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Great search for wrecks off the coast of the Australian state of Victoria

A major search for shipwrecks and vessels that have sunk over the past 224 years has begun in the Australian state of Victoria. A project has been launched in Australia to help preserve the memory of the country’s maritime history. The aim is to find shipwrecks and vessels that sank in the waters surrounding the
Published: September 9, 2021 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 23:13
Great search for wrecks off the coast of the Australian state of Victoria

A major search for shipwrecks and vessels that have sunk over the past 224 years has begun in the Australian state of Victoria.

A project has been launched in Australia to help preserve the memory of the country’s maritime history. The aim is to find shipwrecks and vessels that sank in the waters surrounding the south-eastern part of the continent over the past centuries.

The local authorities involved, among others, fishermen in the project. After all, who better than them knows the surrounding waters and the places where something may be lying on the seabed? That is why the state of Victoria, Australian Heritage and the fishermen are going to carry out the search together.

Shipwreck in Australia
The wreck of the sailing ship Hurricane, which sank in Port Phillip Bay on 22 April 1869. Photo: Heritage Victoria

For best results, fishermen will receive new technology and guidelines for reporting coordinates of found objects. Local authorities are also developing a system to fund searches and procedures to facilitate the reporting of wrecks.

State Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the Heritage Victoria Shipwreck Discovery Program aims to identify and report potential sites of shipwrecks encountered during commercial fishing.

Shipwrecks provide a fascinating glimpse into the past, both of Australian and world history. It is therefore important that any new discoveries are recorded and protected. This program highlights the important role the marine industry plays in protecting our underwater heritage. I also hope it breathes new life into the search for Victoria’s previously undiscovered treasures. Minister Wynne said.

Hundreds of wrecks waiting

According to historians’ estimates, in the coastal waters Victoria state more than 660 ships sank. To date, the wrecks of only 318 of these have been found, so the search that has begun has enormous potential.

Heritage Victoria has compiled a list of 18 major shipwrecks lost along this stretch of Australia’s south coast. Among them was the British Navy ship HMS Sappho, which was last seen entering Bass Strait in 1858.

HMS Sappho sailing shipwreck in Australia
HMS Sappho, one of many undiscovered wrecks believed to be on the Victorian coast. She is one of the few Admiralty wrecks in Australian waters. Photo: Heritage Victoria

Anyone who finds the possible resting place of a shipwreck or historic artefacts, record or estimate the GPS position and contact Heritage Victoria’s marine archaeology team. The indicated location will then be recorded and added to the Australia Heritage database.

Theship and vessel wrecks that make up Victoria’s underwater cultural heritage today include wooden sailing ships, steamers, aircraft and submarines. All of the vessels that have sunk along the coast date from before settlement in Victoria to the mid-20th century.

Photo The wreck of the screw steamer SS Ridge Park, which wrecked at Beware Reef in 1881. Photo: Friends of Beware Reef

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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