Preservation Island is one of the islands of the Furneaux Group, off the north-east tip of Tasmania. There is an old homestead in Horseshoe Bay on the island s north east, with a derelict jetty.
On 28th February 1797, the Sydney Cove, en route from Calcutta to Port Jackson sailed into Banks Strait in strong winds and ran aground between Preservation Island and Rum Island. A party of 17 men set off on 28th February 1797 in the ship s longboat to reach help at Port Jackson, 400 nautical miles (740 km) away. This was led by first mate Hugh Thompson, and included William Clark the supercargo, three European seaman and 12 lascars. Ill fortune struck again and they were wrecked on the mainland at the northern end of Ninety Mile Beach. Their only hope was to walk along the shore all the way to Sydney, a distance of over 600 kilometres.
They had few provisions and no ammunition, and fatigue and hunger lessened their number as they marched. Along the way they encountered various aboriginal people, some friendly and some not. The last of the party to die on the march was killed by a man named Dilba and his people near Hat Hill. Those people had a reputation around Port Jackson for being ferocious. Matthew Flinders and George Bass had feared for their safety when they encountered Dilba the previous year.
In May 1797 the three survivors of the march, William Clark, sailor John Bennet and one lascar had made it to the cove at Wattamolla and, on 15th May 1797, with their strength nearly at an end they were able to signal a boat out fishing, which took them on to Sydney
On the march Clark had noted coal in the cliffs at what is now called Coalcliff between Sydney and Wollongong. This was the first coal found in Australia. On arrival at Port Jackson, the men informed Governor Hunter of the Sydney Cove and its remaining crew. Hunter despatched the Francis and the Eliza to salvage the ship and take the remaining crew and cargo to Port Jackson.
On the first salvage trip, the crew of the Francis discovered wombats on the island and a live animal was taken back to Port Jackson. Matthew Flinders travelling on board the Francis on its third and final salvage trip also decided to take a wombat specimen from the island to Port Jackson. Governor Hunter later sent the animal s corpse to Joseph Banks at the Literary and Philosophical Society to verify it as a new species. The island was named Clarke island after William Clark.