Shipwrecks

Actaeon (1838-1853)

What remains of the Actaeon lie on the shoreside of the Charles Cooper in Stanley Harbour in front of the Capstan Gift Shop.  She arrived in the Falklands on January 27th, 1853, with a Captain Robertson at the helm, 156 days out of Liverpool, bound for San Francisco, laden with 800 tons of coal.  She had tried and failed to round Cape Horn, and the damage the attempt had made to her rendered her “unseaworthy”.  After her cargo was removed, she was scuttled, to be used as a jetty.

Actaeon was built in Canada, in 1838, at a renowned barque-building shipyard on the River Miramichi in northern New Brunswick, near Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.  Miramichi is now the largest city in New Brunswick, but back in the 1830s, it was a shipbuilding hub, in a golden age, with an Irish emigre, John Harvey, as its undoubted “star”.

Key Facts:

barque icon

Three-masted barque

Built in Canada to last a lifetime

Size: 560 tons, 116 feet long
Launched: Miramichi, Canada, 1838
Fate: Scuttled after trying to round the Horn

Video footage © 2023 Mark Spicer

Harvey was born in County Cork 1800 and arrived in Canada in 1823. He began work in his elder brother William’s yard and soon became foreman, before rising to Master Builder, at the age of 44.  During his career, he built the Actaeon and 61 other sailing vessels.  When he died, in 1875, his obituary noted: His 62 well-built vessels, mostly large barks (sic) and full-rigged ships, found a ready market in the Old Country. They were sound and durable and had no difficulty in maintaining the Lloyd’s classifications for which they were built.” 

In 1977, a specialist wreck surveying expedition, from Cambridge in England, on behalf of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, visited the Falklands to inspect the Actaeon wreck and found that “The ship had been cut down to the tweendecks.  The bows are still very much intact. 1” bronze drifts can be seen in the stern. Within the vessel there is a splendid amount of nautical junk, including capstans, two windlass barrels and mooring swivels, possibly belonging to the S.S. Great Britain.”

Since that survey, Actaeon has degenerated hugely and there are no longer any signs of the “nautical junk” the Cambridge Expedition spotted all those years ago.  

In 2017, the wreck was recognised and honoured as part of a special Falkland Islands stamp issue in March, along with three other famous wrecks, Charles Cooper (which also features on the FMHT wreckmap), Capricorn and Afterglow. Actaeon, the stamp, cost 31p.

Photos © 2018 Mark Spicer

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