The Kimberley Coast- Broome to Wyndham

Ashmore Fishing Boats

GPS: S 12° 14.311'

         E 122° 58.752'

Location: West lagoon, Ashmore Reef

Site depth: 1-7 metres

Divable conditions: Protected from weather

Visibilty: 10 metres

Vessel: Phrau

Construction: Wood

Tons: Unknown

Vessel length: Unknown

Wreck event: Most likely scuttled by customs

 

These two traditional Indonesian fishing boats are possibly two of the most remote wrecks on the West Australian coast. Just inside the Australian Economic Exclusion Zone only 60 miles south of Indonesia, these two wrecks lay just off West Island at Ashmore Reef. Although modern, Indonesian fisherman have for centuries used the sheltered lagoons of Ashmore Reef for fishing grounds and safe anchorage. 

One sits just on the edge of the West Island lagoon in 7 metres of water. The other lays burnt to the waterline just off the beach and nearby on West Island remain a number of Indonesian graves.

 

Browse Island Winch

GPS: S 14° 06.216'

         E 123° 33.114'

Location: Browse Island

Site depth: 1- 6 metres

Divable conditions: Neap tide change

Visibilty: +15 metres

Vessel: Unknown

Construction: Unknown

Tons: Unknown

Vessel length: N/A

Wreck event: Unknown

Located near Scott Reef and almost 250 miles north from Broome, lays a small island rising from the depths of the Timor Sea called Browse Island. From the 1870s to 1887 the small 35 acre island was extensively mined for its guano deposits by the Adelaide owned "Browse Island Guano Company". For over a decade a steady stream of ships called on the island to unload supplies and load guano, mainly destined for the farmlands of Europe.

In 2015 we were lucky enough to get our second trip out to Browse and we were able to spend some time searching for any signs of the 6 known but undiscovered wrecks surrounding the island, one thing we discovered was a deck winch and heavy anchor chain from a large 19th century ship all by itself on the outer fringing reef. Possibly the only iron remains from one of the three wooden ships wrecked when cyclones struck the island in 1878.

 

Browse Island Unidentified

GPS: S 14° 06.444’

         E 123° 33.303’

Location: Browse Island

Site depth: 3-7 metres

Divable conditions: Neap tide change

Visibilty: +15 metres

Vessel: Iron Hulled Guano ship

Construction: Iron

Tons: Unknown

Vessel length: Unknown

Wreck event: Unknown

 The unidentified iron wreck on the eastern shallows at Browse Island. Browse Island is a small deserted scrub island surrounded by untouched reef in WA's far north. The island rises up from a depth of 200 metres, almost 200 kilometres offshore and 500 kilometres north from Broome and the Rowley Shoals.

Manfred

GPS: S 16° 51.157'

         E 122° 07.687'

Location: West Island, Lacepede Islands

Site depth: 6 metres

Divable conditions: Neap tide

Visibilty: 4-10 metres

Vessel: Barque

Construction: Wood

Tons: 750 tons

Vessel length: 46 metres

Wreck event: Wrecked on the rocks

Given its very remote location and difficulty to inspect, the identity is not officially determined however, the Runnymede is the only recorded iron wreck lost at Browse Island. The ship was used by the “Browse Island Guano Company” that mined the island from 1876 to 1887. The Runnymede was lost in a cyclone in 1880 while at anchor waiting to load Guano mined from the island. This wreck sits on the eastern edge of the fringing reef with its bow to shore, the site dries at low tide and is easily distinuishable amongst the reef.

 

The 587 ton, UK built, wooden barque, the Manfred had loaded 750 tons of guano on 24 January 1879 when the ship began to drag anchor during a gale. It was decided to run the ship aground on the sandbar of the gut however, the barque ended up on the rocks and was soon wrecked. The small site consisting of deck supports, a deck winch and fittings lays in a few metres of water in the intertidal zone only a few metres from the shore.

The Manfred lays wrecked on the rocks in an area called the "Gut", a small channel between two islands that are one of the Indian Ocean's largest breeding grounds for the Brown Booby sea bird. During the 1870s the Lacepedes were extensively mined for its large guano deposits bringing in vessels from around the world, exported mainly to the farmlands of Europe.

Other wreck sites with little remains on the Kimberley Coast

 The wreck of the Calliance is located on Calliance Point in the Camden Harbour, little remains of the wreck except a ballast pile of basalt stone that is exposed at low tide. The wreck is associated to the failed Camden Harbour settlement and on the shore nearby ruins of the settlement still remain to this day. Given the remote location of the site, lack of wreck material and the presence of salt water crocodiles the reward is far outweighed by the risk for diving this wreck

Broome Flying Boats-

On March 3rd, 1942 nine Japanese Imperial Navy "Zero" fighter aircraft attacked the small town of Broome that was used as a refuelling point for allied seaplanes. During the air raid the Japanese fighters succeeded in destroying 15 flying boats at anchor in Roebuck Bay and shot down an American B24 Liberator which was lost 7 miles out to sea off Cable Beach, the B24 has never been relocated.

Tragically many off the Dornier, Catalina and Short Empire flying boats at anchor were occupied by Dutch civilian refugees that were being evacuated after the Japanese invasion of Java. Approximately 80 men, women and children many of whom will never have their identities known, lost their lives on board the sunken plane wrecks; five of which are exposed on spring low tides on the mud flats off Broome's Town Beach. The 15 sunken wrecks lay scattered on the edge of the mudflats descending into a deep water channel a kilometre from the local boat ramp.

On the edge of the mudflats in Roebuck Bay with some wrecks exposed at low tide and some in the deeper water of the channel, visibilty is almost non exisitant. We dived this site on the top of a neap tide in less than 0.5m visibilty, added to that the presence of large sharks amongst the moorings in Roebuck Bay and the possibility of saltwater crocodiles- this was not an enjoyable dive. Wait for the low water spring tide, stay dry and walk out to inspect the shallow wrecks.

In the pipeline:

Rowley Shoals - Lively

Cartier Island-Ann Millicent

 - RAAF Beaufighter

Vansittart Bay- B24-A72 80 Old Nick