Sydney’s Deep Technical Wrecks
Wreck of the “Ann Miller”
33.52.08 S 151.17.87E
Built in Glasgow in 1928, this coal carrying steamer was on a voyage from Shellharbour to Sydney in 1929. She foundered off Rosa’s Gully in rough weather and only one crewman survived. Now her partly upturned hull has largely collapsed, showing her engines and boilers. The wreck also supports a fantastic cloud of fish, including bream and nannygai
A very large complex of reefs lies south of Coogee Beach down as far south as Malabar. Rarely dived, some of the shallower sections in the north are reported to have exceptional deep sponge gardens.
The wreck of the “Koputai”
This NZ tug paddle steamer sank in bad weather in 1920. She is sitting upright on sand about 8km off Bondi. The wreck was only discovered a few years ago, and lays close to the wreck of the HMAS “Encounter”. The wreck is broken up but the boilers, engine and paddles are still the dominant feature, and makes for a great photography. This is by no means an easy dive, but is very rewarding.
The wreck of the SS “Woniora”
34° 01′ 23.1″S 151° 15′ 32.0″E AUS66
This 42 metre long steam collier was built in Newcastle, England in 1863 for the NSW coal trade. In October 1882 she left Bulli for Sydney with coal. A heavy swell was encountered causing water to enter the hold. The ship took a very heavy list and rolled over. Only one of the crew survived. The wreck is now in the centre of the entrance to Botany Bay. You will need to check with the Harbour Master for a slot when there are no ship movements. The wreck is largely intact lying north-south on sand, with the bow facing the north. The upper parts are broken away exposing the machinery.
Sydney’s Forgotten WWI Fleet
Scuttled naval vessels of the interwar years 1919-1939
Several Australian naval vessels were lost in encounters with the enemy and have entered official war histories and honour rolls. Just as much naval hardware has been lost due to defence budget economies, accidents, the ravages of time and unduly long periods of peace. Sometimes their remains are well-preserved and their wreck sites hold lots of interesting insights into our naval history. The economies of the inter-war years saw a whole generation of WWI warships scuttled off Sydney, usually in deep water.
The Battlecruiser “Australia”
The first vessel to be described was lost due to peace rather than war. HMAS Australia our only battlecruiser, was flagship of the RAN when it was formed in 1913. At the start of World War I, Australia chased the German Pacific Fleet prompting them to withdraw to the South Atlantic where they were cornered and destroyed by the Royal Navy. It was then used to capture German Pacific possessions like New Guinea. She then served out the rest of the war in the North Sea.
Post-war budget cuts saw Australia‘s role downgraded to a training ship before she was placed in reserve in 1921. The disarmament provisions of the Washington Naval Treaty required the destruction of Australia as part of Britain’s treaty commitment. By this time battlecruisers built before the Battle of Jutland were considered obsolete anyway and shells for her guns were no longer being made. Many in the public thought that sinking Australia was a major blow to the nation’s ability to defend itself. Growing tensions between Japan and the United States of America were being felt. However, she was not really capable of going on as a defence asset without a major refit, something the RAN could not afford.
She was scuttled off Sydney Heads in 1924 in very deep water. The wreck has been visited by a robot camera ROV and is still in good condition.
She was a second-class protected cruiser of the Challenger class. She was built by HM Dockyard Devonport and completed at the end of 1905.
Encounter spent the first six years of her career operating with the RN’s Australia Squadron, before being transferred to the newly formed RAN. During World War I. Encounter operated in the New Guinea, Fiji-Samoa, and Malaya until 1916, when she returned to Australian waters. The ship spent the rest of the war patrolling and escorting convoys around Australia and into the Indian Ocean.
Encounter was paid off into reserve in 1920, but saw further use as a depot ship (renamed HMAS Penguin) until being completely decommissioned in 1929. In 1932, the cruiser was scuttled off Sydney.
She is the largest diveable wreck in Sydney at 115 metres length, and 5880 tons. The bow area is the most dominant feature with some penetration possible. Marine life is usually prolific with large schooling fish often seen. This wreck is used for student training on Trimix technical diving courses.
This Pelorus-class light cruiser was built at the end of the 19th century. She was transferred to the RAN in 1912. During World War I, the cruiser captured two German merchant ships, and was involved in the East African Campaign. She returned to Australia in late 1916 and was decommissioned. Pioneer was used as an accommodation ship for the following six years, then was stripped down and sold off by 1926. The cruiser was scuttled outside Sydney Heads in 1931.
