Shipwrecks of Port Jackson and the Sydney Region

No doubt one of the most beautiful harbours in the world, Port Jackson was sighted in 1770 by James Cook who remarked nonchalantly, "there appears to be a good anchorage" and named it after the Judge Advocate of the Fleet. He did not enter the formidable heads, but eighteen years later Arthur Phillip rejected Botany Bay as a settlement and entered the harbour, where he had "the satisfaction of finding the finest harbour in the world". The First Fleet followed on 26 January 1788, and it could be said, 'the rest is history'. There are few natural harbours in the world which can rival Port Jackson in size, all-weather protection, depth, ease of access and navigation. Nevertheless there have been many tragic shipwrecks and collisions. The full area of Sydney Harbour extends over 5500 hectares, and has a depth of 47 metres at its deepest point, between Dawes Point and Blues Point. Sydney is one of the major ports of Australia, with no less than 16 kilometres of commercial wharfage all within just a few kilometres from the city centre.

Many tragic incidents occurred in the harbour as the population of the settlement on Sydney Cove grew into the exciting metropolis it has become today. The most tragic of modern-day accidents occurred on 3 November 1927 when the 7,000 tonne liner Tahiti sliced through one of Sydney's famous wooden ferries, killing at least 40 people. Even during wartime, Sydney Harbour provided excellent protection but three Japanese mini-subs managed to enter. Although the creating of significant military damage was avoided, the steamer Kuttabul was sunk with the loss of 19 lives. It was, however, during the migration years of the mid to late 19th century that the most tragic shipping incidents occurred, tragic not only in the loss of lives, but the circumstances of their loss, many lives being lost so close to their destination months at sea. The fully-rigged ship Dunbar is just one example of such a tragedy, wrecked outside the Heads in 1858, with the loss of all but one of her complement. At 1321 tons she remains the largest vessel lost in or near the harbour. The Catherine Adamson was another tragedy, with 20 lost - after she had negotiated the Heads. Most losses within the harbour have been as a result of collisions or fire, although six vessels have been lost on Sow and Pigs, one of the few navigation hazards inside the heads.

There are over 300 vessels recorded as having come to grief in and around Sydney. Of these, more than 90 were lost within the harbour. Many others sank as they attempted to enter the Heads. Listed here are a few of the many maritime incidents that have occurred with the Heads and off the coast of Sydney.

Shipwrecks in Sydney Harbour

A7, A14, A21 Japanese Mini submarines

Japanese midget submarines, 46 tonnes. Built between 1938 and 1942. These three A-type midget submarines raided Sydney Harbour on the night of 31 May 1942. Two torpedoes were fired, one exploding under HMAS Kuttabul, a converted ferry. killing 21 naval ratings. One of the midget subs vanished, never to be seen again, the other two were cornered, their crews committing suicide before the vessels were salvaged. Parts of those two submarines were joined together to form one which has become an icon of Australia's military history. It is now the centrepiece of the ANZAC Hall at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Ann Jamieson

Wooden snow brig, 237 tonnes. Built at Alloa, Scotland, 1831. While discharging cargo, destroyed by fire at Kings Wharf, 30 November 1833. A quantity of loose gunpowder in the hold blew up, having spilled from packages carried as cargo. Six lives were lost. The heroic actions of a seaman from the schooner Ann in trying to save the brig resulted in his leg being shattered, requiring amputation. He was returned to England with free passage as a wrecked mariner. The removal of the burnt hull right up against the wharf was difficult. In 1841, with the aid of a diving bell, the wreck was dragged away from the wharf and then raised.


Wooden barque, 470 tonnes. Forced on to rocks in a gale at North Head about 100 metres from where the Catherine Adamson was lost, 30 June 1858. The S.S.Nora Creina tried to to take it in tow but to no avail. Two of the crew jumped overboard and swam ashore; the remainder including the captain and pilot dropped from the yards into the sea, where they were rescued by several small craft. Scattered wreckage lies in 15 metres of water.

Austral wreck


Screw steamer, 5524 tonnes. Built Glasgow. Orient Steam Navigation Company. Lost off Kirribilli Point in the most extraordinary circumstances, 11 November 1882. It was being coaled night and day, in haste, and apparently without consideration of its trim, when it heeled over and sank in 16 metres. Four lives were lost in the accident. A coffer-dam was built around the vessel, and it was refloated on 29 February 1883.


