Victoria’s Ships’ Graveyard
The Ships’ Graveyard is located 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) east of Torquay’s Fisherman’s Beach through to Point Lonsdale. There are 46 known wrecks to choose from. They consist of tugs, dredges, barges, lighters, coastal freighter, World War One submarines, a paddle steamer plus a patrol boat. Many of these vessels were stripped down and scuttled by an explosive charge or an opened valve cock, and many remain fairly intact to this day.
These vessels were decommissioned from the early 1900’s through to 1999 and range in depth from 30 metres (98 feet) to 82 metres (269 feet). Penetration can be had on some wrecks, and there is little tidal current or shipping to be concerned with so wrecks can be dived at any time of the day. The main constraints are depth, wind strength and the size of the swell.
WGS84-38° 18.37 S 144° 34.27? E
The SS “Coogee” was a 762 ton iron screw steamer built in Sunderland. She was built to sail between Liverpool and the Isle of Man and was the known as the “Lancashire Witch”. In 1888, she was brought to Victoria by Huddart Parker Ltd. The steamship was used to transport cargo and passengers between Melbourne and Launceston and Geelong.
In 1903 she collided with, the “Fortuna Figaro”, the Captain and the man at the wheel were killed. In February 1914, the SS Coogee ran aground on a sandbar and then that same month, collided with the “Bombala”. In 1914, the SS Coogee collided with the SS “Uganda”. From 1917 it was used as a minesweeper and to repair damage to the Bass Strait cable.
In 1928, the steamer was considered redundant and was scuttled outside the heads. The vessel lies with its bow towards shore (facing north) on a flat limestone/sand seabed. The bow rests on the sand at 33 metres and the stern is at 35 meters depth.
The bow and stern are the most complete structures of the wreck as most of the midships section is flattened, but for some large boilers. At the bow, divers can see some of the original ships railings. At the stern, the rudder and rudder quadrant (used to steer the rudder) are still in position. In this area, divers will also be able to see the remains of the two decks.
The wreck is covered in yellow zoanthids. Fish life includes queen snapper, butterfly perch and long-finned pike. Schools of bullseyes and sandpaper fish shelter inside.
Good weather is needed with low swells. Divers should avoid diving on this wreck when the Barwon River is in flood as visibility can be very poor.
As with many of the wrecks in the Ships’ Graveyard, the hull has mostly collapsed. The bow and stern sections are lying over to starboard and are the best preserved parts of the hull. The foredeck still retains a considerable amount of planking, a few deck fittings and some railing on the starboard side. This deck area is quite large and is an impressive sight, standing approximately seven metres off the bottom.
Immediately behind this, the hull has totally collapsed, leaving the main deck hatch coaming sitting on the bottom. Behind this are the two boilers sitting in line. On days with good visibility the dark shape of the stern can just be seen in the distance, although to see this close up requires a separate dive. The stem is also an impressive sight, but it is less structurally intact than the bow. The shape of the vessel’s counter stern is still recognisable, and just forward of this, there is the remains of some superstructure.
Built in 1887 and scuttled on 29 March 1929, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 67.3 metres (221 feet), beam 9.1 metres (30 feet) and draught 3.8 metres (12 feet) with a displacement weight of 660 tonne (728 short tons).
HMAS Canberra Wreck
This former guided missile frigate was launched in 1978 in the USA. The HMAS Canberra’s role was to protect convoys from threats posed by submarines, air, surface and subsurface launched missiles and enemy warships. You need to book through a licensed charter operator and pay an additional permit fee. Parks Victoria has put in place a four buoy mooring system to make diving the HMAS “Canberra”. The dives are so popular at times there are allotted dive times.
