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.
910.45309944 DUN

Dunbar: Wreck inspection report

Department of Planning. Sydney. Department of Planning, 1991.
910.45309944 DUN

Dunbar (1854-1857) Conservation Management Plan

Nutley, D and Smith, T, NSW Heritage Office, Sydney.NSW Heritage Office, 2002.
910.45309944 DUN
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.
910.45309944 MEA

The Limehouse Shipowner [Duncan Dunbar's ships]

E.A. Woods. Sea Breezes Magazine, 1939.
387.20941 DUN

Shipwrecks: Australia's greatest maritime disasters

(Contains a chapter on the Dunbar)
Evan McHugh. Camberwell, Vic. Viking, 2003.
910.4530994 MCH

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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Journal Articles

The Dunbar

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.

Contemporary Accounts

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 [1857].


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, 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 and Ships in Australian waters website.

Shipwreck Sources

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..


View information about the Dunbar from the Museum’s Collection

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:

Other online resources

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.

Useful Links