Steamer, Built 1874. Howard Smith Company. Nicknamed the great Australian ram  due to her many collisions. It sank three steamers, the Bonnie Dundee, Queensland, and Birksdale. It is said that it steered so badly that other vessels got out of its way when they saw it coming - some apparently not fast enough.

British Merchant

Wooden full rig ship, 913 tons. Built Scotland, 1857. Lost Cremorne Point, 2nd September 1860.

Bulolo fire


Built 1938. A Burns Philp vessel which carried cargo around the Pacific. In 1952 on a visit to Sydney, it alomst sank in Wollstonecraft Bay (then called Kerosene Bay) after the outbreak of fire in its holds in 1952. The fire was contained and put out and the ship was able to quickly return to normal duties.


Steel screw steamer, 2,070 tonnes. Built 1883. Beached at Rushcutters Bay, 4 May 1906. The tug Advance was entering Sydney harbour with the schooner Morore lashed alongside, and the barque Criffel in tow, when the Buninyong cut around the tug's stern and collected the hawser towing the barque, causing them to collide. The clipper bow of the barque penetrate the steamer's hull, breaking its main mast and wrenching its funnel off. Taking water, the Buninyong discharged its passengers, with boats from HMS Powerful assisting. The Buninyong was towed to Rushcutter's Bay in a sinking condition, by the Advance.


Passenger liner, 7,707 tonnes. Built 1913. Requisitioned by the Admiralty as a troopship during World War 1. On 29 May 1925, a fire broke out whilst at a wharf in Sydney. The vessel had a full complement of passengers expecting to sail the following morning. A steward managed to warn all the passengers who were saved, however this brave man lost his life in the flames. The vessel was almost destroyed. It took eleven months to repair the vessel at Mort's Dock, and again became the pride of Australian Steamships Ltd.

Catherine Adamson

Wooden full rig ship, 886 tonnes. Built at Aberdeen, 1855. Entered Port Jackson Heads on the evening of 23 October 1857, but lost steerage way in light winds and was forced to anchor; rockets were fired to attract attention to its plight, and the steamer Williams coming in from Newcastle tried unsuccessfully to take it in tow. At about 3am on the 24th it swung stern on to the rocks, south of Old Mans Hat, North Head, forcing passengers and crew to the boats, although in the heavy seas some decided to remain on board. Before rescue craft reached the scene, two boats were upset in the rough seas and some of their occupants drowned. Meanwhile the clipper began to break up rapidly and soon its masts had gone over the side as the seas made a clean breach over her, sweeping some of those still on board to their deaths. Some passengers and crew reached safety in a boat but five passengers, fifteen of the crew and the pilot lost their lives. The wreck was re-discovered in the late 1950s by scuba divers but all that remains today are unrecognisable pieces of debris scattered over the sand and among rocks, 40 metres off Inner North Head, west of Old Mans Hat. An anchor and chain lie on the scattered site.


Wooden barque, 965 tonnes. Built Scotland, 1869. Struck rocks at North Head, 16 January 1887. It was being towed out from Sydney; the captain of its tug, afraid he might collide with the barque Manhegan which was anchored nearby, stopped and went astern. The Centurion drifted shorewards and quickly went to pieces. Within half an hour very little remained but the crew were rescued unharmed. Twisted rusted metal, timbers, a coil of rope and chain are about all that remains in 18 metres of water off Quarantine Head.


Iron screw steamer, passenger vessel, 897 tonnes. Built Greenock, Scotland, 1863 as the Albion. Sold and renamed Centennial in 1888. Left Sydney for New Zealand; when off Bradley's Head, the steamer Kanahooka, inward from Wollongong, collided with and cut the Centennial to the waterline, 23 August 1889. Having been nearly cut in two, the Centennial soon sank in Taylors Bay 100 metres from shore, after an attempt to beach it. The boats got away with full complement. The wreck was subsequently blown up to provide safe clearance and to give the Navy some demolition practice. Very little remains in ten metres of water off Bradleys Head.


