On 2 March 1878 the Loch Ard sailed from Gravesend in England bound for Melbourne. The ship carried a mixed cargo and 53 people on board. The crew numbered 36, as well as a ship's doctor, and of the rest, almost half the passengers were members of the Carmichael family.
As the Loch Ard approached the western entrance to Bass Strait between Cape Otway on the Victorian coastline and King Island's Cape Wickham, it struck a reef. It was early morning and still dark. The visibility was also poor due to a thick haze. The ship was positioned so close to the shore that the headland restricted any chance of seeing the Cape Otway lighthouse.
After three months at sea, the Loch Ard's voyage ended on 1 June. Tom Pearce, an eighteen-year-old ship's apprentice and Eva Carmichael, whom Pearce rescued, were the only survivors.
THE LOCH ARD
Three long months out on the ocean
Three long months away from homeland
Such a journey in a small ship
Close and yet so far
No warning seen from Otway's lighthouse
On the coast a hazy gloom
Limestone cliffs stood quiet to welcome
Loch Ard to its doom
From Gravesend to grave's end
Kingdom Come to see
The little ship the Loch Ard
Sails imto memory.
Neither captain's orders shouted
In the darkness of the morning
Nor prayers and cries could save them
There's no mercy on the sea
In the terror and confusion
When the hull and top deck parted
And it rained with mast and rigging
On wave swept decks below
The coldness and the rising heartache
The roaring of this angry sea
Waves now pounding on the shoreline
Panic running free
This is the stuff that throws up heroes
Brings some sense to tragedy
This time the Loch Ard's young apprentice
Saved Eva from the sea
¬© Jim Low 1999