21 October 2005

Australia: Scuba divers find 150 year old shipwreck

Deep sea divers have found what they believe to be one of Australia's oldest colonial era shipwrecks off the south-east Queensland coast.

Brisbane-based Ian Eberhardt and Tweed Heads professional diver Kevin Denlay discovered the wreck late last month in 60 metre deep water about 60 km off Double Island Point.

They recovered the ship's bronze bell and several bottles which Eberhardt said indicated the vessel, likely to be a timber cargo ship, could have sunk around 1860.

"We have found bottles of an elixer called Townsend's sarsaparilla which we have learnt were only produced in Albany, New York, between 1820 and 1860," Eberhardt said.

The pair have handed the items from the ship to maritime experts from the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville, who will painstakingly clean the coral covered bell to see if the vessel's name is engraved on it.

"It would be good to see if we can get an identification and then we can check it on our database of ships," said the museum's senior curator of marine heritage, Peter Gesner.

Eberhardt said he and Denlay found the wreck after a tip from local fishermen.

They had been hoping to locate the steamship Dorrigo which foundered in that area in 1926 and has been much sought after as a potential tourist dive site.

"We knew straight away it wasn't a steamship because there were no boilers but then we found these other items that indicated it was a much older vessel," Eberhardt said.

Denlay, who took photos and video of the wreck, said they also found an anchor, cargo boxes and what appeared to be a toilet.

"It's not a big or famous wreck but it's obviously something that's quite old - mid to late 1800s - so that in itself is of some significance," he said.

"I would say it's the oldest wreck I've found or been involved in finding and I've found a lot of wrecks."

Source: www.tvnz.co.nz


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