Star of Greece' Figurehead


South Australian Maritime Museum

South Australian Maritime Museum
Port Adelaide, Australia

This figurehead depicts the bust of a Grecian noblewoman wearing a gold leaf coronet. Painted white, her tunic is trimmed with gold on the neckline and she wears a gold bangle. Her right hand crosses her chest and a tendril of hair falls over her left shoulder. Beautifully carved, it reflects the sleek elegance of the Irish Star vessel which it adorned.
Figureheads, carved wooden sculptures which ornamented the bow of a sailing ship, embodied the ‘soul’ of the vessel and were believed to offer the crew protection and safe passage on the seas. They were also used to identify a ship, reflecting its function or paying tribute to a person connected with the vessel. The figurehead is an evocative relic from South Australia’s most infamous shipwreck - the ‘Star of Greece' - which sunk off Port Willunga on 13 July, 1888. It is connected with a tragedy that instigated major reforms in maritime safety in the colony.


  • Title: Star of Greece' Figurehead
  • Date Created: 1868-01-01/1868-12-31
  • Location: Port Adelaide, South Australia
  • Provenance: Built in 1868 by Edward Harland, ‘Star of Greece’ was a sleek three-masted, full-rigged iron ship of 1227 tons. Loaded with over 16,000 bags of wheat destined for Great Britain, the vessel was wrecked off a reef 200 metres from Port Willunga on Friday 13 July 1888. There was no rescue equipment available on shore and by the time Port Adelaide received the message for help, the captain and many of the crew clinging to the mizzen rigging had drowned. Of the crew of 28 men, 17 lost their lives. Survivors were taken to the Port Willunga Seaview Hotel for treatment and shelter. The figurehead was salvaged by Mr Walter Kimber owner of the Seaview Hotel in Port Willunga and displayed outside his home for many years. Vernon Smith, the Honorary Curator of the Port Adelaide Nautical Museum, approached him to acquire it for the collection but was politely declined. It was presented to the Nautical Museum by his widow, after his death.
  • Rights: No known copyright restrictions, photographer: Learning Federation

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