Notable Shipwrecks on the Great Ocean Roadby: Alana Jones
The Great Ocean Road in Australia’s southern state of Victoria is arguably one of the world’s most spectacular coastline drives. The vistas on a good day are simply magnificent – but many who set out from their accommodation in Apollo Bay for a day of exploring don’t fully realise just how harsh and dangerous this beauty actually can be.
Explorer Matthew Flinders actually stated, “I have seldom seen a more fearful section of coastline” when he sailed by in the late 1700s. This beautiful but eminently treacherous stretch of ocean has claimed over seven hundred ships, though less than a third of these have actually been discovered. Blustery winds, dense fogs, and rocky ocean outcrops created a lethal combination which even the most experienced sailors fell victim to, many after months at sea traversing the oceans from the other side of the world. To be so close to the final destination is the ultimate irony of these ships which perished along this coastline, taking with them thousands of lives.
The most famous wreck in this region by far is that of the Loch Ard. Some other notable wrecks on the “Shipwreck Coast” include:
Antares – this ship wrecked west of Peterborough in 1914. A young boy saw distress flares and believed a German invasion was imminent. He raised the alarm but was ignored, and it wasn’t until two weeks later that local farmers discovered evidence of the wreck. Today the wreck lies in just a few metres of water and is about seventy metres offshore in the Bay of Islands.
Newfield – wrecked in 1892 just east of Peterborough, it was travelling from Liverpool, UK, to Brisbane. After three long months at sea, the ship’s captain mistook the light at Cape Otway for that of King Island and altered course, colliding with the coastal offshore reefs. Nine lives of twenty six onboard were lost.
Falls of Halladale – this four masted, magnificent Scottish barque ship had an illustrious career of twenty three years sailing the world’s most treacherous oceans. In November, 1908, she became wedged between two reefs, despite calm seas and perfect weather conditions. She was a local tourist attraction for some weeks after, before breaking up and sinking. It is now a popular dive site.
Napier – the Napier was a steamer commissioned for assistance in the salvage of the Loch Ard. She was forced by the ocean swell onto the rocky wall, and though initially deemed to be salvageable; a subsequent gale tore her apart in 1878.
Children – this ship was sailing from Launceston in Tasmania to Portland in Victoria’s west when it was wrecked at Childers Cove in 1839. Gale force winds and sickness amongst the crew were believed to be the cause, and seventeen lives were lost. In 1951, rough seas exposed the skeletons of a man and child believed to have been victims of this wreck.
There are countless other wrecks along this stretch of coastline. Whether you are a diving enthusiast, a history buff, or just an intrepid explorer, I recommend you book accommodation in Apollo Bay and take some time to explore this fascinating region.
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