report (unpublished) held in the Western Australian Maritime Museum library. I would like to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Markku Luoto, Finnish maritime archaeologist and Pirjo Juusela, researcher at the Ekenäs Museum for the information and photographs that gave us a more accurate picture of the Dato/Ekenäs and its earlier trading life.
Especially during the latter part of the 19th century the commoners of Ekenäs, and later on ordinary craftsmen and others, took an interest in shipbuilding and owning. However Ekenäs never became a shipbuilding area or a harbourtown of any greater importance.Finland was a part of Russia at this time, being administered as a grand duchy by Russian administrators, and possessed a Lloyds agent - Emil Österholm the Lloyds agent in 1889-90 was based in Ekenäs (Lloyds Register, 1889-90) - thus Ekenäs appears as a Russian port and not a Finnish one in the Register.
The Ekenäs was one of the largest of the town's ships to ever to sail the seas, and it was built to participate in ocean trade - its first voyage was from Ekenäs to Antwerp and its first captain and the man who initiated the building of the vessel was Captain G.A. Hågert. Other known captains were Palmberg (1875) and F. Berglöf (1878).
The main owner of the vessel was Henrik Skog, master tailor, and among others were senior juryman J. Kollin and K.F. Kottelin. It would be reasonable to assume Captain Hågert may have been a part owner as well, and that this is all evidence of the Ekenäs being a totally locally funded, built, owned, operated and insured community concern - comparable to the well known and successful community operation of the Åland Islanders (see below) who were the last owners and operators of large sailing vessels in the world, sailing to Australia for cargoes of wheat up until the 1940s.
The explanation for the Dato not appearing in any of the Lloyds Registers (as either the Dato or Ekenäs) from 1872 to 1886-87 is that it was underwritten by local Finns or Norwegians. In fact 'according to the Finnish maritime calendar of 1874 its insurance value was 82.760 Finnish marks, 29/50 parts of it being insured'(Ekenäs Museum). From figures below this may be interpreted to mean the insurance value per net ton otherwise it would seem the insurance value was exceptionally low - the cost in the 1860-70s of building a 300-500 ton vessel ranged between 163 and 240Fm per ton (Kaukiainen, 1991:75) while the average value of the Finnish mark in this period was 26.2Fm for one British pound sterling. Thus the value of the Ekenäs can be calculated to be 142.68 Finnish marks per net ton in 1874.
There may have been also a Finnish parallel with the situation facing Norwegian shipping earlier in the century, where a lack of money and few credit institutions (the first Norwegian government authorised commercial banks did not appear until the late 1840s) meant that:
Shipping ventures, for example, were commonly financed by subdivision into very small parts, but between 1820 and 1839 money was so scarce that no insurance was available in Norway for either ships or cargoes. (Derry, 1973: 115)In the earlier 19th century, Finland was about the poorest of the Scandinavian countries - 'Our country is poor and will always be poor' says the Finnish national anthem. The topography is mostly lakes, swamps, bogs, and most importantly their large expanses of softwood forests which today still cover about 70 per cent of the country. The importance of the forest to the Finns ranged from the consumption of bark flour bread in times of hardship, to hunting and trapping and firewood, and in later times pulp and cellulose for paper production and timber products - planks, cotton reels, matches, boards for sauna construction and plywood. The Finns had a virtual monopoly in cotton reels at this time.
It follows that the main trading cargo of Finland was thus its softwood timbers, these being mainly pine, fir, spruce and birch. However, the sales of bulk sawn timber shipped to their two main customers Britain and Holland did not cover the cost of export except from the south western coastal areas. Distilled vegetable tar had previously been a very important export being used in the construction of wooden ships, and this was produced in the Ostrobothnia region - its value as an export declined rapidly as iron ship construction became more prevalent in the later half of the 19th century. In relation to the oak identified in timber samples obtained from the Ekenäs/Dato, it had long been a practice (since the 1600s when building their first navy) to import oak, the preferred hardwood for the building of larger ships (M. Luoto, pers. comm.).
Finland had quite a large merchant shipping fleet in the 1840-50s spurred by developments in technology such as steam engines, sawmills and paper production, but this was all but destroyed during the Crimean War (1854-58). Between 1865 and 1875 along all of Finland's coastal areas, the fleet was rebuilding and vessels were generally being built larger than before, the average figure of 300-500 tons for a vessel becoming 600-700 tons. The largest ship built in Finland was the Ägir, a ship of 1383 tons net built in 1879, but no ship over 1000 tons was built in Finland after this (Kaukiainen, 1991: 55). Interestingly, Norway and other countries as well as Britain and Holland had used the time of the Crimean War as an opportunity to increase their carrying trade, with Allied governments requiring transport for a sudden increase of munitions and supplies to the front (Derry, 1973: 117).
