Francis Lascelles Jardine

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Frank Jardine, 1880s

Francis Lascelles (Frank) Jardine (28 August 1841 – 1919) was an Australian pioneer associated with the exploration and settlement of Far North Queensland.

Early life[edit]

The old homestead of the farthest north cattle station in Queensland. Established by the Jardine brothers in the early sixties, but long since abandoned, 1917

In 1864 Jardine, with his younger brother Alexander William Jardine, travelled 1200 miles from Rockhampton to Somerset on the Cape York Peninsula, at the time his father John Jardine's cattle station. They started with 42 horses and 250 head of cattle. The trip took 10 months during which time the party was constantly opposed by the area's inhabitants as they forced their way through scrub and swamps and crossed at least six large rivers, including the Jardine River which was subsequently named after him. They reached Somerset on 2 March 1865 with 12 horses and 50 cattle. Jardine's men survived, in poor health; they left a trail of dead Aborigines, dead horses and cattle and all their equipment.[1] Jardine claimed to have personally killed 47 people, with a total death toll for the trip of over 200. Both brothers were elected Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society and received the Murchison Award. In 1866 Frank settled on a station near Somerset and was appointed police magistrate in 1868.

The Jardine residence, former Government House at Somerset, Cape York, Queensland

Jardine's treasure[edit]

In early 1891 one of Jardine's large pearl and trepang (beche-de-mer) fleet, schooner Lancashire Lass (1869-1895), Captain Samuel Rowe, reported finding a shipwreck on a coral reef whilst trepanging. The items recovered included an anchor, a small non-ferrous cannon, and 160 lbs (72 kg) of Spanish dollars, estimated to be worth over £300. The dates of three coins were given, the oldest 1800, 1814, and a very indistinct 1833 appeared to be the youngest. The exact location of the wreck was kept secret.[2]

The Thursday Island exports for 1891 May 22 included "6 boxes of specie" (coins) sent to London, England via the steamer Taroba.[3]

In 1911 Jardine disclosed that he equipped one of his fleet for salvage and recovered a further ~15 cwt (~760 kg) of Spanish silver pillar dollars.[4] The Queensland steamer Tara from Brisbane, called at Thursday Island about 1891 Nov 20 on its way to London, England. The Pall Mall Gazette (London) 1892 Jan 5 reported the arrival of a large quantity of specie, value many thousand pounds, being Torres Straits treasure. The next day the Liverpool Mercury reported "The steamship Tara has arrived from Brisbane with £6600 in specie."

In 1897 Percival Pitman Outridge (1863-1938) a pearl fleet owner, reported details of the coins. The Spanish dollars were dated 1713-1823, and the single gold coin recovered was a Spanish onza [ounce] dated 1819.[5]

The old residency at Somerset, Cape York. Once the "seat of government" of Torres Strait, but more recently the home of the Jardine family, 1917

In 1911 Jardine disclosed that the wreck was located "in a lagoon of Portlock Reef", but did not give the exact location. Rowe in 1891 had said it was "on the extreme outer reef of the Great Barrier chain". Some describe Portlock Reef as the extreme northern limit of the Great Barrier Reef.[6] Jardine persisted with his option that the ship was Spanish, so it appears that the ship's bell was not found. Spanish dollars were widely accepted, so it was not unusual for ships of many nations to carry significant quantities to pay for goods.

The ship was most likely the Sun (1819 ship), brig of Calcutta, Captain Gillett which departed Sydney 1826 May 10 with 40,000 Spanish dollars for Batavia, Singapore, Calcutta via Torres Strait. She was reported wrecked May 27 on a detached part of the Eastern Fields. The ship went to pieces almost immediately, 2 boats headed for Mer (Murray Island). The long boat with 24 were all lost on a reef within sight of Mer. The ship John Munroe picked up Capt. Gillett and 11 others Jun 1 at Mer and took them to Calcutta.

Later life[edit]

Francis Lascelles Jardine, late 1917 in his 80th year, at Cape York

Jardine died in 1919 of leprosy and is buried at Somerset with his Samoan princess bride Sana Solia. Their graves are now part of the heritage-listed Somerset Graves Site.[7]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Kelly, Kieran (2000). Hard Country Hard Men. Hale & Iremonger. p. 71. ISBN 0-86806-684-2.
  2. ^ "NORTHERN MAIL NEWS". Morning Bulletin. XLIV (8544). Queensland, Australia. 18 March 1891. p. 6. Retrieved 14 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ "NORTHERN MAIL NEWS". Morning Bulletin. XLIV (8544). Queensland, Australia. 18 March 1891. p. 6. Retrieved 14 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "TREASURE TROVE". The Brisbane Courier (16, 653). Queensland, Australia. 27 May 1911. p. 4. Retrieved 14 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "Discovery of an Old Spanish Wreck". The Queenslander. LII (1133). Queensland, Australia. 10 July 1897. p. 79. Retrieved 14 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "THE EASTWARD PASSAGE THROUGH TORRES STRAITS, FROM INDIA TO AUSTRALIA". The Sydney Morning Herald. XXI (2795). New South Wales, Australia. 5 May 1846. p. 2. Retrieved 14 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "Somerset Graves Site (entry 650072)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  • Clarke, Frank G. (1998). "9. Frank Jardine - the twice buried pastoralist.". The big history question: snapshots of australian history. NSW: Kangaroo Press. pp. 43–46. ISBN 0-86417-954-5. It would be true to say that Frank Jardine shot his way through to Somerset. His personal tally of ... 47 by the time the party reached its goal ten months later. These notches [on his carbine's stock] commemorated only confirmed kills ...
  • Lack, Clem (2006). "Jardine, Francis Lascelles (1841 - 1919)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition. Australian National University. Retrieved 22 March 2007. In 1866 Frank settled on a station near Somerset and was appointed police magistrate in 1868. Confusion between his government and personal activities led to frequent complaints and in 1875 he was superseded by H. M. Chester. On 10 October 1873 at Somerset Jardine married the seventeen-year-old Sana Solia, niece of the Malietoa Laupepa; they had two sons and two daughters.

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