The Gudrun was a three-masted timber barque built in Quebec in 1880. Sold to a Norwegian in 1890 she arrived in Western Australia in 1901 to load jarrah, a native timber, under the command of Captain Griff. She was one of the largest wooden vessels to visit Western Australia and is the largest intact and undisturbed timber wreck on the Western Australian coast.
On 4 August 1901 the Gudrun left Bunbury for England with 3000 tons of timber. Shortly afterwards she started leaking and was taken ashore at Fremantle— the ship’s 22-year-old Norwegian carpenter had drilled a hole through the hull. After repairs, strong winds and more leaks forced them into Shark Bay where she was beached on the flats off Cape Peron on 23 October for repairs. On 14 November a gale swept through and smashed her rudder. Attempts to refloat her were eventually abandoned on 20 December 1901.
The Gudrun was found in 1989, 88 years after her sinking, by Paul Anderson, a Canadian studying dugongs in Shark bay. Today, the wreck lies in about six metres of water, 5.3 nautical miles north of Cape Peron.
A sanctuary zone now protects the wreck and the marine life it attracts, including turtles, giant groper, stingrays, spotted cod, many trevally species and sweetlips. The wreck’s superstructure has been flattened by the constant current and occasional cyclones. While her hull is buried largely intact in the soft sands, iron frames and fittings rising above the seabed provide fish habitat.
In 1967 Eric Berry gave an attractive figurehead in the shape of a woman dressed in flowing robes to the Western Australian Museum. It came into his possession when he bought the home of Carnarvon’s first resident magistrate who had purchased the figurehead from Captain Griff for one shilling. A replica of the figurehead is also on display in the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery Centre (pictured).