I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published December 6th 2013
Pride of the Port Phillip Steamer Fleet
The Esplanade hugs the coastline along the northern shore of Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula between Geelong and St Leonards. Driving in to Indented Head you can't help but notice a wheel-like piece of twisted metal protruding from the waters of half Moon Bay. Nearby a large, rusted anchor forms the centre-piece of a roadside memorial. Together they are pretty much all that remains of one of the world's finest paddle-steamers and the historic era of luxury excursion steamers on Port Phillip Bay.
All that remains of a once proud ship - the OZONE wreck off Indented Head
From the mid 1800's through until 1930 many Victorians, riding on the wealth generated by the world's greatest ever gold rush enjoyed lavish holidays in the coastal resorts of Mornington, Sorrento, Portsea and Queenscliff. For many the preferred mode of transport was by the luxurious excursion steamers plying the Bay between Melbourne and the resorts.
The steamer OZONE was commissioned by the Bay Excursion Steamers Co. Ltd, built in 1886 at Greenock, Scotland and considered one of the best vessels of her type ever built. Far from being a 'ferry' OZONE was a substantial ship displacing just under 600 tonnes and 79 metres (260 feet) in length, her three decks could carry as many as 3000 passengers although in service on the Bay she was licensed to carry 1600. Her luxurious main dining saloon accommodated 100 guests at each sitting surrounded by polished timber furnishings, hand painted panels and gilded fittings all beneath an ornate, hand-carved timber ceiling.
Her six steam boilers provided enough power to generate a top speed of 20 knots.
The OZONE memorial at Indented Head on the Bellarine Peninsula
OZONE departed Scotland on 25th August 1886 and steamed through the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal and across the Indian Ocean to Thursday Island then down the east coast of Australia arriving in Melbourne on Friday 26th November.
Her first revenue earning voyage took place on 18th December 1886 sailing from Melbourne to Mornington, Sorrento, Queenscliff and return. Sadly though some of the glamour of the occasion was lost when OZONE, berthing at Queenscliff for the very first time, collided heavily with the pier.
For the next 32 years OZONE plied Victorian waters servicing the ever-popular resort ports and running countless day trips around the Bay.
Eventually though the arrival of even larger, more luxurious steamers led to a decline in OZONE's popularity and she was withdrawn from service in 1918. Stripped of her fittings this once grand old lady of the sea was scuttled off Indented Head in 1925 to create a breakwater.
OZONE collided heavily with the Queenscliff Pier on her very first Bay voyage
OZONE wasn't the last of the Bay excursion steamers. That honour belongs to the SS WEEROONA which entered service in 1910 and sailed her last Port Phillip cruise on 2nd March 1942.
But OZONE was the unofficial flagship of the fleet, spearheading the bay excursion era and setting the standard to which all the other steamers aspired.
Sitting on the high ground above Half Moon Bay it's difficult to imagine that the mostly submerged paddlewheel and nearby anchor are virtually all that remains of one of the most historic players in what was perhaps the most colourful period in Victoria's maritime history.