Thursday, August 17, 2017

214th anniversary of  the sinking of HMS Porpoise and the Cato

Today is the 214th anniversary of  the sinking of the 12-gun sloop HMS Porpoise and the British armed cargo ship Cato. Both were wrecked 450 miles off of the Queensland coast on a remote coral reef on 17th August 1803. Matthew Flinders was a passenger on the HMS Porpoise at the time. According to Wikipedia, Ben Cropp found the wreck sites of the Cato and Porpoise at Wreck Reefs In 1965. The site has been a protected area since April 1992. An expedition which included people from the Australian National Maritime Museum visited the remains of the Cato in 2009.

Monday, August 7, 2017


The Star of Greece wreck exhibition is permanently on display at the Willunga Courthouse Museum in South Australia. The exhibition displays some relics from the Star of Greece wreck that are not normally seen. The Star of Greece sank off of Port Willunga, South Australia 129 years ago on 13th July 1888.  Entry to the display is $5 each.


In 1972, Stefano Mariottini, then a chemist from Rome, discovered two bronze statues of male Greek warriors. According to Wikipedia at , Stefano Mariottini “chanced upon the bronzes while snorkelling near the end of a vacation at Monasterace. While diving some 200 metres from the coast of Riace, at a depth of six to eight metres, Mariottini noticed the left arm of statue A emerging from the sand. At first, he thought he had found a dead human body, but on touching the arm he realized it was a bronze arm. Mariottini began to push the sand away from the rest of statue A. Later, he noticed the presence of another bronze nearby and decided to call the police. One week later, on August 21, statue B was taken out of the water, and two days after that it was the turn of statue A. No associated wreck site has been identified, but in the immediate locality, which is a subsiding coast, architectural remains have also been found.” Wikipedia says, “The Riace bronzes, also called the Riace Warriors, are two full-size Greek bronzes of naked bearded warriors, cast about 460–450 BC that were found in the sea near Riace in 1972. The bronzes are currently located at the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria, Italy. They are two of the few surviving full-size ancient Greek bronzes (which were usually melted down in later times), and as such demonstrate the superb technical craftsmanship and exquisite artistic features that were achieved at this time.” Further, “Although the bronzes were rediscovered in 1972, they did not emerge from conservation until 1981. Their public display in Florence and Rome was the cultural event of that year in Italy, providing the cover story for numerous magazines. Now considered one of the symbols of Calabria, the bronzes were commemorated by a pair of Italian postage stamps and have also been widely reproduced.” And “The two bronze sculptures are simply known as “Statue A”, referring to the one portraying a younger warrior, and “Statue B”, indicating the more mature-looking of the two. Statue A is 203 centimetres tall while Statue B stands 196.5 centimetres tall. The most popular theory is that two separate Greek artists created the bronzes about 30 years apart around the 5th century BC. “Statue A” was probably created between the years 460 and 450 BC, and “Statue B” between 430 and 420 BC. Some believe that “Statue A” was the work of Myron, and that a pupil of Phidias, called Alkamenes, created “Statue B”. Statue A portrays a young warrior hero or god with a proud look, conscious of his own beauty and power. Statue B, on the other hand, portrays an older more mature warrior hero with a relaxed pose and a kind and gentle gaze.”


A Tiger Moth plane crashed in Spencer Gulf between Port Broughton and Whyalla in 1943. The plane’s pilot, Edward Gage, was a member of the Spencer Gulf Aero Club. He had been a club member for three years prior to his fatal crash. He worked for BHP and he sometimes flew senior BHP personnel around. In 1943, he made a trip to Adelaide with a mercantile marine officer as a passenger. He left Parafield Airport alone that evening, after his mother declined to accompany him back to Whyalla. His plane was last seen heading towards a dust storm over Spencer Gulf, near Port Broughton. It is possible that the plane went down in the dust storm, crashing in to Spencer Gulf. Gage, however, was taking a direct route to Whyalla rather than via Port Pirie where he would’ve been able to refuel his plane. That is what members of the Spencer Gulf Aero Club normally did. They would refuel their planes at Port Pirie before crossing Spencer Gulf at the narrowest point. Any planes which ran low on fuel could then do an emergency landing. Gage ran the gauntlet by heading straight for Whyalla for unknown reasons. It is assumed that his plane then ran out of fuel and crashed in to the sea. The location and depth of the plane was still unknown in 1990. Ron Anchor was searching for the plane in 1990, believing that he had narrowed down the plane’s location to warrant a full-scale search for it. The result of Anchor’s search remains unknown. Sometime between 1943 and 1990, a Port Pirie fisherman thought that he had hooked on to the crashed plane but he died a few weeks later. The ashes of Gage’s wife were scattered in Spencer Gulf after her death in 1988.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

11th anniversary of scuttling of USS Oriskany

11 YEARS AGO, the USS Oriskany was scuttled off of Florida to become the world’s largest artificial reef on 17th May 2006.

