& the Coogee Maritime Trail
Built in 1858, the 65 metre iron barque "Omeo" had an extensive career in colonial era Australia, working around the continent as an inter-colonial trader and cable layer. Originally built as a sail rigged steamship, it was later converted to a 4 masted barque and had the engine removed. The Omeo was finally stripped of her sails and converted to a hulk and anchored in Owen anchorage off Fremantle. In 1905 during a storm, the anchor cable parted and the Omeo was driven ashore in its present location, it was considered unsalvageable and left to deteriorate.
The Omeo was an iron barque that was stripped of all fittings and masts and used as floating storage before it was lost ashore. This is why there aren't many identifiable features of the wreck beside the general structural features of the hull. The Omeo sits upright and at first impression you would assume the intact pointed end of the wreckage is the front or bow of the ship, however, its bow faces north and it is the stern of the vessel that protrudes high above the water. Much of the forward area of the ship is buried beneath the sand in the direction of the nearby rock wall.
The outline of the vessel is easily distinguishable standing a metre above the seafloor. Inside the wreck, the vertical poles are what remains of the upright supports for the main deck surrounded by deck knees and collapsed iron framing. Three walls or "bulkheads" are visible inside the hull running across the hull. These were to provide watertight subdivisions to safeguard the vessel from sinking in a flooding event. The various sections of ribbed plating surrounding the hull are actually the sides of the ship. As the Omeo deteriorated the vessel has flattened out like a pancake, the height of the sternpost of the Omeo (the pole standing upright above the water) is the original height of the ship's hull. Towards the centre of the wreck is large sections of the main deck that have collapsed into the centre of the hull as the sides collapsed outward. Just forward of the deck section is a large piece of hull plating with a circular hole, this is called the "mast step". The mast step was fixed to the floor of the main deck and supported the placement of one of the masts of the Omeo.
City of Cockburn
Coogee Maritime Heritage Trail
In 2016 the City of Cockburn in partnership with the WA Maritime Museum, Murdoch University and Perth NRM implemented the first stages of its award winning Coogee Maritime Trail with the placement of the first 33 underwater artificial reef habitats for snorkellers and divers to enjoy. Over the years the trail has grown in both infrastructure and popularity with the public to become one of Perth's premier snorkeling locations. In 2017 the trail was expanded by the City of Cockburn and the WA Maritime Museum to include the land area with an interpretative information hub including maritime artefacts on display at the adjacent grassed area above the Omeo wreck. Development also progressed with a world first ocean resistant construction design for the stairs bridging the rock wall that provides safe access to the wreck and snorkel trail. Over the years the underwater trails have expanded and today the trail boasts underwater reef structures as well as underwater art pieces, historical artefacts recovered during the construction of the Elizabeth Quay development and a thriving marine ecosystem, all enclosed inside a no fishing and boating free zone.
For full details on every aspect of diving, snorkelling or visiting the maritime heritage of the Coogee Heritage Trail at the City of Cockburn's website at:
Above: City of Cockburn's trail map available at the red link to the left
The location of the Heritage Trail and Omeo shipwreck is just off the southern rock wall of the new Coogee Marina development. It can be found on the corner Napolean Parade and Socrates Parade. There are three parking locations immediately adjacent to the grassed area containing the information hub, this does however fill up easily due to the popularity of the trail and more parking can be found further south down Perlinte View and Coogee Beach carpark. The grassed area provides a great space for kitting up before and after a dive, there are open showers south of the stairs, the nearest toilets are located at Coogee Beach and cafes and shops are located nearby at Coogee Village shopping centre and Coogee Beach.
The Omeo wrecksite and Heritage Trail depths vary from around 0.5 metres to 7 metres in the deepest, western most point of the trail. The trail is bordered by yellow markers that define the boundaries of the trail and mark the limits for prohibited fishing and watercraft access. There is also a dive flag permanently moored around 3/4 of the way to the west of the trail negating the need for SCUBA divers to bring their own personal "Diver Below" Alpha flag.
For getting around the site, the wreck itself is easily distinguishable in the shallows and immediately to the north of the wreck the art and reef trail begins, this runs to the west, parallel to the rock wall for 200 metres or so. At most places along the trail in good visibility the rock wall is just within sight. If a diver has passed the three pyramid structures and the rock wall has turned to the north, you've gone too far and have passed the end of the trail.
Certain times of the year elements of the diving changes on the site. Certain summers and weather events are affected by stingers, usually in the months leading up until Christmas and it may pay to don a wetsuit or longsleeved stinger protection. During these same months and including the winter, the Omeo has large amounts of sargassum weed obstructing the features on the wreck, although they do not detract from the site. These have usually died off heading into December/January and into autumn when water temps have risen.
Visibility can vary on the site depending on weather conditions and the time of year. Being a dynamic environment effected by multiple factors it will usually vary between 1 to 7 metres depending on contributing factors. Read the section further down the page for best weather conditions on the site.
Diving or Snorkelling?
