The South West and Southern coast of Western Australia has a rich maritime history that predates the colonialisation and British settlement of Western Australia. The Southern coast was first charted by an unknown Dutch Captain in 1622 and almost two centuries later voyages of discovery were completed by both the French and the British as they competed for expansion of their empires. At the turn of the 19th century, international whalers visited the remote West Australian Coast discovering rich whaling grounds in a far off land and leaving many wrecks in their wake. The port town of Albany was Western Australia's first settlement in 1826 predating Fremantle and the port remained the colony's only deep water port until the expansion of the Fremantle Harbour in 1897.
The modern day South and South West coast provides some fantastic wreck diving options, from the historical wrecks in Hamelin Bay and Gracetown to the modern day warships scuttled as artificial reefs to boost local tourism. The South coast can be challenging with harsh weather most of the year with large swells and high strength winds, but on its good days it can provide some of the most amazing dive conditions rivaling anywhere else in the state.
Only a few hours drive from Perth, Geographe Bay encompasses the seaside towns of Bunbury, Busselton and Dunsborough. Diving conditions through summer and autumn in the bay can be some of the best found anywhere in the South West. Also, the northern facing bay generally gives great protection from the southerly winds and although the bay does experience swell it is somewhat protected by Cape Naturalist slightly reducing the large swells found between the capes. Geographe Bay provides little in the way of historical sites that make attractive dive sites, both Bunbury and Dunsborough are home to two of the state's best purpose sunk dive wrecks. With three local dive stores, numerous boat ramps and charter operators providing access to the sites, Geographe Bay is always popular through summer with local divers.
Purpose sunk in 2002, the 40 metre long ex fishing vessel Lena was scuttled in 17 metres of water, 3 nautical miles offshore from Bunbury. The prepared vessel was scuttled as a dive site and artificial reef. The wreck is easily accessible, only 4.5 miles from the nearest boat ramp, the Lena sits at the perfect depth for a long dive and is teeming with life.
One of Western Australia's premier dive wrecks the HMAS Swan or the "Fluffy Duck"
was sunk in 1997 in the waters off Eagle Bay near Dunsborough. The HMAS Swan was the first purpose sunk warship to be sunk as an artificial reef in Australian waters, it is also one of only two ex Navy warships purpose sunk in Western Australia.
Located 14 kilometres north of the south west town of Augusta, Hamelin Bay was once an important port for transporting timber for the growing industry of the south west forrestry companies in the later half of the 19th century. Year round ships would moor out in the bay waiting to load cargo, although protected from the south west Hamelin Bay was constanly subjected to winter north westerly storm fronts resulting in numerous wrecked ships lost in the bay, many of which are yet to be found.The bay still has the remains of the old loading jetty visible nearby the present day Hamelin Bay Caravan Park, near the base of the jetty is a wooden boat ramp which can be difficult to use in swell above 1 metre.
The most northern wreck from the Hamelin Bay boat ramp. The Katinka is a short 1.9 kilometre trip from the launching area and is situated a 140 metres behind the shore break in 6 metres of water. The only known iron wreck dive site in the bay, the Katinka sits upright surrounded by sand and like all Hamelin Bay wrecks is easy to find.
One of two wooden barques located behind the shore break and only 100 metres off the beach. The Agincourt is easy to spot from the surface and offers a short dive in 5 metres of water, like all the Hamelin wrecks, the wooden barque was loaded with its cargo of timber sleepers that remain neatly stacked on the wreck site.
The second wooden barque located near the beach in Hamelin Bay is the Chaudiere, only a few hundred metres south of the Agincourt, the Chaudiere is the closest wreck site to the Hamelin Bay boat ramp, the vessel is also loaded with its cargo of timber sleepers and is probably the more impressive wreck of the two wooden barques.
The Toba is a small site located at Peak Island close to the Hamelin Bay boat ramp. The wreck site is small but it is an easy protected dive and the surrounding reef provides an easy sheltered option for a final dive of the day.
420 kilometres south of Perth is the historic seaside town of Albany, the first settlement in Western Australia. Established in 1828 as a military outpost in the earliest colonial days of Western Australia. Albany was the major port for the region and the embarkation point for the first waves of West Australian soldiers leaving for Egypt in the First World War. With Albany's rich maritime history there have been numerous wrecks lost in the surrounding seas many of which are still to be found. The most attractive dive wrecks are the two purpose sunk wrecks listed, multiple boat ramps dot the eastern side of King George Sound where the two wrecks can be found within a short boat ride across the sound. Also, the local dive store Southwest Diving Supplies run regular charters out to both wrecks.
Scuttled in 1983, the Cheynes III is said to be the first purpose sunk dive wreck in Western Australia. It was sunk on the west side of Michaelmas Island in King George Sound in 19 metres of water. The Cheynes was one of three whale chasers that operated from the Cheynes Beach Whaling Station that was closed in 1978.
The American built Royal Australian Navy warship HMAS Perth II was sunk in 2001 in 35 metres of water in King George Sound. Following the success of the HMAS Swan III wreck the HMAS Perth II was sunk to provide one of the best wreck diving experiences in the state, although visibilty on the site can be average the amount of equipment left on site and full access throughout the wreck make it an amazing dive.
The Ahwina is a scuttled tug steam powered tug boat that was last used in the Port of Albany. Today the vessel lays scuttled in Gull Rock National Park just on the beach in Boiler Bay near the Gull Rock Beach carpark. The site is small and best suited to the inquisitive snorkler. The Ahwina is easily located as the decaying boiler of the vessel stands clear above the ocean's waves.
In the pipeline:
Augusta - Pericles
Windy Harbour- Michael J. Goulandris