J1 or New Deep Sub
Depth: 38 metres
WGS84 - 38° 18.9593? S 144° 33.2189? E
HMS “J1” later HMAS “J1” was a Royal Navy submarine built at Portsmouth in 1915. She served in World War I were the J1 crippled one enemy ship and sank an enemy submarine with depth charges. Apparently they were very fast subs, but unreliable and costly to maintain. Six J class submarines were transferred to the Royal Australian Navy in 1919. By May 1922, the maintenance bill was getting too high for Australian taxpayers and all six submarines were decommissioned. J1 was sold to the Melbourne Salvage Company in 1924 and scuttled off Barwon Heads in 1926.She was rediscovered by accident in 1985 while a dive party were looking for J4. She now lies almost upright on a sandy bottom. The J1 Submarine is also known as the 38 Metre Sub, 125 Foot Sub, or the New Deep Sub. The hull lies northeast to southwest (bow northeast) and is covered in bright yellow zoanthids. The overall length of the vessel is 83.7 metres (275 feet), Due to the fine sand in the area, she is prone to silting. Penetration is possible by experienced parties although very hazardous. Fine silt and tight doorways mean guide lines and good torches with redundant air sources.
J2 or Broken Sub
Depth: 39 metres
WGS84 – 38° 18.8142? S 144° 34.8029? E
This is the deepest of all the J Class Submarines. She is also known as the 39 Metre Sub, 130 Foot Sub, Broken Sub or Deep Sub. The wreck is oriented North-South with its bow pointing out to sea. She is broken in two places and the section behind her conning tower has collapsed. The front half lists to starboard at a 45-degree angle and the break has exposed the forward torpedoes tubes. Depth, fine silt, often poor visibility and entanglement risk mean she is the most hazardous of all the J Class Submarines to penetrate. She also lies right in the middle of the shipping channel. Near the conning tower is a plaque in memory of a diver that died while penetrating the wreck. The J2 supports excellent fish life and is covered in colourful growths. With good visibility it is an outstanding dive for experienced divers.
J4 or 26m Sub
Depth: 26 metres
WGS84 – 38° 17.9794? S 144° 33.8204? E
The J4 was scuttled by explosives in 1927. The blast broke her in half near the bow. She is the shallowest of the J subs, meaning that she is very susceptible to surge, but also less affected by silt. The wreck is oriented North-South with the bow pointing out to sea. She is also called 26 metre and 90 foot sub. The bow section is broken off exposing the forward torpedoes tubes. The conning tower is intact and in excellent condition. Experienced divers can penetrate the submarine through the numerous hatch openings. Surge can propel divers against debris so caution is needed. A bronze plaque has been placed at the site by the Bottom Scratches Dive Club who rediscovered the submarine in 1982.The J4 sub has a good variety of plant and animal life, the conning tower seems to attract the best fish life.
J5 or Intact Sub
Depth: 36 metres
WGS84 – 38° 18.6493? S 144° 34.1179? E
This submarine was discovered in 1984 and is still very intact structurally. She even has a few small brass wheels and other artefacts left in place. This submarine leans slightly to starboard with her bow facing east. This is one of the most photographed of the submarines due to the yellow zoanthids on the conning tower and the large rudder and drive shafts at the stern. Penetration is possible by experienced divers, but the stern section is very tight and silty.
(WGS84) 38 19.197 144 32.175
The S.S. “Rotomahana” was a 1777 ton steel steamer built in 1879. She was used in the trans-Tasman service and later as a Bass Strait ferry. She was scuttled in1925 on a sandy bottom. The hull is badly broken up and only the boilers stand above the bottom. Several anchors and winches can also be seen. After heavy rain the flooding Barwon River can lead to poor visibility over the site. Large schools of fish patrol the wreck.
Mixed Gases /Technical wrecks
WGS84-38° 19.4878? S 144° 34.9205? E
The SS Courier was a 726 ton steel steamer originally designed as a naval dispatch vessel. Later she was used as an excursion steamer between Geelong and Melbourne and could hold up to 2000 passengers. In 1928, she was scuttled in the graveyard, upright on sand, with her bow facing south.
The bow is still largely intact. The middle of the wreck has collapsed exposing two large boilers. The stern section is intact and can be penetrated by experienced divers on the right day. Some original tiles can be seen with a torch in the 1st Class smoking area. The wreck attracts plenty of fish. The area can be tidal at the surface. The area is in the pilot boarding zone, so you might have to be ready to evade some massive ships.