The scuttled vessel lies in 67 m of water approximately 4.4km offshore and was found in March 2014. There is still intact structure and the wreck is standing off the bottom to heights ranging from 2 m to 5 meters.
This Pelorus light cruiser was an old design built in 1898 at the Devonport RN Dockyard. Psyche was used as a troop convoy escort from New Zealand in World War I and while in Hong Kong briefly became the Admiralty’s China Squadron flagship. The vessel also took part in the Battle of Bitapaka when involved in operations to capture Germany’s Pacific colonies, such as its Samoa protectorate.
She was commissioned into the RAN in 1915 in time for one of the more boring phases of the naval war. Tropical heat, disease and mind-numbing routine ship patrols in the Bay of Bengal sparked one of the armed services first mutinies. The boredom didn’t last, HMAS Psyche very narrowly escaped a near fatal encounter with the German raider Wolf in 1917.
She was sold and hulked July 1922. She was used at Port Stephens NSW as a timber lighter until she sank in Salamander Bay in 1940.
From 1950 till 1973 RAN Clearance Diving Teams used the sunken hull for exercises and her remains are now scattered. There is a fair bit of the hull still left. Visibility under water is down to about 1.5 metres. It’s always silty and the old wreck is covered in anchors. She is described as a pile of scrap metal smothered by sand. Even then, marine life clings to this artificial reef and the structure attracts a cloud of fish. OK, she isn’t like a Thai diving resort, but if it seems boring look harder and dig deeper into this relic of a lost era.
River class destroyers
HMAS Yarra was a River-class torpedo-boat destroyer of the RAN. She was ordered in 1909. Yarra was temporarily commissioned into the Royal Navy on completion in 1910, and handed over to Australian control on arrival in Australia.
From 1914 to 1917, Yarra was involved in wartime patrols in the Pacific and South East Asian regions, before she and her sister ships were transferred to the Mediterranean for anti-submarine operations. She returned to Australia in 1919, and was used primarily to train naval reservists. Decommissioned into reserve then reactivated on five occasions between 1919 and 1928, Yarra was paid off for the final time in 1928. She was taken to Cockatoo Island Dockyard for stripping and then was sunk in 1932 as a target ship.
She was a River-class torpedo-boat destroyer of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The destroyer was built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard and entered service with the RAN in 1916. The destroyer was first deployed to East Asia, then the Mediterranean, where she remained for the rest of World War I. After returning to Australia, the destroyer was decommissioned, but saw use in several ports for reservist training before the decision to sell her for scrap was made. In 1930, after being stripped, the destroyer was towed outside Sydney Heads, used for gunnery practice, and scuttled. After she was used as a target for gunnery practice by HMAS Canberra and HMAS Albatross. Although `Torrens’ was hit by many practice shells she would not sink but was eventually sunk with a demolition charge.
Swan was built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and entered service in 1916. The early part of the ship’s career was spent on blockade duty in the Far East, before she was transferred to the Mediterranean for anti-submarine duty. The destroyer was placed in reserve in 1920, but was reactivated between 1925 and 1927 and assigned to Tasmania. Swan was decommissioned in 1928, stripped of parts, and sold for use as prisoner accommodation on the Hawkesbury River.
On 2 February 1934, Swan and Parramatta were being towed down the Hawkesbury River for final breaking in Sydney, when gale conditions caused both hulls to break their tows Parramatta ran aground and Swan filled with rainwater and capsized at Tumbledown, near Croppy Point and Wobbly Beach. The exact location of the wreck was forgotten until 2001, when a RAN hydrography team came across the wreck while updating charts. Swan sits in only 20 metres of water, but its very murky and the currents in the area flow at around 4 knots. Visibility is less than 1 inch (25 mm).
She was the first ship launched for the Australian navy. From 1914 to 1917, Parramatta was involved in wartime patrols in the Pacific and South East Asian regions, before she and her sister ships were transferred to the Mediterranean for anti-submarine operations. She returned to Australia in 1919, and was placed in reserve. Parramatta was fully decommissioned in 1928, stripped of parts, and sold for use as prisoner accommodation on the Hawkesbury River. After changing hands several times, the hull ran aground during gale conditions in 1933, and was left to rust. In 1973, the bow and stern sections were salvaged, and converted into memorials.
Huon was commissioned into the RAN in late 1915, and after completion was deployed to the Far East. In mid 1917, Huon and her five sister ships were transferred to the Mediterranean until a collision with sister ship HMAS Yarra in August 1918 saw Huon drydocked for the rest of the war. After a refit in England, Huon returned to Australia in 1919.
