The barque South Australian was one of 16 vessels charted or acquired by the South Australian Company to leave England with free-settlers in 1836 to found the new colony. South Australian arrived at Kangaroo Island in April 1837 to discharge its passengers, before being sent to Encounter Bay to service the new whaling station near The Bluff. The vessel mad three voyages between Kingscote and Encounter Bay in the second half of 1837 before the vessel was modified and employed as an offshore whale processing platform.
On 8 December 1837, whilst the vessel was anchored at Rosetta harbor, a south easterly gale struck, causing the vessel to part form its cables, cross Black Reef and strike the inshore reef close to the current location of the Yilki Store. The vessel was completely wrecked and many items were salvaged from the wreck in the fortnight that followed. The wreck has lain largely undisturbed since that time.
In April 2018, a collaborative research program between the Department for Environment and Water, the Silentworld Foundation, the South Australian Maritime Museum, the Australian National Maritime Museum, Flinders University and the MaP Fund found the remains of South Australian.
Although the wrecksite is already protected as an historic shipwreck under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1981, a 30-metre radius Protected Zone was declared over South Australian due to its high significance to the history of South Australia.
Entry into the protected zone by any type of vessel, or conducting any underwater activities such as SCUBA diving, is prohibited.