The cruise of the Francois 1928 The Sinking of the Nautilus 6th to 10 May 1928 At 5 am the next morning on Sunday May 6th, they woke to a fine, clear morning and sighted the Bustard Head light. Built in 1868, the Bustard Head Lighthouse was the first major coastal light built by the Queensland Government. The lens on the light measured ten feet high and five feet square, which should have been a fair warning for any approaching ship. The coastline under Bustard Head had been the scene of many tragedies for passing vessels. A few hours later, Francois shaped course from Bustard Head to Masthead Island as a fresh breeze developed. In the distance they saw the John Burke steamship Canonbar and also Nautilus  that had been considerably damaged while stranded on a training wall in the Pioneer River. She was heading to Brisbane for repairs to her propeller and the replacement of a rudder.   The wind began to freshen, howling ominously and increasing in intensity throughout the morning. At 11 am, as the wind blew from the stern, the foresail jibed and took away some of the gear. Approaching the island it was necessary to wear ship, there being too much wind to jibe. Francois would not come around. Duncan was at the wheel while other members of the crew performed acrobatics as they sprang and pulled and grappled.  When the captain saw that the boat was not going to do what he wanted, he calmly asked for the engines to be started. Francois responded. She swooped down the slope of a big wave, her bowsprit determined to spear the next one in the eye. But she rose like a duck at the right instant and did not ship a drop of water.  Later they received a couple of curlers over the stern but with the mainsail in and under power they flew through the passage and the reefs and rounded up in the lee of Masthead Island. The anchor was finally dropped at noon. Rain squalls blew every few minutes and it was bitterly cold.  During the rough passage across to safety, the barometer had fallen from its mounting and broken. Duncan was overflowing with praise for the Francois’ performance. “Best little ship I ever steered” was the way he put it. “Mon, she’s a grand little ship!” Unbeknown to the passengers on the schooner, disaster struck only a few miles away. Nautilus foundered in the strong south-easterly gale and sunk 6 nautical miles east of Richards Point. Fortunately there was no loss of life. The ship’s Log continues: © Copyright 2011  Julianne Dodds Did You Know? Bustard Head Lighthouse. 1928 Williams Collection “Monday May 7th 1928 Masthead Island. AM. Ship at anchor. Weatherbound at Masthead Island. Heavy roll worse at highwater. Kept ship too lively to do any cooking so we had cold snacks as opportunity offered. Very poor fishing today – wind piping strong and cold. Overhauled running gear, fitting new lift to mainsail and downhauls to both gaffs. Rainy and squally all day. Wind strong all morning. PM. Same conditions all day. Heavy rain squalls and blowing hard. 4pm. Rigged fresh tackle and made dinghy fast on davits. Caught a few fish. 4:30. Managed to cook hot meal of boiled fish. Again set anchor watches. Dinghy shifted about 10pm – all hands out. Mid-night port anchor lost – rope cut on coral. A very disturbed night. Wind easing a little during night, veered E.” Water, water everywhere Finally the wind began to blow itself out.  In the morning it was still too rough and bumpy to cook but they managed to make a cup of tea and   had to drink it while standing up. Nevertheless, another very uncomfortable day was spent at anchor   off Masthead Island. During the afternoon they searched for the lost anchor at low water without   success. Later that evening Captain Kerr considered the weather conditions had sufficiently improved so they   hove up their remaining anchor and quickly left under sail for High Peak.  Their principal need was water. Their main water tank, holding 140 gallons, was empty, so washing   bodies was put on the taboo list. The remaining tank was to be used for cooking purposes only.  Everyone awoke next morning to a dull and cloudy day and set course for Peak Island. The wind and   sea increased considerably about noon. Francois anchored in a small bay on the western side of   High Peak Island only 200 yards from the shore reef. Duncan had completed a 15 hour stretch at the   wheel which was a remarkable feat for an elderly man. It was commented “…they built them tough in   the old days, these deepwater men…”  From the ship’s Log: “Still blowing fresh. Went ashore after goats and oysters – got neither. Wet and cold. Good quiet anchorage. Found   small fishing cutter at anchor sheltering.”  A sudden squall meant that they didn’t arrive back on board until almost dark after their shore trip –   wet, cold and miserable. A change into warm, dry clothing and a generous tot of ‘Nelson’s Blood’   (an old seaman’s term for rum) restored their spirits.  Early next morning, after scrubbing the decks, they set course W.N.W. under foresail and staysail for Middle Island, 70 nautical miles off the coast of Mackay. This island was where they hoped to find   water to replenish their diminishing supplies and have a bath on shore.   Bustard Head Lighthouse No other lightstation in Australia has a history of tragedies to equal that of  Bustard Head on Queensland's Barrier   Reef Coast.  Even before the lighthouse was  completed in 1868, the station claimed  its first life when a workman was fatally injured in the tower.  Since then,  shipwrecks, murder, abduction, suicide,  drownings and cyclones have shattered  the lives of lightkeepers and their  families, as well as people to whom  Bustard Head was no more than a name  on a map.  “Lighthouse of Tragedy” is the most  comprehensive account ever written  about an Australian lightstation.  This captivating story spans from the  discovery of the headland by Lieutenant   James Cook in 1770.  Included is a yearly list of lightkeepers  who worked at the lightstation from  1868 to its demanning in 1986.  "Lighthouse of Tragedy: The Story of  Bustard Head Lighthouse, Queensland's   First Coast Light” by Stuart Buchanan. ISBN 0 9586433 0 X Available from Coral Coast Publications   “Nautilus” lay in her watery grave for  over 70 years. During the Royal  Australian Navy’s Exercise Crocodile  ’99, the Defence Science and  Technology Organisation (DSTO) and  Navy personnel  discovered “Nautilus”  during a Mine Countermeasures  Exercise. DSTO was participating in  route survey operations onboard “HMAS  Benalla”, and locating mine-like objects  on the seabed using side scan sonar.  “Nautilus” was found sitting in 23  metres of water off Bustard Head.