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Published January 26th 2017
(by Juha Flinkman)
A day on the water is often a relaxing mix of sun, seabreezes, birds, fishing and friends. Very rarely though, a cruel combination of nature's fury, mechanical failure or human error result in tragedy. Over 100 ships have sunk or been scuttled along Sydney's coastline. While a small number are in no-entry zones, there are enough rusting hulks and submerged stories for a lifetime of underwater exploration. From ferries to fishing boats, schooners to submarines, compelling tales of mishap, mystery and the odd shark have led to these sinkings.
Sydney is one of the most spectacular places for scuba divers but exploration of shipwrecks should only be attempted if you're an experienced diver. Visibility and the unique conditions of a site typically require guidance with a tour operator and a detailed dive plan.
The RMS Titanic (U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Begin your search for our shipwreck stories with these special sites:
Feel butterflies in your stomach as you prepare to descend 20 metres beneath the crowded harbour of passing boats to the SS Currajong, a collier (coal transport), almost intact after a century in a watery grave. Near Bradley's Head, the Wyreema was bound for Brisbane on an evening in March, 1910 when conditions were ideal for sailing. As the Wyreema strayed into the port side of the harbour and into oncoming shipping lanes, the captain panicked upon spotting the SS Currajong sailing toward him, turning sharply to starboard and striking the vessel, gouging into its side and sending it to the bottom of the harbour, with one crewman drowning. To avoid damage to the hulls of passing vessels, the navy have destroyed the masts and mast house. To find the wreck, head south east from the southern tip of Bradley's Head, swimming approximately 250 metres towards Shark Island. Enter latitude -33.85666667, longitude 151.2477667 into your GPS device to find the exact site.
SS Dee Why - A commute from Manly into Circular Quay via ferry is one of Sydney's joys but one ferry has a particularly chequered history. In multiple scrapes during her lifetime of service in the 1900s, the SS Dee Why, powered by a steam engine with 2 large funnels directing smoke from the boilers, braved harsh storms while in port and in service, being battered and having windows smashed on multiple occasions. An imposing sight on the harbour at over 65 metres long, it carried thousands of passengers for over 40 years from the 1920s. The view of the skyline would have been particularly spectacular for passengers during its first years of service in the late 1920s as Sydney Harbour Bridge was constructed, the northern and southern ends of the giant arches slowly closing to finally touch in 1930. While the roadway and train line would open in 1932, ferry travel remained popular and the SS Dee Why would service travellers until 1968 when the engines were removed and the ship was scuttled in 1976. The wreck is approximately 4 kms north-east of the Long Reef Golf Course beside Collaroy Beach in the 'Wreck Site' beside other ships including the Meggol, an oil barge and former minesweeper and submarine spotter. It rests 40 metres below the surface, where the wooden deck, passenger cabins and toilets can still be explored. Enter latitude -33.71722222, longitude 151.3461111 into your GPS device to find the exact site.
SS Tuggerah - Sail just over 2 kilometres south of Marley Beach in the Royal National Park to find this collier. The ship had a short history, arriving from Scotland in 1912 before sinking in a storm in 1919. While the captain remained aboard, almost a dozen crew members rowed in a lifeboat toward Cronulla Beach, surviving the encounter. Although almost a century of battering from strong waves has pounded the SS Tuggerah and separated pieces of the outer hull, you'll still find a spectacular sight 50 metres below the surface. Enter latitude -34.13899167, longitude 151.1506117 into your GPS device to find the exact site.
SS Annie M. Miller - Although this ship was named after the owner's wife, Annie May Miller, the romantic intent didn't carry to the ship's function as a coal and steel transport or its longevity, serving less than 1 year before sinking in sight of Bondi Beach in 1929. The SS Annie M. Miller rests 50 metres below the surface, with many of the features of that maritime era, including the boiler, funnel and hull, visible behind an atmospheric coating of algae, coral, seaweed and large schools of fish swimming in the abandoned vessel. Enter latitude -33.86802667, longitude 151.297555 into your GPS device to find the exact site.
SS Dunbar - One of our earliest and worst naval tragedies, the SS Dunbar sank in 1857, claiming over 100 passengers sailing from London, dying in sight of their destination - Sydney Harbour. Fatal mistakes in navigation caused the ship to strike the treacherous rocks along the South Head while tall waves drove the ship further to its doom. Only a short distance from the Gap, you'll find the SS Dunbar less than 10 metres below the ocean. The SS Dunbar is perhaps our most evocative shipwreck as the victims were honoured by over 20,000 mourners during a memorial service following the sinking. Poignant artefacts, including golden coins, ornate ceramics and crystalware, photographs and journals, have been salvaged from the passenger quarters, preserved in our maritime museums. Enter latitude -33.850133, longitude 151.285783 into your GPS device to find the exact site.
(by Robert Schwemmer / BY 2.0)
Where was your most memorable shipwreck dive? Please let us know with a comment.