The destroyer spent several periods alternating between commissioned and reserve status over the next nine years, with the last three spent as a reservist training ship. Huon was decommissioned for the final time in 1928, and was scuttled in 1931 after being used as a target ship.
S Class destroyers
Fifty five “S” class destroyers were built for the British Admiralty under the Emergency Shipbuilding Program of World War I. Tatoo, Stalwart, Success, Swordsman, and Tasmania, along with the flotilla leader, Anzac, were gifted to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) as replacements for the RAN’s obsolete River class destroyers.
This Parker-class destroyer leader served in the Royal Navy (as HMS Anzac) and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Launched in early 1917 and commissioned into the Royal Navy, Anzac led the 14th Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet during the First World War. In 1919, she and five other destroyers were transferred to the RAN, with Anzac commissioning as an Australian warship in 1920. Most of the ship’s operations were confined to Australian waters, and she was decommissioned in 1931. The ship was sold four years later, stripped for parts, then towed outside Sydney Heads and sunk as a target ship in 1936.
HMAS Stalwart (H14)
was an Admiralty S class destroyer of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Built for the Royal Navy during World War I, the ship was not completed until 1919, and spent less than eight months in British service before being transferred to the RAN at the start of 1920. The destroyer’s career was uneventful, with almost all of it spent operating along the east coast of Australia. Stalwart was decommissioned at the end of 1925, was sold for ship breaking in 1937, then was scuttled in 1939.
HMAS Tattoo (H26)
Built for the Royal Navy during World War I, the ship was not completed until 1919, and spent less than eight months in British service before being transferred to the RAN at the start of 1920. After arriving in Australia, Tattoo spent her entire career in Australian waters, and was placed in reserve on several occasions. Tattoo was decommissioned in 1936, and was sold for ship breaking in 1937. Some Sources indicate the remains of the hull were scuttled.
HMAS Tasmania (H25)
Built for the Royal Navy during World War I, the ship was not completed until 1919, and spent a year commissioned but not operational in British service before being transferred to the RAN at the start of 1920. The destroyer’s career was uneventful, with almost all of it spent in Australian waters. Tasmania was decommissioned in 1930, and was sold for ship breaking in 1937. Some Sources indicate the remains of the hull were scuttled.
This destroyer of 1075t was built by W.Doxford, Sunderland. She was placed in reserve May 1930. Sold June 1937 to Penguin P/L for demolition. The remains were scuttled by bombing by aircraft off Sydney Dec. 20, 1941.
This 276′ long destroyer was built in 1918 . She was sold for demolition in June 1937 to Penguin P/L. She was scuttled on Feb. 8, 1939.
Artwork by Kevin Antsis
Mallow was constructed by Barclay Curle at Glasgow in Scotland. She was launched on 13 July 1915.
During World War I, the sloop was tasked primarily with minesweeping. On the 31st of December 1915, Mallow picked up the bulk of the survivors of the SS Persia (1900) (which had been torpedoed the day before off Crete) and conveyed them to Alexandria. In 1918, Mallow rescued the passengers of the French Mailboat SS Djemnah, including future acting Governor-General of Madagascar Joseph Guyon, after the mailboat was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Mallow later received letters of commendation from the Admiralty and Guyon. The sloop was transferred to the RAN in 1919. Mallow paid off to reserve on 18 October 1919, was decommissioned on 20 November 1925, and sunk as a target on 24 April 1935.
(formerly HMS Geranium) was an Arabis-class sloop built in Scotland and launched in 1915. The ship was operated by the Royal Navy as a minesweeper from 1915 until 1919, when she was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) for use as a survey ship between 1919 and 1927. The ship was decommissioned in 1927 and scrapped during 1932, with the remains scuttled in 1935.
The ship was transferred to Australia in 1919 and commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy on 17 January 1920, receiving the prefix HMAS. Marguerite paid off on 23 July 1929 and was sunk as a target on 1 August 1935.
Sydney’s Unwanted WWII Fleet
The Second World War had seen the biggest naval battles in history and huge shipyards had pumped out thousands of vessels. By 1945, a few smaller vessels still used Sydney Harbour as a depot but by then Australia was a backwater with most of the big fleet action occurring closer to Japan. At wars end the world was awash with unwanted weapons of war. With scrap prices depressed most surplus vessels were simply scuttled.
