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Gothic secret histories and representing Australian colonial deaths at sea: The case of Captain Charles Wright Harris and the wreck of the SS Admella (1859)
journal contributionposted on 19.07.2021, 04:42 by Nicole AnaeNicole Anae
Extant ephemera documenting the wreck of the SS Admella off the South Australian coast on 6 August 1859 offers a compelling story of real-life maritime calamity characterized by death and extraordinary heroism. The much less written about account, however, is the story lying in between 'official accounts' of the wreck, and those that emerged in the contemporary reports of the day, including a body of verse termed 'Admella poetry'. Verse forms and telegraphic reports of the wreck appear to be at odds with other witness statements, and official records have corrupted details from either telegraphic reports or published survivor statements, or both. This re-reading of one of the key heroic fatalities in the story of the wreck of the SS Admella-37-year-old Captain Charles Wright Harris, a passenger aboard the Admella-theorizes on his death at sea as mapping plural histories. I argue that the account of the event preserved as political and bureaucratic memory- A nd its counterpoint-the account of the event preserved in the popular press and Admella poems, characterizes an alternative Victorian cultural memory, a gothic secret history concerning the wreck of the SS Admella and colonial deaths at sea.