Since the very first moments of the Swan River Colony the reefs south of Fremantle have claimed numerous wrecks. In 1829 the HMS Parmelia, carrying some of the very first settlers founding the colony grounded near the entrance to Cockburn Sound. As domestic trading routes and transport throughout the south west and the east coast of Australia grew, the southern approaches to Fremantle Port claimed more and more vessels with wrecks dotting the Five Fathom Bank down to Mandurah, Garden Island and the Mewstones and Stragglers south of Rottnest.
The general areas of most wreck sites are on the limestone reefs stretching south from Fremantle, most lay surrounded by impressive reef and cave systems but are exposed to swell and require the usual safe ocean conditions to access these sites. Inside Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds lay two wrecks, the D9 and the Saxon Ranger both sit upright and are of great condition away from the ocean swells but both are known for average visibility. Off Coogee Marina, the Omeo was recently made the centrepiece of the new Coogee Maritime Dive and Snorkel Trail. The Omeo site now offers a great experience for all ages and skill levels for anyone wanting to visit one of the many shipwrecks found south of Fremantle.
The Highland Forest was lost just south of Warnbro Sound on the Murray Reefs in 1901. Much of the wreck remains covered in kelp but the bow and mast sections still stand proud of the seafloor nearby a complex of caves and swimthroughs to the west of the site. The site is easily accessible from Port Kennedy and located only 3 miles offshore.
Located in Warnbro Sound in 18 metres of water, the purpose sunk Saxon Ranger offers an easy dive. The repossessed North Sea trawler was stripped and sunk in 2002 as a local dive site and artificial reef. Nearby moorings make the wreck easily accessible and it is situated only a short distance from the Bent Street boat ramp.
The Chalmers wreck site is a small site with very little wreckage initially visible. The Chalmers was a wooden barque that was lost on the Murray Reefs in 1874. Although shallow, the wreck site is actually quite interesting if the diver manages to slow right down and sift through the shallow kelp, it is a great representation of exactly what a 150 year old wooden ship wreck is like to dive on. Like all sites older than 75 years under water it is fully protected from disturbance.
The Carlisle Castle was wrecked on the 11th June 1899 in the same gale that sunk the City of York. The Carlisle Castle was lost with all hands making it the worst maritime disaster on the approaches to Fremantle Harbour. Located at a maximum depth of 12 metres the Carlisle Castle makes for a great dive on Coventry Reef in low swell.
One of the largest wrecks lost in Australian waters, the RMS Orizaba went aground on the Five Fathom Bank off Point Peron in 1905. The wreck was partially salvaged and later used as a demolition training site for Navy divers. The Orizaba offers the largest wreck site in the metro area with the huge boilers and crankshaft being the highlights of the site.
Arguably one of Perth busiest a most popular dive sites, the Rockingham Wreck Trail has been visited by local divers for almost 40 years. The site consists of a collection of purpose sunk vessels located a short distance off the Rockingham foreshore. The site is popular with local shore divers and SCUBA schools throughout Perth due to its ease of access and protected location.
The hulk formerly known as the Camilla sits 200 metres north of the Alcoa Jetty near Naval Base in Cockburn Sound. The Camilla was scuttled south of Woodman Point in 1903 where it is thought that it was burnt to the water line and left beached in 3 metres of water.
The D9 dredge is located in Cockburn Sound about 2 miles offshore from the Naval Base boat ramp. The site is protected from the ocean swell and therefore remains largely intact. The site is easily accessible, however it is also a popular fishing site and sometimes crowded with boats.
The Sepia lays wrecked in around 10 metres of water near the channel between Carnac and Garden Islands. The wreck was lost carrying a full load of cargo and was heavily looted in previous decades. This site still has numerous bottles stacked in the hold and is fully protected by law from interference. It remains a very interesting site to dive.
Omeo was recently made the centrepiece of the new Coogee Maritime Dive and Snorkel Trail. The ship was being used as a hulk off South Beach, Fremantle when it broke its mooring and drifted ashore. The site is extremely accessible and lays in only 3 metres of water 20 metres from the shore.
The Ulidia is a relatively shallow site located on the inside of Stragglers Reef. It only has a depth of around 6 metres but on a good swell day the extensive site makes for a great dive in crystal clear water. The wreck site sits with its bow hard up against the reef and the stern facing back towards Fremantle.
The Stragglers Dredge identified as the Fremantle bucket dredge was instrumental in the construction of Fremantle Harbour at the end of the 19th Century. The dredge was stripped of machinery in the 1930's and was scuttled out at sea. It now lays on a broken limestone reef west of Stragglers Rocks at a depth of 14 metres.
Sitting west of Stragglers Rocks in 18 metres of water the scuttled wreck of a Bucket Dredge was discovered in the 90's. The site is a great clean dive site surrounded by sand leaving the features of the wreck easily distinguishable. The wreck lays upright and sections have collapsed and have been buried but the bow and midship sections make an attractive dive with great coral growth.
Located just outside the entrance of Fremantle Harbour in 8 metres of water the dive site consists of two wrecks, the Lygnern a large 120 metre long Swedish Frieghter and the Samuel Plimsoll, a former well known sailing ship owned by the White Star Line. The Samuel Plimsoll was then a converted hulk that sunk in the inner harbour and was then dumped on the site of the Lygnern. The site is located close to shore but experiences a huge amount of commercial boat traffic.
In the pipeline:
James Service - Mandurah
Lancier - Mewstones