Iron screw steamship, 603 tonnes. Built Whiteinch, Scotland, 1875. On 27 September 1899, collided with and sank the ketch Lansdowne off Georges Head. No lives lost. On 4 June 1904, collided with the paddle ferry Victoria off Milsons Point. No lives lost, but extensive damage to the paddle box. Under Captain Robert Smith, collided off Bradleys Head, with the steamship Wyreema, 9 March 1910. The Currajong was struck amidships and within four minutes began to settle. Suddenly it gave a plunge and disappeared. Boats were lowered from the slightly damaged Wyreema and all excepting one seaman, Hans Neilson, were rescued. Little remains although the hull is intact some 200 metres off Bradley Head, in 26 metres. As it is in a shipping lane, diving not permitted.

Edward Lombe

Wooden barque, 347 tonnes. Built at Whitby, Yorkshire, England, 1828. During voyage from Hobart to Sydney, and then Mauritius was wrecked off Middle Head, 25 August 1834. Twelve lives lost including the captain; 17 saved. Heavy seas swept many passengers and crew overboard. When the barque broke in half the poop containing most of the survivors remained on the rocks and at dawn they were able to attract the attention of a passing ship. It was partly as a result of this wreck that the first lightship in Australia was moored at the north-western end of Sow and Pigs Reef in August 1836. Prior to this, an iron beacon had been placed on the reef in 1820. Wreck is today almost non-existent in 10 metres of water..

HMAS Encounter

Iron screw steamer, 5,880 tonnes. Built Great Britain, 1905. Served the Royal Navy from 1906 to 1912. First armed cruiser in Australian Navy. In later years used as a depot ship at Garden Island, and known as Penguin. On 5 January 1909, a pinnace from the ship was rammed and sunk by SS Dunmore 150 metres off Mrs Macquaries Chair. 15 of the 67 occupants lost their lives. Wrecksite too deep for recreational diving, being at a depth of 72 to 75 metres. Broken up with collapsed decks and partly buried, but starboard side is reasonably intact, but now deteriorating rapidly.


Three-masted schooner, 195 tonnes. Built New Zealand, 1874. From Sydney to Newcastle, drifted on to rocks where she soon broke whilst passing Old Mans Hat, 14 June 1886. The rocket crew were quickly on the scene and rescued seven of the crew, but one man drowned. Scattered wreckage on wrecksite inside North Head.


Wooden screw steamer, ferry, 133 tonnes. Built NSW,1911. Sank quickly when hit and cut in two by the liner Tahiti off Bradleys Head, 3 November 1927. A few passengers were able to leap clear but in the space of a few seconds half the ferry had sunk, drowning dozens of passengers. The 7,000 tonne liner then swept through the wreckage dragging more to their deaths and maiming many others. Rescue craft raced to the scene and were able to drag survivors from the water and take others off the other half of the ferry before it sank, but it has been estimated that more than 40 died although an exact number was never known. A court of marine enquiry found the Tahiti to blame for the disaster but two years later when the Greycliffe's owners claimed damages, another court reversed the decision.


Brig, 182 tonnes. In April 1804, Captain William Douglas Campbell sailed from Port Jackson with letters of permission to capture enemy ships; he attacked shipping off the South American coast, and captured the Spanish brig St. Francisco and St Paulo , and the cruiser Estremina, believing Britain to be at war with Spain. He was slightly premature, and on returning to Sydney was arrested as a pirate, but was soon released as a state of war was indeed declared. While waiting to depart from Farm Cove, the boat disappeared overnight, being captured by armed convicts. The Halcyon gave chase, then with Captain Harrington on board, the Pegasus followed. Several months later the British frigate Phoenix intercepted a ship, discovered it was the Harrington.

HMAS kuttabul


Wooden screw steamer, Australian navy store ship, previously harbour ferry, 447 tonnes. Built Newcastle, 1922. Sunk by a deflected Japanese torpedo in Sydney harbour, 31 May 1942. 19 naval personnel asleep on board were killed as the vessel settled in shallow water.

Lady Barlow

500 tonnes. Capsized and sank in Sydney Harbour when her cargo shifted, 16 October 1804. One crew member drowned. Was refloated with the assistance of the vessels Fair American, British sloop Investigator commandeered by Matthew Flinders, and a government punt. The vessel was believed to have been struck by a bolt of lightning.

