In August 1834 the barque Charles Eaton was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. Five of the crew made off with the only seaworthy life boat and eventually reached Timor. The rest of the crew and six passengers escaped on rafts built from the wreckage. All but four boys met a grisly fate at the hands of Torres Strait Islanders. Two of the boys were sold to a family from Murray Island for two bunches of bananas, the other two were never seen again. Although news of the wreck and the possibility of survivors reached England early in 1835 more than a year would pass before a rescue mission was organised.
Warwick Hirst has been published in the Bulletin, The Week End Australian, The Age and GEO. He is the author of Great Convict Escapes in Colonial Australia and The Man Who Stole the Cyprus, and edited My Dear, Dear Betsy, a collection of Australian letters. He was formerly Curator of Manuscripts at the State Library of NSW where he curated six major exhibitions including The Governor: Lachlan Macquarie, 1810-1822.