The Ethel Shipwreck
One of South Australia’s most stunning beaches is lined by a rugged coastline and conceals a dark secret on its shores. The shipwreck of the Ethel gives Ethel Beach its name and makes the location one of the most interesting within the Innes National Park.
Though rarely uncovered, recent swells and storms had revealed the rotting hull of a once-formidable iron ship. The jagged metal skeleton pierced through the soft sand of the beach to reveal the shape of what once made up the hull of the Ethel. The exposed shipwreck is fully visible from the top of the steep cliffs that overlook the beach, though descending the dangerously steep staircase to the beach below allows one to walk amongst the gnarled remains of this ship and experience the wreck in a thrilling way.
Today the Ethel wreck is a protected historic site and a unique tourist attraction for those passing through the Innes National Park. The story of the Ethel’s demise, however, is a sad one laced with death.
Death Along the South Australian Coast
On the evening of January 2, 1904, the Ethel was making her way to Australia from South Africa. The ship ran into trouble along the South Australian coast after hitting a reef. In a panic, 19-year-old Leonard Sterneson bravely jumped from the ship to swim a safety line ashore. Sadly, Leonard was swept out to sea by the rough waters where he perished. His death would prove unnecessary as, by the next morning, the Ethel had been swept ashore where all others on board could depart to safety.
Ironically the first ship to pass by and report the Ethel’s accident, the SS Ferret, crashed in the same area just 16 years later. This just goes to show how treacherous this stretch of the coast can be. Though there were no deaths on board the Ferret, there have been 26 other ships wrecked in the area with as many as 70 reported deaths in the water as a result.
Though there aren’t any hauntings that have been reported in the area, the dark history of the York Penisula and the theory that water is a conductor for paranormal activity, make this location a prime candidate for a ghost or two.
Visiting the Ethel Wreck
The Ethel Wreck can be visited by entering the Innes National Park. Tickets to the park can be purchased online or at the visitor’s center at the park’s entrance. A road and parking access near the cliffs of Ethel Beach are available and a steep staircase allows access to the beach. Be warned there are many stairs to scale to reach the shipwreck. Fortunately for me, the wreck was completely visible, which is a rare occurrence. Usually, the wreck is submerged under far more sand.
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