Relevant to the expansion of maritime trade in Finland and Norway were the the repeal of the British Navigation Laws in 1850 allowing imports and exports by foreign vessels, the halving of British timber duties in 1851, and an amendment to the Navigation Laws in 1854 which enabled foreign vessels to participate in the coastal trade of the British Isles - other countries including the powers France and Holland soon followed this example. New rules were formulated in the Paris agreement that ended the Crimean War to protect neutral shipping in times of war, while in 1857 the abolition of Danish Sound tolls further freed up North Sea/Baltic trade.
It had also been a practice since the 1700s for Finnish vessels to find alternative routes to the Baltic Sea trade when most of the ports in Finland, Sweden, Estonia, and Russia froze over, and they journeyed to find carrying trade in the North Sea and Mediterranean to countries such as England, Germany, Holland, France and Spain (ibid).
In 1858, a Russian imperial edict was issued that allowed skippers without formal qualifications to operate in the North Sea as well as in the Baltic. Mariehamn, the capital of the Åland Islands (a strategically placed archipelago belonging to Finland near the mouth of the Gulf of Bothnia) was founded shortly after this in 1861. Between 1860 and 1875 Ålands sailing fleet almost quadrupled, growing from 11,000 to 42,000 tons net. The largest of the Åland-built vessels was the Flora, a barque of 619 tons net. Other vessels were built for Åland owners by the shipyards of East Bothnia 'known since ancient times for their skilful carpenters' (Kåhre, 1948:37).
As far as the physical construction of the Ekenäs goes, it was common practice in Finland in the 1800s to build wooden ships 'from scratch', i.e. without existing or recorded lines plans (M. Luoto, pers. comm.). The vessel may have been built with sharper lines in the 1870s than was the style in the 1840s-50s, as trends in naval architecture and influence from Danish and Swedish shipbuilders reflected the design of clippers (Kaukiainen, 1991: 56). Also,
...copper, zinc or yellow metal sheathing and copper fastenings became standard in ships intended for ocean trades. (ibid)'Ocean trades' being generally the North Sea, Mediterranean and Atlantic routes with their higher salinity, rate of biofouling and wood borers, than the icy, low salinity and worm free waters of the Baltic.
Thus the background to the construction of the Ekenäs in the boom year of 1872 can be seen to be a time of rapid growth for both the Finnish and Norwegian wooden shipbuilding industry and seaborne trade. During the first 14 years of its working life in Finland it certainly carried at least bulk timber and timber products in the Baltic and North Sea, and in winter been involved in the carrying trade of timber and other general cargoes between the North Sea and Mediterranean ports, and across the Atlantic to America.
This success, which inspired the 'Song of the Norwegian Seaman' (written by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson - nationalist politician,internationalist, novelist, dramatist, lyricist - in 1868: 'Our glory and our might; are born on sail-wings white.'), can be chiefly attributed to the fact that because globally the trend was conversion to steam powered and iron-built vessels, this meant that fast-depreciating wooden sailing ships, and especially those approaching obsolescence, could be bought cheaply from British and other foreign ports - this met the demand to supplement the numerous wooden sailing vessels still made cheaply all along the fjords of southern Norway. Other notably important factors were that:
... the prices paid by Norwegians were often below market level because their long experience of the timber trade, where the cargo could be trusted to keep an old tub afloat, accustomed them to accept low standards of seaworthiness. Lastly it must be recognised that the ships were run on the cheap, with poor victualling and accommodation for the crew, low wages, and rough-and-ready management. (Derry, 1973:118)In 1878, Norway's sailing tonnage was still increasing, and though the Suez Canal had been opened in 1869, only 6 per cent of vessels bought in Norway in the period 1870-80 were steamers (ibid).
We cannot say with certainty that the 14 year old Ekenäs was in an unseaworthy condition when bought by her Norwegian owners in 1886, though it is recorded the vessel had been wrecked twice, in 1873 and 1880, and 'fell foul of a collision' in 1874. However the scenario of Norwegian shipping companies buying up large quantities of old sailing vessels does emerge, as it does of them having to put their vessels on slower and longer routes such as to South America and Australia in order to maintain profits.
Returning to Lloyds Register we find that Norwegian Alf Monsen of Tönsberg owned and operated the Dato from his purchase in 1886-87 until sometime in 1889-90, when it is sold to new Norwegian owners recorded in the Dato entry as 'Actieselskabet 'Dato' (Chr. Nielsen)' and registered to the port of Laurvig, Norway (Lloyds Register, 1890-91) .