Lady Raffles

Ship, 299 tonnes. Built Sunderland, UK, 1840. As vessel was about to sail for Liverpool from Sydney on 6 April 1842, a fire was discovered, which soon took a firm hold. Was towed to Carabella Point and scuttled. Crews from the vessels Woodbridge and Mary Anne assisted. Was refloated on 21 May and towed to Campbells Wharf, where vessel was repaired. Sailed for England in August 1842. The fire was apparently caused by a spontaneous combustion in a bale of wool.


Steel screw steamer, 1,174 tonnes. Built Quincy, USA, 1920. While berthed at Sydney was severely damaged by fire, 26 June 1942. Over 100 firemen fought the blaze whilst workmen hurried to unload petrol drums in the cargo. Settled on the seabed, was towed away but not repaired. Ended its days in the disposal area off Sydney, September 1947.


589 tonnes. Built on the Thames, 1798. Arrived at Hobart with convicts from England on 21 July 1824. Entering Port Jackson on 5 August 1824, with a pilot, struck Sow and Pigs Reef. No loss of life. Refloated with assistance from HMS Tamar, but found to be unseaworthy, and purchased by the colonial authorities and converted to a prison hulk for convicts awaiting transportation to Norfolk island, Moreton Bay and other penal settlements. Remained anchored in Lavender Bay for many years.

Sovereign of the Seas

Wooden ship, 1,226 tonnes. Built 1857. After discharging 104 passengers and cargo from Liverpool at Campbell's Wharf on 10 September 1861, a fire between decks quickly burnt through the fore hatch and set the deck alight in several places. The fire was finally extinguished almost 24 hours after the first alarm. Eventually the burnt out hulk was refloated and used to construct the steamer T.S. Mort, which came into service in April 1863.


Passenger liner, twin screw, 7,585 tonnes. Built 1904, as the Port Kingston. During WW1, was requistioned as a troopship and made 11 voyages to the Middle East and Europe. Resumed service in the Pacific Ocean trade in 1919. On 3 November 1927, under Captain Aldwell, the liner was leaving Sydney Harbour bound for San Francisco when it cut the ferry Greycliffe in two. The liner swept in through the wreckage dragging more to their deaths and maiming many others; estimated that more than 40 died, many of them school children, although an exact number was never known. It is thought it hit the ferry at 12 knots, four knots more than the allowed speed in the harbour. The Coroner's court apportioned blame to both captains. A court of marine enquiry found the Tahiti to blame for the disaster but two years later when the Greycliffe's owners claimed damages, another court reversed the decision. Litigation between the two owners of the ships continued for several years.

Three Bees

Convict transport, wooden full-rigged ship, 459 tonnes. Built at Bridgewater, London, 1813. Fire destroyed the ship at anchor off Dawes Point, 20 May 1814. As smoke was issuing from the powder magazine with the inevitability that she must blow up, her master ordered the moorings cut, hoping she would drift out into the harbour, but instead she drifted closer inshore. Exploding grapeshot scattered residents to safe vantage points where they were able to watch the final moments of the ship. Eventually it grounded on Bennelong Point and after the store of gunpowder exploded. Sank in shallow water.


Teak clipper ship, 911 tonnes. Built Blackwall, England, 1839. Destroyed by fire while anchored in Kerosene Bay, 29 May 1892. Apparently some kerosene aboard the Vernon had been ignited by sparks from a fire lit beneath a piece of machinery to loosen some rusted bolts. The Vernon was converted to a training ship in 1868, then used as a school and home for about 2500 lads before being superseded by the famous Sobraon.

William Cossar

Government vessel, wood, 20 tonnes. In November 1818, taken by convicts and put ashore at Port Stephens; repaired and refloated. On 11 March 1824, capsized near Fort Macquarie in a squall, with three men drowned. After it towed the Mangles to sea, was lost on Sow and Pigs shoal, Sydney Harbour, 14 February 1825. Crew saved.

