FMHT launches Falklands shipping and wrecks initiative

It is estimated that there are between 150 and 200 wrecks in and around the Falkland Islands.  Many of the them date back to 18th and 19th century, when the age of sail ruled the seas.  Although there have been millions of words written about these vessels, by thousands of people, there isn’t a single database that students, historians and scholars can access to check their facts and accurately locate last resting places.

When Peter Beardmore, who lived in the Falkland Islands between 1955 and 1964, retired from his job as computer systems manager when he turned 65, he decided to turn what had become a hobby into a “rest of life” pursuit.  He set about gathering all the information he could about every vessel that had either foundered or sunk in and around the Falklands and putting the information and documentation into a proper, organised database.

Peter will now use his technology skills to work with FMHT to organise his database so that it can be widely used by people who are interested in the islands’ maritime history and want to separate fact from fiction.

Peter’s lifelong interest in Falklands ships and shipping began when he was a young boy (pictured here) and he and his mates spent their days climbing over the wreck of the Jhelum.  In those days, recalls Peter, now 75, the vessel was used to store “aviation fuel”.  He had arrived in Stanley from the UK when his father, a joiner, got a three-year contract to work in the islands.  His family “liked it so much” they returned for another three-year contract and Peter didn’t leave, to join the Meteorological Office in the UK, until he was 17.

So far Peter has chronicled 45 Falklands wrecks either lost or condemned, between 1774 and 1845, and a further 14 in South Georgia, between 1817 and 2003. He has inputted between 43,000 and 46,000 entries into his database.  Many more will follow as the Trust initiative gathers pace.  

Peter describes his wrecks database as a “Best Endeavours Work-in-Continual-Progress undertaking”, which will inevitably have “errors and omissions” as he tries to track down and verify sources, locations and names.

A good example of Peter’s investigative work is highlighted in the 5th June 2023 marking of the 110th anniversary of the condemning of the Lady Elizabeth in Stanley.  We have a report from the April 1913 edition of the Falklands Island Magazine and Church Paper’ which remarks on a “curious coincidence” when revealing the arrival of the badly damaged Lady Elizabeth in Stanley harbour, under the command of Captain K. Peteresen. According to the magazine: “It was the same ship that in 1889 brought the bricks and cement for the Cathedral and also the wood for the Tabernacle.”

Peter believes this to be incorrect, because the Lady Elizabeth had not been to the Falklands before her final fateful voyage.  “Don’t always believe what you read in the papers,” is his advice. 

Although he does speculate that the “coincidence” may have been Captain Petersen delivering the building materials: “In 1889, a Kosmos mail ship called ‘Theben’ arrived in Stanley with a Captain K. Petersen in charge. That may or may not be the same Captain K. Petersen. My guess is that it probably was, as the Vicar, who wrote the Magazine may well have been chatting to the Captain about the coincidence.” 

Says Saul Pitaluga, FMHT Trustee: “It is important to get our maritime history right and Peter Beardmore will play an invaluable role in ensuring that the database is as accurate and definitive as can be, when you have to rely on ancient and often third-party anecdotal accounts of shipwrecks that occurred in desperate circumstances. By opening up these questions and controversies for debate we hope to ensure that we get all the information and opinions that are out there in our now digital world.”