The steel steamer Courier was launched in 1887 and spent her entire working life on Port Phillip Bay. In 1927 the Courier was sold to Melbourne ship-breakers and stripped of valuable fittings. On 29 March 1928 she was scuttled north-east of the Ships’ Graveyard. She now lies in 42 metres (138 feet) of water, and is an accessible dive to deep-trained recreational divers.
Depth: 40m -45 metres
(WGS84) 38 21.103 144 23.379
The SS “Milora” was a 3347 ton collier built in1893. She was on route to Melbourne when she ran ashore near Queenscliff. She was damaged beyond economic repair and scuttled in the ship’s graveyard 1935. The SS “Milora” lies with her bow pointing north/west. Her hull is still largely intact. She is the largest of all the known wrecks in the Ships Graveyard. This dive is only for experienced deep/technical divers.
WGS8438° 20.12? S 144° 34.09? E
This 490 tonne iron barque was Built in 1869 and scuttled on 5 February 1930. The the overall length of the vessel was approximately 50.1 metres. The wreck is popular with mixed gas divers.
WGS84 – 38° 21.31? S 144° 24.688? E
Built in 1883 and scuttled on 21 May 1935, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 47.7 metres (156 feet), beam 8 metres (26 feet) and draught 3.7 metres (12 feet) with a displacement weight of 352 tonne (388 short tons). The Batman was a stem driven iron hopper barge built in 1869. She is an overall length of 154 ft, a beam of 26 ft and a draught of 12 ft giving her a displacement of 388 tons. She was a sister ship to the Fawkner. In 1906 she was involved in a collision with the flora in the Yarra River. On July 10th 1915 under the command of Captain Charman. She was involved in another collision this time with the Awora again on the Yarra River. On August 27 1915 she collided with the steam ship Casino off Point Gellibrand (Williamstown) She was finally scuttled on May 20 1930 in the ships graveyard. She now lies in less than 50 metres of water facing North South with her bow toward the North.
Steam Dredge “Beverwyk 19”
GPS WGS84: 38°21.093′S 144°25.023′E
This former dredge was scuttled in 1963. She lies upside down in 46 metres of water off Torquay. Her stern section suffered severe damage from weather and the wreck is generally unstable. The large ‘wagon-wheels’ of the dredge machinery are still prominent features. The suction pipe is still prominent on the bow section as is a lot of her pumping gear.
Iron Barque “Brunette”
WGS84 – 38° 22.341? S144° 32.0057? E
Built in 1859 and scuttled in July 1913, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 43 metres with a displacement of 349 tonne. Found in January 2006 in a badly broken up state which is typical of the heavily salvaged older sailing vessels, even in the deeper depths.
WGS84 –38° 20.2243? S 144° 31.0405? E
A steel steamer of 2076 tons, the SS Buninyong is the second largest vessel lying in the Ships’ Graveyard. (Only the Milora is bigger.)
She was originally constructed in 1883, and was scuttled south of Barwon Heads in 1926. At 54 metres, the Buninyong is a popular dive for mixed gas divers. Built in 1883 and scuttled on 11 February 1926, the overall length of the Iron vessel was approximately 85.3 metres (280 feet), beam 11.6 metres (38 feet) and draught 6.2 metres (20 feet) with a displacement weight of 1,883 tonne (2,076 short tons).
Dredge S.S. “Bunyip”
WGS84 – 38° 22.3055? S 144° 25.5634? E
Built in 1879 and scuttled on 13 April 1955, the overall length of the Iron vessel was approximately 48.9 metres (160 feet), beam 8.6 metres (28 feet) and draught 3 metres (9.8 feet) with a displacement weight of 287 tonne (316 short tons).
Hopper Barge S.S. “Burke”
WGS84 – 38° 20.9992? S 144° 25.9822? E
Sister vessel to the Wills. Built in 1876 or 1884 and scuttled on 23 September 1935, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 39 metres (128 feet), beam 9 metres (30 feet) and draught 2.9 metres (9.5 feet) with a displacement weight of 313 tonne (345 short tons).
