The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

Eliza Fraser

Eliza Fraser was married to an elderly Stromness sea captain, James Fraser, who was the captain of the Stirling Castle.

In 1836 she sailed for Australia with her husband, leaving her three children with the local minister. On 22 May 1836 they were wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef, on a reef now known as Elizabeth Reef.

They managed to board two boats and, after some days, came ashore where they were captured by local tribesmen.  Eliza later told how the survivors had been stripped of their clothes, beaten and treated as slaves.Eliza Fraser

Eliza also told how her husband died in her arms after he was speared in the shoulder for failing to do the work expected of him; although according to other survivors, he had died of starvation.

She was passed from tribe to tribe before being taken to the mainland.

A fishing and hunting party had rescued the other survivors of the Stirling Castle and, on learning that Eliza had been moved elsewhere, a search party was dispatched to look for her. After negotiations, she was freed by the search party, which consisted mainly of convicts deported from Britain.

Five months after she gained her freedom, she married another sea captain. Aged 38, she returned to England with her new husband.

She settled in London where she took every opportunity to make money from her stories. Many prominent people who knew the tribes in Australia did not believe her tales.

In 1838 she published a book describing her ordeal and continued to make money from public appearances. It is recorded that she never mentioned her first husband or her three children.

She gained such notoriety that Fraser Island is named after her. She later emigrated to New Zealand and is thought to have died in a traffic accident.