The most popular activity on the Coogee Heritage Trail would definitely be snorkelling, mainly due to the fact that it is a site that can be experienced by people of all ages and experience levels and the activity of snorkelling being more accessible to the public. It is however a popular site with certified SCUBA divers. The areas surrounding the wreck only have a depth of around 3 metres which is not ideally suited to SCUBA diving, and when transiting across the wreck quite often a diver would find themselves swimming on the surface. However when wanting to experience the underwater art pieces and artifical reef habitats SCUBA diving allows the diver to get more upclose and appreciate the life that has colonised the trail, the further west a diver travels along the trail, the richer the array of sealife and soft coral growth appears for the diver to experience. With the most impressive and spectacular corals being observed at the three outer pyramid structures at the end of the trail. This is not to say that the trail can not be experienced by snorkellers, in fact most of the art pieces and habitats are located between 2 and 4 metre depths and are easily viewable from the surface, in the shallows most of the interesting fish and marine life is in the adjacent areas surrounding the habitats, the shallower habitats do however have less coral and marine growth. Half way along the trail is the Stella Maris Sea Star designed by artist Melanie Maclou, which is a large star shaped structure in around 5 metres of water with a "swim-through" for snorkellers to duck dive through and for the more experienced and adventurous snorkeller the Pyramid structures and their coral growths can still be viewed from the surface where they sit at the deepest point of the trail in 7 metres of water.
A decorator crab tries its best to make it to the "Selfie Ring"
Soft Coral growth abundant at the 7 metre Pyramid structures
A replica VOC style canon
A train wheel excavated during the Elizabeth Quay Development
Soft Coral growth on a "Abitat" artificial reef near the Stella Maris Seastar
One of the stand out features and art works on the trail is the underwater sculpture of a giant sea star by local Fremantle and Cockburn based artist Melanie Maclou, named Stella Maris. Stella Maris is an 18.8 tonne sea star standing 2.5 metres tall that is designed to be a living and evolving piece of art that provides a home and habitat for marine life and also a swim-through for divers and snorkellers.
Stella Maris is located in around 5 metres of water, about half way along the trail. Stella Maris is surrounded by a number of abitat artificial reef modules and concrete reef matting, above the water look along the rock wall for signage directing you to the location of Stella Maris. Underwater, a plaque is located about 10 metres east of Stella Maris and reads: Star of the Sea "Stella Maris" Is the Devine Mother known to protect mariners, creating safe travel over troubled waters.
"The creative process continues while it is submerged, creating a dynamic sculpture in the ocean’s natural environment. Therefore as you dive through the tunnel, you are immersing yourself in a living sculpture that is a continual work in progress. Mother Nature takes over from my efforts and now she weaves her magic. You are guaranteed a different experience, every time you visit the sculpture." melaniemaclou.com
Read about local artist Melanie Maclou, the creation of Stella Maris and her other artworks at melaniemaclou.com/portfolio/
Weather and when to visit the site
Generally, the visibility on the wreck trail is between 2 to 7 metres so if you don't always expect crystal clear water you won't be disappointed on the trail. Generally conditions for diving off Perth call for low swell and light offshore winds and this is the case with the Omeo, there are however a number of variables unique to its location. Tides, water temperature, visitation, wind, swell, the site's proximity to Cockburn sound and the nearby cement works would all be likely factors in trying to predict visibility and conditions on the site. For more general idea of weather conditions check out our page on weather(click here) for referencing weather throughout the state.
The best place to start, if looking to pick a time to visit would be to monitor wind and swell. Although the site is relatively protected from the swell, a low swell is ideal for increasing visibility in the general area adjacent to the trail and around the site. With regard to wind, any wind direction from the north to east to south east would be the most favourable for surface conditions and the longer the number of consecutive days with light winds and low swell the more conditions on the site should improve. Then throw in the dynamic factors of the site and it can be a site that is very hard to predict conditions on the site. If it is a nice sunny day with light winds, it's best just to go check it out, but once the sea breeze is in the site will become more uncomfortable and visibility will greatly decrease.
There are many social media snorkelling sites where conditions are regularly posted online and one of the best tools for Perth divers and snorkellers is the vis.report app and website https://vis.report/
Vis.report is a community based visibility reporting app by Phd student Patrick Morrison. Local divers and users of the app report the conditions of the dive or snorkel they just completed. The weather state at the time of the report is used to build an information database for predicting good conditions on each listed site up and down the metro area. The more people that report their dive the stronger the database becomes. Check out this valuable tool at the link below or by clicking on the images to the right:
Protecting the Wreck:
As popularity increases for the Coogee Maritime Trail so does the pressure on the maritime heritage value of the wreck to deteriorate. It has become a concern that people standing on or climbing the shipwreck will speed up the deterioration the the site and also cause injury on the rusted sharp remains of the wreck. Swimmers, snorkellers and divers are asked to refrain from climbing on or standing on the Omeo site. The site of the Omeo and its related heritage artefacts are protected by law under the Historic Shipwrecks Act and the removal or destruction of any wreck material can be deemed illegal.