Please select your home edition
Edition
Naiad

Tasmanian Shipwrecks

by Carl Hyland on 8 May 2012
Shipwreck diving can be a fascinating experience. Carl Hyland
As an island colony and later state of the Commonwealth of Australia, Tasmania has always been fundamentally dependent on shipping services to connect it to the outside world. However, lying in the path of the winds known as the 'roaring forties', the waters around Tasmania have proved treacherous to mariners. Since the wreck of the ship Sydney Cove in 1797, around 1,000 vessels of all sizes are known to have been lost in Tasmanian waters up to the present day.

Although the locations of less than 10% of these shipwrecks are presently known these sites are important parts of our national maritime heritage, a unique gift from our past. While many shipwrecks can only be visited by suitably qualified divers material may also be seen on the sea shore or in tidal zones. Many shipwreck sites are often left unlocated or undisturbed for years and some natural processes of decay and decomposition are stopped or substantially slowed in the underwater environment. For these reasons shipwreck sites are time capsules which can open a window into history.


Two laws protect the remains of shipwrecks in Tasmanian waters. The Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 applies to Australian Commonwealth waters extending from the low water mark to the outer edge of the continental shelf. The State Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995 applies to shipwrecks that lie within the state waters of Tasmania (harbours, enclosed bays, estuaries, rivers and lakes).

Under both these Acts all shipwrecks and their associated artefacts which were lost over 75 years ago are automatically protected. Shipwrecks that occurred less than 75 years ago may also be individually protected under these Acts if they are considered to be significant. In special circumstances when a shipwreck is considered highly significant or vulnerable a 'Protected Zone' may be declared around the site, requiring a permit from the management authority to enter. There are currently no 'Protected Zones' in Tasmania.

In all instances members of the public are welcome to visit shipwrecks provided they do not collect artefacts or otherwise disturb or damage the sites. Underwater sites are often quite delicate and even apparently small disturbances can result in considerable long term damage. Under the current laws it is illegal to interfere with a protected shipwreck site without a permit from the managing authority.

Both laws require discoveries of a shipwreck or the possession of artefacts from protected shipwrecks to be reported.


Listed are eleven shipwrecks that have occurred in Tasmanian waters during the last two hundred years:
Sydney Cove
Cataraqui
Litherland
Brahmin
Cambridgeshire
Bulli
Tasman
Svenor
Nord
Otago
Alert

Of course, the most recent shipwreck to occur was the Iron Baron which ran aground on Hebe Reef at the mouth of the Tamar on 10th July 1995.


The Iron Baron, a 37,557 dwt BHP chartered bulk carrier (built in 1985) grounded on Hebe Reef at the approach to the Tamar River, northern Tasmania at 1930 hours (7.30pm) Eastern Standard Time (EST) on Monday 10 July 1995. The vessel had departed from the NSW port of Port Kembla on Saturday 8 July 1995, with a 24,000 tonne cargo of manganese ore that had been loaded at Groote Island, bound for the BHP owned TEMCO facility at Bell Bay which is located some 12 km inside the Tamar River estuary and within the port of Launceston. Weather conditions prevailing at the time were north westerly winds of 20-25 knots with two metre seas.

Shortly after the grounding, it was confirmed bunker fuel oil had escaped, which was later estimated at around 300 tonnes. The ship's crew were safely evacuated, whilst National Plan response arrangements were initiated. Weather conditions deteriorated and with the prevailing tidal conditions, oil impacted shorelines in the vicinity of Low Head. There was significant impact on wildlife, particularly little penguins.

Whilst work continued to refloat the casualty, clean up of affected shorelines was underway. A large wildlife collection, treatment and rehabilitation program was established at the pilot station complex at Low Head, north of George Town.
The ship was refloated on Sunday 16 July 1995, and the vessel moved to an anchorage, some two miles offshore. The Port of Launceston Authority imposed a number of conditions to be met in relation to port safety and environmental protection, before the vessel could enter port.

There was further oil released from under the ship following the refloating, some of which was successfully collected at sea whilst some impacted Bakers Beach and the Rubicon River estuary in the vicinity of Port Sorell. Several Bass Strait near shore islands were impacted at some locations. These islands were also the scene for a concentrated wildlife collection effort.

Underwater inspections and onboard assessments confirmed major structural damage had occurred and with the ship's condition reported to be deteriorating, and adverse weather predicted, BHP as the ship owner, decided to dump the vessel. The Commonwealth Environment Protection Agency approved a disposal site some 53 miles east of Flinders Island. After towing to the dumping area, the Iron Baron sank around 1930 hours (7.30pm), Sunday 30 July 1995.

