Vessel Name: Thelma

Frederick Anderson
Frank Thomas Mohr
Drowned at Sea; Body of Anderson recovered
19 September 1910

Mary Russell, Mother of Frank Thomas Mohr

Mary Russell, Mother of Frank Thomas Mohr

The Thelma was a 22 foot fishing boat owned by William Henry James. He conducted a fishing operation in third shares with Frederick Anderson (52) and Frank Thomas Mohr (22). James last saw the men alive on the 18 September. On the 19 September Anderson and Mohr left to go fishing round the African Reef. Anderson was also known as “Hansen” and held a Master’s certificate. Mohr had had some sea-faring experience but was relatively inexperienced. Anderson had been fishing for some years in Geraldton, but Mohr was a comparatively new arrival from the Northam district. Anderson was described as experienced but a somewhat indifferent hand with a boat. On the day in question the weather was very rough. A land wind was blowing and a very heavy sea was running. The men, on such occasions would not take the sails down to fish, but would allow the boat to drift.

The two men left Geraldton in the morning and were seen at around 11:30am by a party of picnickers who were on the beach near the mouth of the Greenough River. The party included Joshua Watts Waldeck, a farmer of Greenough and Mr. Duncan and their families. They first noticed the fishing boat sailing along the Geraldton side of the river. The boat was about a mile out and at the time did not appear in difficulty. Later Waldeck reported that he saw it standing in towards the shore. At around 2pm his daughters informed him that there was a boat wrecked on the rocks about a mile south of the river in a spot lined with reefs.

The boat when stranded had only about a foot of water under her, and she was dismasted. There was room for a boat to sail inside the outer reef. Waldeck reported the matter to the police, who commenced a search for the bodies. Along with Water Police Constable Evensen, James subsequently visited the spot and identified the boat as his. It was a complete wreck. Constables Evensen and Thompson from Greenough, patrolled the beach all day. Aside from wreckage all that was found was a flannel waist band which one of the missing men was known to have been wearing round his throat, but no traces of the bodies were found.

The search party continued during the week and by the following weekend a discovery was made. On Sunday 25 September, at around 3pm, the wife of Constable Thompson was keeping her husband company on the beach where the Thelma was wrecked. She noticed a body floating in the water about a quarter of a mile north of the wreck, lying in about two feet of water. James and a party which included Mr. P. Forrester were close by attempting to repair the Thelma. With their assistance, Constable Thompson had the body brought on to the beach. The features were not recognisable and when the body was discovered there was hardly any clothing on it. The shirt was drawn over the head, there was neither a singlet or trousers on, but a belt was round the waist. Both socks were on, but only one boot. The face had been eaten away by fish, but the build, colour of the hair, and certain tattoo marks on the arm, proclaimed it to be the body of Anderson.

Constable Thompson immediately rode into Geraldton and reported the discovery of the body. A coffin was ordered, and dispatched to the scene of the wreck. The body was then brought into the morgue, arriving at around 11pm Sunday 25 September. On Monday afternoon the body was interred in the Anglican cemetery, the Reverend W. Saunders officiating. William Henry James undertook to pay all expenses in connection with the interment.

An inquest was opened at the. Morgue on the Monday morning, and evidence of identification was given by Mr. P. Forrester. Constable Evensen, in his report gave a detailed description of the coastline. “Huge rollers form 500 yards out at sea, and coming in, crash with great violence on the rocks. The place is a network of reefs, many of them being of the “dumb” variety (i.e., they are near the surface, but being flat-topped, when a swell is on, the water simply glides over them, their presence not being denoted by breakers).” It was surmised that Anderson allowed the boat to strike one of these reefs or it may be that the boat was caught in one of the rollers and overturned.

After hearing evidence from witnesses the Coroner, Mr. Raymond Gee, R.M., informed the jury that there were three things to consider in similar cases: - The identity, when and where the incident happened, and the immediate cause of death. After brief deliberation, the foreman announced that the jury’s verdict was “That Frederick Anderson came to his death on September 19, 1910, by drowning, through the capsizing of the fishing boat Thelma near the mouth of the Greenough River.”

Frank Thomas Mohr was born in Melbourne in 1888 and arrived with his family in Western Australia in 1892. His father, John Mohr was born in Hamburg, Germany. Mohr was single at the time of his death and his body was never recovered. Little is known of Anderson but he was reported as being of Swedish ancestry and left behind no family in Australia.