Hopperbarge, Sawmillers Reserve

Hopper Barge

Few of North Sydney's bushland reserves are as pleasantly surprising as Sawmiller Reserve at the end of French Street, MacMahons Point. It offers a mix of shaded grass and regenerated bushland developed in the 1980s on the site of the last operating sawmill on the shores of Port Jackson. Located on the beach is the wreck of a sizeable hopper barge that plied the water of the Parramatta River carrying cargo many decades ago. The reserve contains the concrete engine beds of the log bandsaw of the mill of timber merchants John W. Eaton Ltd. First established in 1880 on the site of the North Sydney Railway Station, it was later transferred to this waterfront site. UBD Map 7 Ref C 14

Shipwrecks off Sydney

Schooner, 170 tonnes. Lost near Port Hacking, 20 March 1867. Five lives lost. Had run onto a reef near South Head, and soon began to break up, throwing the crew into the sea. Only two seamen, who clung to a piece of wreckage for more than eight hours, survived.

Annie M. Miller

Steel screw steamship, Built Glasgow, Scotland, 1928. Having been fully loaded with coal, left Bulli jetty, and foundered soon after off Macquarie Lighthouse, 8 February 1929. After firing a distress rocket the crew left the ship in two boats and one with six on board was picked up within half an hour by the pilot steamer Captain Cook. The others were not seen alive again. The collier Corrimal also assisted in a search for survivors. Wrecksite is located in 45 metres, approx 1 km off Rosa Gully; superstructure collapsed, boilers and keel exposed. Prolific marine life. A reasonable dive. Transportation

Birchgrove Park

Ten lives were lost on a cold August night when the 46.7 metre, 640 tonne Birchgrove Park sank off Avalon Beach on Sydney's northern beaches in August 1956. Built in 1930, the vessel had operated variously as an auxiliary minesweeper, stores carrier and personnel carrier. Leaving Newcastle in calm seas, the aging steamer soon ran into a strong southerly. Water surging over the decks forced its way into the hold causing the ship to list over to port. The problem increased until the steamer rolled over at about 2.45am, tipping the crew into the cold sea. Search efforts continued throughout the night and the next morning but only four were saved.

Collaroy grounded


Screw steamer. was lost on the beach at Long Reef, 20th January 1887. The locality of Collaroy takes its name from the wreck.

Dunbar memorial, Watsons Gap


Wooden full rigged ship, 1,321 tonnes. Built Sunderland, 1853. Out of Plymouth on 31 May 1858, struck rocks south of Sydney Heads, resulting in one of Australia's worst maritime disasters, 20 August 1858. Sixty-three passengers and 58 crew lost their lives when the London to Sydney clipper failed to negotiate the entrance to Port Jackson.

Shortly before midnight the it was reckoned to be about 10 km off the entrance, extra lookouts were posted. Breakers were seen right ahead; an attempt was made to claw off the land, but the ship was too close in and carrying too little sail to have any chance. It struck the rocks and was hurled almost broadside on to the cliffs just north of the signal station, midway between the lighthouse and The Gap.

Immediately she struck, the topmasts went overboard and a huge sea swept over its starboard side, carrying away people, boats, bulwarks and masts. Passengers were drowned in their bunks, while the crew on deck were swept into the raging sea. The only survivor, a young able seaman named James Johnson, was washed onto the jagged rocks. At the inquest the jury decided that while there may have been an error in judgment as the ship was too close in shore at night in such bad weather conditions, but no blame was attached to Captain Green or his officers.

In 1910 anchors, cables and other artifacts including coins were raised from the wrecksite area. In 1955 divers located its exact position, in 9 metres a little south of The Gap. Technically, the Dunbar site, as destroyed and picked over  as she is, offers little to the maritime archaeologist. Looting since 1955 has resulted in many valuable items disappearing into private collections. Coins, instruments and jewellery but less intrinsically valuable items such as ships fittings may be lost forever as their novelty value diminishes. An anchor is on display at The Gap above the wrecksite.


Iron screw steamer, 368 tonnes. Built London, 1875. Duckenfield was a classic 60-miler that operated over the 60 miles from Newcastle to Sydney, predominantly carrying coal. In a moderate southerly and poor visibility Duckenfield was on route to Sydney with a load of coal, coke and copper ingots when it struck Long Reef on 24 May 1889. Captain Hunter and a crew of 13 abandoned ship while the 36.6 metre vessel lay on the reef but one sailor drowned. The Duckenfield then drifted off the reef and sank. Subsequently, a team of divers began salvage operations which lasted over a year but were never completed. The engine remains the dominant feature on the wreck site which has become a popular diving location.