WGS84 – 38° 20.854? S 144° 34.15? E
Built in 1875 Coal Hulk and scuttled on 30 July 1929, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 58.5 metres (192 feet), beam 9.7 metres (32 feet) and draught 5.9 metres (19 feet) with a displacement weight of 739 tonne (815 short tons).
WGS84 –38° 21.7772? S 144° 26.332? E
Built in 1868 and scuttled on 16 February 1950, the overall length of the Iron vessel was approximately 52.5 metres (172 feet), beam 8.5 metres (28 feet) and draught 5.3 metres (17 feet) with a displacement weight of 545 tonne (601 short tons).
The “Casablanca” was a 3-mast iron barque of 547 tons, her dimensions being 172.1’ x 28.0’ x 17.5’. Her bow is broken and pointing towards the surface. The stern has a distinctive sailing ship wheel and all three masts are clearly identifiable suggesting the wreck was scuttled with all three masts intact. The forward mast is lying at a 45 degree angle out from the starboard bow. The centre mast is lying 90 degrees to the length of the hull, also towards the starboard bow, a crows nest exists ¾ way up the centre mast. The stern mast is lying approximately 45 degrees to the hull, pointing also towards the starboard side of the vessel. The port side hull has collapsed inwards, the starboard side has disappeared mostly into the sand, only the original ribs of her are still protruding.
Dredge S.S “D McLennan”
WGS84 –38° 22.1035? S 144° 25.9833? E
Built in 1912 and scuttled on 8 June 1949, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 50.5 metres (166 feet), beam 8.9 metres (29 feet) and draught 2.4 metres (7.9 feet) with a displacement weight of 385 tonne (424 short tons).
Barque “Don Diego”
WGS84 -38° 23.726? S 144° 32.0552? E
Built in 1855 and scuttled on 26 May 1916, the overall length of the Iron vessel was approximately 44.4 metres (146 feet), beam 7.4 metres (24 feet) and draught 4.2 metres (14 feet) with a displacement weight of 290 tonne (320 short tons). Bow and stern rise around 4m from the seabed with the amidships lying flat.
WGS84-38° 21.36? S 144° 24.205? E
Built in 1870 and scuttled Coal Hulk on 2 July 1947, the overall length of the Iron vessel was approximately 55 metres (180 feet), beam 9.3 metres (31 feet) and draught 5.6 metres (18 feet) with a displacement weight of 639 tonne (704 short tons).
Hopper Barge S.S. “Edward Northcote”
WGS84 – 38° 21.3694? S 144° 25.799? E
Built in 1911 and scuttled on 6 November 1952, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 48.7 metres (160 feet), beam 8.6 metres (28 feet) and draught 3.8 metres (12 feet) with a displacement weight of 449 tonne (495 short tons).
Tug S.S. “Euro”
WGS84 – 38° 20.7443? S 144° 26.0943? E
Built in 1897 and scuttled on 10 June 1948, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 39.6 metres (130 feet), beam 6.9 metres (23 feet) and draught 3.7 metres (12 feet) with a displacement weight of 233 tonne (257 short tons).
Hopper Barge S.S. “Fawkner”
WGS84 -38° 21.378? S 144° 25.31? E
Built in 1883 and scuttled on 20 May 1935, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 46.8 metres (154 feet), beam 8 metres (26 feet) and draught 3.7 metres (12 feet) with a displacement weight of 352 tonne (388 short tons).
The wreck was known around the local dive community as ‘Jimmies Dunloe’ was in fact the “Fawkner” a 388 ton steam hopper barge. This vessel is a sister ship to “Batman”. The Melbourne Harbour Trust owned her but in the 1880s she was attached to the Victorian Navy as an auxiliary unit and was fitted with gun mountings. She sank after a collision with the steamer Karoola in the Yarra River on the 24 September 1913. The Fawkner ended up with her bow submerged, while a diver was inspecting her the following day she rolled in the swell striking the divers helmet and throwing his pump operator into the water, fortunately neither the diver or the pump man died. She was eventually scuttled in the Ships’ Graveyard
3 Masted Barque, Coal Hulk
Built in 1864 and scuttled in March 1938, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 41.2 metres (135 feet), beam 7.7 metres (25 feet) and draught 4.2 metres (14 feet) with a displacement weight of 310 tonne (342 short tons).
