A visitor to Camperdown Cemetery, Newtown, can read inscriptions on the headstones of some famous people: Sir Thomas Mitchell, explorer; Major Edmund Lockyer, founder of the Perth colony: Eliza Donnithorne, who, it is popularly believed, was the inspiration for Charles Dickens' Miss Havisham, the jilted bride of his Great Expectations. However, the most impressive and most sobering feature of the cemetery is a plain rectangular tomb containing body parts of unidentified people who died in the wreck of the Dunbar in 1857. The Dunbar's story is told in The Shipwreck by Larry Writer. In the age of sail, the journey to Sydney from "home" - Britain - was a hazardous one. Progress was dependent on the vagaries of wind. On a 22,000 kilometre trip there was always the chance of shipwreck. Conditions were cramped - even for those travelling "first class". A passenger making the voyage for the first time lost the security of familiar stars - the Great Bear constellation - and saw the unfamiliar Southern Cross dominate the sky. However, "The Dunbar was a thing of beauty, in its short life one of the finest British clippers at the zenith of the age of sail". The degree of comfort enjoyed by passengers made the Dunbar "the envy of its owners' fierce competitors". It was the Titanic of its day. Author Writer introduces people who are to make the fateful voyage. As with the Titanic, there were those who, for one reason or another, cancelled their booking and there were those who, for one reason or another, made a late decision to travel on the Dunbar. A mother, with her son and daughter, after a short stay in England boarded the Dunbar to return home to their husband and step-father, Daniel Egan, in Australia. While in England they sat for a portrait. When the Dunbar sailed the portrait was incomplete. The completed portrait was on the next ship to leave for Australia. It duly arrived. The Dunbar didn't. Approaching the entrance to Port Jackson at night, in a violent storm, on the ocean side of South Head, the call came: "breakers ahead!" The ship crashed into the base of cliffs. The next morning spectators on the cliff-top saw the waves make play with the wreckage of the ship and bodies of its passengers. There was a rescue of a single survivor of the 123 on board. Prior to his graphic description of the wreck, the tone of The Shipwreck is one of high adventure. After the tragedy, the tone becomes sombre and reflective, as though the author has been visibly affected by what he has had to describe. The population of Sydney was barely 50,000 - a country town. This was the largest loss of life from a single incident to have occurred in the town's short history. Two days later, the coronial inquest into the shipwreck was interrupted while a funeral procession from the city to Newtown carried bodies and body parts of victims to the Camperdown Cemetery. The city mourned. There had been at least 20 children on the Dunbar. The Egan family portrait arrived in Sydney for the bereaved husband. In the following days wreckage of the ship, carcasses of the livestock the Dunbar had carried, and the bodies of passengers - some mauled by sharks - were recovered in several locations inside the harbour and outside the Heads. Investigations - official and unofficial - were made into the tragedy. Poems and songs were written on the subject. Monuments were erected. Anchors of the Dunbar were recovered. A new lighthouse was erected on South Head. Despite his celebrity status, the sole survivor's association with the sea continued. In more recent times, scuba divers have plundered the wreck for souvenirs and offered them for sale. Fortunately many of these are now the property of museums and libraries and the site of the Dunbar wreck is now under New South Wales Heritage Register control. Larry Writer has written books on Sydney history, but he is better known as a sports and true crime writer. The several pages of Sources indicate the extensive research Writer made for The Shipwreck. Furthermore, in the acknowledgements, the author describes how, "in a gentle westerly", he was taken "in a powerboat through the Heads down past The Gap to the exact spot where the Dunbar was wrecked". Later, "in the worst storm Sydney had experienced in decades", Writer and his wife stood on the cliff "above the wreck site as rain speared down from black clouds, salty sea spray stung our faces and the wild wind all but blasted us off our feet". This kind of research entitles the author, a Sydney-sider, to title his book The Shipwreck - with emphasis on the "the".