Paddle steamer Euroka


The iron paddle steamer Euroka, was a 170 tonne vessel built at Balmain, Sydney in 1897. It was converted to a collier and began operating on the 'Sixty Miler' run between Newcastle and Sydney. After loading coal at Lake Macquarie, for a voyage to Sydney, the steamer grounded several times, finally putting to sea on the morning of the 19th October 1913. Once at sea, water was noticed entering the engine room. Steam was billowing from below deck when Captain Benton gave the order to abandon ship off Narrabeen, Sydney. Five hours later, the crew of nine arrived safely in Sydney. The abandoned Euroka drifted onto the reef at the north-eastern point of Long Reef and became a total loss. Wreckage is spread over a considerable area in five metres of water along the northern side of Long Reef.


A Canadian steel screw steamer, the Goolgwai ran into the northern headland of Long Bay on 29th May 1955 a little further offshore from the spot where the steamer Malabar had come to grief 24 years earlier. Great crowds gathered on the headland to see the wreck of the ship below.


Wooden screw steamer, 87 tonnes. Built Sydney,1886. Abandoned and foundered after colliding with floating wreckage near Long Reef, Manly, entangling the propeller, 4 May 1894.

Hall Cain

The 214 tonne wooden screw steamer Hall Caine was encountered in a sinking condition by the steamer Idant on 17 March 1937. The Idant took off six of the nine crew and, with the Hall Caine in tow, headed for Broken Bay. However, it soon became clear that there was no hope that the Hall Caine would stay afloat. The last of the crew abandoned ship and the Hall Caine rolled over and foundered in about 45 metres of water.

Hereward wreck


Iron full rig ship, 1,513 tonnes. Built Glasgow, Scotland, 1877. A 3-masted international cargo vessel. On a journey from Java to Newcastle under Captain Gore, it got into difficulties on 6th May 1898 in a violent storm. The Herward was blown ashore onto Maroubra Beach and lay sadly with its masts canted over the sea. The vessel was almost salvaged when another storm blew it back on shore where it began to break up. Sections of the hull can be viewed underwater within the surf zone after periods of scouring.


Off Prince Henry Hospital, Little Bay: This iron screw steamer was built at Sunderland in the United Kingdom in 1866. Operating as a collier on the NSW coast, it was fully loaded at South Bulli jetty and was heading north when, on 13th May 1902, it collided with a south bound steamer, Dunmore. The latter vessel survived but the Kelloe took on water and sank, though its crew of 15 were all saved. The wreck is located on a reef in 50 metres of water, its boilers and an anchor are clearly visible to divers.

Anchor of the Kelloe


Iron paddle steamer, tug, 158 tonnes. Built Scotland, 1876. While steaming out to pick up a sailing vessel, foundered after springing a leak and sank within five minutes, south-east of South Head, 5 March 1920. Crew of four saved. Wrecksite located in 1994 in 70 metres.

Malabar grounded


Malabar Beach and the suburb of Malabar are named after the Burns Philps ship, SS Malabar which was wrecked on the north side of Long Bay on 2nd April 1931. The vessel, a passenger and cargo steamer, was named after a small village in Java. While making its way from Melbourne to Singapore via Sydney in heavy fog, Captain George William gave an order for a change of course by 5 degrees to starboard so as to to turn the ship out to sea away from the coast. The helmsman misunderstood the instruction and turned it 5 degrees to port. The ship ploughed onto the rocks of Long Bay, its bow left high and dry. The 28 passengers and 109 crewmembers evacuated safely with no loss of life. The incident drew over 300,000 sightseers over the next weekend, mainly to see what they could recover from the cargo that was strewn all over the beach. Attempts were made to refloat the vessel but it broke up before it could be saved. The wreck site has been located and can be dived on.

