This research guide lists resources in the museum library and elsewhere that will help you discover more about The Dunbar, which sank at Sydney Heads on Thursday 20th August, 1857.
Dunbar 1857: Disaster on our doorstep
Kieran Hosty. Editor Jeffrey Mellefont; graphic designer Monika Klenner; photographers Andrew Frolows, Mike Meyer, Jeffrey Mellefont.
Sydney. Australian National Maritime Museum, 2007.
Dunbar: Wreck inspection report
Department of Planning. Sydney. Department of Planning, 1991.
Dunbar (1854-1857) Conservation Management Plan
Nutley, D and Smith, T, NSW Heritage Office, Sydney.NSW Heritage Office, 2002.
Also available online (opens a PDF).
The fatal lights: Two strange tragedies of the sea
(About the Dunbar and the Ly-EE-Moon)
Tom Mead. Sydney. Dolphin Books, 1993.
The Limehouse Shipowner [Duncan Dunbar's ships]
E.A. Woods. Sea Breezes Magazine, 1939.
Shipwrecks: Australia's greatest maritime disasters
(Contains a chapter on the Dunbar)
Evan McHugh. Camberwell, Vic. Viking, 2003.
Sydney Harbour: A pictorial history from the first settlers to the present day
(Contains an article on the Dunbar)
Michael Stringer. Narrabeen N.S.W. J.M.A. Stringer & Co. 1984.
REF 994.41 STR
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Kieran Hosty. Signals No. 79 June-August 2007. pgs 34-39.
This article covers the vessel's history, the wreck of the Dunbar, the aftermath of the shipwreck, and the objects salvaged (the museum acquired a large collection).
Peta Knott. Signals No. 54 March-May 2001 pgs 24-25.
Article by Sydney University student Peta Knott, about her research with Kieran Hosty. She looks at belt buckles found at the Dunbar shipwreck site and discusses their significance.
Christine Yeats. Signals No. 69 December 2004-February 2005 pgs 32-34.
Results of research into maritime history records relating to the Dunbar held by State Records of New South Wales.
Kieran Hosty. Paper presented to W.E.A. Australia August 2000.
The paper examines the historical background and the social significance of the wreck of the Dunbar. Contemporary accounts are drawn from published narratives of the day. See ANMM e-prints.
The Dunbar: Sydney's greatest shipping tragedy
B. Saunders. Heritage NSW Vol. 6 no. 2 June 1999 pgs 14-15.
The Dunbar anchor
Royal Australian Historical Society Journal. Vol. 16 no. 4 1930.
Kieran Hosty. Signals No.91, June-Aug 2010, p.52-53.
Article about a chair from the Museum collection alleged to have been built with salvaged timber from the Dunbar wreck.
The following items are not held in the museum library.
A narrative of the melancholy wreck of the 'Dunbar', merchant ship, on the South Head of Port Jackson, August 20th, 1857
2nd ed. Sydney. James Fryer, 1857. This item is available online at the National Library.
An illustrated authentic narrative of the loss of the ship Dunbar, together with a list of passengers and crew, ... : Also, an account of the fearful collision of two steamers near Melbourne, with loss of thirty-four lives/illustrated from drawings
J.W. Guy. Sydney. H. Bancroft .
The Sydney Morning Herald
Published several articles about the Dunbar wreck on the following dates: 22 August 1857, 24 August 1857, 25 August 1857 and 26 August 1857.
(Available at the museum library and from most state libraries)
Passenger, crew lists and other primary records
Primary records relating to The Dunbar wreck are held by State Records of New South Wales whose website contains a great deal of useful information including Archives in Brief 67- The wreck of the Dunbar. This is a detailed list of records relating to the wreck, background information and a list of resources for further study. The site also features an online gallery, The Dunbar - Australia's Titanic, which includes the story of the wreck, images and a list of passengers and crew.
However, as there is no surviving definitive crew or passenger lists for The Dunbar, available lists are incomplete and often conflicting. In compiling the book Dunbar 1857: Disaster on our doorstep, museum curator Kieran Hosty used many different primary and secondary sources including lists found at State records, death certificates and private papers. An appendix to the book that lists passengers and crew is the most accurate to date, so we suggest you compare the different versions.
Download the Dunbar passenger and crew list (PDF, 21kb) [insert PDF]
A passenger list for the Dunbar's first voyage to Sydney in September 1856 can be found at the Mariners in Australian Waters website.
The Dunbar is a protected shipwreck under the care of the New South Wales Heritage Branch. Its Maritime Heritage online website is an important resource for researching NSW shipwrecks and contains a great deal of information relating to the Dunbar, including an entry in the NSW Maritime Heritage Database which includes links to a historical profile, images of the graves in a Camperdown cemetery and linked documents including a conservation management plan..
Trove pictures photos objects online has several images relating to The Dunbar and the wreck drawn from major Australian collections including a portrait of James Johnson (the only survivor). The images include:
- Dunbar [watercolour ] by David Little. ca. 1900-1960. State Library of Victoria
- Dunbar [Photograph] A.C. Dreier postacrd collection. State Library of Victoria
- [The "Dunbar"] The ship with small portrait of James Johnson in top (L) corner and his signature in bottom (L) corner.[postcard]. State Library of Victoria
- Dunbar [postcard]. ca 1880-1930. David Little postcard collection. State Library of Victoria.
- Dunbar. [photograph]. between 1885 and 1946. Malcolm Brodie shipping collection. State Library of Victoria.
- Dunbar [anchor of the ship Dunbar.] [photograph]. State Library of Queensland
- James Johnson, survivor of the wreck of the Dunbar, 1857 / [hand coloured ambrotype attributed to Thomas Glaister]. State Library of New South Wales.
- Scene of the wreck of the 'Dunbar', Sydney. [photographs]. Ca. 1855-1910. State Library of Victoria.
- Watsons Bay, looking west, showing baths, ferry wharf, and Royal Hotel, middle distance; relics of the "Dunbar" wreck exhibits, 6d admission, foreground. Hood, Sam, 1872-1953. [photograph]. State Library of new South Wales.
Other online resources
The NSW Migration Heritage Centre website features a section called Objects through Time - Dunbar collection. It draws together information about the ship and includes Dunbar objects from various collections.
For more information on researching Australian shipwrecks, see our Shipwrecks research guide.
We’d also recommend the results of this Trove search which covers books, diaries, journal articles and pictures and objects relating to the Dunbar.