In the Lloyds Register of 1888-89 List of Owners of Ships a name of 'Actieselskabet Achilles' of Kragero, Norway is listed, with Jens Olsen named as the manager. This indicates Actieselskabet Achilles of Kragero, Norway is thus a shipping company. The company is recorded as owning two other, smaller wooden vessels - the Beatie of 461 tons net and the Bertha of 328 tons net (Lloyds Register, 1888-89: List of Owners of Ships). If Actieselskabet 'Dato' and Actieselskabet Achilles were the one and the same company, the Dato would have been the newly purchased pride of their fleet at 498 tons net.
By this time though the impetus of change and the need for capital expenditure was catching up to Norwegian shipowners, and in 1890 Norway had dropped to fifth place among the worlds tonnage, with 75 per cent of their tonnage being sailing vessels (Griffiths, 1991: 35). For comparison, in 1887 in the United Kingdom sailing vessels were 30.9 per cent of total tonnage (Lloyds Universal Register, 1887).
It was against this background of declining use for wooden sailing ships generally and at a transition period in Norwegian maritime history, that under the ownership of Actieselskabet 'Dato' the Dato was blown ashore at Quindalup, 2 kilometres east of Dunsborough in south-west Western Australia, in a fierce gale on 27 February 1893.
While sailing ships carried away increasing tonnages of hardwood from the south west corner of Australia, more and more sailing ships carried coal from the port of Newcastle on the east coast. (Blainey, 1966: 283)Under the Norwegian flag, the Dato sailed from Newcastle NSW to Fremantle with a cargo of 600 tons of coal for the Fremantle Gas Works, arriving on 6 January 1893. Plying the long slow haul from Europe to Australia and then to wherever was a typical pattern followed by tramp sailing vessels in the later part of the nineteenth century, as even allowing for two to three months lying in port for a cargo, by employing crews cheaply sailing ship owners could still make a profit carrying Australia's bulk cargoes of wheat, timber and coal. By circumstance of it being on the coast Newcastle was one of the major coal ports south of the equator and the most accessible to the whole Pacific region. If the Dato had in fact sailed from Norway to Australia it would have probably been carrying Baltic timber to either Sydney or Melbourne, from there sailing in ballast to Newcastle to load its cargo of coal.
After arrival and unloading in Fremantle, the Dato then sailed in ballast to Quindalup and the timber loading jetty and tramway owned by local sawmill operator and landowner Charles Yelverton, to load a cargo of jarrah timber paving blocks bound for London. Again this is a typical scenario in south-west Western Australia around this time, as described by historian Geoffrey Blainey:
Western Australia's timber ports were magnets for sailing ships at the end of the century. Cheap sea transport helped the hardwoods from Western Australian forests to win an export market in every corner of the world, and transport changes even provided their market. Most of the heavy logs and planks of undressed jarrah became harbour wharves or became railway sleepers on new lines in Uruguay, Portuguese East Africa, Natal, India, China or New Zealand. Another market for West Australian hardwoods was Britain where city streets that were scoured by heavy-wheeled horse traffic were being paved with cheap blocks of hardwood... In the Sailors' Home or on the waterfront (in Bunbury ) one could hear the floating babble of Finnish and Russian, Italian and German, Yankee and sometimes English voices; but the most common ship was Norwegian and when old King Oscar of Norway had his birthdays half the port was gay with flags and bunting. (Blainey, 1966: 283)In Quindalup Dato completed its loading of timber by lighters in 16 days, and was ready to leave on Monday 27 February, a sultry day with thunderstorms that night. However it was delayed, and the next day one of the worst north-westerly gales in 20 years wrought havoc along the exposed coastline - all of Yelverton's lighters were washed in 50 yards above the high water mark, and the Dato was blown ashore.
The Dato's story is followed in the Bunbury Herald 'News from Vasse' cables:
1 March 1893 'During yesterday we experienced the heaviest gale for many years. Norwegian brig Dato which had only just finished loading with jarrah and was ready to sail for London came ashore where she now lies with her mainmast gone and full of water.'In fact, the Dato had gone ashore in the north-westerly gale on the Dunsborough side of the jetty and was lying some 200-250 metres from the beach, waterlogged but 'definitely floating'. The holes in her were plugged up, a number of smashed planks were renewed, she was pumped dry and her cargo of paving blocks unloaded (Yelverton, letters, Dato file).