SS Minmi


Cape Banks, La Perouse: Built in Glasgow in 1927, the Minmi was an iron screw steamer which operated as a collier on the NSW coast. On 13th May 1937, it ran ashore on Cape Banks on a voyage carrying ballast between Melbourne and Newcastle. Sections of the hull were thrust ashore, the remains of which can be seen on the rocks of Cape Banks. Other wreckage is strewn around the wrecksite on the headland's seaward side.


Iron screw steamship, 655 tonnes. Built England, 1913. Having loaded 675 tonnes of coal for the North Shore Gas Company, the steel steamer Myola left Newcastle on 1 April 1919, bound for Sydney. Encountering heavy seas, the steamer made steady progress but a list to port was noticeable. Captain Higgins had been forced to replace his ordinary crew, quarantined in Sydney after an Influenza epidemic. When off Long Reef near Sydney, Myola was struck by a very heavy wave, the impact caused the cargo to shift. Urgent distress signals were fired into the night but it was impossible to launch the lifeboats due to the extreme list. The boats were cut away and the crew dived into the water. The steamer South Bulli, following behind, observed the distress flares and launched their lifeboats, the crews spending over an hour in the wild sea picking up survivors. Four of Myola's crew drowned. The wreck was discovered in 1994 lying on its port side in forty-eight metres of water off Long Reef.

HMAS Parramatta

HMAS Parramatta

Was one of a number of vessels ordered for the Commonwealth's new naval forces in 1909, following the assimilation of the various colonial fleets' post Federation in 1901. A torpedo boat Destroyer, Parramatta was the first of six built as fast hunters of the "River" Class. Parramatta was built at Govan, Scotland in 1910. It became the first vessel of the Royal Australian Navy, following its royal proclamation by King George V on 10 July 1911. During WWI Parramatta saw initial service in German New Guinea and the western Pacific. After active service during World war I, the Parramatta ended up in the Hawkesbury River after decommissioning in 1929. The vessel was sold and used as a blue-metal barge. In 1934, Parramatta blew ashore on the Hawkesbury River and became a total wreck. The bow is now mounted ashore at Garden Island and the stern embedded into a monument at Queens Park, Parramatta. The remainder of the wreck site remains on the riverbank opposite Milson Island.

Royal Shepherd

Iron screw steamship, 331 tonnes. Built Paisley, Scotland, 1853. Sank off The Gap following a collision with SS Hesketh, 14 July 1890. No lives lost. The Hesketh was steaming to Sydney from Bulli with coal; the Royal Shepherd was heading south, also for coal. Royal Shepherd had the schooner Countess Of Errol in tow when the other steamer was sighted in clear weather, but the two vessels continued to approach each other until the Royal Shepherd was struck on the port side and so badly damaged it sank quickly. Scattered wreckage, predominantly the drive shaft and engine, remain in 27 metres, about 500 metres off the Hornby Light.


One of five destroyers built in Australia in the early part of the 20th century for use in World War I, HMAS Swan was a 76m torpedo destroyer. Constructed at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour in 1915, it was only the second warship to be built from scratch by the new Australian Commonwealth. The Swan initially served in South-East Asia from bases in Malaya (now Malaysia) and Singapore and went on to serve in the Adriatic Sea on anti-submarine operations with British ships.
After the war ended the NSW Government briefly considered using it and its sister ship, HMAS Parramatta, to house felons working on construction projects in the Hawkesbury area but it was sold to private industry and used to haul blue metal on the Hawkesbury. It was being towed to be broken down for scrap in 1934 when it broke away during a storm and ran aground. This mostly intact vessel is lying in 13m of water close to Wobby Beach near Brooklyn.

Tekapo wreck


Magic Point, South Maroubra: A British built iron screw steamer, the Tekapo was the largest steamer registered in Sydney to the Union Shipping Company. It ran ashore in fog at Magic Point on 16th May 1899. So violent was the crash, the crew were thrown out of their bunks. No lives were lost but attempts to refloat the vessel with the aid of tugs was abandoned where it began to break up.


In 1919, the crew steamer Tuggerah was hit by heavy seas, capsized and quickly sank off the coast near Port Hacking just six weeks after another collier, Myola, suffered a similar fate. Only 11 of the 17 crew survived. Part of the hull is still intact and lies on sand in about 46 metres of water..