USS Craven/HMS Lewes
USS Craven just missed the First World War and was placed in reserve in 1919 and was then decommissioned in 1922. On 12 November 1939, she was renamed Conway in preparation for being recommissioned. Instead she was handed over to the desperate British in 1940 as HMS Lewes (G68), part of a 50 destroyer exchange in return for basing rights. She had an active war and was worn out. In 1944, she went to the Pacific as a target ship for aircraft training. She was in Sydney for VJ Day and was soon struck off and ordered to be scrapped. The hull was scuttled off Sydney on 25 May 1946.
The U.S.S. “Osborne” was one of two Clemson class destroyers in Australia, the other being the USS Peary sunk at Darwin
Osborne was launched on 23 September 1919. Under the command of Raymond A. Spruance (later a famous WWII admiral), Osborne steamed from Boston in 1925 to “show the flag” on an extensive year long world cruise. Osborne was decommissioned 1 May 1930 and sold for scrap.
The ship was sold to Standard Fruit Company of New Orleans where she was gutted to her hull and fitted with two new deck houses and electrical plant. With the new name Matagalpa she was capable of carrying 25,000 banana stems between Central America and New Orleans. During World War II, the ship was taken by the Navy under to resupply the Philippines as a blockade runner. While the situation in the Philippines became desperate, the three commandeered fast banana ships were forced to stop in Los Angeles for repair. She arrived in Honolulu on 8 May 1942, too late to relieve Corregidor.
On 26 June 1942 Matagalpa burned at her berth in Sydney as over one hundred firefighters worked to unload gasoline drums and fight the fire. Matagalpa was not repaired and was scuttled in the “disposal area” off Sydney on 6 September 1947.
HMAS Vendetta (formerly HMS Vendetta)was a V class destroyer. One of 25 V class ships ordered for the Royal Navy during World War I, Vendetta entered service in 1917.
During World War I, Vendetta participated in the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight, and operated against Bolshevik forces during the British Baltic Campaign. Most of the ship’s post-war career was spent operating in the Mediterranean.
In 1933, Vendetta was one of five destroyers selected for transfer to the RAN. Over the next six years, the ship was either involved in peacetime activities or was in reserve, but when World War II started, she was assigned to the Mediterranean as part of the ‘Scrap Iron Flotilla’. During the Greek Campaign, Vendetta was involved in the transportation of Allied troops to Greece, then the evacuation to Crete. After, the destroyer served with the Tobruk Ferry Service, and made the highest number of runs to the besieged city of Tobruk.
At the end of 1941, Vendetta was docked for refit in Singapore, but after the Japanese invaded, the destroyer had to be towed to Fremantle, then Melbourne. After the refit, which converted the destroyer into a dedicated escort vessel, ended in December 1942, Vendetta spent the rest of World War II operating as a troop and convoy escort around Australia and New Guinea. Vendetta was decommissioned in late 1945, and was scuttled off Sydney Heads in 1948.
She was launched in 1922 by R. J. Lacey at Narooma. The ship operated as a coastal cargo steamer and was requisitioned by the RAN in 1941 as an auxiliary minesweeper. She was not returned to her owners and was scuttled off Sydney Heads in 1946.
This wooden 135′ long barge was used by the U.S.Navy. Some sources say she was formerly a wooden minesweeper of 260 tons. On Sept 20, 1945 she was loaded with mines and depth charges and scuttled. She is a surprise awaiting an unsuspecting deep sea trawler somewhere.
HMAS Strahan was one of sixty Australian Minesweepers (commonly known as corvettes) built during World War II in Australian shipyards as part of the Commonwealth Government’s wartime shipbuilding programme. Twenty were built on Admiralty order but manned and commissioned by the Royal Australian Navy. Thirty-six (including Strahan) were built for the Royal Australian Navy. Strahan commissioned at Newcastle on 14 March 1944.
Following a period of trials, Strahan proceeded in May 1944 to the New Guinea area where she was employed on escort and anti-submarine patrol duties.
Following the cessation of hostilities, Strahan proceeded to Hong Kong where she was engaged in minesweeping and anti piracy patrols as a unit of the 21st Minesweeping Flotilla. Whilst on patrol on 26 September she struck a mine and had to be towed into Hong Kong Harbour. Strahan was paid off into Reserve at Sydney on 25 January 1946. On 6 January 1961, without being again commissioned, she was sold to Kinoshita (Australia) Pty Ltd. Her remains were scuttled on Jan.7, 1971.