The Ningaloo Reef is the world's largest fringing coral reef, stretching for 280 kilometres from Quobba to North West Cape in the Gascoyne Region of Western Australia. Since the early 17th century trading vessels have skirted along the cape as they sailed north up the coast of Western Australia, initially Point Cloates and the Exmouth peninsular was charted as an island and was only discovered to be mainland Australia in 1819 by Phillip Parker King who charted the southern reaches of Exmouth Gulf. Numerous wrecks have been discovered off the reef over the last three centuries mainly concentrated around the area of Point Cloates and north of Coral Bay. Most discovered wrecks are trading barques or more modern steam freighters however countless undiscovered wrecks are spread across the whole length of the reef, from lost pearling luggers, a World War II submarine chaser, 19th century sailing vessels and aircraft undiscovered in the Gulf from military operations during the World War II era.
In Norwegian Bay lays the remains of a once successful whaling station and offshore lay lost barges and whale chasers.
One of the more recent wrecks discovered off the Ningaloo Coast the Stefano was an 848 ton wooden barque that wrecked in 1875 near Black Rock passage. The survival story of the only two survivours, an 18 year old and a 16 year old is one of the most amazing stories of survival on the West Australian coast. The wreck lies in 12 metres of water surrounded by numerous bommies, although little remains of the wooden wreck the location makes a very attractive dive, it is however one of the least accessible wrecks.
Located on the northern reefs of the Jane's Bay channel, the Rapid sits in only four metres of water, all that remains exposed on the site are the two main anchors laying on the ocean floor. The Rapid was an American trader that was wrecked and burnt to the waterline by her crew.
Located on the outside of the reef, offshore from the ruins of the Point Cloates lighthouse, the Benan is one of the most attractive wreck sites to dive off the Ningaloo coast. It is also one of the hardest sites to reach and requires perfect conditions to visit the site
The Fin lays partly submerged in shallow water 4 miles offshore from the whaling station ruins. The fin makes for an excellent snorkel site in crystal clear water inside the Norwegian Bay sanctuary zone.
The Zvir is one of the cleanest and most impressive wreck sites on the West Australian coast. The still upright propellor and huge engine block and boilers on site make for a great dive, the site needs low swell and good conditions which usually results in great vis on the site.
The largest wreck on the Ningaloo Reef, the Japanese owned freighter sits in 8 metres of water out from Point Billie and South Lefroy Bay. If camping on Ningaloo Station, the Chofuku Maru is one of the easily accessible sites near Point Cloates however, being outside the breakers on the outer reef it is another site that is best dived in low swell.
The most northern wreck on the Ningaloo Reef, the Mildura lays a few hundred metres off Point Murat partially submerged and usually awash with swells that roll across Lighthouse Bay to the south west. Despite over a century of swell the wreckage still remains upright and makes an interesting snorkel.Currents can be experienced over the site and snorkelling should be timed with the slack water of tide changes.
Situated near the mining and port towns of Karratha and Dampier, the Dampier Archipelago consists of 42 islands fringed by coral reefs and offshore shoals. The area was first charted in detail in 1819 by Phillip Parker King and named after William Dampier. The Archipelago has a history surrounded by the early days of the Pearling industry before focus shifted north to Broome in the 1880's and the area was also well visited by international whalers. In the 1960's with the discovery of Iron ore inland in the Pilbara, the town of Dampier was built on it shoreline and now days the Archipelago is a busy seaport servicing the shipping movements of salt, iron ore and natural gas. On certain islands remain unmarked graves thought to be of the old whalers and numerous wrecks still remain undiscovered off shore.
The No.20, a 9820 ton derrick barge owned by the McDermott shipping company was a dredge used to maintain the shipping channel for Dampier Port Authority in the late 1980's. In 1989 the barge broke its mooring durling cyclone Orson and went aground. Deemed too damaged to re-float the barge was towed, stripped and scuttled at the north east corner of Eaglehawk Island near the western edge of the Archipelago.
Balla Balla and Whim Creek are the historic ruins of one of the very first settlements and attempts to establish mining in the Pilbara. Originally called the Whim Well Cooper Mine, the area was mined from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century. Offshore from the Balla Balla creek mouth near Depuch Island the anchorage the once held the freighters shipping copper from the mine still holds the remains of a number of ships and lighters, two that are relocated are the Crown of England and the Eddystone. Caution should be taken on all sites in the area as visibility is generally poor, the sharks are generally big and most importantly the sites are exposed to extreme tidal currents. Nearby Depuch Island is significant to traditional owners of the country and the island is accessible only to those who are granted permission.
The Crown of England sits hard up against a stoney shore on Depuch Island, a reletively shallow wreck that is still only accessible by boat. The depth ranges from around 3 metres to 9 metres and is tide dependent. Huge masts and the still set anchor make the dive an interesting but eerie dive on this sailing ship that was lost in a cyclone with a considerable loss of life amongst it's crew.
The Eddystone was steam freighter over 2000 tonnes that went aground on the approaches to the Balla Balla anchoring zone. The wreck site sits on the eastern side of the channel on a shoal. Huge sections of propellor shaft, the rudder post and huge boilers and engine make the site very interesting but the tides in the area are extremely hazardous.
Other wreck sites with little remains on the Ningaloo Reef
The Emma was wrecked near the entrance to North Passage at Coral Bay, little remains of the wooden vessel that wrecked in 1868. The site lays in a metre of water at low tide and has breakers over the site in all but the lowest swell. A difficult and unsafe site to access.
The Perth was wrecked off Point Cloates in 1887, a very difficult site to access on the shallow reef top with the breakers to the west. Most of the wreckage lays in a foot of water and in large swells the site has white water rushing over the site. Given the shallow reef surrounding the wreck it is not possible to get a boat within 300 metres of the wreckage.
In the pipeline:
Carnarvon - Korean Star