Two Friends

Brig, 207 tonnes. Built Great Britain, 1836. Lost when driven ashore in the bight between the Gap and South Reef, 1851. The steamer Rose and a whaleboat from the Pilot Station attempted to tow it free, but their efforts failed and on the same evening it sank in deep water, leaving only its top gallant masts in view. Relics, including cannon, have been recovered from the wreck site.

Coastal collier, Undola


Garie Beach, Royal National Park: Mystery surrounds the loss of the 429 tonne collier Undola, which sank off Garie Beach on 20th December 1918. Fully laden with a cargo of coal, the vessel went down with all lives lost. A number of theories abound as to the cause of the sinking. One is that its hatches were uncovered and it sank after being hit by a big wave in high seas. Another is that it struck a drifting mine from the German raider Wolfe. The remains of the vessel are in 45 metres of water. Divers can clearly see the ship's compound steam engine, boiler and rudder post and quadrant at the wrecksite.


The MV Valiant was a steel, 72 tonne diesel powered tug boat, built Williamstown, Vic, in 1945. The vessel began leaking while at it moorings in Broken Bay and sank while being towed to sea for scuttling in 1981. A relatively intact shipwreck sitting upright on sand in 30 metres of water, Valiant has become a popular dive site.


Sloop, 22 tonnes. In 1816, involved in rescue of sloop Recovery. Wrecked on Long Reef during the great gale of June 1816. No loss of life.


Lost south east of Botany Bay. The Woniora was an iron hulled single screw steamer which was hit by a heavy sea, was swamped and sank within minutes on 28th October 1882. The collier went down with all but one crew member who managed to right an upturned lifeboat and make his way to Botany Bay. The wreck lies south east of Botany Bay in about 61 metres of water. The vessel's name is remembered in the name of a street in Hurstville.

Homebush Bay Hulks

Homebush Bay on the Parramatta River was used during the mid 20th century as a scuttling yard and became the resting place of a number of small vessels which had travelled the up and down the coast of New South Wales. The hulks of the following vessels remain and can be seen from the path to the Wildlife Refuge. UBD Map 213 Ref B 12


The Ayrfield was a steel single screw steam collier, 1140 tons, by the Grangemouth Dockyard Company, United Kingdom in 1911 and launched as ss Corrimal. Once used by the Commonwealth Government to transport supplies to American troops in the Pacific, it was sold in 1950 and renamed Ayrfield in 1951. From this time it operated as a collier on the sixty-miler run between Newcastle and Sydney. The vessel was partially broken up at Homebush Bay in October 1972.


A steel tugboat built at South Shields, United Kingdom in 1909, Heroic was built for Thomas Fenwick of Sydney, and at one stage, towed an ex-French three-masted warship Eure to Sydney from Numea for breaking-up in 1911. Commandeered by the British Admiralty during World War One, it was renamed Epic and under that name was engaged in rescue work off the Scilly Isles. In 1919, it was back in home waters when its crew rescued the freighter Allara when torpedoed off Sydney during World War Two. The Heroic was hulked at Homebush Bay in 1973, and its remains lie in Homebush Bay.

HMAS Karangi

HMAS Karangi

A steel boom defence vessel of 971 tons, HMAS Karangi was built at the Cockatoo Island shipyards in Sydney Harbour NSW in 1941. Modelled on the British "Bar Class" of boom defence vessels, the Karangi had sister ships Kangaroo and Koala. Karangi assisted in laying the defenses of Darwin and was involved in repelling the Japanese attack on Darwin in 1942 as well as the Monte Bello Islands atomic tests of 1952. Partially scrapped in 1965-6, the vessel was later abandoned in Homebush Bay, however there is some conjecture whether the Homebush Bay remains are indeed Karangi, or possibly Kookaburra or Kangaroo.

Hulk of HMAS Karangi

Mortdale Bank

A steel single screw steam collier built at Walsend-on-Tyne, United Kingdom in 1924, the Mortlake Bank was bought by a Melbourne company in 1934 and operated on the famous sixty-miler route between Hexham and Mortlake for the Australian Gas Light Company. The Mortlake Bank rests today in the shallow waters of Homebush Bay, having been abandoned in the bay awaiting cutting up for scrap at the breakers yard in October 1972.
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