22 March 1893 'The unloading of the stranded Dato at Quindalup is being proceeded with apace. It certainly seems a waste of money and time to unload the vessel and land the timber on the beach, when the timber could be transhipped at once, and thus save the extra shipping.'The West Australian reported on 27 March 1893 that,
24 March 1893 'The captain of the stranded brig Dato has been secretly fined for a breach of harbour regulations in neglecting to send down a topgallant yard when ordered to do so on the approach of bad weather.'
29 March 1893 'Mr Cross visited the brig Dato with captain for purposes of inspections - condemned her as a total wreck.'
5 April 1893 'Messrs W. & J. Bovell will sell a quantity of salvage from the wrecked brig Dato. I hear the hull will shortly be sold in Fremantle.'
The hull of the brig Dato is to be sold by auction as she now lies. The sale will be held at the South Jetty Fremantle on 10 April 1893 by Messrs. Lionel Samson & Sons.The brig's history is continued in the Bunbury Herald with a report that Mr. Charles Yelverton of Quindalup had bought the hull of the 'stranded' Dato - the amount is not recorded. In 1894 the Herald reports that,
2 February 1894 'The Dato has been floated and moved to the buoy off Quindalup. She is making but little water.'The last report found in the Bunbury Herald is,
14 February 1894 'Mr Yelverton hopes to dispose of the Dato as a hulk.'
8 February 1895 'Brig Dato which was recently driven ashore at Quindalup was towed to Fremantle on Thursday week by the tug Dolphin.'Just prior to this the following extracts from Her Majesty's letter book are recorded;
To Premiers Department, 19 January 1895:
I think it would be a help to the government if Messrs. W.D. Moore fitted up the brig Dato as a hulk for explosives as a shipment of 640 cases of dynamite is coming in via Mariner from Melbourne and Laughing Wave is full.To Under Treasurer, 2 February 1895:
When will May and Woomans be finished. Dato will be damaged below waterline, she could sink. She has only one mast and can't be low down. OK for Moore to purchase her but not the government.To D. Moore and Co, re D. Moore & Co. asking to use Dato:
Now they don't want her but want the government to keep it for them. Asks the government to take Dato.So at this point, after the Dato had lain at Quindalup for nearly two years, Yelverton seems to have managed to sell the Dato to D. Moore & Co, who in turn attempted to sell the vessel to the government but failed. It was thought that the Dato was used as a coal or gunpowder hulk in Careening Bay, but this now seems unlikely as evidenced by the government's lack of enthusiasm for its 'hulkworthiness'.
By now the Dato had disappeared from the Registers and her crew had long since returned to Norway, and so the date of actual sinking is unknown. The closest we can get is that it was sometime in or after 1900, as Charles Yelverton - Harry Yelverton's son - recalls last seeing it on a yacht trip to Garden Island that year. Identifying the vessel by Dato being painted on the stern, he described its sorry state being moored with the stern several feet above the water, and with part of the deck awash under nine inches of water (Yelverton, letters, Dato file).
With this description we are left to imagine the Dato lying at its moorings for its last five or so years, gradually succumbing to the slow leak filling the tired hull and waterlogging its timbers, until it finally slipped beneath the waters of Careening Bay, probably in a north-westerly gale like the one that originally beached it at Quindalup.
1) Background to its construction - an example of a maritime venture by a Finnish community in a period of boom for shipping;
2) Early Finnish history, background and trading life 1872-1886;
3) Later Norwegian period of ownership, with two separate owners 1886-1893;
4) History of (at least) two prior wreckings (1873, 1880) and one collision (1874);
5) The unlikelihood that it was used as a hulk in WA;
6) Being representative of a typical pattern for foreign-owned sailing vessels - and especially Norwegian ones - around the turn of the century in the ports of the south-west of W.A.
Dato file (unpublished), Western Australian Maritime Museum (File no. 196/72) .
Derry, T.K., 1973, A History of Modern Norway 1814-1972, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
Derry, T.K.,1979, A History of Scandinavia, George Allen & Unwin, London.
Garratt, Dena, December 1993, Quindalup Jetty, Department of Maritime Archaeology, WAMM Report Number 74.
Griffiths, Tony, 1991, Scandinavia, Wakefield Press, Adelaide.
Kåhre, George, 1978, The Last of the Tall Ships: Gustaf Erikson and the Last ofthe Åland Sailing Fleets 1872-1947, Conway Maritime Press, Greenwich.
Kaukiainen, Yrjö, 1991, Sailing into Twilight: Finnish Shipping in an Age of Transport Revolution 1860-1914, SHS, Helsinki.
Kaukiainen, Yrjö, 1993, A History of Finnish Shipping, Routledge, London.
Lloyds Universal Register, 1872-1895.