Most losses around the Tasmanian coast have been smaller vessels that have been blown ashore while sheltering from heavy weather, or grounded attempting to negotiate the exposed entrances to ports around the coast. In more recent years most accidents, whether they be to small yachts or fishing vessels, or large interstate steamers and motor ships, can still generally be put down to navigational and control errors of one type or another. The most spectacular of these was the bulk carrier Lake Illawarra's collision with Hobart's Tasman Bridge in 1975, resulting in the loss of the ship and twelve lives, and uncounted expense and inconvenience to the unexpectedly divided city. Others have come as the result of stress of weather, especially in Bass Historic Australian Shipwrecks website

Zhik Dinghy 660x82InSunSport - NZBakewell-White Yacht Design

Related Articles

Gladwell's Line - Does the America's Cup really need a Star Chamber?
The first meeting of the three-man America's Cup Arbitration Panel is believed to have taken place in London The first meeting of the three-man America's Cup Arbitration Panel is believed to have taken place in London in the past week or so. Officially the date hasn't been publicly announced. The venue hasn't been publicly named, and the parties have appeared before a Panel that is publicly nameless.
Posted on 23 Jul
America's Cup - Glenn Ashby on Emirates Team NZ's road to Bermuda
Part 2 of the interview with Emirates Team NZ skipper Glenn Ashby. In this part of the interview we look at what is going to happen once Emirates Team NZ get their 'AC49.5' sailing in Auckland, and how the campaign may shape up before they leave for Bermuda. Ashby wouldn’t be drawn on whether Team New Zealand had started their AC50 build, with July being the usual start of what is usually a five-month build and commissioning period for an end of December launch.
Posted on 10 Jul
America's Cup - Glenn Ashby on Emirates Team NZ's new AC49.5
Sail-World talks with Emirates Team NZ skipper, Glenn Ashby on what is different about the team's new test boat Just under 11 months out from the 35th America’s Cup, Team New Zealand does not seem to be in its customary place at the front of the starting grid to be the first to launch their Challenger, or are they? Although they will be one of the last of the six teams to launch an AC45 Surrogate, Emirates Team New Zealand may have stolen a march with a boat that is as close as you can get to an AC50.
Posted on 9 Jul
Gladwell's Line - Emirates Team NZ launches shadow AC50
Emirates Team NZ took a late but significant step along the road to the 35th America's Cup, with the launch of their AC4 Emirates Team NZ took a late but significant step along the road to the 35th America's Cup, with the launch of their AC45S - as the test boats are called in the Protocol which governs the 2017 event. The bloated Protocol, which now runs to 83 pages of legalese, is restrictive on the size of boat that can be built as a test platform but doesn't restrict the number that can be built.
Posted on 22 Jun
Platino recovery - Family confirms that tug has made rendezvous
Reports in social media say a salvage tug has made a rendezvous with the Platino earlier than expected. Reports in social media by family and friends of Nick Saull, the crew member killed during a catastrophic incident abroad the 66ft yacht Platino say the salvage tug which left on Tuesday night has made the rendezvous earlier than expected. The Facebook report says the tug, Sea Pelican, arrived on Friday morning, the weather in the area has eased and with a more favorable outlook.
Posted on 16 Jun
Rio 2016 - Double Olympic medallist on the delights of Guanabara Bay
Olympic Gold and Bronze medallist Bruce Kendall updates on the 2016 Olympic venue at Guanabara Bay. Olympic Gold and Bronze medallist, and now a windsurfer coach, Bruce Kendall has made several trips to the 2016 Olympic venue at Guanabara Bay. He updates on the pollution issue which is clearly not going to be resolved in a couple of months, and also shares his views on the venue from a sailing competition perspective.
Posted on 14 Jun
America's Cup - Artemis win Chicago as Team Japan wins two races
Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series got three races away on Super Sunday. After losing the first official day of racing due to light winds and the non-arrival of the onshore breeze, Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series got three races away on Super Sunday. From a racing perspective this was probably the best day of racing yet in the series which counts for points in the Qualifying Series of the America's Cup in 11 months time.
Posted on 12 Jun
America's Cup - Emirates TNZ NZ and Oracle capsize in Chicago Practice
Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA capsized in Practice Racing at the Louis Vuitton ACWS Chicago There was action aplenty on Practice Day at Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Chicago, after Emirates Team New Zealand capsized in their match with Oracle Team USA, and then Oracle Team USA capsized later in the day. Team NZ's skipper skipper Glenn Ashby performed some impressive acrobatics ejecting from the AC45 capsize, without injury.
Posted on 11 Jun
America's Cup - Changes proposed to control future Cup options
Changes are being mooted to put the America's Cup on a longer-term footing according to the Daily Telegraph (UK) News that changes are being mooted to put the America's Cup on a longer-term footing is being floated in the Daily Telegraph (UK) by the British Challenger, Land Rover BAR. According to the Telegraph, some of the teams in the 2017 America's Cup are keen to lock-in parameters which would bind successive holders of the a style and frequency for the next America's Cup Match.
Posted on 8 Jun
America's Cup - AC50 construction uncovered - Part 2 - Wings and Costs
Second part of a two-part series looking at the AC50 construction progress at Core Builders Composites Second part of a two-part series looking at the construction progress at Core Builders Composites, and features of the AC50 class which will be used in the 35th America's Cup in Bermuda. Tim Smyth takes us on a tour of the CBC facility in Warkworth, and hour's drive north of Auckland. Where several AC50's, components and wingsails are under construction or have already been shipped to the teams.
Posted on 5 Jun