Camden Harbour is located in the south east corner of the much larger Brecknock Harbour on the Kimberley coast of Western Australia. Since the first attempt at settlement in 1864, until the present day, this area is seldom visited from the sea. About 70 potential settlers, principally from the mining and pastoral areas around Ballarat and Bendigo, bought shares in the Camden Harbour Association and were assembled in Melbourne in late 1864. The settlers set sail to W.A. in ships, the "Stag", the "Helvetia" and the "Calliance". Loaded with all they thought they would need including flocks of sheep to graze on the supposed pastures of Camden Harbour. The Calliance nearly didn't make it, striking a reef in the Kimberley before reaching her intended destination. But after tossing equipment overboard they floated free from the reef and continued on arriving just under two weeks later than the other two ships. The settlers struggled on for six months under intimidation by aborigines and lack of fresh water during the dry season. By October 1865, all of the sheep had died. The remaining few settlers, together with the government party and what few animals and possessions that could be carried away, abandoned the camps and returned south on the brig "Kestrel". Remnants of pottery, building bricks and other remnants remain at the ruins of the settlement today.
While being brought close in to Camden Head for careening, the "Calliance" was caught in a violent wet season storm and washed onto the rocks. As the tide dropped, the ship broke up on the rocks. Today, the "Calliance" wreck site is marked by a pile of black basalt stones and a number of white fire bricks near low water mark at Camden Head. A lesser known reminder of the wreck is a lone boab tree on the eastern shoreline of Camden Harbour (right) inscribed with "JAN 1865 - SHIP - CALLIANCE".
The Government Camp was established outside the confines of Camden Harbour on the rocky slopes of the mainland directly east of Sheep Island and you can walk up the hill to the remains.
You can also visit the island which is home to some of the graves of the ill-fated settlers. The headstone and grave of Mary Jane Pascoe is clearly visible today beside the large boab tree on the south-eastern tip of Sheep Island.
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