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Wreck of 100-year-old sailing ship discovered off Australian coast

A 112-year-old shipwreck has been found by divers in coastal waters in south-western Australia. “The Herschel” was a sailing vessel used to bring settlers from England to Terra Australis Incognita. The vessel sank 25 km east of Albany, in 1907. Over time, the wreck and its location have been forgotten. Until now. “The Herschel” was
Published: December 10, 2019 - 12:15
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 18:56
Wreck of 100-year-old sailing ship discovered off Australian coast

A 112-year-old shipwreck has been found by divers in coastal waters in south-western Australia. “The Herschel” was a sailing vessel used to bring settlers from England to Terra Australis Incognita. The vessel sank 25 km east of Albany, in 1907. Over time, the wreck and its location have been forgotten. Until now.

“The Herschel” was rediscovered by Marc Payne, who was diving in search of hearsay. At first the diver wasn’t sure what he had come across, and later thought it was an already known wreck. However, when he contacted the museum, he found out otherwise…

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“I was swimming along the shore of the island, looking for earwigs, when I saw a strange object. I headed in that direction and then started to see more parts of what looked like the hull of a ship. I then dived down to a depth of about 22 metres and there I could already clearly see the bow of the sunken vessel!” – Payne said

As usual, Marc Payne headed to the UW Shipwrecks Museum with news of an unusual find. However, he was firmly convinced that the wreck was known to the museum staff. Therefore, the information from Ross Anderson, acting curator at the museum, that it was a previously unknown vessel, not only surprised him, but also made him excited about the fascinating discovery.

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The findings revealed that the discovered wreck is a steel sailing ship “The Herschel”, built in England in 1857. Between 1870 and 1880 it operated regularly between the British Isles and Australia, carrying settlers to Palmer River in Far North Queensland, attracted by the gold rush in the area. The ship was later sold to a Norwegian company who used it to transport coal in Albany until it sank in 1907.

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Unfortunately, the wreck itself looks as if it has been run through a blender. The past century spent on the seabed was not kind to the ship. Subjected to the forces of nature, it was literally smashed to pieces. The steel hull, once measuring 50 metres, now lies scattered over an area of around 100 metres.

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Scientists have examined the site where the wreck is located. Photographic and video documentation has been made, and material has been collected that will create a 3D model of the wreck. This is an extremely valuable historical find, especially from the perspective of local Albany residents.

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Although the wreck is in parts, this does not mean that nothing has survived. Many of the fragments look great, creating an interesting dive site. Therefore, after conducting research and gathering documentation, the wreck of “The Herschel” will most probably be made available to the diving community. After all, who wouldn’t want to dive on the wreck of a vessel that took part in the creation of Australia’s history?

Source: museum.wa.gov.au

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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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