H C Piggot
WGS84 38° 20.651? S (38.34418333° S / 38° 20? 39.06? S)
144° 26.368? E (144.43946667° E / 144° 26? 22.08? E)
44m – 47m
The Piggott actually (H.C.PIGOTT) was a steam driven steel hopper built in 1912 by Fleming & Ferguson in Paisley Scotland. Her overall length was 160ft, her beam was 28ft and her draught was 12ft Giving her a displacement weight of 300 tons. Her owners were the Melbourne Harbour Trust, reg. Melbourne. She was scuttled in the ships graveyard, off Port Philip heads, Bass Strait on the 14 October 1935. The maximum depth on the vessel is 47 metres with the hull listing onto her port side. The superstructure is still recognizable and there is a large anchor sitting on the bow. The prop shafts are visible but there are no props.
Built in 1912 and scuttled on 14 October 1935, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 48.8 metres (160 feet), beam 8.6 metres (28 feet) and draught 3.8 metres (12 feet) with a displacement weight of 449 tonne (495 short tons).
Sir William McPherson
54m – 57m
The Sir William McPherson was a steel dredge, built in 1912 for the Melbourne Harbour Trust. Her overall length was 158ft, her beam was 32ft and her draught was 10ft giving her a displacement of 300 tons. She was scuttled in the ships graveyard, off Port Philip heads on the 12 May 1949.
VHB – 54
40m – 42m
The VHB54 was a steel hopper barge. Scuttled in the ships graveyard, off Port Philip heads, 19 February 1971.
VHB – 53
52m – 57m
The VHB53 was a Steel hopper barge. Scuttled in the ships graveyard, off Port Philip heads, 19 February 1971.
Originally built as the Quathambla, in 1879 by A.Hall & Co, Aberdeen, Scotland she was a 3 masted iron barque. Her overall length was 167ft, her beam was 29ft and her draught was 13.6ft giving her a displacement of 447 tons. She was reregistered as the Hazel Craig in 1905 and was purchased by the Melbourne Harbour Trust in 1916. She was converted to a lighter and renamed again, this time the White pine. She was finally scuttled on 14 Jan 1947 in the ships graveyard, off Port Phillip Heads.
She now lies north south in 50 meters of water with the bow mostly intact and some very prominent boilers.
44m – 46m
The Pioneer was a steel steam driven pump driven sand dredge. Her overall length was 170ft, her beam was 37.2ft and her draught was 10.3ft giving her a displacement weight of 543 tons. The Pioneer was built for the Victorian Department of Board of Works in 1905 and she was built in Glascow, Scotland. She was scuttled on March 9, 1950.
Tug S.S. “Hume”
Built in 1922 and scuttled in the 1950′s, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 18 metres (59 feet), beam 4.7 metres (15 feet) and draught 2 metres (6.6 feet) with a displacement weight of 43 tonne (47 short tons).
Paddle Steamer “Hygeia”
WGS84 – 38° 21.0165? S 144° 33.6329? E
Built in 1890 and scuttled on 10 June 1932, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 91.5 metres (300 feet), beam 9.8 metres (32 feet) and draught 3.4 metres (11 feet) with a displacement weight of 894 tonne (985 short tons).
Dredge S.S. “John Nimmo”
WGS84 – 38° 21.7874? S 144° 33.3553? E
Built in 1887 and scuttled on 10 August 1931, the overall length of the vessel was approximately 69.6 metres (228 feet), beam 14.2 metres (47 feet) and draught 4.7 metres (15 feet) giving a displacement weight of 1,097 tonne (1,209 short tons).