Highland Forest

GPS:  S 32° 23.688' / E 115° 40.802’ 

Location: Murray Reef, Warnbro Sound

Site depth: 6-8 metres

Divable conditions: 1m swell or less

Visibilty: 5-10 metres

Vessel: 3 masted Barque

Construction: Steel

Tons: 1,040 tons

Vessel length: 74 metres

Wreck event: Ran aground, 1901

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The Highland Forest wreck is located on the Murray Reef system just south of Warnbro sound and off Port Kennedy. The wreck site is most easily accessed from the Port Kennedy boat ramp with the wreck within 10 minutes of the ramp. The site can also be easily reached by the Bent Street ramp in Safety Bay after a 5 mile trip across Warnbro Sound. The visable wreckage from the Highland Forest lays in around 8 metres of water, around a nautical mile off the coast and like most offshore sites it is best dived when the wind is below 15 knots and preferably from the east. The GPS position listed for the wreck sits just over the bow and a sand hole for anchoring is found only a few metres to the south west, east of the bow the reef raises up only a few metres from the surface and it would be expected to be a breaking reef in anything over a metre swell. Most of the site is heavily covered in kelp and little is distinguishable other than the area around the bow but on the opposite side of the sand hole where the bow wreckage is, there are some impressive caves and swimthroughs.

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The Highland Forest was lost on the Murray Reefs on April 29 of 1901. The Captain answered to the charge of reckless navigation as he approached Fremantle. Captain Chapman sailed for Fremantle on his first appointment as Captain onboard the Highland Forest, he was shown to have failed to compare notes of the watch with his First Mate and should have by all means known that the Highland Forest was approaching landfall. Captain Chapman was on watch when the vessel wrecked and within 15 minutes the ship had 14 ft of water in its holds and quickly began to come apart. The ships lead had sounded 16 fathoms soon before the wrecking event and would not have been far from the Five Fathom Bank off Rockingham, but he failed to continue casting the lead and at 5am that morning the vessel struck with all her canvas sails set. All 18 of the crew survived the shipwreck including the Captains wife and their young child. Captain Chapman had his certificate suspended.