The mysterious final resting place of Finnish-owned sailing ship Glenbank has finally been solved, after going missing more than 100 years ago. 

Discovered in the spectacular Dampier Marine Park and filmed as part of the Disney+ Original series, Shipwreck Hunters Australia, the historically significant finding has uncovered the lost story of the Scottish-built cargo ship and its more than 20 crew on board that lost their lives at sea. 

The compelling and remote deep-water site was first found by a group of local fishing friends Kevin Deacon, Johnny Debnam, Luke Leech, Justin Leech and Tom Radley. After the Shipwreck Hunters Australia dive team reported the find to Western Australian Museum, the Museum’s maritime archaeologists brought expertise to the discovery and the mission that ultimately confirmed it was in fact the missing Glenbank ship. 

Johnny Debnam of Shipwreck Hunters Australia said: “We were incredibly excited when we first discovered the ship. After undertaking a full survey, diving, and filming the huge wreck-site, abundant with sharks, turtles, dolphins and other marine life, the team was able to interpret pivotal evidence from the seabed, along with a deep dive into the archives, to help piece together the ship’s incredible story.” 

In November 1910, the steel barque Glenbank arrived at Balla Balla, Western Australia and had been chartered by Whim Well Copper Mines Ltd to transport copper ore from Balla Balla to the United Kingdom. The ship’s crew was made up of 20 plus members (mostly Russian, Norwegian, and Finnish) and was under the command of Finn, Captain Fredrik Moberg.

The evidence gathered by the team and extensive research determined that Glenbank came to its demise due to unsecured cargo of copper ore loaded at Balla Balla where, during a ferocious storm, the precious cargo shifted and caused the ship to capsize, splitting the hull and deck structure apart.

Maritime Archaeologist, Dr Deb Shefi from Western Australian Museum said: “The discovery of Glenbank is very significant in helping tell the tale of global trade at the turn of the century and giving a voice to those who tragically lost their lives on that fateful day in 1911.

“It is not often we find a silhouette of a ship, with the masts aligned, resting on the seafloor like this. The unseasonably good weather meant Glenbank was ready to shed its secrets and we were able to record measurements and details that will assist further research into this tragic shipwreck.”

Even more intriguing is the tale of Glenbank’s one and only survivor Antti Ketola, a 22-year-old Finnish seaman, who managed to get to safety on Legendre Island. Ketola was stranded there for three days, surviving on raw shellfish and eventually rescued by the pearling lugger, Pearl and taken to Cossack.

Remarkably, the Shipwreck Hunters Australia team was able to track down Antti Ketola’s descendants in Finland who had no idea about their fore-father’s incredible shipwreck story.

“Whenever he (Antti Ketola) lived here in Finland there were no stories about it, and he never talked about it, so it has been totally hidden what has happened to Antti,” said Matti Latva-Panula, grandson of the lone Glenbank survivor, now in his 80’s.

“From now on the story is going to live in the family. All the children and grandchildren will know about it.”

The exciting discovery of the Glenbank shipwreck is documented in episode one of the Disney+ Original series, Shipwreck Hunters Australia, which premiered yesterday on the streaming platform.

The series uncovers a number of other incredible shipwreck stories throughout each episode, including the discovery of a Dutch Dornier Do-24K flying boat operated by the Netherlands Naval Aviation Service (Marineluchtvaartdienst), one of fifteen flying boats destroyed in an air raid from World War 2. This discovery was one of the most significant finds in Broome in over twenty years, and the culmination of decades of research.

All six episodes of Shipwreck Hunters Australia are now available on Disney+