63rd anniversary of John Robb wreck

63 YEARS AGO, the 64-ton iron ketch John Robb sank in a collision with the tug Falcon off of Outer Harbor on 24th April 1954. (The Falcon is not to be confused with the tug of the same name that sank off of Port Adelaide after a collision with the collier Mintaro in 1906.)

162nd anniversary of Nashwauk wreck

162 YEARS AGO, the 762-ton, 3-masted wooden ship Nashwauk was wrecked at Moana on 13th May 1855. She had been built in Nova Scotia in 1853. An anchor from the Nashwauk is now on display at the corner of Nashwauk Crescent & the Esplanade at Moana.

361st anniversary of Gilt Dragon wreck

361 YEARS AGO, the Dutch ship Vergulde Draeck (Gilt Dragon) was wrecked on a reef at Ledge Point, WA on 28th April 1656. It was 307 years before the wreck site was found in 1963. The ship was a 3-year old, 42m-long, 260-tonne 'Jacht' built in 1653.

214th anniversary of lost anchors

The two Matthew Flinders anchors found by members of the Underwater Explorers Club of SA in 1973 were lost by Flinders on 21st May 1803. At daylight on that day, Matthew Flinders was preparing to depart from Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago off of Western Australia. Middle Island is the largest island in the archipelago. A fresh breeze started driving the Investigator towards rocks before the sails were loosed. Flinders used the ship’s spare anchors to hold her. He then had to cut two anchor cables just before the ship cleared the rocks at noon. Flinders had lost both his best bower anchor and stream anchor. A bower anchor is one at the bow of the ship. The Investigator’s best bower anchor was over 4m long and weighed over 1 tonne. It had giant flukes sharply offset like a massive arrow. Both anchors were located in Goose Island Bay on 14th January 1973 by members of the Underwater Explorers Club of SA. The anchors were both raised up by the lighthouse ship Cape Don on 19th January 1973. They have now been preserved and restored. The best bower anchor is now located at the SA Maritime Museum at Port Adelaide. The stream anchor was placed in Canberra along with an anchor from James Cook’s Endeavour.

105th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic

15th April 2017 was the 105th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in the early hours of 15th April 1912 after hitting an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean earlier that night. More than 1500 lives were lost in the incident.

Songvaar's sinking in 1912

An SA shipwreck called Songvaar sank the same day that the Titanic hit an iceberg. The Songvaar sank at Wardang Island on 14th April 1912 when her own anchor pierced her hull.

Isle of Wight Shipwreck Centre & Maritime Museum


The management of the Isle of Wight Shipwreck Centre & Maritime Museum was taken over by the Maritime Archaeology Trust on 31st March. The museum will be renovated to include a 21st century exhibition that will use state of the art 3D models and virtual reality to take people to sites underwater or get them close and personal to artefacts they would otherwise never see.

HMAS Tobruk to be scuttled in Hervey Bay

The decommissioned HMAS Tobruk (L50) is to be scuttled in Hervey Bay, Queensland
in 2018 to become a dive site and artificial reef. She is a multi-purpose roll on-roll off
transport ship that would deliver troops and heavy transport either directly to the beach
or via landing craft. There is a HMAS Tobruk Military Dive Experience Facebook

South Australia's Historic Shipwrecks Act & Regulations Have Been Amended

The “Historic Shipwrecks Act 1981” and the Regulations to the Act (“Historic Shipwrecks Regulations 2014”) have been amended now and the amendments came in to force on 1st
May. Both the Act and the Regulations can be viewed at . The
penalty fees have been increased and expiation fees can now be received for alleged
offences. There are also several minor administrative amendments. According to The
Advertiser of 27th April, “The Act currently protects 270 historic wrecks”. According
“The Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 protects historic wrecks and associated relics, that are
more than 75 years old and in Commonwealth waters, extending from below the low water
mark to the edge of the continental shelf. Each of the States and the Northern Territory has complementary legislation, which protects historic shipwrecks in State waters, such as bays,
harbours and rivers. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts can also make
a declaration to protect any historically significant wrecks or articles and relics which are
less than 75 years old.” The Advertiser of 27th April goes on to say that “Anyone found
guilty of illegally taking or possessing unregistered relics from SA waters could face fines
three times the original (penalty)”. The amendment to the Act actually sees the maximum
penalty if $5000 increase to $20,000 (4 times the original). The expiation fee for minor
offences is $750. Inspectors now have increased powers.